One benefit to the weak housing market — metro Atlantans are spending much less monthly income on mortgages.

Atlanta posted price-income ratios that were 13.9 percent less than historic norms in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to

From 1985 to 1999, Atlantans spent about 17.3 percent of their monthly income on their mortgages. In the fourth quarter of 2012, that shrunk to 8.1 percent.

In the pre-bubble period from 1985 through 1999, when rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage ranged between 6 percent and 13 percent, Americans spent 19.9 percent of their median monthly incomes on mortgage payments. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, with mortgage rates in the 3 to 4 percent range, U.S. homeowners paid 12.6 percent of their monthly income on mortgage payments, down 36.9 percent from historic, pre-bubble norms, according to Zillow.

“The days of historically high levels of housing affordability are numbered,” said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. “Current affordability is almost entirely dependent on low interest rates, and there’s no doubt that rates will begin to rise in the next few years. This will have an undeniable effect on demand for housing, as homebuyers will have to spend more of their incomes to buy a home. Home values will have to either remain stagnant while incomes catch up or, quite possibly, home values will have to fall in some markets. This will especially be the case in some markets that have seen strong home value appreciation.”


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