Here’s the education level you need to afford a home in most U.S. cities

Aly J. Yale
The Mortgage Reports contributor

High school homebuyers

Higher degrees generally come with higher incomes, but it turns out they’re not a requirement for buying a house. In fact, according to a new analysis, a high school degree offers enough income to afford a home in nearly three-quarters of the country’s biggest cities.

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The degree you need

According to a new analysis from Zillow, high school grads make enough to afford a median-priced house in 36 of the nation’s 50 largest metros.

This includes homes in cities like Las Vegas; Austin, Dallas and Houston, Texas; Nashville; Atlanta; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; and St. Louis. In Oklahoma City, even a diploma isn’t necessary to earn enough to afford a house.

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According to Zillow Data Analyst Manny Garcia, this increased affordability is because of lower mortgage rates.

“A mortgage on the typical U.S. home consumed just 16.8 percent of the country’s median household income in the first quarter, down from 17.6 percent in the fourth quarter 2018 and below the 21 percent average from 1985 through 1999,” Garcia said. “All those ratios are well below the long-standing rule of thumb that says housing should cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s income.”

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Higher-education homebuyers

In nine cities, residents need associate’s degree-level income to afford a home with the median mortgage payment. These include places like Boston; Denver; Portland, Oregon; Miami; New York; Sacramento and Riverside, California; Salt Lake City; and Washington, D.C.

In some cities — mostly those along the high-priced West Coast — homebuyers need an advanced degree like a Ph.D., Master’s or Juris Doctorate in order to afford a home. California’s San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles are among these cities, for instance.

Over in Seattle and San Diego, residents have a similarly hard time. They need incomes associated with a bachelor’s degree to buy a median-priced home.

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Get today’s mortgage rates

Are you thinking of buying a house in one of the nation’s more affordable metros? Then shop around and see what mortgage rates you qualify for today.

Verify your new rate (Jul 31st, 2021)