Written By Kim Delaney

For the average U.S. family, buying a home is more affordable now than it has been in the last two decades. That’s according to industry experts who say the continued declines in home prices that are the result of the rising foreclosure rate in many areas, coupled with unprecedented low mortgage rates are factors that are combining to make owning a home a financial possibility for normal Americans. .. on paper anyway.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index reports that just under 76% of ALL new and existing homes sold during the last three months of 2011 could have been purchased by families earning the national median income of $64,200 per year. That 76% is the highest percentage recorded since analysts started collecting data twenty years ago…and it’s a marked increase from the previous three month period, which had a rate of just under 73%.

But experts say the fact that home prices are more accessible than they’ve been in years doesn’t mean all those American families earning an average income will be able to run out and buy a house. A mortgage with a record-low rate is great – if you can get one. Lending conditions have gotten more stringent and lenders have made it more difficult to obtain a mortgage, making it hard for many of those average families to enter the housing market…a frustrating fact for folks who want to take advantage of the low rates.