In this pandemic economy, homes are scarce and competition for them is fierce, meaning prices are rising even as many Americans have less money to spend. How do you know if you can afford a home in a particular city? HSH.com’s quarterly report, which breaks down the annual income required to qualify for a mortgage in the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, is a good starting point.
Using 2020 third-quarter pricing data from the National Association of Realtors, and factoring in the industry standard 28 percent debt-to-income ratio to qualify prospective borrowers, the report determined the earnings required to qualify for a median-priced home in each area. (A 20 percent down payment and a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage at current rates were assumed, and local property taxes and homeowner’s insurance costs were included.)
To buy a home at the national median price during Q3 2020 — $313,500 — a buyer needed an annual income of $60,770, according to the report. In Pittsburgh, where the median home was listed at $177,250, a buyer needed $38,266 of yearly earnings. Compare that with San Jose, Calif., where buying such a home required a hefty annual income of $243,303.
All 50 metro areas surveyed saw year-over-year increases in required income during Q3 2020; during the second quarter, that was the case in only six areas. This week’s chart shows what you’d need to earn in the 10 most affordable and 10 least affordable metros, and what your monthly payment would be in each.
Be mindful that other home expenses, such as utilities, maintenance and repairs, are not included in these monthly payments amounts. And while list prices were used to determine the figures in the chart, bidding wars can push final sale prices — and your payments — higher than what’s shown.