The salary you need to earn to buy a home right now in the 25 biggest US cities

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Middle-class homebuyers are still struggling. Ursula Page/Shutterstock
  • Home prices across the United States have continued to rise, though at a steadier pace, with 91% of metros showing sales-price gains, according to the latest quarterly report from the National Association of Realtors.
  • Some of the most expensive housing markets, including San Jose and San Francisco, experienced slight home-price declines.
  • Homebuying affordability has decreased year-over-year, in part due to a gap in inventory.
  • Homebuyers in the San Francisco metro area must earn just under $US200,000 a year to qualify for a mortgage with 20% down.

Middle-class homebuyers are still struggling.

Despite a slight drop in home prices in the most expensive housing markets, prices rose in 91% of 178 US metro areas in the second quarter of 2019, according to the latest quarterly report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the price increases are in large part due to a continued lack of inventory at affordable price points. “Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” Yun said. “This is evident in the very expensive markets as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling,”

California is a particularly difficult market, though the income needed to qualify for a mortgage in San Francisco and Los Angeles metro areas decreased in the second quarter of 2019.

Each quarter, NAR calculates qualifying income requirements for all US metropolitan-statistical areas assuming the buyer puts 25% of gross income toward the mortgage principal and interest. The calculations are done for 5%, 10%, and 20% down payments at a 3.9% interest rate. Metro areas are based on the US Census definitions.

Below, we’ve pulled the qualifying annual income amounts for the 25 largest metros by population, ranked from lowest to highest qualifying income with 20% down. Detroit and Pittsburgh are not included because of insufficient data.


25. St. Louis, Missouri

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Income needed for 20% down: $US36,488

Income needed for 10% down: $US41,049


24. San Antonio, Texas

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Income needed for 20% down: $US44,730

Income needed for 10% down: $US50,321


23. Atlanta, Georgia

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Income needed for 20% down: $US44,898

Income needed for 10% down: $US50,510


22. Houston, Texas

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Income needed for 20% down: $US46,715

Income needed for 10% down: $US52,554


21. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Income needed for 20% down: $US47,614

Income needed for 10% down: $US53,566


20. Tampa, Florida

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Income needed for 20% down: $US48,891

Income needed for 10% down: $US51,627


19. Charlotte, North Carolina

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Income needed for 20% down: $US49,843

Income needed for 10% down: $US56,074


18. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

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Income needed for 20% down: $US51,585

Income needed for 10% down: $US58,033


17. Orlando, Florida

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Income needed for 20% down: $US52,072

Income needed for 10% down: $US58,581


16. Chicago, Illinois

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Income needed for 20% down: $US52,128

Income needed for 10% down: $US58,644


15. Phoenix, Arizona

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Income needed for 20% down: $US53,477

Income needed for 10% down: $US60,162


14. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

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Income needed for 20% down: $US55,088

Income needed for 10% down: $US61,974


13. Baltimore, Maryland

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Income needed for 20% down: $US57,766

Income needed for 10% down: $US64,987


12. Miami, Florida

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Income needed for 20% down: $US67,432

Income needed for 10% down: $US75,860


11. Riverside, California

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Income needed for 20% down: $US71,178

Income needed for 10% down: $US80,075


10. Sacramento, California

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Income needed for 20% down: $US72,114

Income needed for 10% down: $US81,129


9. Portland, Oregon

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Income needed for 20% down: $US77,790

Income needed for 10% down: $US87,513


8. New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York

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Income needed for 20% down: $US78,820

Income needed for 10% down: $US88,672


7. Washington, DC

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Income needed for 20% down: $US85,507

Income needed for 10% down: $US96,195


6. Denver, Colorado

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Income needed for 20% down: $US88,298

Income needed for 10% down: $US99,335


5. Boston, Massachusetts

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Income needed for 20% down: $US94,910

Income needed for 10% down: $US106,774


4. Seattle, Washington

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Income needed for 20% down: $US101,653

Income needed for 10% down: $US114,360


3. Los Angeles, California

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Income needed for 20% down: $US106,205

Income needed for 10% down: $US119,480


2. San Diego, California

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Income needed for 20% down: $US122,688

Income needed for 10% down: $US138,024


1. San Francisco, California

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Income needed for 20% down: $US196,675

Income needed for 10% down: $US221,260