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

Information verified correct on April 26th, 2017

How much would you need in your hometown?

It can be easy to get caught up with the allure of a potential new neighborhood. You’ve found an affordable property in a secure community with access to public transportation. It’s located in a residential area but conveniently close to shopping, restaurants and schools a walk away. However, affording the purchase price may not be enough to kick-start the American dream.

By analyzing city and state data sourced from Zillow, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, Urban Institute and Barchart, we’ve calculated how much you’d need to earn to live comfortably in nearly 80 cities across the United States. Halt your house hunting and check out how much you need to earn to buy a home and live comfortably in your city of choice.

Higher home values require higher salaries

Among our findings is that in six of the top 10 cities — San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City and Seattle — you need to earn a higher salary due to higher home values. Meaning that the salary required for you to get a mortgage for the average home is higher than the salary required to cover mortgage payments and average debts and expenditures.

Life is expensive, but just how expensive? Read on to learn more about what we’ve discovered.

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.
  • Californian cities took four places in the top 10 most expensive cities we analyzed.
  • The cheapest city analyzed was Jackson, Mississippi, where citizens can live comfortably on $43,265.

What does it mean to “live comfortably”?

For this analysis, we assumed that living comfortably includes the ability to purchase a home (presuming a 20% deposit has been saved), cover average per-person expenditures and pay off annual non-mortgage-related household debt.

We based our analysis on:

  • Median house prices
  • Average 30-year 20% deposit interest rates in the state.
  • Mortgage payments, including mortgage interest.
  • Average non-mortgage debt in the city.
  • Average non-housing expenditures in the state.

Three tips to help your comfortable living

1. Sell your old items

If you’re hoarding items you haven’t used in years, it’s time to sell them for some spare coin. Declutter your home and advertise your unused goods online, or get the whole family involved with a garage sale. There’s a market for almost everything, so store items you aren’t as fond of and set an annual date to bulk sell.

2. Consolidate your debt

If you’re struggling against existing debt, consider a balance transfer card. This type of card allows you to transfer your debt into one place and pay it back at a low (or even no) interest rate for a specified time. Set up automatic deductions to ensure you don’t miss repayment dates.

3. Don’t pay full price

Clip coupons, browse discount sites and actually look through your junk mail before tossing it in the trash — every deal counts. Although it may feel overwhelming to begin, after a couple of times seeking out discounts, you’ll know exactly where to find the best deals on your weekly staples. You could even see yourself saving hundreds a month.

US cities by required salary

Here’s our full list of cities included in the study. Search for your hometown, or click any column heading to sort that column’s data.

RankCityHome valueHome depositNonhousing expenditureNonmortgage 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: finder.com’s analysis of data from Zillow, the US Department of Commerce, the Urban Institute and Barchart.

Take a look at this same data on the following interactive map.

Methodology

We sourced city home values from Zillow (2015) and state expenditure data from the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (2014). For city debt data, we used information from the Urban Institute’s 2013–2014 Debt in America report. State interest rates were sourced from Barchart (2015).

We used two distinct methods to calculate the salaries required 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, plus average nonhousing expenditure in the state, plus average nonmortgage-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 for 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

Services

  • 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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