What you need to earn to buy your own home in 78 US cities

We’ve calculated the salary required to buy a home and afford living expenses in 78 major US cities.

When you’re ready to buy a house in a new city, lots of things impact your decision like a safe community, public transportation, proximity to shops and restaurants and school system. Many big cities offer the allure, but can be financially way out of reach. The good news: Falling interest rates mean housing is becoming more affordable. What’s the figure in your hometown?

Jump straight to the table and find out what you’ll need to earn

Key findings

We conducted similar research six months ago, but there have been some major changes in the market. While home values have increased in general across the cities, average home loan interest rates have fallen. That means the salary required to own a home and afford living expenses has dropped in many cities.

  • San Francisco topped the list once again, with a salary of $162,887 required simply to buy an average home costing $1,134,000. The required salary in San Francisco has actually dropped almost 10% since January, mostly due to a drop in the average mortgage interest rate from 3.88% in January to 2.95% in July.
  • San Jose remained in second place, with $119,455 required to purchase a home, falling 8% since January.
  • Washington DC moved up a rank to $83,374.
  • Los Angeles moved down to $83,304
  • New York City jumps up a place to become the fifth most expensive city to live in and buy a home, with a required salary of $80,307.

Six of the top 10 cities (San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City and Seattle) require you to have a high salary because of high home values — meaning that in oder to qualify for a mortgage, you’re required to have a high salary to cover living expenses on top of you mortgage. No other cities in this list had that problem.

Only six cities became more expensive to live in since January, with the required wage increasing in Denver, Colorado Springs, Harrisburg, Columbus, Grand Rapids and Birmingham by an average of 0.64%. Home loan interest rate increases drove this change in Denver and Colorado Springs, where the average rate rose from 3.96% to 4.00%. The average interest rate in Birmingham, AL also rose from 3.71% to 4.00%. The cheapest city analyzed was Jackson, Mississippi, where citizens can afford to live on $42,916. According to the US Census Bureau, the average wage in the US in 2014 was $53,657. Based on research, this is a sufficient income to live in 46 out of 78 of the cities we analyzed.

What does it mean to live comfortably?

The analysis was based on:

  • Median house prices
  • Average 30-year interest rate based on a 20% deposit
  • Mortgage repayments including mortgage interest
  • Average non-mortgage debt in the city
  • Average non-housing expenditure in the state

Here’s the complete list of cities included in the study. Click on any column heading to sort using that column.

RankCity, stateHome valueNon-housing expenditureNon-mortgage debtAverage interest rateMonthly mortgage repaymentsRequired salary% change for required salaryPrevious Rank
1San Francisco, CA$1,134,100$29,842$16,2302.95%$3,801$162,887-9.81%1
2San Jose, CA$831,700$29,842$15,2202.95%$2,787$119,455-8.02%2
3Washington, DC$511,700$45,366$18,7002.46%$1,609$83,374-2.51%4
4Los Angeles, CA$580,000$29,842$14,4072.95%$1,944$83,304-7.69%3
5New York, NY$592,800$35,943$16,2552.50%$1,874$80,307-5.29%6
6Boston, MA$491,400$39,481$18,4913.50%$1,765$79,155-0.27%8
7Seattle, WA$580,000$32,429$17,9392.46%$1,824$78,160-6.74%7
8San Diego, CA$539,100$29,842$16,2842.95%$1,807$77,429-8.72%5
9Worcester, MA$198,100$39,481$17,7143.50%$712$65,735-0.04%9
10Denver, CO$342,300$31,564$18,0454.00%$1,307$65,2971.45%10
11Colorado Springs, CO$228,800$31,564$18,5844.00%$874$60,6341.11%14
12Albany, NY$158,000$35,943$18,6762.50%$499$60,612-0.30%12
13Portland, OR$371,800$29,704$16,0692.46%$1,169$59,802-2.05%11
14Springfield, MA$130,900$39,481$14,5963.50%$470$59,720-0.15%15
15New Haven, CT$151,500$36,896$17,0112.46%$476$59,623-1.50%13
16Riverside, CA$329,700$29,842$14,8492.95%$1,105$57,950-1.27%17
17Hartford, CT$99,100$36,896$17,3142.46%$312$57,949-0.32%18
18Virginia Beach, VA$250,100$30,743$17,3312.46%$786$57,511-2.60%16
19Syracuse, NY$77,900$35,943$17,8652.50%$246$56,763-0.26%23
20Sacramento, CA$272,200$29,842$15,8802.95%$912$56,669-0.85%19
21Pittsburgh, PA$111,100$32,401$19,8222.85%$368$56,634-0.49%22
22Chicago, IL$208,600$31,693$16,4833.01%$704$56,630-0.72%20
23Philadelphia, PA$126,100$32,401$18,6882.85%$417$56,095-0.65%24
24Rochester, NY$66,500$35,943$17,6112.50%$210$56,0760.01%25
25Charleston, SC$263,000$27,179$18,4342.46%$827$55,537-2.45%21
26Harrisburg, PA$82,100$32,401$19,8742.85%$272$55,5340.57%28
27Providence, RI$159,200$32,299$16,4253.00%$537$55,167-0.89%26
28Allentown, PA$107,600$32,401$18,3412.85%$356$55,014-0.54%27
29Spokane, WA$157,000$32,429$16,0452.46%$494$54,398-1.34%29
30Baltimore, MD$114,900$32,314$17,6632.57%$367$54,376-0.98%30
31Omaha, NE$141,600$31,234$17,1382.88%$470$54,016-1.10%32
32Madison, WI$214,900$30,218$15,3482.46%$676$53,675-1.73%31
33Richmond, VA$154,100$30,743$17,0882.46%$485$53,646-1.76%33
34Jacksonville, FL$137,800$29,594$17,9193.26%$480$53,278-0.34%34
35Tampa, FL$160,300$29,594$16,5963.26%$559$52,896-0.31%36
36Stockton, CA$231,100$29,842$13,5082.95%$774$52,644-1.06%35
37Scranton, PA$79,700$32,401$16,9422.85%$264$52,507-0.79%38
38Orlando, FL$153,600$29,594$16,4643.26%$535$52,483-0.30%40
39Columbus, OH$117,800$29,827$17,7683.13%$404$52,4420.13%42
40Bakersfield, CA$212,600$29,842$13,6802.95%$712$52,072-1.63%37
41Phoenix, AZ$192,000$27,464$17,1262.64%$618$52,008-1.73%39
42Raleigh, NC$205,600$26,627$17,1442.46%$646$51,529-2.00%41
43Cincinnati, OH$111,600$29,827$16,9023.13%$383$51,321-0.57%44
44Des Moines, IA$117,000$29,813$16,9062.59%$374$51,210-0.86%43
45Atlanta, GA$190,600$27,088$16,4802.89%$634$51,174-0.73%45
46Nashville, TN$200,300$26,873$15,8823.16%$689$51,029-0.22%48
47Columbia, SC$125,200$27,179$18,6612.46%$394$50,564-1.65%46
48Fresno, CA$192,900$29,842$12,8992.95%$646$50,499-1.31%47
49Lakeland, FL$129,800$29,594$15,3973.26%$452$50,421-0.11%53
50Akron, OH$61,800$29,827$18,0183.13%$212$50,388-0.29%52
51Charlotte, NC$169,400$26,627$17,1632.46%$533$50,182-1.67%49
52Grand Rapids, MI$116,200$30,183$15,1093.26%$405$50,1530.18%56
53Las Vegas, NV$197,200$27,557$14,6922.85%$652$50,078-1.84%50
54Kansas City, MO$109,900$29,362$16,2113.00%$371$50,021-0.57%55
55Dallas, TX$143,800$28,853$15,4952.76%$470$49,991-0.67%54
56Houston, TX$137,800$28,853$15,3322.76%$451$49,593-1.93%51
57Toledo, OH$56,700$29,827$17,3303.13%$194$49,490-0.33%57
58Cleveland, OH$51,200$29,827$17,2463.13%$176$49,180-0.28%58
59Oklahoma City, OK$129,400$27,412$16,1243.11%$443$48,847-0.43%59
60Wichita, KS$111,300$29,013$15,1213.22%$386$48,7670.05%61
61Milwaukee, WI$95,600$30,218$14,6882.46%$301$48,513-0.99%60
62Tucson, AZ$151,300$27,464$14,5472.64%$487$47,856-1.60%62
63El Paso, TX$111,300$28,853$14,6312.76%$364$47,852-1.31%63
64Dayton, OH$50,400$29,827$15,6673.13%$173$47,568-0.10%66
65Youngstown, OH$32,400$29,827$16,2463.13%$111$47,406-0.11%68
66Tulsa, OK$107,300$27,412$15,4683.11%$367$47,284-0.45%67
67Little Rock, AR$130,100$24,849$17,3332.46%$409$47,091-1.33%65
68Greenville, SC$146,300$27,179$14,3212.46%$460$47,020-1.50%64
69Detroit, MI$37,200$30,183$14,8603.26%$130$46,599-0.30%71
70Ogden, UT$126,500$26,449$15,3512.46%$398$46,573-1.67%69
71Chattanooga, TN$124,900$26,873$14,4753.16%$430$46,507-0.61%70
72McAllen, TX$115,300$28,853$12,4552.76%$377$45,833-1.40%73
73Greensboro, NC$122,700$26,627$14,5702.46%$386$45,827-1.45%72
74Knoxville, TN$116,600$26,873$13,9783.16%$401$45,667-0.80%74
75Memphis, TN$73,700$26,873$15,1893.16%$254$45,1060.06%76
76Augusta, GA$80,000$27,088$14,7182.89%$266$44,999-0.80%75
77Birmingham, AL$61,800$25,553$15,8354.00%$236$44,2200.38%77
78Jackson, MS$58,100$24,711$15,7593.31%$204$42,916-0.81%78

Here’s the same data on an interactive map:

What it means to afford living expenses

We defined affordable living as meaning:

  • The ability to purchase an average with a 20% deposit.
  • The ability to cover average per-person expenditure.
  • The ability to pay off annual non-mortgage related household debt.


City home values sourced from Zillow (2016). State expenditure data sourced from the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (2014). City debt data sourced from the Urban Institute Debt in America report (2013/4). State interest rates sourced from barchart (2016). Two separate methods were used to calculate the required salary to live in each city.

Method 1 : Mortgage repayments + expenditure + debt

Annual mortgage repayments with 20% deposit based on the median house price in each city and the average interest rate in each state + average non-housing expenditure in the state + average non-mortgage related debt in the city.

Method 2: Minimum salary for mortgage

The minimum salary required to purchase an average home was calculated using the industry standard 28% debt-to-income ratio. The larger of the two results was used as the Required Salary in each city. Method 1 was used for all cities except Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

**Expenditure included

Personal consumption expenditures

When it comes to things you and your family spend money on to live day to day, you’re looking at your expenses, including:


  • Vehicles, gas and maintenance
  • furniture and appliances
  • Pet care
  • Groceries
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Gasoline and other energy goods


  • Household bills such as gas, electricity and telephone
  • Health care
  • Bus, Uber or taxi
  • Gym membership or clubs
  • Dining out
  • Insurance and financial services

Picture: Shutterstock

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