The Least Affordable Town in Massachusetts May Surprise You

According to the National Association of Realtors, the national average of housing affordability in 2009 was 169, which basically means that the typical family had an income that was 169% of the qualifying income to buy the median priced home in the community in which they lived.

Residents of this town can only afford 65% of the typical home selling in their community published a list of the 20 Massachusetts towns with the highest median income and the 20 towns with the lowest median income, so I came up with the median home prices in those communities (circa: 2009) and plugged the numbers into NAR’s affordability index calculation to determine which towns on the list were the least and most affordable.

Of the 34 towns I could obtain both median family income and median home sale prices, Weston, the Massachusetts town with the second highest median income, was by far the least affordable town to own a home. Weston had an affordability rating of just 65, meaning the median family income in Weston was only enough to qualify to buy 65% of the median priced home sale in Weston. So, it might be concluded that not only would the residents of Lawrence be more qualified to buy a home in their community than the residents of Weston, but Weston might be the least affordable town in all of Massachusetts. Surprising? I thought so. We don’t typically think that the citizens of our wealthiest communities are the most challenged to buy a home. Yet Weston wasn’t the only affluent community where residents appeared to be house rich and cash poor. The nine towns with the lowest affordability ratings in my analysis were among the state’s highest income communities. And perhaps, just as surprising, six of the state’s poorest communities were among the eight most affordable towns for residents to purchase a home.

Below I have listed the five least and five most affordable towns, with their affordability rating, from my analysis.

Least Affordable
1. Weston – 65
2. Dover – 83
3. Wellesley – 84
4. Cohasset – 97
5. Concord – 99

Most Affordable
1. Athol – 215
2. Southborough – 180
3. New Bedford – 176
4. Wenham – 171
5. Springfield – 165

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One Response

  1. Income does not equal Wealth.
    NAR uses standard 20% down, which is likely to be a low estimate of the actual down in wealthier places, and a high estimate in poor places.
    In other words, NAR is a good tool to use to compare housing costs in places with similar economic composition, but a poor one for dissimilar places where its assumptions break down, as you’ve demonstrated with your surprising findings.

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