A December 8th report from Zillow Real Estate Research highlights two trends in the U.S. residential real estate market: rising rents and homes being relatively affordable to buy. The data about homes being relatively affordable to buy comes with a big caveat, however, in that it doesn’t apply to any major California city or many  other major metropolitan areas in the U.S (including NYC, Boston, Seattle, Portland and  Austin). That said, if you’re looking for a home in smaller city or almost anywhere in the Midwest, you should be able to find an affordable home.

Rising Rents

Rising rents: Homebuyers nationwide still in the catbird seat

Zillow’s 2014 Q3 Affordability Index makes it clear that homebuyers and renters continued to face very different affordability situations.

Homes remain very affordable to buy relative to historic norms nationwide, with the median buyer purchasing the median-priced home (with a 20% down payment and prevailing mortgage rates) having to spend around 15% of their income on a mortgage payment. Historically, buyers have had to put close to 22% of their incomes into a mortgage.

Buying a home is more affordable today than it was in the for all age groups pre-bubble period from 1985 to 1999. First-time millennial (age 23-34) buyers should anticipate paying around 17.4% of their income into their home, relative to 22.5% historically.

Rising Rents

Of note, homes were more affordable for typical buyers in the third quarter than historically in a majority of markets analyzed. That said, there were a number of important exceptions. Large cities where homes were less affordable in the third quarter (ie, homes cost higher percentage of income) compared to the historic average include the California cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose, as well as Austin, Texas.

Renters struggling

The Zillow report highlights that renters, unlike homebuyers, continued to struggle in the third quarter due to rising rents. Renters bringing home the national median income and renting the median-priced apartment will pay around 30% of their income in rent, relative to 25% historically. Among the largest 35 metros areas, Miami, San Francisco, New York, San Jose and Los Angeles are suffering from the greatest differences between current and historic rent affordability.