Readers of this blog are very passionate about home prices in the Washington area and around the country, as evidenced by the strong feedback to our “U.S. regions where buying a house is most and least affordable” posting last week.
The posting listed the median sales price and the amount a buyer would need to purchase a home in that price range for five metropolitan regions that were at the top of the scale and five that were at the bottom. The list was based on a study from online real estate site HSH.com that ranked 27 metropolitan areas.
Cleveland ranked No. 1 in affordability — you’d need to earn just $29,788.67 to buy a median-priced home there. San Francisco came in last — you’d need to make $137,129.55 to purchase a median-priced home there.
Not surprisingly, the Washington area came in near the bottom — 22nd out of the 27 regions. To buy a median-priced home of $358,900, according to the study, requires an annual salary of $78,503.56.
Here are some of the comments (some lightly edited) from readers from around the country:
• “Upon retirement we left the D.C. area for Colorado Springs, where housing is about half the price. We sold an old clunker of a house in western Fairfax County for $500k and got TWICE the house here, with all the trimmings and upgrades — for the same money.” — 809212876
• “I just moved from D.C. to St. Louis. I make 15 percent more, my rent is 45 percent less, and I can get anywhere in the city (numerous museums, sporting events, concert venues, and a public park bigger than Central Park) in 30 minutes or less.” — Alex1818
• Responding to Alex1818’s comments, OriginalFoo said: “You’re unusual in getting the pay bump. The vast majority of folks will take a non-trivial pay cut for moving inland.
“That said, the inland cities do usually offer a better pure-financial bargain. Lower pay, but drastically lower cost of living. Depending on the city in question, the other intangibles may or may not be there, too.
“Pittsburgh would be my vote for the best “value”: good local cultural attractions, easy access to the coastal cities for weekend trips/vacations, generally good schools and a more progressive general population than much of the rest of the interior cities. Primary downside is poor public transit. And finding a $60k+ job there wouldn’t be that difficult for a significant fraction of the populace. Which would be better than here in San Francisco, where finding a job making $30k over minimum needed (i.e. $170k) would be hard for even the most skilled techie.”
• “While spending less on housing is appealing, losing access to some of the great offerings of a big, urban environment is less appealing. Like anything in life, there are trade-offs. And people have preferences. I have a sibling who wouldn’t dream of leaving her small little Midwestern village of 170 people, while I prefer the hustle and bustle of a big metropolitan area, which works great. When I get a hankering for rural quiet and rolling landscapes dotted by farms and lakes, I can go visit her. When she wants to see some cool local music acts, attend a three day food festival, or hang out in the city enjoying the weirdness of the varied populace, she can come visit me. Vive la difference!” — URnotSuperior
• “The most affordable cities are those that have had serious economic disruption, depopulation and now have higher than average unemployment. Once upon a time, these weren’t ‘cheap’ cities, but that was before the auto bust, the decline of U.S. manufacturing and the bust of the steel industry. Everything waxes and wanes to some extent. Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard if you’re in one of the higher income places, because that can turn fairly quickly (San Diego is in some trouble if the DoD pulls back significantly on contracting and bases there, for example).” — DCLocal20
• Responding to DCLocal20’s comments, OriginalFoo said: “Not Pittsburgh. It already underwent the bust cycle, and is back up and running quite well, thank you. Given that it’s under four hours or so from D.C., it’s also nicely located for easy weekend trips to the coast.
“I was surprised at how affordable Pittsburgh is. It’s certainly not a ‘flyover’ city anymore, and I expected it to be more expensive than it is. That’s not to say there aren’t problems there, but frankly, from everyone I know that lives there, it compares favorably to most East Coast cities (outside of NYC and Boston) in terms of culture and progressive attitude. Big exception is no decent public transit.”
• “D.C. is a metro walker’s paradise. So much is walkable and strollable and the sidewalks are not jam-packed like in Manhattan. Drive? That’s not why you want to live in D.C.” — atlasusa
• “No desire to live in any of the top 5 most affordable at all….” — mugengsr1
• “That’s why they are so affordable!” — dancingmantis