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Can I Afford to Buy?
Many people would like to start building equity in their own home, but are held back by concerns about cost.
Sometimes the media reports of housing prices can give a misleading impression about the cost of home-ownership. The media typically reports median or average prices without explaining the distribution of home prices behind those figures.
A median is that price at which half the homes sold for more while half sold for less. That means that there are just as many homes that sold at a price lower than the median than those that sold at prices higher than the median price. The median price doesn't give any indication of the spread of these prices. Many properties are sold for much lower - or higher, of course - than the median price.
An average price is the total dollar volume of homes sold for a particular period, divided by the number of units sold. Average prices are typically reported for the sales activity in a given area for a given month, quarter or year, and provide a snapshot of past activity. Average prices of properties sold in the past give only a limited indication of what housing inventory for sale is priced at today. An understanding of the housing in a particular community is needed to put average prices into perspective. For example, sales of a new sub-division or townhouse project of larger, upscale homes at higher prices will bring the overall average price up, giving the impression that all housing prices have risen. In reality, prices for the older, smaller housing units in the community may not have changed, or they may have even dropped.
A better measurement technique is the housing price index (HPI), which tracks the price of a typical, or benchmark property. HPI statistics can often provide a new depth of interpretation to average and median statistics.