Most and least affordable cities for home buyers

Although home prices have risen sharply over the past year in most major metropolitan areas, low interest rates have kept homes affordable in 17 of 27 major metropolitan areas. Indeed, in six cities, the average monthly payment costs less than $1,000 for those with a 20 percent down payment.

However, the affordability picture is far less rosy if you happen to live on the Western or Eastern seaboards. Residents of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City, Boston and Miami all earn far less, on average, than what’s needed to buy the median-priced home, according to an analysis by HSH Associates.

Pulling together median home prices and average mortgage rates, HSH found that the average salary Americans would need to buy a home is just $51,986 on a national basis. That’s nicely below the $55,775 that the Census Bureau reported the average American household took home in 2015. However, averages mask vast variations in affordability, based on regional differences in income, interest rates and housing prices.

For instance, where the average Minnesota resident earns an above-average $63,488, according to the Census Bureau, both home prices and interest rates skew on the low side, making home affordability a relative breeze in Minneapolis. 

Miami residents grapple with the opposite situation: Interest rates and housing prices skew on the high side, while the average Florida resident takes home just $49,426 -- some $6,349 less than the national average.

In which cities are homes most and least affordable, based on median home prices, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and average incomes in that state? Here are the six most affordable and six least affordable major metropolitan areas.

Six most-affordable cities:

Pittsburgh

Median home price: $140,000 (vs. the $240,900 national average)

Average mortgage rate: 3.49 percent (vs. a 3.57 percent national average)

Monthly payment: $745.49

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $31,962.

Average income in Pennsylvania: $55,702.

Cleveland

Median home price: $138,900

Average mortgage rate: 3.58 percent

Monthly payment: $797.64

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $34,185

Average income in Ohio: $51,075

Cincinnati

Median home price: $157,000

Average mortgage rate: 3.63 percent

Monthly payment: $842.74

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $36,117

Average income in Ohio: $51,075

St. Louis

Median home price: $170,000

Average mortgage rate: 3.53 percent

Monthly payment: $875.62

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $37,527

Average income in Missouri: $50,238

Detroit

Median home price: $170,817

Average mortgage rate: 3.61 percent

Monthly payment: $910.78

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $39,033

Average income in Michigan: $51,084

Atlanta

Median home price: $191,500

Average mortgage rate: 3.54 percent

Monthly payment: $918.98

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $39,385

Average income in Georgia: $51,244

Least affordable cities:

San Francisco

Median home price: $835,400

Average mortgage rate: 3.66 percent

Monthly payment: $3,550.71

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $152,173

Average income in California: $64,500

San Diego

Median home price: $589,300

Average mortgage rate: 3.78 percent

Monthly payment: $2,535.26

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $108,654

Average income in California: $64,500

Los Angeles

Median home price: $536,700

Average mortgage rate: 3.65 percent

Monthly payment: $2,336.77

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $100,147

Average income in California: $64,500

Boston

Median home price: $435,300

Average mortgage rate: 3.50 percent

Monthly payment: $2,007.92

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $86,054

Average income in Massachusetts: $70,628

New York City

Median home price: $397,600

Average mortgage rate: 3.56 percent

Monthly payment: $1,994.72

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $85,488

Average income in New York: $60,850

Seattle

Median home price: $422,100

Average mortgage rate: 3.76 percent

Monthly payment: $1,908.06

Income necessary to afford the median-priced home: $81,774

Average income in Washington: $64,129