The confluence of low interest rates and falling prices has made homeownership more affordable than in the days of the cave dwellers. The money, however, remains on the Philadelphia rental-apartment market, whose performance, real estate investment-services firm Marcus & Millichap said, offers further evidence that “a sustainable recovery has taken hold. Although a minimum household income of $49,000 is required to afford the monthly mortgage debt on a previously owned house at the region’s median price — $206,600 in the first quarter of 2012 — high down-payment requirements and stricter lending rules are deterring prospective buyers.
The apartment-vacancy rate has returned to a normal level: 3.9 percent in the first quarter, down 2.6 percentage points since it peaked at the end of 2009, the firm said. Demand for in-city residences pushed the Center City vacancy rate to a seven-year low, 4.1 percent. The rate is higher in South Jersey — 8.5 percent in Cherry Hill/Evesham/Medford — but even that is almost a percentage point lower than it was in the first three months of 2011.