What does it take to be rich in America?

Here’s the salary you need to buy a house in 50 US cities

Depending on where you live, owning a home can seem like a distant dream or it can be quite realistic. In New York, for example, a person needs to earn at least six figures to buy a house, but in Cleveland you can do it on just over $45,000 a year.

This visual, using data from Home Sweet Home, maps the annual salary you’d need to become a homeowner in 50 different US cities.

Note: The map above refers to entire metropolitan areas and uses Q1 2022 median house price data. The necessary salary was calculated by the source, taking into account the basic cost of capital, interest, property tax and home insurance.

Homeownership in the United States

San Jose is by far the most expensive city to buy a home. A person would need to earn more $330,000 annually to pay off the mortgage at a monthly rate of $7,718.

Here is an overview of the numbers:

Rank Subway station Median house price Necessary salary
#1 San Jose $1,875,000 $330,758
#2 San Francisco $1,380,000 $249,685
#3 San Diego $905,000 $166,828
#4 Los Angeles $792,500 $149,127
#5 Seattle $746,200 $140,768
#6 Boston $639,000 $130,203
#seven New York City $578,100 $129,459
#8 denver $662,200 $121,888
#9 Austin $540,700 $114,679
#ten washington d.c. $553,000 $110,327
#11 Portland $570,500 $109,267
#12 Riverside/San Bernardino $560,000 $106,192
#13 Sacramento $545,000 $105,934
#14 Miami $530,000 $103,744
#15 Salt Lake City $556,900 $100,970
#16 Providence $406,700 $88,477
#17 Phoenix $474,500 $86,295
#18 Vegas $461,100 $84,116
#19 Raleigh $439,100 $83,561
#20 dallas $365,400 $81,165
#21 Orlando $399,900 $79,573
#22 Chicago $325,400 $76,463
#23 Tampa $379,900 $75,416
#24 Houston $330,800 $74,673
#25 Minneapolis $355,800 $74,145
#26 Baltimore $350,900 $73,803
#27 Nashville $387,200 $73,502
#28 Jacksonville $365,900 $73,465
#29 Hartford $291,000 $73,165
#30 Charlotte $379,900 $72,348
#31 San Antonio $321,100 $70,901
#32 Atlanta $350,300 $69,619
#33 philadelphia cream $297,900 $69,569
#34 richmond $354,500 $68,629
#35 Milwaukee $298,800 $65,922
#36 Kansas City $287,400 $60,507
#37 Columbus $274,300 $59,321
#38 Virginia Beach $289,900 $59,245
#39 New Orleans $281,100 $57,853
#40 birmingham $289,500 $55,662
#41 Indianapolis $271,600 $53,586
#42 Memphis $259,300 $52,691
#43 Cincinnati $244,300 $51,840
#44 Buffalo $202,300 $51,525
#45 Detroit $224,300 $50,302
#46 Saint Louis $216,700 $48,988
#47 Louisville $235,400 $48,121
#48 Cleveland $192,700 $45,448
#49 Oklahoma City $198,200 $45,299
#50 Pittsburgh $185,700 $42,858

Perhaps surprisingly, Boston residents need slightly higher incomes than New Yorkers to buy a home. The same is true in Seattle and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, some of the cheapest cities to start buying real estate in are Oklahoma City and Cleveland.

In April, the homeownership rate in the United States was 65%. This number represents the share of dwellings that are owner-occupied, rather than rented or vacant.

The American Dream House

At the time of this data (Q1 2022), the national annual fixed mortgage rate was 4% and the median home price at $368,200. This put the salary needed to buy a house at almost $76,000⁠—the national median household income is nearly $9,000 lower.

But what type of homes are people looking to buy? Depending on where you live, the type of house and the square footage you can get will be very different.

In New York, for example, there are relatively few free-standing single-family homes in the traditional sense⁠—only about 4,000 are on the market. People in the Big Apple tend to buy condominiums or multi-family units.

Plus, if you’re looking for luxury, even seven figures won’t fetch you much in the big cities. In Miami, a million dollars will only buy you 833 square feet prime real estate.

One thing is certain: the typical American dream home of the big house with a yard and a white picket fence is more accessible in smaller metropolitan areas with sprawling suburbs.

Buy vs rent

The median US household income is $67,500, which means the typical family today can only afford a home in about 15 out of 50 the metropolitan areas highlighted above, including New Orleans, Buffalo and Indianapolis.

With the income gap widening in the United States, the rental market remains a more attractive option for many, especially as prices finally come down. The national median rent price fell by nearly 3% June to July for two bedroom apartments.

Ultimately, buying a home can be a big investment and can provide a sense of security, but it will be much easier to do in certain types of cities.

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