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The Number of Hours Americans Must Work To Afford Their Mortgages Across the US

Updated Nov 30, 2022

Updated Nov 30, 2022

Home > Moving > The Number of Hours Americans Must Work To Afford Their Mortgages Across the US

Rising inflation rates have undoubtedly tightened the average American’s budget. The near-bursting inflation bubble also caused a noticeable uptick in real estate costs, leaving many prospective homeowners wondering how they’ll ever afford a home.

Now, nearly two years since the real estate market began heating up, prices are finally cooling down. Early signs of falling mortgage rates and down payments are encouraging many Americans to make a long-awaited jump into the housing market.

If you’re considering purchasing a home, you’ll first need to determine if current mortgage rates realistically fit into your budget. To help you see how much of your paycheck will go toward a new home, we’ve compared average wages and monthly mortgage payments by location. We then used this data to calculate how many hours you must work to afford a monthly mortgage, depending on national, state, and city demographics.

Key Findings

  • On average, American homeowners must work 110 hours per month just to afford their monthly mortgages.
  • The median home value is $355,852 – up 18.2% since July 2021.
  • Average rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage have nearly doubled in the past year – from 2.86% in 2021 to 5.81% today.
  • Hawaii ranks as the most expensive state for mortgages, requiring residents to work about 263 hours per month to afford their monthly payments of $6,030.
  • West Virginia is the least expensive state for mortgages; residents only need to work 58 hours per month to afford a mortgage payment of $1,028. 
  • San Francisco comes in first place as the most expensive metropolitan area; residents must work approximately 249 hours per month to pay their mortgages.

National Averages

Before jumping into state and city data, let’s look at national averages for hourly wages, home values, and monthly mortgage rates. 

Median Hourly WageMedian Home ValueMonthly Mortgage PaymentHours Worked to Afford Mortgage
$22$355,852$2,431110

Based on data from Zillow’s Home Value Index report, the median home value in the United States currently stands at $355,852, with a monthly mortgage payment of $2,431. Considering that the average American earns $22 per hour, they must work approximately 110 hours per month to afford this payment.

To put that in perspective – 

One hundred and ten working hours is equivalent to a little under three 40-hour work weeks. This means you’ll work nearly three weeks out of the month just to afford your mortgage.

If you feel overwhelmed or disheartened by this statistic, know that you aren’t alone. Most American homeowners are spending an outrageous portion of their incomes on housing, whether that be mortgages or rentals

A well-known principle called the 28% rule states that you shouldn’t spend more than 28% of your monthly income on a mortgage. Current inflation trends have homeowners far exceeding this rule – sometimes handing over 64% of their monthly incomes on mortgage payments. Even the state with the lowest monthly mortgage rates violates this principle, with residents forking out 33.5% of their monthly incomes on house payments.

Hours of Work Needed to Afford a Mortgage Payment by State

The cost of living varies greatly by state, and housing prices are no exception. The table below shows each state ranked from most hours needed to pay off a mortgage to least. We also included median annual and hourly wages, home values, and average mortgage payments to provide a full picture of costs in each state.

Most Expensive States to Afford a Mortgage

RankStateMedian Hourly WageMedian Home ValueMonthly Mortgage PaymentHours Needed to Afford Mortgage
1Hawaii$23$909,000$6,030263
2California$23$788,000$5,241227
3Utah$19$572,000$3,834205
4Idaho$18$472,000$3,183176
5Nevada$18$467,000$3,150173
6Washington$24$624,000$4,172172
7Colorado$23$586,000$3,925170
8Montana$18$453,000$3,006164
9Arizona$19$448,000$3,027159
10Oregon$23$524,000$3,521156
11Florida$18$402,000$2,727150
12Massachusetts$28$591,000$3,957141
13New Jersey$23$470,000$3,170137
14New Hampshire$23$436,000$2,948131
15Rhode Island$23$437,000$2,904126
16District of Columbia$38$707,000$4,713123
17Georgia$18$319,000$2,185119
18Maine$21$365,000$2,443118
19North Carolina$18$322,000$2,167117
20Maryland$23$406,000$2,705116
21New York$23$407,000$2,711116
22Texas$19$315,000$2,122113
23Tennessee$18$303,000$2,045113
24Virginia$23$375,000$2,551112
25New Mexico$18$296,000$2,035112
26South Carolina$18$295,000$1,994111
27South Dakota$18$294,000$1,998110
28Delaware$22$358,000$2,440109
29Vermont$23$356,000$2,427108
30Connecticut$23$361,000$2,459105
31Wyoming$22$323,000$2,17499
32Minnesota$23$334,000$2,24498
33Alaska$23$328,000$2,24496
34Nebraska$19$240,000$1,64288
35Missouri$18$231,000$1,61188
36Pennsylvania$22$266,000$1,84085
37Wisconsin$22$265,000$1,83385
38Louisiana$18$215,000$1,50784
39Indiana$18$221,000$1,54684
40North Dakota$23$277,000$1,87983
41Illinois$22$267,000$1,84682
42Kansas$18$207,000$1,47080
43Alabama$18$207,000$1,43180
44Ohio$19$212,000$1,50379
45Kentucky$18$198,000$1,41178
46Michigan$22$237,000$1,65176
47Arkansas$18$179,000$1,29573
48Iowa$19$192,000$1,37273
49Oklahoma$18$182,000$1,30672
50Mississippi$17$166,000$1,20071
51West Virginia$18$139,000$1,02858

The median state in our dataset, New Mexico, is the 25th most expensive state for mortgages. New Mexico comes in hot with 112 hours of work needed to pay off a mortgage, a rate higher than the national average of 110 hours.

Based on our calculations, New Mexico homeowners must work this many hours to pay off a monthly mortgage of $2,035. This is 13 more hours than Wyoming homeowners, who must work to pay off a similar monthly mortgage of $2,174. 

The state with the most expensive mortgage is Hawaii, costing an average of $6,030 per month. Hawaii homeowners need to work approximately 263 hours just to afford this payment. 

West Virginians, on the other hand, only need to work 58 hours to afford a monthly mortgage payment of $1,028. However, the median home value in the state is just $139,000, which is about $770,000 less than Hawaii’s average home value.

Other state-by-state trends:

  • California, Oregon, and Washington all rank in the top 10, making the West Coast the most expensive region for homeownership. West Coast residents must work more hours to afford a mortgage than homeowners in other areas.
  • Meanwhile, several states in the Southeastern U.S. rank as the least expensive. According to our report, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi are in the bottom 12 states for mortgage rates. Residents in this area will work fewer hours to afford their mortgages, which range from approximately $1,200 to $1,500 per month. 

Hours of Work Needed to Afford a Mortgage Payment by City 

Now, we’ll look at how mortgage rates and hours worked vary across the top 50 major metropolitan areas. The table below displays the same data points as the previous set; however, it includes the most populated cities across the United States. Cities are generally more expensive than rural areas, meaning some areas may rank higher than their corresponding states.

Most Expensive Cities to Afford a Mortgage

RankCityMedian Hourly WageMedian Home ValueMonthly Mortgage PaymentHours Needed to Afford Mortgage
1San Francisco$30$1,550,000$7,424249
2San Jose$36$1,900,000$8,983247
3San Diego$23$965,900$4,839209
4Los Angeles$23$825,700$4,217184
5Miami$19$589,000$3,073165
6Riverside/San Bernardino$19$585,000$3,010160
7Austin$23$613,200$3,424152
8Denver$24$695,800$3,480147
9Seattle$29$818,900$4,169144
10Portland$23$616,300$3,174136
11New York City$27$621,000$3,644136
12Boston$29$722,200$3,889134
13Las Vegas$18$485,400$2,405133
14Salt Lake City$23$605,000$2,982132
15Sacramento$23$570,000$2,994128
16Orlando$18$430,000$2,286127
17Tampa$18$411,000$2,179119
18Jacksonville$18$396,000$2,120116
19Providence$23$457,700$2,600114
20Nashville$19$418,500$2,137113
21Phoenix$22$496,000$2,453112
22Washington, D.C.$30$626,700$3,311112
23San Antonio$18$349,500$2,030111
24Raleigh$23$477,600$2,452109
25Dallas$22$408,200$2,376109
26Houston$21$357,200$2,11298
27Chicago$23$370,100$2,22398
28Charlotte$22$414,300$2,12698
29Baltimore$23$396,200$2,18795
30Virginia Beach$19$336,400$1,80893
31Richmond$22$391,900$2,03192
32Minneapolis$23$387,200$2,13992
33Atlanta$22$379,700$2,01291
34Milwaukee$23$364,600$2,04591
35Philadelphia$23$346,300$2,06390
36Hartford$24$337,400$2,13390
37New Orleans$18$300,600$1,64490
38Birmingham$18$318,800$1,64389
39Memphis$18$288,000$1,54885
40Indianapolis$19$303,300$1,58984
41Kansas City$22$326,100$1,79182
42Columbus$22$322,200$1,80080
43Louisville$19$263,500$1,42276
44Cincinnati$20$277,900$1,53975
45Oklahoma City$18$231,900$1,36074
46St Louis$21$258,000$1,48370
47Buffalo$22$237,200$1,51368
48Detroit$23$271,100$1,55068
49Cleveland$22$225,600$1,34860
50Pittsburgh$22$215,000$1,26957

California is home to the top four cities where residents must work the most hours to afford their mortgages. San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Los Angeles have higher home values, leading to higher monthly mortgage rates of $4,217 to $8,982. 

San Francisco is the most expensive metropolitan area for American homeowners. The average American living in San Francisco would need a full-time job (40 hours/week) plus a part-time job (20 hours/week) just to be able to make their mortgage payment.

Folks in San Francisco will have to work approximately 249 hours to afford their $7,424 monthly mortgages, while San Jose residents will work 247 hours – two hours less – to afford a higher rate of $8,982 per month. Despite the slight discrepancy in hours between the two cities, San Jose’s median home value is around $350,000 higher than San Francisco’s, so homes will likely take longer to pay off.

The major city with the lowest monthly mortgage payments is Pittsburgh. People in this city will need to work around 57 hours to afford a monthly mortgage of $1,268. Pittsburgh may be a good option if you’re interested in moving to a big city but want to spend the least amount of your income on a mortgage.

Conclusion

We know that paying a mortgage can be stressful, especially when rates have just recently started leveling off. Fortunately, you now have a solid perspective on how many hours you’ll typically work to pay off your home each month. With this data in mind, you can take steps toward planning a healthier budget, or consider a move to somewhere new. 

If you’re ready to move to an area with lower mortgage rates, or maybe you want to work fewer hours to afford a mortgage, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 hacks to save you money on a move. If you’re in the middle of a mortgage and are seeking ways to speed up the process, read our guide to paying off your mortgage sooner.

Methodology

Our report looks at the median hourly wage in each state and the top 50 metropolitan areas as recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We then used Zillow to determine the median home listing price and calculate the average mortgage payment in each location. We factored in the national average mortgage interest rate, included the average down payment of 6%, and used a typical 30-year term loan. 

After calculating how many hours you’d need to work at the median salary to pay the median mortgage payment, we ranked each state and metropolitan area in order of working hours required to make a home payment.

Sources