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Pittsburgh ranks 40th out of 159 most affordable cities

| Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Pittsburgh housing market was a little less affordable in 2005 than it was in 2004, according to a national survey.

But 40th out of 159 still isn't all that bad.

That was the finding of the year-end National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

It ranked the seven-county Pittsburgh region as the 40th most affordable in the country, based on a median home price of $120,000 and a median annual household income of $54,900. Median means half the home prices or households are above the mean and half are below.

The Pittsburgh region ranked 32nd on the survey in 2004, based on a median home price of $106,000, and a median income of $78,900.

The survey found Indianapolis, Ind., to be the nation's most affordable major housing market at year-end 2005.

But overall nationwide housing affordability slipped to the lowest level in the history of the survey because of higher interest rates and rising home prices.

"The latest HOI shows that only 41 percent of new and existing homes that were sold during the final quarter of 2005 were affordable to families earning the national median income," said David Pressly, president of the national builders' trade group and a home builder from Statesville, N.C. "This is down from 43.2 percent of homes sold in the third quarter and 52 percent of homes sold in the final quarter of 2004."

In Indianapolis, 88.7 percent of new and existing homes that were sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to households earning the area's median income of $64,000, the survey showed. The median sales price of all Indianapolis homes sold in that time frame was $120,000.

In comparison, 69.7 percent of homes sold in Pittsburgh were affordable based on that same criteria, down from 78.9 percent at the end of the year in 2004.

Among affordable major metro markets, areas with over 500,000 in population, were Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., followed by Detroit-Litonia-Dearborn, Mich.; Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich.; and Dayton, Ohio, in that order.

At the bottom of the affordability scale was Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., where just 2.3 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area's median household income of $54,500.

The median price of all homes sold in that area was an even $500,000.

And as usual, the bottom of the affordability scale was dominated by large California cities, including Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, and Stockton. New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. rounded out the list of the five least-affordable major housing markets.

Pressly noted that the housing affordability situation should improve as mortgage rates peak later this year and home price appreciation decelerates from the record rates of the last several years to a more normal pace.

In the Pittsburgh area, appreciation should ease, but there will not be a downturn in prices, predicted Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group, at program sponsored by the Grubb & Ellis Co., a commercial real estate firm.

Hoffman sees price gains in the 3 percent to 4 percent range, down from about 4 percent or 5 percent over the last several years.

Real estate notes

  • Marion Estates, a 92-unit single-family housing development, is planned for about 56.6 acres along Moody Road in Findlay Township. Win Development LLC, consisting of Shawn Weaver and Ira Elo, recently purchased the site from James R. and Thelma Moody and the Estate of Marion Elizabeth Hilty for $700,000, according to a deed filed in the office of Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds. Weaver said he hopes to begin construction by the end of March and hopes to build about 38 units per year. Initial price range is from $350,000 for the all-brick houses.

  • Conversion of the Conestoga Building in downtown Pittsburgh into student housing, with 24 two-bedroom units, is under way by the developer Silver King Housing. McHolme Builders is the contractor on the estimated $1 million to $1.5 million conversion of the seven-story former office building at 7 Wood St.

  • Pittsburgh-based Desmone & Associates Architects received a contract to design a new 34,000-square-foot retail center development in Grove City, Ohio, for The Neuendorf Co. of Youngstown, Ohio. The proposed retail center will be completed in September.

  • WTW Architects of Pittsburgh was the design architect for a new $45 million Student Union at the University of Akron, Ohio, which has received the National Commercial Builders Council 2006 Grand Award in the Division VI -- Type 3 -- Institutional Category.

  • Metz & Associates, a dining management and environmental services company, relocated its Western Pennsylvania regional offices to Suite 200 at 2591 Wexford Bayne Road, Sewickley.

  • Construction has started on a $4.2 million, three-story 24-unit apartment in Burgettstown, by the Burgettstown Elderly Apartments LP, a partnership of the Nonprofit Housing Corp. of Washington County Inc. and four lending institutions. Funding is through the Washington County Home Investment Partnerships Program. Waller Corp. is handling construction.

  • Pennsylvania Association of Mortgage Brokers will award $1,000 scholarships to five qualified high school students who demonstrate academic ability as well as made a commitment to learning, achievement and community service. Deadline to submit applications is March 31. Information is available on the Web site,, or by calling 888-311-PAMB.

  • The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will hold a regional training session for home mortgage lenders Thursday in Monroeville. Information and registration forms are available on, Homeownership Professionals section under Training Opportunities, or contact Dona Stewart at 717-780-3908 for information.

  • Homeowners looking for advice on where to turn for remodeling help can obtain a free brochure to help them find and evaluate professional home remodelers. The National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council is offering "How to Find a Professional Remodeler" that provides tips on finding candidates and assessing their business, technical and customer service expertise. The brochure is available on the Internet at, or by calling 800-368-5242, ext. 8216, to request a copy by mail.

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  • Irene Bauer , of Coldwell Banker North Hills, has been awarded the certified residential specialist designation by the Council of Residential Specialists, the largest not-for-profit affiliate of the National Association of Realtors.

  • PWCampbell promoted Kevin Poirot to the position of vice president, pre-construction. Employed by PWCampbell for seven years, Poirot has held various positions in sales and marketing, as well as in the pre-construction area of the firm. As regional vice president, Poirot visited more than 1,000 financial facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region, bringing to clients the latest view of market trends.

  • Jason Vrabel , design fund program manager at the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, has accepted an instructor's position at Chatham College in the department of Landscape Architecture/Landscape Studies. Vrabel will be teaching a community based design studio for the spring semester, through a contract between the CDCP and Chatham College.

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