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Tampa Bay is one of the most affordable housing markets, but mortgage rates top nation

The Tampa Bay area ranked among the nation's most affordable housing markets at the end of 2015 even though its average mortgage rate was the highest of all major metro areas, a new study shows

To afford the bay area's median priced home of $175,000, a buyer needed a gross salary of $41,922. That was seventh lowest among the 27 largest metro areas.

But the study, conducted by the mortgage research company HSH.com, found that Tampa Bay's average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan stood at 4.16 percent in the final quarter of the year compared with 4.02 percent nationally. Boston, San Francisco and several other cities had rates below 4 percent.

Tampa Bay's slightly higher interest rate could reflect the fact that it was slammed during the housing crash and still has above-average foreclosure levels.

"In some cases when you find a difference in regional markets there are certain risks,'' Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, said Thursday. "If a market still has a little more of a high-risk profile, lenders will price a little higher and are wary about losses.''

However, he added, "It's not as though you're at 5 (percent) and everybody else is at 4. It's not really out of line.''

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate in mid December for the first time in nearly a decade, but mortgage rates have continued to fall nationwide. As of last week, the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.83 percent.

HSH.com's figures were based on a buyer putting down 20 percent. By that token, someone buying a home in the Tampa Bay area in December would pay $978 a month in principal, interest, taxes and insurance on the area's $175,00 median-priced home. (Median means half are priced higher and half are priced lower.)

Only in Pasco and Hernando counties, though, would a buyer get much of a house for $175,000. Home prices in Pinellas and Hillsborough typically run much higher — the median price in Hillsborough in December was $211,000.

Among the largest metro areas, Pittsburgh ranked as the most affordable with a salary of just $31,134 needed to buy the area's median-priced home of $128,000.

San Francisco was the least affordable. There it would have taken $147,996 to buy the median priced home of $781,600.

Orlando ranked 10th in affordability and Miami came in at 17th.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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