map-mortgage-hours-share

How Many Hours Americans Need to Work to Pay Their Mortgage

How Many Hours Americans Need to Work to Pay Their Mortgage

How Many Hours Americans Need to Work to Afford a Home

When it comes to the cost of living in cities, a general rule of thumb is that housing prices are much higher in the country’s economic and population hubs, especially in the cities along the coasts.

Particularly in recent years, prices have been pushed sky-high in places like New York City or San Francisco through a combination of limited supply of new homes, increasing demand, shifting demographics, and government regulations.

Putting it Into Perspective

Today’s visualization from HowMuch.net applies a common denominator to compare 97 of the biggest cities in the United States. Using a measure of median household income against the average mortgage payment in each city, we get a gauge of how many hours must be worked each month just to pay down the house.

The visualization uses data from the U.S. Census for household income and Zillow for median home listing price, while calculating mortgage payments based on a standard 30-year term.

The Results

Using the above method to compare the amount of hours it takes to pay down a monthly mortgage, we see some interesting contrasts in the country.

Here are the five most expensive cities in the United States for housing:

RankCityMedian IncomeMedian ListingHours of Work to Pay Mortgage
#1New York City$53,373$798,000113.5
#2Los Angeles$50,205$748,000112.4
#3Miami$31,051$449,000109.4
#4San Francisco$82,294$1,150,000106.7
#5Boston$55,777$699,00094.7

With about 170 hours in a normal work month, the average people in these cities are spending 50% or more of their income just to pay down their mortgages. It’s worst in New York City and Los Angeles, where at least 65% of income is going towards housing.

These cities stand in stark contrast to the five cheapest cities based on hours of work needed:

RankCityMedian IncomeMedian ListingHours of Work to Pay Mortgage
#93Baltimore$42,241$139,00024.9
#94Buffalo$31,918$90,00021.4
#95Cleveland$26,150$70,00020.3
#96Memphis$36,445$88,50018.4
#97Toledo$33,687$74,90016.9

In a city like Memphis, TN it takes only 18.4 hours of work a month to pay down the average mortgage. That’s equal to only about 10% of monthly household income.

Coastal Disparity

Interestingly, even though coastal hubs have high prices relative to the cities in the middle of the country, they differ quite widely against each other. This discrepancy does not necessarily show in terms of ranking, but more in terms of the actual hours of work needed.

RankCityMedian IncomeMedian ListingHours of Work to Pay Mortgage
#1New York City$53,373$798,000113.5
#2Los Angeles$50,205$748,000112.4
#4San Francisco$82,294$1,150,000106.7
#5Boston$55,777$699,00094.7
#10San Jose$84,647$825,00073.5
#12Seattle$70,594$679,00072.8
#24Washington, D.C.$70,848$550,00058.9

Washington, D.C., for example, requires less than half the hours of work to pay down a mortgage than Los Angeles or New York City. Meanwhile, a popular west coast hub like Seattle only needs 72.8 hours in comparison to New York’s 113.5 hours.

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