12 US cities where even the highest earners can barely afford housing

Housing is the biggest recurring expense most Americans face.

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Housing is the biggest recurring expense most Americans face.
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Xsandra/Getty

Housing is the biggest recurring expense most Americans face.

According to a new report from LendingTree’s chief economist Tendayi Kapfidze, working in a metro area’s highest-paying industry can make it easier to afford a home in the median price range.

However, in a few more expensive real-estate markets, Kapfidze discovered, it can still be a stretch to comfortably afford housing despite a high salary.

In his analysis, Kapfidze defined “affordable” as spending no more than 28% of annual gross income on housing costs. By this measurement, workers in the highest-earning industries in San Jose and San Francisco struggle to afford median-priced homes, spending more than $200 a month on housing costs than they should.

While these Silicon Valley metros are the only places where the estimated monthly housing payment for a median-priced home exceeds affordability standards, several other cities come close. The monthly payment was calculated assuming a 20% down payment and mortgage with a 4.25% interest rate.

The highest-paid workers in 10 other metro areas have less than $800 a month left over after covering housing costs, assuming they own a median-priced home, according to the LendingTree report.

An important note: Income figures used in this analysis are from 2017 and represent the median salary of an individual working in that industry, not the total income of a household. A dual-income household could likely afford a higher monthly payment. You can find the full methodology here.

Below are the metro areas where typical workers in the highest-paid industries – most commonly legal, architecture and engineering, and computers and mathematics – have the narrowest margin between what they can comfortably afford and what they likely pay for a home.


11 (TIE). New York, New York

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turtix/Shutterstock

Median home value: $413,200

Median annual income for highest earners: $102,615

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $2,394

The legal industry pays the highest salaries in New York. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $2,394 a month on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,626, leaving them with about $768 to spare.


11 (TIE). Virginia Beach, Virginia

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Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

Median home value: $236,600

Median annual income for highest earners: $72,801

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $1,699

In Virginia Beach, architecture and engineering jobs pay the most. These workers should spend a maximum of $1,699 a month on housing, according to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $931, leaving them about $768 to spare.


10. Providence, Rhode Island

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Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Median home value: $257,300

Median annual income for highest earners: $76,003

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $1,773

Architecture and engineering are the highest paid jobs in Providence. These workers should spend a maximum of $1,773 on housing, according to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,013, leaving them with about $761 to spare.


9. Portland, Oregon

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Nadia Yong/Shutterstock

Median home value: $312,500

Median annual income for highest earners: $83,118

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $1,939

In Portland, jobs in the legal industry pay the most. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $1,939 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,230, leaving them with about $710 to spare.


8. Salt Lake City, Utah

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Checubus/Shutterstock

Median home value: $255,100

Median annual income for highest earners: $72,268

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $1,686

In Salt Lake City, legal occupations pay the highest of any industry. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $1,686 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,004, leaving them with about $682 to spare.


7. Miami, Florida

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travelview/Shutterstock

Median home value: $236,500

Median annual income for highest earners: $68,838

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $1,606

Law enforcement workers and supervisors are the highest-paid workers in the Miami metro. These workers should spend a maximum of $1,606 on housing, affording to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $931, leaving them with about $675 to spare.


6. Denver, Colorado

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littlenySTOCK/Shutterstock

Median home value: $317,100

Median annual income for highest earners: $81,747

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $1,907

Jobs in computer and mathematics pay the highest of any industry in Denver. These workers should spend a maximum of $1,907 on housing, according to affordability standards. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,248, leaving them with about $659 to spare.


5. Boston, Massachusetts

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Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Median home value: $393,500

Median annual income for highest earners: $91,015

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $2,124

Jobs in computer and mathematics pay the highest of any industry in Boston. According to affordability standards, these workers should spend a maximum of $2,124 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,549, leaving them with about $575 to spare.


4. Los Angeles, California

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Let Go Media/Shutterstock

Median home value: $537,000

Median annual income for highest earners: $97,707

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $2,280

Legal professionals are the highest-paid workers in Los Angeles. According to affordability standards, these people should spend a maximum of $2,280 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $2,113, leaving them with about $166 to spare.


3. San Diego, California

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Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock

Median home value: $484,900

Median annual income for highest earners: $86,596

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $2,021

In San Diego, architecture and engineering jobs pay the most. According to affordability standards, workers in theses industries should spend a maximum of $2,021 on housing. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $1,908, leaving them with about $112 to spare.


2. San Francisco, California

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Rafael Ramirez Lee/Shutterstock

Median home value: $716,500

Median annual income for highest earners: $112,168

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $2,617

In San Francisco, jobs in the legal industry are the highest paying. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $2,820, but a worker in the highest paying industry should spend about $2,617 – a difference of $203.


1. San Jose, California

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NicolasMcComber/Getty

Median home value: $815,000

Median annual income for highest earners: $123,052

Affordable monthly payment for highest earners: $2,871

Jobs in computer and mathematics pay the highest in San Jose. The estimated monthly payment for a median-priced home in the area is $3,207, but a worker in the highest paying industry should spend about $2,871 – a difference of $336.

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