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How much you must earn to buy a home and live comfortably in 78 US cities

Information verified correct on October 27th, 2016 has calculated the salary required to buy a home and live comfortably in 78 US cities. How much would you need in your hometown?

Key findings

  • San Francisco topped our list, with a huge salary of $180,600 required simply to buy an average home costing $1,119,500.
  • San Jose and Los Angeles came in a distant second and third, with $129,864 and $90,244 respectively required to purchase a home in those cities.
  • Six of the top ten entries (San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Seattle) have high required salaries due to high home values – meaning that the salary required to get a mortgage for the average home is higher than the salary required to cover mortgage payments, average debt and average expenditure. These were the only six entries of this nature in the list.
  • Californian cities took four places in the top 10 most expensive cities analysed.
  • The cheapest city analyzed was Jackson, MS, where citizens can live comfortably on $43,265.
  • According to the US Census Bureau , the average wage in the US in 2013 was $52,250. According to our research, this is a sufficient income to live in 36 out of 78 of the cities analyzed.

What living comfortably means

For this analysis, we assumed that living comfortably means :

  •  the ability to purchase an average home (presuming a 20% deposit has been saved)
  •  the ability to cover average per-person expenditure
  • the ability to pay off annual non-mortgage related household debt

The analysis was based on:

  • median house prices
  • average 30-year 20% deposit interest rate in the state
  • mortgage payments including mortgage interest
  • average non-mortgage debt in the city
  • average non-housing expenditure in the state

We’ve outlined the full methodology at the bottom of this page.

 US cities sorted by required salary

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

RankCity, StateHome ValueHome DepositNon-Housing ExpenditureNon-Mortgage DebtInterest RateRequired SalaryMedian State Household Income as % of Required Salary
1San Francisco, CA$1,119,500$895,600$29,842$16,2303.88%$180,60034%
2San Jose, CA$805,000$644,000$29,842$15,2203.88%$129,86447%
3Los Angeles, CA$559,400$447,520$29,842$14,4073.88%$90,24468%
4Washington, DC$502,600$402,080$45,366$18,7003.42%$85,51781%
5San Diego, CA$525,800$420,640$29,842$16,2843.88%$84,82372%
6New York, NY$605,000$484,000$35,943$16,2552.76%$84,79169%
7Seattle, WA$525,900$420,720$32,429$17,9393.78%$83,81172%
8Boston, MA$477,100$381,680$39,481$18,4913.82%$79,36685%
9Worcester, MA$191,100$152,880$39,481$17,7143.82%$65,764103%
10Denver, CO$327,400$261,920$31,564$18,0453.86%$64,36292%
11Portland, OR$340,800$272,640$29,704$16,0693.82%$61,05583%
12Albany, NY$157,400$125,920$35,943$18,6762.76%$60,79697%
13New Haven, CT$151,000$120,800$36,896$17,0113.64%$60,530115%
14Colorado Springs, CO$217,900$174,320$31,564$18,5843.86%$59,96799%
15Springfield, MA$127,900$102,320$39,481$14,5963.82%$59,812113%
16Virginia Beach, VA$246,800$197,440$30,743$17,3313.75%$59,047110%
17Riverside, CA$310,100$248,080$29,842$14,8493.88%$58,698105%
18Hartford, CT$89,500$71,600$36,896$17,3143.64%$58,136120%
19Sacramento, CA$253,100$202,480$29,842$15,8803.88%$57,155108%
20Chicago, IL$200,300$160,240$31,693$16,4833.71%$57,038100%
21Charleston, SC$254,300$203,440$27,179$18,4343.76%$56,93379%
22Pittsburgh, PA$106,100$84,880$32,401$19,8223.70%$56,91193%
23Syracuse, NY$79,000$63,200$35,943$17,8652.76%$56,908103%
24Philadelphia, PA$121,600$97,280$32,401$18,6883.70%$56,46294%
25Rochester, NY$64,200$51,360$35,943$17,6112.76%$56,073105%
26Providence, RI$156,600$125,280$32,299$16,4253.72%$55,661101%
27Allentown, PA$103,400$82,720$32,401$18,3413.70%$55,31196%
28Harrisburg, PA$66,700$53,360$32,401$19,8743.70%$55,22296%
29Spokane, WA$149,300$119,440$32,429$16,0453.78%$55,136109%
30Baltimore, MD$109,800$87,840$32,314$17,6633.84%$54,913135%
31Madison, WI$206,900$165,520$30,218$15,3483.62%$54,61997%
32Omaha, NE$140,500$112,400$31,234$17,1383.75%$54,61996%
33Richmond, VA$152,400$121,920$30,743$17,0883.75%$54,607119%
34Jacksonville, FL$132,300$105,840$29,594$17,9193.84%$53,46088%
35Stockton, CA$218,200$174,560$29,842$13,5083.88%$53,206116%
36Tampa, FL$152,800$122,240$29,594$16,5963.84%$53,05889%
37Bakersfield, CA$208,400$166,720$29,842$13,6803.88%$52,935116%
38Scranton, PA$81,100$64,880$32,401$16,9423.70%$52,927100%
39Phoenix, AZ$184,900$147,920$27,464$17,1263.86%$52,92294%
40Orlando, FL$146,400$117,120$29,594$16,4643.84%$52,63990%
41Raleigh, NC$198,200$158,560$26,627$17,1443.75%$52,58389%
42Columbus, OH$108,400$86,720$29,827$17,7683.68%$52,37393%
43Des Moines, IA$114,000$91,200$29,813$16,9063.53%$51,652102%
44Cincinnati, OH$110,900$88,720$29,827$16,9023.68%$51,61795%
45Atlanta, GA$180,000$144,000$27,088$16,4803.73%$51,55196%
46Columbia, SC$125,200$100,160$27,179$18,6613.76%$51,41388%
47Fresno, CA$186,600$149,280$29,842$12,8993.88%$51,170120%
48Nashville, TN$188,200$150,560$26,873$15,8823.77%$51,14387%
49Charlotte, NC$162,900$130,320$26,627$17,1633.75%$51,03291%
50Las Vegas, NV$192,900$154,320$27,557$14,6923.93%$51,015102%
51Houston, TX$142,000$113,600$28,853$15,3323.84%$50,568104%
52Akron, OH$61,000$48,800$29,827$18,0183.68%$50,53497%
53Lakeland, FL$122,000$97,600$29,594$15,3973.84%$50,47594%
54Dallas, TX$133,000$106,400$28,853$15,4953.84%$50,326104%
55Kansas City, MO$107,300$85,840$29,362$16,2113.69%$50,30895%
56Grand Rapids, MI$108,600$86,880$30,183$15,1093.65%$50,06198%
57Toledo, OH$56,700$45,360$29,827$17,3303.68%$49,65698%
58Cleveland, OH$50,900$40,720$29,827$17,2463.68%$49,31799%
59Oklahoma City, OK$125,600$100,480$27,412$16,1243.66%$49,05994%
60Milwaukee, WI$93,500$74,800$30,218$14,6883.62%$48,997108%
61Wichita, KS$105,400$84,320$29,013$15,1213.61%$48,740106%
62Tucson, AZ$147,000$117,600$27,464$14,5473.86%$48,635103%
63El Paso, TX$111,300$89,040$28,853$14,6313.84%$48,487108%
64Greenville, SC$140,100$112,080$27,179$14,3213.76%$47,73694%
65Little Rock, AR$126,100$100,880$24,849$17,3333.66%$47,72786%
66Dayton, OH$48,100$38,480$29,827$15,6673.68%$47,614103%
67Tulsa, OK$105,000$84,000$27,412$15,4683.66%$47,49797%
68Youngstown, OH$31,400$25,120$29,827$16,2463.68%$47,457103%
69Ogden, UT$124,400$99,520$26,449$15,3513.80%$47,365126%
70Chattanooga, TN$122,200$97,760$26,873$14,4753.77%$46,79495%
71Detroit, MI$38,600$30,880$30,183$14,8603.65%$46,738105%
72Greensboro, NC$119,300$95,440$26,627$14,5703.75%$46,501100%
73McAllen, TX$115,100$92,080$28,853$12,4553.84%$46,482113%
74Knoxville, TN$116,300$93,040$26,873$13,9783.77%$46,03497%
75Augusta, GA$80,200$64,160$27,088$14,7183.73%$45,363109%
76Memphis, TN$67,700$54,160$26,873$15,1893.77%$45,07999%
77Birmingham, AL$60,200$48,160$25,553$15,8353.71%$44,05199%
78Jackson, MS$62,800$50,240$24,711$15,7593.76%$43,26591%

Source: analysis of data from Zillow, the US Department of Commerce, the Urban Institute and barchart.

Here’s the same data on an interactive map:


City home values sourced from Zillow (2015). 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 (2015). Two separate methods were used to calculate the required salary to live comfortably in each city.

Method 1 : Mortgage Payments + Expenditure + Debt

Yearly Mortgage Payments with 20% deposit based on the median house price in the city and the average interest rate in the 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. In practice, this meant that 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


Durable goods

  • Motor vehicles and parts
  • Furnishings and durable household equipment
  • Recreational goods and vehicles
  • Other durable goods

Nondurable goods

  • Food and beverages purchased for off-premises consumption
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Gasoline and other energy goods

Other nondurable goods


  • Household consumption expenditures (for services)
  • Health care
  • Transportation services
  • Recreation services
  • Food services and accommodations
  • Financial services and insurance
  • Other services

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