How much do you need to earn to buy a home in the U.S.? For many Americans, the answer is simply “too much.” You need enough for a down payment, but also closing costs, insurance payments and often homeowners association fees.
Online mortgage resource HSH.com calculates how much you must earn to afford the principal, interest, taxes and insurance on a median-priced home in the biggest U.S. metros.
These rankings use data from the National Association of Realtors, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. They assume a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.9 percent interest (slightly higher in a few cities) and a 20 percent down payment.
Here are the cities with the most and least expensive real estate markets.
Most Expensive Markets
10. Portland, Oregon
Median home price: $389,000
Salary required: $85,173
Monthly payment: $1,987
Portland is the 10th-most expensive market in this ranking. Homes aren’t cheap in this laid-back town, but the job opportunities are promising.
Forbes ranks the Rose City among its top five for business, crediting its “strong growth prospects and a large influx of highly educated millennials.”
Median home price: $438,300
Salary required: $91,672
Monthly payment: $2,139
Skiers might find scenic Denver a dream city. But, like those chair lifts, the Mile High City has its ups and downs. Sperling’s Best Places finds Denver’s costs for housing, health care and other expenses higher than the national average.
8. Washington, D.C.
Median home price: $417,400
Salary required: $94,409
Monthly payment: $2,203
Want to live among the posh homes and powerful politicians of our nation’s capital? It’ll cost you.
Washington, D.C., has the one of the highest costs of living in the entire world, according to Numbeo.
Median home price: $489,600
Salary required: $105,368
Monthly payment: $2,459
Seattle’s sparkling water and mountain views — that’s the floating home from the 1993 movie hit “Sleepless in Seattle” shown above — have become much more expensive since Amazon started its meteoric rise there.
If you can gain a foothold, though, you’ve got a good shot at a decent career path. Forbes lists Seattle No. 1 on its ranking of best places for business and careers.
6. New York City
Median home price: $403,900
Salary required: $105,684
Monthly payment: $2,466
Living costs in the Big Apple run 129 percent higher than the national average, says PayScale.com.
But, it gets worse: NYC housing costs are 369 percent higher than the national average.
Median home price: $460,300
Salary required: $106,790
Monthly payment: $2,492
Looking for a city chock full of opportunity, whether you’re a student or a staff member? Consider Boston, home to more than dozens of colleges and universities.
But no one said it’s cheap to live here. Boston’s cost of living is 48 percent above the national average, PayScale says. And the median home price tops even New York City’s.
4. Los Angeles
Median home price: $576,100
Salary required: $123,156
Monthly payment: $2,874
Sunny Los Angeles has many perks, from bountiful beaches to being the heart of the entertainment industry. But, according to PayScale.com, life among the L.A. palms is 43 percent higher than the national average.
3. San Diego
Median home price: $626,000
Salary required: $131,641
Monthly payment: $3,072
Sunny San Diego has lots going for it, including a mild climate year-round. But PayScale reports that the cost of living in San Diego is 44 percent higher than the national average.
2. San Francisco
Median home price: $952,200
Salary required: $198,978
Monthly payment: $4,643
Dreams of little cable cars that climb halfway to the stars don’t come cheap. PayScale says the cost of living in the City by the Bay is 80 percent higher than the national average.
You might be able to land a high-paying job to make up for it, especially if you’re a finance whiz: Forbes notes that San Francisco is a principal banking and finance center, with some 30 international financial institutions.
1. San Jose, California
Median home price: $1.25 million
Salary required: $254,836
Monthly payment: $5,946
The median home price here is more than three times higher than New York City’s. That’s how crazy Silicon Valley real estate has become.
San Jose home values rose by more than 10 percent in 2018 and could grow 12.7 percent more in 2019, says Zillow.
Least Expensive Markets
10. Buffalo, New York
Median home price: $154,200
Salary required: $45,698
Monthly payment: $1,066
Spread your wings in Buffalo, home of those famed Buffalo wings.
And, in Buffalo, you can afford a second helping: PayScale figures the cost of living is 4 percent lower than the national average.
9. Birmingham, Alabama
Median home price: $202,300
Salary required: $44,593
Monthly payment: $1,041
Not only does Birmingham make the list of most affordable metro areas in which to buy a home, but, as Forbes notes, it’s an important business and banking center in the U.S. Southeast and the state’s cultural and entertainment center.
8. St. Louis
Median home price: $174,100
Salary required: $44,216
Monthly payment: $1,032
Life in St. Louis is affordable. BestPlaces.net praises the city’s cost of living, arts and culture. It notes that the city’s downtown is on an upward swing, thanks to new residential facilities, reclaimed warehouse lofts and new sports venues.
Median home price: $169,400
Salary required: $43,430
Monthly payment: $1,013
You can afford more than a few plates of this Ohio metro’s famed Skyline Chili if you stake a claim in the Queen City. GoBankingRates includes it high on a list of places where you can live on under $50,000. In fact, you’d do nicely on under $40,000 a year, GoBankingRates says.
6. Louisville, Kentucky
Median home price: $180,100
Salary required: $42,323
Monthly payment: $988
Lovely Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, enjoys a cost of living 8 percent lower than the national average, PayScale reports.
If you seek a job in health care, this is the right place. Louisville “has emerged as a major center for the health care and medical sciences industries,” Forbes notes.
Median home price: $185,200
Salary required: $42,289
Monthly payment: $987
Indianapolis, the home of the world-famous Indy 500 car race, speeds to a top spot on this affordable homes list. Living costs are 8 percent lower here than the national average, says Payscale.com.
4. Memphis, Tennessee
Median home price: $174,000
Salary required: $41,401
Monthly payment: $966
In musical Memphis, where influential strains of the blues, soul and rock and roll originated, homes are affordable. GoBankingRates ranks it high among cities where retirement savings last longest.
3. Oklahoma City
Median home price: $161,000
Salary required: $41,335
Monthly payment: $964
Oklahoma City nabs the No. 3 spot on this list of affordable housing markets.
If you’re a retired service member considering a second career, all the better: BestPlaces.net says OKC is No. 1 with that group of younger retirees looking to start a new professional chapter in their lives.
Median home price: $150,100
Salary required: $40,438
Monthly payment: $944
Housing is super affordable in Cleveland, a city on the shores of Lake Erie whose three professional sports teams are just the tip of the cultural attractions.
But the lower home prices come with economic downsides: Zillow recently reported that Cleveland had the highest unemployment rate of all metro areas considered, and the second-lowest household income growth rate.
Median home price: $141,625
Salary required: $37,660
Monthly payment: $879
Topping this list of metropolitan areas where it’s least expensive to buy a home is Pittsburgh, the Steel City.
It has special allure for retirees. GoBankingRates lists this Pennsylvania metro No. 5 among most affordable cities for retirement, praising its health care network and stable housing market.
What’s your experience been like shopping for a home? Are prices out-of-reach or manageable where you live? Chime in by posting a comment below or at our Facebook page.