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Here's how much you have to make to afford a starter home in the U.S.

Home prices up 6.5% over last year: Report
Home prices rose 6.5% over the last year, report finds 04:57

Americans must earn at least $76,000 a year to afford a basic home in the U.S., a sharp increase from the recommended income to become a homeowner before the pandemic, according to Redfin.

Only four years ago, people with annual earnings of $40,500 could afford a typical starter house, the online estate firm said in a new report. But the double whammy of rising mortgage rates and record-high home prices has lifted the cost beyond the means of many Americans. 

"The pandemic housing-market boom changed the definition of a starter home," Redfin Senior Economist Elijah de la Campa said in a statement. "A decade ago, many people thought of a starter home as a small three-bedroom single-family house. Now that type of home could cost seven figures, especially in expensive parts of the country."

The typical full-time worker in the U.S. earns roughly $1,145 per week, or roughly $66,000, according to government labor data. Redfin defines a home as affordable if a buyer spends no more than 30% of their income on housing, assuming a 3.5% down payment.

Starter homes are typically smaller, modestly priced dwellings, enabling first-time buyers to become homeowners. But these days, many such properties are in poor physical condition and "often require a lot of work to make them habitable — which makes them cost even more," de la Campa said. 

The typical starter home sold for $240,000 in February, up 3.4% from the prior year, according to Redfin. In February of 2020, the median sale price for such homes was $169,000, while the average mortgage rate hovered around 3.5%.

As of Thursday, rates for a conventional 30-year loan stood at 6.87%, while the median home price as of February was $384,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

Changes to real estate rules could lower home prices 01:51

With the number of affordable homes on the market in low supply, first-time buyers also must compete with a growing number of all-cash offers. More than a third of the nation's starter homes were bought in cash in February, Redfin found. 

Of course, with real estate prices varying widely across the U.S., some cities are far more affordable than others. In San Jose, for example, residents need an annual income of roughly $319,000 to afford a home, while in Detroit earnings of $22,000 are sufficient. 

Looking beyond the world of starter homes, affordability gets even higher for the average buyer. Americans must earn roughly $106,500 to comfortably afford a typical home, according to research last month from digital real estate company Zillow.


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