Potential homebuyers trying to break into the Bay Area real estate market without a high-paying tech job or financial help from family may find the American Dream of home ownership slipping right out the window.

A California Association of Realtors (CAR) study released last week showed that—with Bay Area median home prices soaring over $1 million and median incomes insufficient to carry such loans—fewer than one in five Bay Area residents can afford to buy into the local market.

Many younger residents are particularly affected, unable to buy in the very neighborhoods where they grew up, some real estate agents say.

“The market is such that there are many people who were raised in Oakland and Berkeley and cannot afford to own here,” said real estate agent Deidre Joiner with Red Oak Realty in Oakland.

“Just yesterday, I received seven offers on a major fixer,” she said. “It was interesting; the winning offer was from two couples with children going into the property together. They said in their letter they plan to build another structure in the back.

“These are the things people are doing to get into a property.

The CAR study ranks regions according to an affordability index based on the median household income and the median home sales price. Nationwide, it takes a household income of about $57,000 to afford the average-priced home at $269,000.

In the Bay Area, however, a household income of about $220,000 is needed to buy a home at the median price of $1.04 million, according to CAR.

Piedmont agent Matthew Heafey of The Grubb Co. disputes the “one in five” statistics, saying he sees plenty of buyers who can afford the high price tags, such as a home he currently has listed in Piedmont for nearly $2.5 million.

“I’d say it’s four in five of potential buyers who can do it,” Heafey said. “There are a lot of people with a lot of liquidity out there who can indeed afford a $2- or $3-million house right now. A lot of your buyers are tech-related for sure, either from here or coming in because of job relocation. Stock options have made people very wealthy over the years.”

Indeed, according to CAR, higher wages in San Francisco and Marin counties have allowed more people to buy homes in pricey regions. But Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties became less affordable for the average buyer in the second quarter of the year, the study showed.

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