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You really don’t need “affordability” indexes to measure the preposterous expense of Southern California housing.

Yes, these yardsticks of homebuying’s financial pain often overstate the monetary challenges for a suggested house hunter, who is arguably a unicorn.

I mean, who buys the typical home with the typical salary while getting a typical mortgage? This buyer’s true magical power is having enough cash for a 20% down payment, a common mathematical assumption in affordability calculations.

But set aside the statistical debate. Get over the fact that some cost-pressure measurement for your favorite town might be off. There’s little doubt that when local expenses are compared with any national yardstick, Southern California’s premium is accurately exorbitant.

Just to be sure, my trusty spreadsheet looked at three recent housing reports with perspective on local costs vs. the national picture.

The polite conclusion? Ouch!

Big chunk

estimates how much of a household’s median income would be gobbled up by a mortgage payment for a median-priced home listed in May.

The index says Southern California has eight of the nation’s 20 least-affordable cities for homebuyers.

This math – which assumes a 7.13% mortgage rate, a 20% down payment and property taxes – shows Los Angeles was No. 1 for its lack of affordability. The theoretical LA buyer would spend 99% of their income – yes, basically all of it – on the estimated $6,512 house payment. That buys you a $1.1 million house while eating up almost all the income of $78,671.

No. 3 was Irvine with an 85% slice of pay for an $8,982 payment on a $1.48 million house compared with a $126,861 income.

The rest of the Southern California cities in the study that ranked among the top 20 least-affordable …

No. 5 Long Beach: 70% – $4,771 payment on $799,900 house vs. $81,509 income.

No. 7 Anaheim: 69% – $5,234 payment on $879,999 house vs. $91,356 income.

No. 8 San Diego: 67% – $5,715 payment on $959,000 house vs. $101,797 income.

No. 12 Santa Ana: 63% – $4,581 payment on $774,494 house vs. $86,891 income.

No. 14 Chula Vista: 56% – $4,883 payment on $799,000 house vs. $105,230 income.

No. 19 Riverside: 53% – $3,768 payment on $631,000 house vs. $86,104 income.

Getting worse

Southern California house hunters also face two of the nation’s largest home-price increases, according to April’s .

This index tracks 30 major US markets – including four in Southern California – and offers some intriguing insights into what’s boosting prices.

Orange County’s home prices rose 10.2% by this math, the largest gain among the 30 markets tracked.

That surge included gains of 9.3% for what First American dubs “starter homes” – the cheapest third of homes sold. That was the sixth-biggest price jump within this “affordable” category of the 30.

Orange County was also No. 1 for “luxury home” appreciation with 10.3% gains among the priciest third of homes sold in April.

San Diego had the third-largest gains nationally, up 8% overall in a year. That included price hikes of 5.8% for starter homes (No. 13) and 10.2% for luxury homes (No. 2).

Two other Southern California markets showed more modest gains.

Los Angeles County homes were 4.3% pricier overall (No. 16) – with gains of 4.6% for starter homes (No. 16) and 4% for luxury homes (No. 18).

The Inland Empire saw a mere 2.6% increase overall (No. 24) – with 2.4% starter-home increases (No. 26) and 4.7% luxury-home gains (No. 15).

Poor options

If you’re considering renting a house in Southern California, the financial pain isn’t that much better.

Consider CoreLogic’s single-family rental index, which tracks the cost of living in a three-bedroom house nationally and in 20 US markets, including two from Southern California.

Renting a three-bedroom house in Los Angeles County cost $3,607 a month in February. That was 76% pricier than the national benchmark of $2,052 and was the fourth-highest rent among the 20 cities tracked.

No. 2 was San Diego County at $3,896 – 90% above the nation.

Yes, it could be worse: San Francisco’s typical house renters pay $4,757 a month, or 132% above the nation. And No. 3 is Honolulu at $3,748 rent, 83% higher than the US.

But there’s a slice of good news in the report – local rent hikes are moderating and look somewhat modest on this US scorecard.

The Los Angeles 1.2% rent hike in the 12 months ended in March ranked No. 15 of the 20 and was well below 3.3% increases of the previous year. And San Diego’s 3.1% rent hike ranked No. 10 vs. 5.4% in the previous year.

Nationally, house rents rose 3.4%. Seattle’s 6.3% rent hike was No. 1 while Austin’s 3.5% decline ranked No. 20.

Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California ɫ̳ Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

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