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Salary You Need to Afford the Average Home in the Largest U.S. Metros

Today, we have a map and a visualization about housing costs across the United States. We were inspired by this post on which displays the salary you need to afford the average home in your state. That map was pretty great, but we felt like the difference within certain states could be enormous. For example the difference between Upstate New York and New York City. That’s why we decided to make a map focusing only on metropolitan areas.

Why metros and not actual cities? – you may ask. Well, we felt it would be more realistic. When you move to a new area, you generally don’t limit your real-estate purchasing preferences to the actual administrative borders of the city. Take Atlanta as an example. Only 480,000 people live within the city limits whereas over 6 million people live in the metro.

Map of Salary you need to afford a home in major United States Metropolitan areas. (Click to enlarge)


We used the median home value in each metro which we grabbed from the data published by Zillow. Then we put the figures into their own mortgage calculator to get the monthly payments needed for each one. The mortgage type we used was the common 30-year fixed mortgage and we also assumed that the buyer can pay 10% of the price as down payment at the time of purchase.

The interest rates fluctuated based on the market as Zillow gives the live interest offers in their calculator. These were generally in the normal 4-5 percent range.

Industry experts believe that you should not spend more than 30% of your income on housing. To keep things simple, we used that percentage as our benchmark based on a report published by CNBC.

As you may observe from the map, the major metropolitan areas on the west coast are the most expensive when it comes to housing. You need to earn the most in San Jose to be able to afford the average home there. $313,840 is the magic number. Pretty staggering, isn’t it? This is caused by the insane home prices in the area.

On the other hand, the metro areas of the Rust Belt (Cleveland, Pittsburgh etc.) are places where you can afford an average home with a salary as low as $35,000.

Median home values

Take a look at the chart of median home values in the 100 most populous metropolitan areas below. These numbers are the basis of the map so it’s definetaly worth scrolling through it (click on the image to enlarge).

Median home value in the 100 largest U.S. metros (Click to enlarge)

This chart clearly shows how expensive it really is to live in the Silicon Valley. San Jose is literally off the scale with the median home value of $1,281,000. That’s nearly 15 times more than the median figures in the Youngstown metro area in Ohio.

Out of the six most expensive places, California takes five.

The Boston Metro Area (451k USD) is 8th and the New York Metropolitan Area (426k USD) follows it at ninth place.

To sum it up: Housing is expensive, really expensive but there is a substantial contrast when it comes to different regions within the country.

2 replies on “Salary You Need to Afford the Average Home in the Largest U.S. Metros”

This is an awesome map and way more digestible than the one from As a budding GIS professional, this is the sort of analysis that gets me excited about it!

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