OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Even as OKC is ranked in the top four cities to buy affordable starter homes, the options are still limited for first-time home buyers.

CNBC reported that Oklahoma City ranked fourth on a list of places that still had starter homes that matched the affordability for median income earners.

In OKC, the median income is $37,000 per year, according to the report.

KFOR asked a local lender what kind of home someone could buy with that salary.

With no debt and excellent credit, a buyer could qualify for $165,000 with a 3.5% down payment.

Their monthly payment, including insurance, would be $1,550.

“For first time homebuyers right now, it’s a really difficult market,” said Gregory Burge, Economics Chair at OU.

A search on Multiple Listing Services (MLS) showed that there are 41 homes in Oklahoma City that are within the price range for a buyer with a $37,000 salary.

Burge said even with wages increasing, people are fighting inflation and dealing with home prices that are record highs.

“A worker might be seeing a small increase in their take home pay, but if they’re trying to keep pace with what it costs to buy a home in the market,” said the economics chair. “That’s just going to be growing a lot, a lot faster.”

Mary Fitzpatrick is a real estate agent in Oklahoma City. She said prices have increased for what people might consider to be a traditional starter home.

“In the last few years, we’ve had a real bump in our price point,” said Fitzpatrick. “People that may have bought a home for, let’s say a hundred and, between 100 and 150 or so. They were able to sell their house for 50, 60,000 dollars more.”

It is not just the last few years, but the last decade. Oklahoma City had an increase of over $100,000 in the median home price, according to MLS.

In January of 2012, the median sale price was $115,000.

In September of 2022, the price was $227,500.

Fitzpatrick does note that all buyers are looking for something unique to their needs.

“You might want a home that has more garage space, and you might want a home that has a big backyard if you already have a pet and maybe a child,” said Fitzpatrick.

Many factors play into this uncertain housing market for first time buyers, said Burge. Mortgage rates inching closer to 7 percent, higher costs of materials for homebuilders, and a deference from a seller to swap their current rate with a new higher market rate, puts new buyers in a tough spot.

“You kind of hit the lottery if you bought a couple of years ago,” said Burge, referring to the hot seller’s market the country witnessed.

The OU economist wants to see more changes made with federal housing assistance programs.

“A lot of those benefits go to higher income families and a lot of those benefits just drive up the prices of bigger – we think of like the nice neighborhoods, 3000 square foot homes, 4000 square foot homes,” said Burge.

He said that even professors with comfortable salaries qualify for programs that, in his opinion, belong to lower income Oklahomans.

“I always advocate for a much more narrow focus, trying to really dig in on working class and lower income households that are, for example, trying to get into that starter home or trying to get into that first housing opportunity,” said Burge.