Want to Buy a House? This Is How Many Hours You Need to Work to Afford One in Each State

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How much people need to work to afford what is perhaps the most iconic aspect of the American dream—their own house—varies drastically from city to city and state to state. Just as real estate values change with ZIP codes, so, too, do income levels. (Not to mention tax rates and the price of common goods.) To see how attainable owning a home in different cities across the U.S. really is, the cost information site HowMuch.net mapped how many hours someone earning the median income in the country’s biggest cities would need to work just to pay the average mortgage.

To crunch the numbers, the site used Census data to figure out the median hourly income for people in the 98 biggest cites in the U.S., based on the idea that everyone is working 40 hours a week. (Which isn’t very realistic, but still provides a rough estimate.) Then, HowMuch.net used data from Zillow on the median housing prices to calculate the median monthly mortgage price in each of those cities, estimating that people typically get a 30-year mortgage.

A map of the U.S. highlighting the cities where people have to work the longest to pay their mortgage
How Much

Here's the breakdown for the country's most expensive metros:

1. New York, New York: 113 hours
2. Los Angeles, California: 112 hours
3. Miami, Florida: 109 hours
4. San Francisco, California: 107 hours
5. Boston, Massachusetts: 95 hours
6. Oakland, California: 83 hours
7. Long Beach, California: 78 hours
8. San Diego, California: 77 hours
9. Santa Ana, California: 74 hours
10. San Jose, California: 74 hours

California is just as expensive as you thought it was, and that applies to more than just L.A. and Silicon Valley. Long Beach and Orange County's Santa Ana make the list, too, as does sunny San Diego. Those cities pale in comparison to Miami and Boston, though. Someone living in Santa Ana would be able to afford the median mortgage working a full 35 fewer hours than someone in Miami—basically a whole workweek. Of course, that seems much less affordable when you consider that someone in Memphis only has to work 18 hours to afford their mortgage, about a fifth of what someone in San Jose does.

Obviously, there are aspects of this data that don't entirely capture the reality on the ground. Many people work more than 40 hours a week. Interest rates can vary a lot based on credit score, when you took out your mortgage, and other factors. Many households have more than one source of income, and those incomes may not be equal, which change the figures quite a bit. Most importantly, this only reflects the cost of housing. While a mortgage payment is a huge chunk of most people's expenses, this graphic doesn't reflect the cost of other necessities like food, insurance, transportation, and all the other things we have to pay for to get by in any given month.

So, before you plan your move to Memphis, bear in mind that these are just rough estimates. That said, if you do want to move to Memphis, we wouldn't blame you.

iStock.com/Steve Debenport