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

See how your salary stacks up against buying a home in one of these cities.

Updated . What changed?

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A couple with kids  holding hands standing in front of a house

The stress of purchasing a new home coupled with the uncertainty of living expenses can make looking for housing an exhausting task. To avoid home-buying fatigue, buyers should check how far their salary can stretch before seriously considering signing on a home.

To assist prospective home buyers, calculated the salaries necessary to buy a home and live comfortably in 78 key cities across the US for 2020. For us, living soundly means more than just initially affording your dream home. We considered median state expenditures as well as changing rates on a 30-year mortgage.

Map of 78 US cities and required salaries

Key findings

While home values have increased over the past 12 months across the 78 cities we surveyed, average home loan interest rates have fallen in 2020. Overall, the salary required to own a home and afford living expenses decreased in most cities since 2018.

  • San Francisco claimed the number one spot for highest required salary, with a prospective homeowner needing to make $206,760 a year to buy an average home costing $1,414,037. he required salary in San Francisco has decreased 6.84% from $221,931 in 2018.
  • San Jose remained in second place, with a salary of $151,619 required to purchase a home, decreasing 15.59% since 2018.
  • San Diego rounded out our top five, jumping from eight in 2018 to fifth in 2020, with a required salary of $101,023.

Four of the top five most expensive cities to be a homeowner were in California: San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego. And five of the top 10 cities required you to earn more than six figures just to buy a home. Aside from covering your living expenses, you need to earn above a certain threshold to even qualify for a mortgage.
13 cities on our list became more expensive to buy a home in since 2018, including Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Las Vegas. 60 cities on our list became cheaper to buy a home, mostly driven by lower interest rates.
The cheapest city analyzed was still Jackson, Mississippi, where citizens can afford to buy a home on $44,129. According to the US Census Bureau, the median wage in the US in 2019 was $63,179. Based on research, the US median wage will only allow those earning a comparable wage to afford a home in 43 out of 78 of the cities we analyzed.

What does it mean to live comfortably?

Our 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 expenditures in the state

Here’s the complete list of cities included in the study. Use the search below to find your city.

2020 rankings

RankCity, StateHome valueNon-housing expenditureNon-mortgage debtAverage interest rateMonthly mortgage repaymentsRequired salary% required salary change from 20182018 Salary2018 Rank
1San Francisco, CA$1,414,037$38,156$16,5843.09%4,824$206,760-6.84%$221,9311
2San Jose, CA$1,036,929$38,156$16,5843.09%$3,538$151,619-15.59%$179,6162
3Seattle, WA$769,873$38,699$18,7093.09%2,627$112,570-11.83%$127,6787
4Los Angeles, CA$752,193$38,156$16,5843.09%2,566$109,985-1.94%$112,1634
5San Diego, CA$690,901$38,156$16,5843.09%2,357$101,023-2.86%$103,9998
6Washington, DC$629,184$53,490$17,7363.04%$2,133$96,822-5.97%$102,9743
7New York, NY$653,787$44,958$17,7663.16%$2,251$96,450-4.01%$100,4795
8Boston, MA$647,392$46,442$19,6963.10%$2,212$94,782-2.74%$97,4506
9Worcester, MA$276,099$46,442$19,6963.10%$943$77,457-3.51%$80,2779
10Denver, CO$469,561$36,530$19,6343.04%$1,592$75,266-6.03%$80,09710
11Springfield, MA$183,979$46,442$19,6963.10%$628$73,6801.66%$72,47914
12Riverside, CA$435,830$38,156$16,5843.09%$1,487$72,584-3.20%$74,98616
13Portland, OR$474,591$35,506$17,3013.07%$1,615$72,187-4.77%$75,80113
14New Haven, CT$195,585$43,721$20,1573.08%$666$71,875-1.53%$72,99115
15Albany, NY$189,103$44,958$17,7663.16%$651$70,535-3.79%$73,31012
16Colorado Springs, CO$335,584$36,530$19,6343.04%$1,138$69,816-5.58%$73,94211
17Sacramento, CA$361,593$38,156$16,5843.09%$1,234$69,545-3.83%$72,31120
18Hartford, CT123,079$43,721$20,1573.08%$419$68,911-3.80%$71,63517
19Spokane, WA$270,394$38,699$18,7093.09%$923$68,4780.88%$67,88429
20Virginia Beach, VA$295,107$37,076$19,3673.01%$997$68,402-3.42%$70,82118
21Stockton, CA$320,520$38,156$16,5843.09%$1,094$67,863-1.04%$68,57536
22Austin, TX$416,836$33,606$17,1403.07%$1,419$67,769N/AN/AN/A
23Philadelphia, PA$194,759$38,742$20,7593.11%$666$67,4961.78%$66,31423
24Syracuse, NY$110,075$44,958$17,7663.16%$379$67,271-1.47%$68,27519
25Pittsburgh, PA$183,528$38,742$20,7593.11%$628$67,035-0.12%$67,11221
26Allentown, PA$178,748$38,742$20,7593.11%$611$66,8392.99%$64,90128
27Chicago, IL$254,588$38,407$17,8373.05%$864$66,614-2.94%$68,63322
28Richmond, VA$250,742$37,076$19,3673.01%$847$66,604-2.41%$68,24933
29Providence, RI$252,505$37,388$18,1662.98%$849$65,749-3.40%$68,06027
30Fresno, CA$264,254$38,156$16,5843.09%$902$65,5600.21%$65,42048
31Bakersfield, CA$260,534$38,156$16,5843.09%$889$65,407-1.39%$66,32640
32Madison, WI$292,893$36,645$16,2193.17%$1,009$64,979-6.92%$69,80632
33Baltimore, MD$154,327$37,411$19,7653.13%$529$63,527-6.10%$67,65630
34Orlando, FL$266,793$34,564$18,0112.99%$899$63,359-3.69%$65,78638
35Las Vegas, NV$293,024$35,146$16,5732.75%$957$63,2030.58%$62,84053
36Tampa, FL$259,983$34,564$18,0112.99%$876$63,084-3.00%$65,03835
37Columbus, OH$178,452$35,712$18,4643.03%$604$61,426-0.66%$61,83339
38Omaha, NE$199,981$36,440$16,7693.07%$681$61,376-3.45%$63,57031
39Charleston, SC$338,895$29,681$17,8453.04%$1,149$61,313-6.85%$65,81925
40Cincinnati, OH$171,720$35,712$18,4643.03%$581$61,1531.26%$60,39243
41Jacksonville, FL$200,448$34,564$18,0112.99%$675$60,678-5.49%$64,20234
42Atlanta, GA$304,016$30,985$16,9903.00%$1,025$60,281-2.68%$61,94345
43Dallas, TX$229,811$33,606$17,1403.07%$782$60,131-0.77%$60,59555
44Lakeland, FL$183,228$34,564$18,0112.99%$617$59,981-1.98%$61,19249
45Raleigh, NC$295,736$30,547$16,9763.10%$1,010$59,646-5.23%$62,93642
46Fort Worth, TX$215,109$33,606$17,1403.07%732$59,531N/AN/AN/A
47Phoenix, AZ$283,276$29,889$18,1942.97%952$59,505-4.63%$62,39241
48Grand Rapids, MI$190,026$35,070$16,6183.07%647$59,448-2.89%$61,21952
49Nashville, TN$296,806$31,037$16,0793.00%1,001$59,129-4.28%$61,77146
50Kansas City, MO$167,396$34,722$17,3752.99%564$58,864-1.86%$59,97954
51Houston, TX$195,600$33,606$17,1403.07%666$58,734-2.03%$59,95056
52Milwaukee, WI$140,077$36,645$16,2193.17%483$58,6580.20%$58,54161
53San Antonio, TX$190,229$33,606$17,1403.07%647$58,515N/AN/AN/A
54Charlotte, NC$260,093$30,547$16,9763.10%889$58,185-4.08%$60,65651
55Toledo, OH$82,414$35,712$18,4643.03%279$57,524-0.58%$57,85757
56Akron, OH$77,705$35,712$18,4643.03%263$57,333-1.75%$58,35750
57Cleveland, OH$72,953$35,712$18,4643.03%24757,1400.23%$57,01158
58Tucson, AZ$222,612$29,889$18,1942.97%748$57,059-0.83%$57,53662
59Dayton, OH$66,393$35,712$18,4643.03%225$56,8733.01%$55,21164
60Des Moines, IA$153,160$33,812$16,8882.92%511$56,836-5.05%$59,86144
61McAllen, TX$148,533$33,606$17,1403.07%505$56,8123.50%$54,89372
62Albuquerque, NM$223,438$30,888$16,5183.07%760$56,531N/AN/AN/A
63El Paso, TX$141,277$33,606$17,1403.07%481$56,515-0.49%$56,79463
64Greenville, SC$212,356$29,681$17,8453.04%720$56,1650.76%$55,73968
65Knoxville, TN$207,022$31,037$16,0793.00%698$55,4950.01%$55,49174
66Wichita, KS$141,637$32,356$16,6773.08%483$54,824-3.10%$56,57760
67Chattanooga, TN$187,359$31,037$16,0793.00%632$54,699-0.90%$55,19971
68Greensboro, NC$169,479$30,547$16,9763.10%579$54,4700.00%$54,47073
69Louisville, KY$184,900$30,502$15,9563.02%625$53,961N/AN/AN/A
70Columbia, SC$151,681$29,681$17,8453.04%514$53,697-7.14%$57,82447
71Detroit, MI$38,352$35,070$16,6183.07%131$53,254-4.56%$55,79869
72Oklahoma City, OK$147,446$29,853$17,0823.03%499$52,926-3.56%$54,87759
73Augusta, GA$117,804$30,985$16,9903.00%397$52,744-4.75%$55,37576
74Tulsa, OK$134,628$29,853$17,0823.03%456$52,405-2.77%$53,89966
75Little Rock, AR$155,809$29,695$16,1292.99%525$52,122-4.85%$54,77867
76Memphis, TN$102,189$31,037$16,0793.00%345$51,252-3.68%$53,20775
77Birmingham, AL$68,025$29,254$16,8443.10%232$48,886-2.95%$50,37177
78Jackson, MS$40,920$26,643$15,8452.93%137$44,129-26.08%$59,69778

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Median house prices data was sourced from Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) by Zillow where Geography = City, accessed on Sept 10, 2020. Average 30-year interest rates in each state was sourced from bankrate on September 9, 2020. Mortgage repayments were calculated based on a 20% deposit on the median house prices in each city and the average 30-year interest rate in each state.

The average non-mortgage debt in the state was sourced from Debt in America by the Urban Institute, with prices in August 2020 dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).The average non-housing expenditures in the state was based on the per capita Personal Consumption Expenditures by State by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). We calculated personal consumption expenditures outside of housing by subtracting the per capita amount spent on housing and utilities, and adjusted to 2020 prices based on the CPI.

To calculate the required salary to buy a home, we calculated the income needed based on the ideal mortgage debt-to-income ratio of 28% and the monthly mortgage payments required in each city, making sure that the income needed for the ideal mortgage ratio was at least the sum of non-mortgage debt, yearly mortgage and non-housing expenditure in each city.

We looked at five new cities this year: San Antonio, Texas; Austin, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky and Albuquerque, New Mexico. We did not include five cities that we looked at in previous years: Rochester, New York; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Ogden, Utah and Youngstown, Ohio.

Data from previous years

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