Tom Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder

Tom Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder

BOULDER COUNTY – The Western region of the U.S. held its position as the least affordable region for home buyers, according to the May 2023 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Housing Affordability Index. Rising home prices and mortgage rates combined are making home buying difficult nationwide, with housing affordability down in May compared to the previous month. 

The single-family home median price rose 2.8% and monthly mortgage payment increased by 3.7%, which equaled a monthly mortgage payment increase of $73 in May compared to April. 

Year-over-year March statistics showed a drop in affordability as the monthly mortgage payment climbed by 9.9% and median family income rose by 4.8%. The effective 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.51% in March compared to 5.31% one year ago, and the median existing-home sales price fell 3.4%. 

“Qualifying incomes have outpaced median family incomes making affordability conditions increasingly difficult. Low inventory is pushing home prices back up, which is also creating challenges for potential home buyers,” writes NAR.

The barometer for housing affordability is the national affordability index, or whether or not the typical family earning the median family income reported by the U.S. Census Bureau can afford to buy a median-priced home. In March 2023, the national index dipped below 100, which means the typical family doesn’t have enough income – or the qualifying income needed – to buy the median-priced home. Qualifying income is based on mortgage payments on a 30-year fixed mortgage loan with a 20% down payment not exceeding 25% of family income.

Here in the West, the housing affordability index was 67.1 – making the region the least affordable. Western families’ median income is $99,846, and the qualifying income is $148,704. The western region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  

Boulder County is among the counties with the highest median home prices in the U.S. In Q1 2023, NAR shows the median home price in Boulder County was $820,181. Boulder County is one of only 1.1% of U.S. counties with a median price range from $750,000 – $1,000,000, according to NAR’s calculation of the median home value for 3,119 U.S. counties when applying the House Price Index growth from Federal Housing Finance Agency to the latest housing data from the American Community Survey. 

The typical mortgage payment in Boulder County is $3,890, compared to $2,442 a year earlier, driven partly by higher mortgage rates, reports NAR.

The second most unaffordable region – the South – was more than 26 points more affordable than the West. According to NAR, the South’s housing affordability index is 93.6, with a median family income of $83,79 and a qualifying income of $89,568.

The Northeast was the third most unaffordable region with an index of 95.8, clocking a median family income of $103,652 compared to a qualifying income of $108,192.

The Midwest lies on the other side of the affordability scale, surpassing 100, which means the family earning the median income has more than enough income to purchase the median-priced home. With an index value of 122.7, the Midwest achieved the most affordable region. Midwestern families’ median family income is $89,814 and the qualifying income to buy a home was $73,200. 

Though in April, the Midwest region had the biggest drop of all the regions in the affordability index at 4.7%, followed by the Northeast with a decline of 4.4%, the West with a 4.3% decrease and the South with a 3% decline. 

Compared to last year, the West has the highest mortgage payment to income share regionally at 37.2% of income. The South had the second highest share at 26.7%, followed by the Northeast, with their share at 26.1%. The Midwest had the lowest mortgage payment as a percentage of income at 20.4%. “Mortgage payments are not burdensome if they are no more than 25% of income,” writes NAR.

The South experienced a weakening in price growth of 4.9%, followed by the West, which fell 2.0%.

Nationally, mortgage rates were up 120 basis points from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points) from 5.31 to 6.51%.  

See all of the data on NAR’s home affordability reports at and

By Tom Kalinski. Tom is the broker/owner of RE/MAX of Boulder. He has a 40-year background in commercial and residential real estate. For questions, email Tom at [email protected], call 303.441.5620 or visit