12 US cities where even the highest earners can barely afford housing

Xsandra/GettyHousing is the biggest recurring expense most Americans face.

Housing is the biggest recurring expense most Americans face.

According to a new report from LendingTree’s chief economist Tendayi Kapfidze, working in a metro area’s highest-paying industry can make it easier to afford a home in the median price range.

However, in a few more expensive real-estate markets, Kapfidze discovered, it can still be a stretch to comfortably afford housing despite a high salary.

In his analysis, Kapfidze defined “affordable” as spending no more than 28% of annual gross income on housing costs. By this measurement, workers in the highest-earning industries in San Jose and San Francisco struggle to afford median-priced homes, spending more than $US200 a month on housing costs than they should.

While these Silicon Valley metros are the only places where the estimated monthly housing payment for a median-priced home exceeds affordability standards, several other cities come close. The monthly payment was calculated assuming a 20% down payment and mortgage with a 4.25% interest rate.

The highest-paid workers in 10 other metro areas have less than $US800 a month left over after covering housing costs, assuming they own a median-priced home, according to the LendingTree report.

An important note: Income figures used in this analysis are from 2017 and represent the median salary of an individual working in that industry, not the total income of a household. A dual-income household could likely afford a higher monthly payment. You can find the full methodology here.

Below are the metro areas where typical workers in the highest-paid industries – most commonly legal, architecture and engineering, and computers and mathematics – have the narrowest margin between what they can comfortably afford and what they likely pay for a home.


11 (TIE). New York, New York

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Median home value: $US413,200

Median annual income for highest earners:$US102,615

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US2,394

The legal industry pays the highest salaries in New York. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $US2,394 a month on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,626, leaving them with about $US768 to spare.


11 (TIE). Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

Median home value: $US236,600

Median annual income for highest earners:$US72,801

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US1,699

In Virginia Beach, architecture and engineering jobs pay the most. These workers should spend a maximum of $US1,699 a month on housing, according to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US931, leaving them about $US768 to spare.


10. Providence, Rhode Island

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Median home value: $US257,300

Median annual income for highest earners:$US76,003

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US1,773

Architecture and engineering are the highest paid jobs in Providence. These workers should spend a maximum of $US1,773 on housing, according to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,013, leaving them with about $US761 to spare.


9. Portland, Oregon

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Median home value: $US312,500

Median annual income for highest earners:$US83,118

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US1,939

In Portland, jobs in the legal industry pay the most. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $US1,939 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,230, leaving them with about $US710 to spare.


8. Salt Lake City, Utah

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Median home value: $US255,100

Median annual income for highest earners:$US72,268

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US1,686

In Salt Lake City, legal occupations pay the highest of any industry. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $US1,686 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,004, leaving them with about $US682 to spare.


7. Miami, Florida

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Median home value: $US236,500

Median annual income for highest earners:$US68,838

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US1,606

Law enforcement workers and supervisors are the highest-paid workers in the Miami metro. These workers should spend a maximum of $US1,606 on housing, affording to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US931, leaving them with about $US675 to spare.


6. Denver, Colorado

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Median home value: $US317,100

Median annual income for highest earners:$US81,747

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US1,907

Jobs in computer and mathematics pay the highest of any industry in Denver. These workers should spend a maximum of $US1,907 on housing, according to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,248, leaving them with about $US659 to spare.


5. Boston, Massachusetts

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Median home value: $US393,500

Median annual income for highest earners:$US91,015

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US2,124

Jobs in computer and mathematics pay the highest of any industry in Boston. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $US2,124 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,549, leaving them with about $US575 to spare.


4. Los Angeles, California

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Median home value: $US537,000

Median annual income for highest earners:$US97,707

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US2,280

Legal professionals are the highest-paid workers in Los Angeles. According to affordability standards, these people should spend a maximum of $US2,280 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US2,113, leaving them with about $US166 to spare.


3. San Diego, California

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Median home value: $US484,900

Median annual income for highest earners:$US86,596

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US2,021

In San Diego, architecture and engineering jobs pay the most. According to affordability standards, workers in theses industries should spend a maximum of $US2,021 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US1,908, leaving them with about $US112 to spare.


2. San Francisco, California

Rafael Ramirez Lee/Shutterstock

Median home value: $US716,500

Median annual income for highest earners:$US112,168

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US2,617

In San Francisco, jobs in the legal industry are the highest paying. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US2,820, but a worker in the highest paying industry should spend about $US2,617 – a difference of $US203.


1. San Jose, California

NicolasMcComber/Getty

Median home value: $US815,000

Median annual income for highest earners:$US123,052

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners:$US2,871

Jobs in computer and mathematics pay the highest in San Jose. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $US3,207, but a worker in the highest paying industry should spend about $US2,871 – a difference of $US336.

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