The Number of Hours the Average American Must Work to Afford their Mortgage

By Elisabeth Beauchamp

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 Wage Median Home Value Monthly Mortgage Payment Hours Worked to Afford Mortgage
$22 $355,852 $2,431 110

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

Rank State Median Hourly Wage Median Home Value Monthly Mortgage Payment Hours Needed to Afford Mortgage
1 Hawaii $23 $909,000 $6,030 263
2 California $23 $788,000 $5,241 227
3 Utah $19 $572,000 $3,834 205
4 Idaho $18 $472,000 $3,183 176
5 Nevada $18 $467,000 $3,150 173
6 Washington $24 $624,000 $4,172 172
7 Colorado $23 $586,000 $3,925 170
8 Montana $18 $453,000 $3,006 164
9 Arizona $19 $448,000 $3,027 159
10 Oregon $23 $524,000 $3,521 156
11 Florida $18 $402,000 $2,727 150
12 Massachusetts $28 $591,000 $3,957 141
13 New Jersey $23 $470,000 $3,170 137
14 New Hampshire $23 $436,000 $2,948 131
15 Rhode Island $23 $437,000 $2,904 126
16 District of Columbia $38 $707,000 $4,713 123
17 Georgia $18 $319,000 $2,185 119
18 Maine $21 $365,000 $2,443 118
19 North Carolina $18 $322,000 $2,167 117
20 Maryland $23 $406,000 $2,705 116
21 New York $23 $407,000 $2,711 116
22 Texas $19 $315,000 $2,122 113
23 Tennessee $18 $303,000 $2,045 113
24 Virginia $23 $375,000 $2,551 112
25 New Mexico $18 $296,000 $2,035 112
26 South Carolina $18 $295,000 $1,994 111
27 South Dakota $18 $294,000 $1,998 110
28 Delaware $22 $358,000 $2,440 109
29 Vermont $23 $356,000 $2,427 108
30 Connecticut $23 $361,000 $2,459 105
31 Wyoming $22 $323,000 $2,174 99
32 Minnesota $23 $334,000 $2,244 98
33 Alaska $23 $328,000 $2,244 96
34 Nebraska $19 $240,000 $1,642 88
35 Missouri $18 $231,000 $1,611 88
36 Pennsylvania $22 $266,000 $1,840 85
37 Wisconsin $22 $265,000 $1,833 85
38 Louisiana $18 $215,000 $1,507 84
39 Indiana $18 $221,000 $1,546 84
40 North Dakota $23 $277,000 $1,879 83
41 Illinois $22 $267,000 $1,846 82
42 Kansas $18 $207,000 $1,470 80
43 Alabama $18 $207,000 $1,431 80
44 Ohio $19 $212,000 $1,503 79
45 Kentucky $18 $198,000 $1,411 78
46 Michigan $22 $237,000 $1,651 76
47 Arkansas $18 $179,000 $1,295 73
48 Iowa $19 $192,000 $1,372 73
49 Oklahoma $18 $182,000 $1,306 72
50 Mississippi $17 $166,000 $1,200 71
51 West Virginia $18 $139,000 $1,028 58

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

Rank City Median Hourly Wage Median Home Value Monthly Mortgage Payment Hours Needed to Afford Mortgage
1 San Francisco $30 $1,550,000 $7,424 249
2 San Jose $36 $1,900,000 $8,983 247
3 San Diego $23 $965,900 $4,839 209
4 Los Angeles $23 $825,700 $4,217 184
5 Miami $19 $589,000 $3,073 165
6 Riverside/San Bernardino $19 $585,000 $3,010 160
7 Austin $23 $613,200 $3,424 152
8 Denver $24 $695,800 $3,480 147
9 Seattle $29 $818,900 $4,169 144
10 Portland $23 $616,300 $3,174 136
11 New York City $27 $621,000 $3,644 136
12 Boston $29 $722,200 $3,889 134
13 Las Vegas $18 $485,400 $2,405 133
14 Salt Lake City $23 $605,000 $2,982 132
15 Sacramento $23 $570,000 $2,994 128
16 Orlando $18 $430,000 $2,286 127
17 Tampa $18 $411,000 $2,179 119
18 Jacksonville $18 $396,000 $2,120 116
19 Providence $23 $457,700 $2,600 114
20 Nashville $19 $418,500 $2,137 113
21 Phoenix $22 $496,000 $2,453 112
22 Washington, D.C. $30 $626,700 $3,311 112
23 San Antonio $18 $349,500 $2,030 111
24 Raleigh $23 $477,600 $2,452 109
25 Dallas $22 $408,200 $2,376 109
26 Houston $21 $357,200 $2,112 98
27 Chicago $23 $370,100 $2,223 98
28 Charlotte $22 $414,300 $2,126 98
29 Baltimore $23 $396,200 $2,187 95
30 Virginia Beach $19 $336,400 $1,808 93
31 Richmond $22 $391,900 $2,031 92
32 Minneapolis $23 $387,200 $2,139 92
33 Atlanta $22 $379,700 $2,012 91
34 Milwaukee $23 $364,600 $2,045 91
35 Philadelphia $23 $346,300 $2,063 90
36 Hartford $24 $337,400 $2,133 90
37 New Orleans $18 $300,600 $1,644 90
38 Birmingham $18 $318,800 $1,643 89
39 Memphis $18 $288,000 $1,548 85
40 Indianapolis $19 $303,300 $1,589 84
41 Kansas City $22 $326,100 $1,791 82
42 Columbus $22 $322,200 $1,800 80
43 Louisville $19 $263,500 $1,422 76
44 Cincinnati $20 $277,900 $1,539 75
45 Oklahoma City $18 $231,900 $1,360 74
46 St Louis $21 $258,000 $1,483 70
47 Buffalo $22 $237,200 $1,513 68
48 Detroit $23 $271,100 $1,550 68
49 Cleveland $22 $225,600 $1,348 60
50 Pittsburgh $22 $215,000 $1,269 57

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