Career Advice

Where Can You Afford to Live?

When selecting a career, many job seekers look for self-growth opportunities, stability and a purpose for your daily routine, knowing your career will affect the rest your life. Yet did you ever think about how it could dictate where you could live too?

With home values rising and inventory falling, home ownership is less attainable across the nation. Middle-income American families aren’t the only ones struggling with this either, in fact, an affordable housing study uncovered that homeownership is a struggle for families of all different incomes, depending on where you live and your profession. Trulia explored three different cities and their affordability, based on four professional careers: doctors, first responders, teachers, and restaurant workers.

Comparing Metropolitan Affordability

Dayton, Ohio. Dayton ranks in the top 10 most affordable housing markets for each of the occupations listed. Right now, the median list price for those living in Dayton is $129,000. This indicates only 32.43% of homes are affordable for restaurant workers, who make $19,736 per year. Following that, first responder salaries average $49,406 and can afford 75% of homes, teachers can afford 83.3% of homes on their salaries equaling to about $61,810 and doctors make $208,000 come in at 99.6% of homes. While numbers might look scarce for restaurant workers, a dual income home with restaurant workers can actually afford 65.87% of homes.

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Chicago, Illinois. While all incomes are higher in this metropolitan, buying a home in Chicago is a little more difficult to do across all professions. This is due to the substantial median list price increase to $279,000 in Chicago.  While doctors are still making $208,000 per year, a professional in this career can afford 90.7 % of homes in the metropolitan area. Chicago first responders make $75,600 on average yet affordability for these professionals has dropped to 55.3 % of homes. Similarly, teachers who usually make $70,483 in Chicago are only able to afford 52.3% of homes. Finally, restaurant workers can only afford 7% of the homes in Chicago living off a $21,338 annual salary average.

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San Francisco, California. The City is notorious for its expensive real estate and studies show that even the highest paid professions have a tough time affording to live in San Francisco. The median home price for those interested in buying a home in San Francisco is $1,249,000. Are people making enough money to live here? Doctors, who continue to make $208,000 in San Francisco can only afford 41.6% of homes in the city, which is unsettling for many other professions. Even first responders, who see a substantial increase in pay of $100,625.00 can only afford 2.6% of homes. A teaching salary in San Francisco is $72,340, yet only 0.4% of those in the profession can afford to buy. This leaves restaurant workers, making on average $28,612 a year unable to live in the city off a single salary.

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Where can you live?

The top cities to get the most bang for your buck are as follows:

  1. Detroit, MI
  2. Dayton, OH
  3. Akron, OH
  4. Toledo, OH
  5. Memphis, TN

Trends show that the most affordable housing is found in the Midwest, but there are exceptions which can be influenced by the amount you are paid. Within the top 20 cities, you can find places both on the east and west coast, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

On the opposite end, there are cities that challenge almost any professional’s salary. San Francisco is the least affordable city in America; in fact, Doctors can only afford 41.6% of homes. The least affordable cities following San Francisco include:

  1. Ventura County, CA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Austin, TX
  5. New York, NY

In total, a city will dictate your profession’s salary amount, which then will influence home affordability. While most cities do have direct relationship between cost of living and paid salary, some cities see an inverse. For example, the median listing price for those living in Austin is $357,000, yet doctors see a major decrease in pay, averaging only $102,060, which is about half of the other cities studied.

Therefore, it is important to assess a variety of jobs in cities around the country to gauge where you can get the most bang for your buck. Let affordability become attainable by comparing professions side by side in any given city and ranking them against home listing prices in the area.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and based on Trulia’s April 2017 economic research study “Teacher, Teacher, Can You Live Here?” Wage figures used in this report are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics for May 2016. Affordability is defined as spending 31% or less of one’s monthly income on housing. Read the complete methodology here

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