Homeownership is one of the best ways to build wealth for Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, citizens who own property have a median net wealth nearly 75 times greater than renters. However, owning a home is expensive.
The pandemic and the subsequent housing boom have made homeownership more unattainable than ever. More and more households, especially low- and middle-income households, are struggling to come up with funds to meet the 20% down requirement.
To better understand the financial barriers homebuyers across the country face, we at RealtyHop looked at the years required to save up for a down payment in the top 150 most populous cities in the U.S.
- Glendale, CA is the city with the worst barrier to homeownership. Families in Glendale must save 20% of their income for 15.10 years to enter homeownership and qualify for a loan.
- On the other hand, it takes only 2.56 years for a family in Detroit to afford the 20% down payment on a home.
- California outranks all other states, with six cities in the top 10, including Glendale, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, Garden Grove, and San Diego.
- Generally, it’s easier for a household to meet the 20% down payment requirement in the Midwest and South. In Chicago, the third most populous U.S. city, it takes 5.2 years for a household to qualify for a mortgage with 20% down. This number is 7.3 years lower than the largest city, New York, and 8.3 years lower than Los Angeles.
The map below highlights the median asking price, median income, and years required to save up for a 20% down payment in the most populated cities in the U.S. Click on the circle markers on the map below to learn more.
The 5 Cities with the Biggest Barrier to Homeownership
1. Glendale, CA
Glendale comes in first with the highest barrier to homeownership. With a median listing price of $1,125,000, potential buyers in Glendale will need to spend 15.10 years saving for a 20% down payment of $225,000.
2. Los Angeles, CA
Potential buyers face expensive housing prices throughout Los Angeles as well. As the city with the most expensive zip codes in 2022, residents will need to save for a median listing price of $940,000. When saving 20% of their income each year, buyers will spend 13.47 years saving for a 20% down payment of $188,000.
3. Miami, FL
The gap between income and home prices has exacerbated in the past year in Miami as out-of-town buyers and investors continued to flock into the city. For local Miami families making a median income of $47,860, it will take 12.49 years to accumulate enough cash for a home.
4. New York, NY
In New York City, it takes homebuyers on average 12.45 years to save a 20% down payment for a home. While the median listing price of $880,000 is lower than it was during the summer of 2022, ownership remains unaffordable for those making a median household income of $70,663.
5. Long Beach, CA
Another Californian city made the list this year. With a median household income of $71,150, aspiring homeowners in Long Beach can potentially save $14,230 per year. Based on a median asking price of $750,000, it will take them 10.54 years to accumulate enough cash to cover the down payment.
The 5 Cities with the Lowest Barrier to Homeownership
1. Detroit, MI
In Detroit, homebuyers, on average, spend 2.56 years saving up for a down payment. With a median list price of $88,900, families looking to purchase property in this area can do so while making a median salary of $34,762.
2. Wichita, KS
Wichita has the most affordable housing market in January 2023, where properties enter the market with a median list price of $150,000. A family looking to buy in Wichita will only need to spend 2.66 years saving for their $30,000 down payment.
3. Toledo, OH
Toledo homebuyers will save $8,334 for 2.83 years to afford a down payment on a home. With median home prices of $118,000, potential buyers will need a 20% down payment of $23,600.
4. Akron, OH
In Akron, it takes on average 2.97 years for families to save up for a home. In a city where the median list price sits at $125,000, buyers can achieve their goal of homeownership relatively quickly.
5. Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne rounded out the list as the fifth city with the lowest barrier to homeownership. With a median household income of $53,978 and a median asking price of $169,000, it takes 3.13 years to save up for a home.
A Closer Look at Homeownership Barriers in California
California is one of the most expensive states in America. According to RealtyHop’s recent study on the 100 most expensive zip codes across the country, more than half are located in California. While families in certain cities, such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Elk Grove, have higher incomes, home prices have also been pushed up due to strong demand.
Of all the California cities included in this study, only one, Bakersfield, has a barrier to homeownership for less than five years. In San Francisco, while households make on average $126,187 a year, the barrier to entry remains high at 10.5 years with a median list price of $1.33 million. Similarly, in Huntington Beach, the median household income currently sits at $104,728, more than double the amount in Fresno. Families there, however, have to spend on average 10.03 years to save up for a home.
Favorable Cities for First-time Homebuyers by Regions
Are you looking to purchase a home in a major city? Consider the following areas by region, where potential buyers can spend less than five years saving for a 20% down payment.
Pittsburgh is the most welcoming city for aspiring homeowners in the Northeast. Homes in Pittsburgh on average cost $210,000. With a median income of $54,206, families in Pittsburgh will only need to spend 3.87 years saving for a 20% down payment, compared to 5.03 years in Philadelphia.
Buffalo is another affordable city for people looking to become homeowners soon. In Buffalo, buyers can expect to spend 4.01 years saving for an average home. It is slightly more affordable than its neighboring city, Rochester.
Based on a median list price of $169,900 and a median household income of $40,083, buyers in Rochester will have to save for 4.24 years to afford a home with a down payment of $33,980.
Aurora is one of the most friendly cities in the Midwest for first-time homebuyers, with favorable home prices and a higher median household income of $79,642. Buyers will save for 3.16 years to save for a down payment of $50,400. Homebuyers work to afford a home with a median list price of $252,000.
Des Moines, IA
Des Moines is the second most friendly city for first-time homebuyers. With a median household income of $58,444, families in Des Moines can save $11,689 per year. It takes 3.25 years for them to save up for a home.
Cleveland is another affordable option for buyers in the Midwest. With a median household income of $33,678 and a median list price of $114,900, it takes 3.41 years for potential buyers in the city to qualify for a home.
Shreveport offers the easiest entry to homeownership for potential buyers across the South. It will take a family generating a median household income of $41,782 just 3.23 years to save for an average home.
In Montgomery, The median list price in 2022 reached $175,000. An average family in Montgomery can expect to spend 3.50 years saving up for a home.
Texas has become increasingly unaffordable in recent years with cities like Austin reaching all-time highs. However, there are still affordable pockets. Lubbock, for instance, is one of the most affordable cities in the South. On average, it only takes a family 3.51 years to save up for a home.
Homebuyers in the West will find the lowest barrier to entry in Anchorage, where homes have a median list price of $327,000. Buyers will spend 3.69 years saving for a 20% down payment of $65,500.
Buyers who wish to avoid the expensive parts of California may consider purchasing in Bakersfield, where they’ll only spend 4.49 years saving for a down payment.
This report examines the barrier to homeownership across the top 150 U.S. cities by population. We calculated the median asking price by city using over 1.8 million residential sales listings on RealtyHop between July 2022 and December 2022. To limit the scope of this study and better reflect the prices U.S. households expect to see when buying, the following property types were included when calculating the median: condos, co-ops, single-family homes, and townhouses. Any listings classified as “land” are excluded from this study.
To calculate the years required to save up for the down payment on a home, we first collected the median household income data by city from the most recent ACS data from the U.S. Census Bureau and assumed that a household saves 20% of its annual gross income each year. We then calculated the years required using 20% of the median asking price (down payment) and the amount saved per annum.
Tips for Getting a Mortgage
Our research has shown that in major cities in the U.S., especially the most populous ones with job opportunities, owning is not easy. Below are a few tips that might help you along the way.
Make sure you start saving now
While 20% is generally the requirement to qualify for a loan, the more you put down, the better, as your outstanding principal balance would be lower. This in turn brings down your monthly obligation.
Know your credit score
While you can still get approved even with a credit score of 580 (which is too low for someone who wants to buy a house/apartment), the higher your credit score is, the more likely you will be approved for a mortgage and enjoy a lower interest rate. Compare rates here and find out if you qualify for a loan.
Keep track of your income, expenses, as well as tax filing documents
If you are a self-employed homebuyer, you are required to submit your tax returns for the previous two years, and the mortgage lender will take your average income for that period into account to see if you are qualified for a mortgage. It is, therefore, crucial that you keep track of your income and expenses.
Choose a mortgage broker
While it might seem straightforward to go with the bank offering you the lowest rate, sometimes lower rates, and fees mean poor service and a lack of transparency. Make sure to shop around and fully understand the application process and the mortgage products they offer.
Find a First-Time Homebuyer Program
Many states, counties, and cities fund first-time homebuyer programs to help Americans afford the high cost of homeownership. Those looking to purchase property in cities with high barriers to homeownership may consider the following programs:
CalHFA’s MyHome Assistance Program
The MyHome Assistance program provides a deferred payment junior loan up to 3.5 percent of the lower appraisal value or purchase price to assist with a down payment and closing costs. This subordinate loan is a deferred payment amount.
There is a cap of $10,000 for all qualified borrowers, and buyers can combine this program with any other grants or down payment assistance programs.
Los Angeles Housing Department Low Income Purchase Assistance
First-time homebuyers in Los Angeles can receive up to $90,000 to cover the down payment, home acquisition, and closing costs. Buyers will not have to pay monthly payments but must repay the loan upon the sale, title transfer, first mortgage repayment, or 30 years after receiving the loan.
Miami-Dade Affordable Homeownership Program
Miami-Dade first-time homebuyers can utilize the program to acquire a mortgage loan subsidy as a second or third mortgage with a low-interest rate. The program lowers a buyer’s out-of-pocket costs. Participants can only use the program once and must fulfill a 3% down payment, 1% of which must be from their own funds.
Miami-Dade Infill Housing Program
The Infill Housing Program caters to Miami-Dade residents who qualify for the Affordable Homeownership Program and aims to increase the amount of available, affordable housing. Infill Developers currently working to build homes for the program, which applicants must select from when purchasing a home. Homes through the program cannot exceed a sales price of $205,000 or $215,000 if built on a private lot.
New York City HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program
Through HomeFirst, qualified homebuyers can receive up to $100,000 for their down payment and closing costs in New York City. The loan will cover all closing costs and half of the down payment. Recipients must purchase a home within the five boroughs to utilize the program.