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The most and least affordable U.S. metro areas to buy a house

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
Yahoo Finance
FILE PHOTO: A ‘House For Sale’ sign is seen outside a single family house in Uniondale, New York, U.S., May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

If you want to buy a house in San Jose, you probably have to make seven times what you would need if you lived in Pittsburgh. These are the most expensive and most affordable metropolitan areas to buy a house, according to data analyzed by mortgage tracker HSH.

Using quarterly price data from the National Association of Retailers as well as local property taxes, and insurance costs, HSH calculated the salaries a person would need to afford a median-priced home in the nation’s top 50 metropolitan areas with a 20% down payment. The threshold for afford used is the common one-third of pre-tax income allocated to housing.

You’d need to make just $38,253 to buy a median-priced house in Pittsburgh. The next-cheapest places to buy a home were Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Indianapolis, Memphis, Buffalo, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Birmingham, and Detroit.

While houses were pricey in San Francisco, nearby San Jose actually had the most expensive houses, requiring a whopping $274,623 annual salary to afford one. That was followed by San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, New York City, Washington D.C., Denver, Portland (Oregon), and Sacramento.

HSH has calculated the most and least affordable metro areas to buy a house. (Graphic by David Foster)

San Jose’s monthly payment of $6,408 was so much higher than the rest of the major cities examined that a San Jose salary could afford both a median-priced house in the second most expensive metro area, San Francisco, and one in Dallas, the 20th most expensive metro area. Pittsburgh’s monthly payment is only $893 for a median-priced house.

Across all 50 biggest markets, HSH noted, median home prices had risen 6.55% since last year, but total costs had risen enough to require a 10.58% salary bump to keep up.

The reasons? According to HSH, it’s a classic supply and demand issue. Though mortgage rates have risen slightly, a strong economy, low unemployment, and millennials aging into a buying lifestage have all kept demand strong.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, retail, personal finance, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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