How Much You Need to Earn to Own a Home in 50 Top Cities

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Couple outside a home
Monkey Business Images /

Buying a home is becoming harder and harder for many Americans, and in some cities it’s out of reach for many. Just how much do you need to earn to consider buying your own home in America’s major cities?

Mortgage research website dug into the most recent data, and discovered that while some cities are indeed making homeownership seem about as likely as Martian citizenship, others are more reasonable. HSH analyzed data from the National Association of Realtors, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America to determine the annual base cost of owning a home in the largest U.S. metropolitan areas — including principal and interest on a 30-year mortgage, plus property taxes and homeowners insurance. From that cost, they calculated the income required to own a home.

Californians don’t have a lot of good news in the report. Residents of the Golden State pay for all that sunshine — at least if they live in major cities. The four most expensive metro areas in which to buy a home are all in California. If money is an issue, perhaps you should seek your sun in Phoenix, Arizona, or Tampa, Florida — those sunny spots show up on the list of least-expensive areas.

Here’s a look at what it takes to buy a home in 50 top metro areas, from the most affordable (No. 50) to the costliest:

50. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh homes
Steve Heap /

Salary needed: $38,253

The Steel City is tough, but perhaps not if you’re looking to buy a home. When it comes to large metro areas, Pittsburgh features the lowest salary needed to become a homeowner. The average median home price here is just $152,000.

49. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio aerial view
Pedro Gutierrez /

Salary needed: $39,730

Cleveland rocks for home buyers. The median home price in the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is $153,200.

48. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City
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Salary needed: $40,780

Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty for many buyers’ budgets, with a median home price of $164,500.

47. Louisville, Kentucky

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Salary needed: $41,835

Dreaming of your old Kentucky home? The median home price in Louisville comes in at $183,900.

46. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana
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Salary needed: $42,698

Indianapolis has stayed fairly affordable, with the median home price in this basketball-crazed city coming in at $194,100.

45. Memphis, Tennessee

Street scene, Memphis, Tennessee.
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Salary needed: $43,023

Lively, musical Memphis rocks to its own tune — just head to Beale Street some night to find out. The median-priced home in this city costs $189,100.

44. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, New York
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Salary needed: $43,304

Buffalo homes are still a relative bargain, with the median price at $149,100. Spicy Buffalo wings not included.

43. Cincinnati, Ohio

Anne Kitzman /

Salary needed: $44,610

Maybe you’re like Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP fame, and you want to live your life on the air in Cincinnati. The median-priced home here costs $183,900. It’s still among the most affordable cities in the country, but that may change: The median price for homes was up by nearly 17 percent over the previous quarter, registering the fastest increase in the country, according to HSH.

42. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri
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Salary needed: $44,957

If someone’s asking you to meet them in St. Louis, perhaps under the Gateway Arch, you should know that the median home price in the metro area is $185,700.

41. Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama
Hussam Al-Mashhadani /

Salary needed: $45,615

If Sweet Home Alabama is singing your song, head to historic Birmingham, where a median-priced home sells for $214,800.

40. Detroit, Michigan

Jason Grindle /

Salary needed: $46,283

You may have heard about all the home deals to be had in economically battered Detroit, but there are plenty of pricier homes in the Motor City, too. The median home price here is $190,950.

39. New Orleans, Louisiana

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Salary needed: $49,249

If you want to party like it’s Mardi Gras year-round, you can let the good times roll in New Orleans. A median-priced home in the city famous for music and nightlife costs $216,100.

38. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio
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Salary needed: $49,839

You can get by as a homeowner on less than a $50,000 salary in family friendly Columbus, where the median home price is $208,600.

37. Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, MISSOURI
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Salary needed: $50,090

Want to own a home close to the mouth-watering barbecue of Kansas City? A median-priced home in the K.C. metro area costs about $215,000.

36. Atlanta, Georgia

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Salary needed: $50,629

This may be surprising to some, but bustling Atlanta remains on the affordable end of this list, with a median-priced home selling for $228,800.

35. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia at night.
Jon Bilous /

Salary needed: $52,483

A median-priced home in Virginia Beach is probably not to be found on the beach. But in the metro area as a whole, the median price of a home is $235,000.

34. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina cul de sac homes
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Salary needed: $53,991

Is Carolina on your mind? A median-priced home in Charlotte will cost you $252,400.

33. Tampa, Florida

Tampa, Florida
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Salary needed: $54,627

It won’t buy the grandeur of these Tampa homes on the waterfront, but $238,700 will buy you a median-priced home in this coastal community.

32. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville skyline
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Salary needed: $55,657

In the country music capital of Nashville, a median-priced home costs $263,200. That might hit a sour note with some, but it’s still among the less expensive metro areas for homebuyers in the U.S.

31. Phoenix, Arizona

Homes in Phoenix, Arizona
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Salary needed: $55,939

A median-priced home costs $272,000 in the sunny Phoenix metro area. No extra charge for the cacti.

30. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia
Sean Pavone /

Salary needed: $56,940

In Richmond, one of the country’s oldest cities, median-priced homes sell for $267,000. That’s a whole lot more affordable that Washington, D.C., just over 100 miles to the north, which is No. 8 on this list.

29. Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida
Sean Pavone /

Salary needed: $57,027

A median-priced home goes for $250,000 in Jacksonville, located in north Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.

28. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio at night.
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Salary needed: $57,826

The median price for a home in this historic Texas town is $230,300. San Antonio, located in the south-central part of the state, has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.

27. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Salary needed: $58,903

The median price of homes in the City of Brotherly Love is $236,100.

26. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas by night, with mountains
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Salary needed: $59,551

There’s more to this city than the strip that draws gamblers and tourists. Real people live here and buy real houses! A median-priced home in Las Vegas costs $291,400.

25. Orlando, Florida

Quiet neighborhood in Orlando
pisaphotography /

Salary needed: $60,912

Not far from the magic of Disney World, real human residents can buy homes in Orlando for a median price of $269,000. That also happens to be the national median home price.

24. Houston, Texas

Downtown Houston, Texas
Silvio Ligutti /

Salary needed: $61,683

A median-priced home in Houston goes for $244,400. The sprawling city, home to NASA, extends to Galveston Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.

23. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina
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Salary needed: $61,806

Median-priced homes in the Raleigh metro area go for about $290,000.

22. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee on Lake Michigan
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Salary needed: $62,163

The median home price in this midwestern metropolis is $256,900 according to the report. The report noted that median price rose 13.57 percent from the previous quarter in Milwaukee, more than double the national average increase.

21. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota residential area
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Salary needed: $63,962

In the thriving metro area of Minneapolis, the median-priced home sells for $280,200.

20. Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut
Sean Pavone /

Salary needed: $65,130

A median-priced home here is $239,400. Hartford, in central Connecticut, is one of the country’s oldest cities, and was once home to writer Mark Twain.

19. Dallas, Texas

Dallas, Texas
Joseph Sohm /

Salary needed: $66,338

Don’t expect to pick up J.R. Ewing’s sprawling Southfork Ranch for this price, but the median home cost in his hometown of Dallas is $268,200.

18. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah
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Salary needed: $67,210

In scenic Salt Lake City, the median home price is $331,600. But if you’re hoping to take advantage some of the area’s incredible skiing, you’ll need plenty of extra cash.

17. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland
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Salary needed: $67,532

A median-priced home in Baltimore now costs $297,200. Located close to Washington, D.C., the Maryland city saw its median home price rise by 17.15 percent over the previous quarter — which was the fastest increase in the country.

16. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago urban residential street
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Salary needed: $69,699

If Chicago is your kind of town, hope you’re making pretty good money. The median home price in the Windy City is $275,100.

15. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island
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Salary needed: $72,197

Tiny Rhode Island isn’t tiny when it comes to costs. The smallest state’s historic capital boasts a median home price of close to $300,000, at $294,700.

14. Riverside/San Bernardino, California

Riverside, California
Jon Bilous /

Salary needed: $75,808

The Riverside/San Bernardino area may not have the glamour of Hollywood or San Francisco, but those cities east of Los Angeles landed on the most-expensive list nonetheless. The median home price in this area is $360,000.

13. Austin, Texas

Row houses in Austin, Texas
Tricia Daniel /

Salary needed: $77,467

There’s plenty of room in spacious Texas, but if you want to stake your claim in the capital city of Austin, you’ll pay for it. The median home price in this booming community is $330,200.

12. Miami, Florida

Miami Beach Ocean Drive at dusk
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Salary needed: $78,337

You may not end up living oceanside, but you can get a median-priced home in sunny, scenic Miami for $353,000.

11. Sacramento, California

Sacramento, California
Andrew Zarivny /

Salary needed: $80,225

California’s capital city can be almost as spendy as its more famous cities, such as Los Angeles. The median home price here is $374,000.

10. Portland, Oregon

Homes in Portland, Oregon
Rigucci /

Salary needed: $85,369

A song from TV comedy “Portlandia” proclaimed that, “The dream of the ’90s is alive, in Portland.” Maybe in terms of quirky fashions and tribal tattoos, but Portlanders can only dream of 1990s home prices. The median home price in this West Coast city is now $407,100.

9. Denver, Colorado

Houses in Denver, Colorado
welcomia /

Salary needed: $93,263

Prices may not be mile-high in the Mile-High City, but neither are they a bargain. The median home price in Denver is $462,900.

8. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
Christian Hinkle /

Salary needed: $96,144

If you elect to live in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., you’ll need to vote with your wallet. A median-priced home here is $443,100.

7. New York City

Brian Goodman /

Salary needed: $103,235

You might assume New York City would be the least affordable city on this list. But New York is only seventh costliest on the whole. The median-priced home here still isn’t cheap — at $410,500. At that price, you won’t find anything on Park Avenue, but perhaps a place in the Bronx or one of the city’s other outlying boroughs.

6. Seattle, Washington

Lake Union in Seattle, Washington
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Salary needed: $109,275

Seattle is the second city on the list where homeowners really need a six-figure salary. Hope you’ve got some Amazon or Microsoft stock in your back pocket: A median-priced home in the scenic Emerald City costs $530,300.

5. Boston, Massachusetts

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Salary needed: $109,411

Historic Boston has long made history for its pricey home market. The median home price here is $495,900.

4. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles homes
Songquan Deng /

Salary needed: $114,908

Big-name actors in L.A. might make enough to afford a home, but those still struggling to be discovered will need to audition some roommates. A median-priced house in the City of Angels costs $557,200. Hooray for Hollywood?

3. San Diego, California

San Diego home
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Salary needed: $130,986

San Diego’s perfect climate deserves the praise it gets, but that sunshine drives up the price of admission. A median-priced home in the Southern California city runs $645,000.

2. San Francisco, California

Homes in San Francisco, California
Sergey Novikov /

Salary needed: $213,727

Note the leap between No. 3 and No. 2! You’ll need to make $83,000 more annually in San Francisco than you would in San Diego to buy a home. A median-priced home in the City by the Bay crosses the million-dollar mark, coming in at $1,070,000.

1. San Jose, California

Homes in San Jose, California
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Salary needed: $274,623

Thinking of moving west to work in San Jose’s Silicon Valley? Hope you get in on one of those famous Silicon Valley salaries. A median-priced home within commuting distance of the big tech employers here will cost $1,405,000. That would get you almost 10 homes in No. 50 Pittsburgh.

How much does it take to buy a home in your area? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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