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Cost of homeownership increasing in McHenry County

CRYSTAL LAKE – The cost of owning a home in McHenry County has gone up 19 percent since late 2012 as interest rates and home prices increase.

The median home price in the county has increased 8 percent, from $124,833 in the fourth quarter of 2012 to $135,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to a recent report from RealtyTrac, a real estate information company based in California. During the same period, the estimated monthly house payment for a median-priced three-bedroom home in the county jumped 19 percent, rising from $539 in 2012 to $643 in 2013. That’s slightly below the national average increase of 21 percent in the 325 U.S. counties included in the report, RealtyTrac said.

Other U.S. cities are seeing similar trends.

“A potent combination of rapidly rising home prices and the often-overlooked but significant uptick in interest rates in the second half of 2013 caused the monthly cost of owning a home using traditional financing to jump substantially in many markets over the last year,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

The estimated monthly house payment included mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance and subtracted the estimated income tax benefit. It assumed a 20 percent down payment, a 30-year fixed interest rate of 4.46 percent for homes purchased in the fourth quarter of 2013, and a 3.35 percent 30-year fixed interest rate for homes purchased in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to RealtyTrac.

Costs could continue to increase as the local housing market recovers, said broker Sue Miller of Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell in McHenry. 

“As values go up, so will the cost of owning a home,” she said.

Other factors, such as property taxes, push costs up as well, Miller said.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago. However, it’s still expected to be cheaper to pay for a mortgage than to pay rent this year in McHenry County. The same goes for Cook, DuPage, Lake, Champaign, Sangamon, Peoria, Tazewell, Kankakee and Macon counties. In Will County, rental costs are expected to be less expensive than mortgage costs this year, according to RealtyTrac’s data.

“The monthly cost of owning a home is still less than renting in the majority of markets, but the cost of financed homeownership is becoming dangerously disconnected with still-stagnant median incomes, driven not by shoddy underwriting practices this time around but by investors and other cash buyers who are not tethered to the typical affordability constraints,” Blomquist said.

Many would-be buyers are stuck renting, Miller said. Some don’t have enough saved for a down payment, while others lost homes during the housing crisis and won’t be able to buy for another 2 to 7 years, Miller said.

“Renters are paying a premium because they are a captive market,” she said.

In McHenry County, the average minimum household income required to qualify for a median-priced home in the fourth quarter of 2013 was $30,857, up from $25,865 in the same period in 2012. The average minimum household income needed to rent a three-bedroom home in McHenry County this year is $44,928. McHenry County’s medium household income is $76,683, according to RealtyTrac.

Some of the stringent lending standards imposed after the crisis have been eased, said Eric Schroeder, president of Mortgage Capital Group in Crystal Lake. Some of the company’s clients are buying bigger homes and choosing to rent out the homes they have outgrown.

“Things are getting easier,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of first-time landlords because a lot of people are surprised they can qualify for two homes.”

The potential for rising prices and rising mortgage interest rates can create a sense of urgency for buyers, said Rob Schaid, managing broker/owner of Re/Max Plaza in McHenry.

“They know the same house could cost more money if they wait,” he said. “That’s what we’re seeing a lot of in the market. They know this is the time because they see the trend in prices and interest rates.”

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