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A Fun Website for Checking Affordability

Posted by: Peter Coy on November 23, 2005

Can an elementary school teacher afford a median-priced house in San Diego?

Can a police officer afford a median-priced house in Miami?

Can a graphic designer afford a median-priced house in Seattle?

Answers. No. No. And … no.

How do I know this? From a cleverly designed website put together by the Center for Housing Policy, the research arm of a 75-year-old housing-affordability advocacy group called the National Housing Conference.

The agenda of the organization is evident in the available selection of jobs that you can plug into the affordability calculator—high-paying jobs like doctor and lawyer aren’t listed.

But the methodology seems perfectly sound, drawing on median-price data from the National Association of Home Builders and wage data from

Check out the calculator at this link.

Reader Comments


November 23, 2005 1:42 PM

As homes are purchased by dual earners, isn't the appropriate measure whether two incomes could afford the median priced home (although anyone satisfied with median isn't very driven).


November 29, 2005 1:15 PM

I hate to break your bubble, Lord, but not everyone is married. In fact, the percentage of single people in their 30s and 40s is, I believe, at an all-time high historically speaking.

I also have to take issue with the idea that homes cannot or should not be affordable to people who are NOT married. Oddly, I work just as hard for my money as married people, am just as concerned about retirement as they are etc. and yet, I can't afford to buy even a one bedroom condo in the area in which I live.

And this brings me back to the issue of affordability. In the city in which I live, one bedroom condos are, on average, $400,000. I don't know many married people who buy one bedroom condos. And yet the $400,000 really is out of reach of most of the single people here. This is not a city which has tons of high-paying jobs.

And finally, one last point. While it may surprise you, many married couples have one wage earner, especially if they have children under the age of 5. In those cases where they don't have one wage earner, they spend massive amounts of money (almost equivalent to a salary) on day care.

To me, all of this would seem to indicate that we are creating a society in which only people who are DINKs can afford homes. And these people are not representative of American society. And because they are not representative of American society, we are back at the same point where we began---which is that housing is no longer affordable for the average American.


November 29, 2005 2:36 PM

The result of too many people with too much money. Maybe you can find one. :-) There is always renting, and it is remarkably cheap.


December 2, 2005 10:56 AM

I know that you mean your comment that single people should go out and find someone as a joke and I guess I’d find it funny if I were married. But I am not—I date a lot but not married–and because I feel pretty bitter about this housing situation, I have to say that I find suggestions that we all just prostitute ourselves for the sake of a house rather depressing and unfunny (and yes, I am credited with a good sense of humor).

I know lots of women who do similar things, sad to say, and everyone I know had their income shoot up after marriage. And all this in a society which no longer requires dowries! But I’m proud of who I am, proud of how hard I work for my money and proud of my career. Seeing my ability to own a home destroyed by a housing bubble, by out of control speculation and by twenty year olds who are careless enough to take out exotic mortgages without caring about tomorrow (there are no tomorrows when you are 29 and have a $400,000 mortgage)...well, it rather takes away my sense of humor.

I guess what I am saying here is that I wish that there would be a serious discussion about this issue of affordability and what it means for highly educated, hard-working professionals who cannot afford homes. And I guess that I am saying also that I am sorry that our society seems to have problems coming to terms with the fact that many of us may not want to marry or may want to marry for reasons other than the fact that we want to buy a house.

And here’s an ironic twist. All of the single people I know who bought houses have done so because their parents died and they received an inheritance. Perhaps I should just cut to the chase and kill my parents now.


January 16, 2006 11:59 PM

Just from the little bit that I have just read.....sounds like alot of whining. Sally sounds a little insecure and pathetic for that matter. I am sure that if you are truly highly edumacated you can figure out how to secure the "American Dream".

Hemley Gonzalez

January 22, 2006 7:44 AM

A police office in Miami is better of considering a 2 Bedroom condo under $250,000!

Yes, the days of median-priced single family homes are gone in the city, but the uprising alternate has become, and undoubtedly, I may add, Affordable Condos.

A quick glance at the inventory available in Clearly shows a dramatic shift of choices for the working class.

Hemley Gonzalez, CEO


January 31, 2006 5:29 PM

Ummm...I don't think I'm pathetic or insecure. I just have ceased to find humor in this bubble situation because it has made my life pretty difficult.

I make over $85,000 a year and I possess a PhD so please don't patronize me by saying that if I were truly educated I would be able to find the American dream. I've actually used my education to do research on housing, loans and so on. I can't afford a house here without an exotic loan (and using my research skills, I have discovered that this type of loan is extremely risky).

At this point, here's where I am coming from: I am in my late 30s and I find it frustrating to live in a place where I can't afford a home unless I am prepared to buy a house where I forego inspection, where I buy a property which has doubled or quadrupled in value in five years (no research is required to understand that that kind of growth is unsustainable!) and where I am forced to resort to "exotic" mortgages to buy a shoddily built condo.

I know that in the long run, I'll be able to afford a house here (when the bottom drops) but I am concerned that we taxpayers will be expected to pick up the pieces because stupid 28 year olds who failed to do the most basic research have bought $400,000 condos while earning $40,000 salaries. When the market goes bust (as it is about to do) and when these kids declare bankruptcy, should taxpayers (like myself) pick up the pieces? I'm afraid that the answer will be yes and I will be forced to pay higher taxes because of the "housing bubble crisis." And sadly, that makes me pretty bitter.

Perhaps my bitterness came across in my post and was misread as insecurity or patheticness. Okay...a bit of a snap judgment about me but I guess I posted here because I think that there are tons of people like me in this situation and very few people comment on this. We single people want to own our own homes as well. And there are tons of us out there!

I find it a bit tiresome when, despite working hard for my money, I seem to live in a world where I am unable to afford a house.

Lisa Perry

March 3, 2006 4:53 PM

I too agree, you have to be married to afford a house these days. I am a single mother, college educated and I may have to face the possibility that homeownership is out of my reach at least for now. Put it this way, if I had of purchased a home 4 years ago, I would no problem affording a mortgage. But prices have shot up and my dreams shot down.

I am not whining. I will just wait for my dad to die and cash in on the insurance policy : )

Phoenix owner

August 28, 2006 7:10 PM

Don't dispare. The last time we had wholesale housing speculation time was the remedy. I remember TIME magizine ran a 1988 article asking if anyone could afford housing. Such magizine articles are a sure sign the bubble has either peaked or burst; just follow the herd. The point this article tried to extrapolate was that soon all US residents would be living on the street looking at empty houses; all wondering who the lucky buyers were that could afford such expensive digs. Go figure, economics 101. Nonetheless, me and my wife cancled a contract on a house we were having built. Why, the first house we seen (1yr prior) and fell in love with, but could not afford, had been up-sized by the builder and down-priced ($20k). What's more, a ton of incentives were added. Life was good. My single friends bought shortly thereafter, finding pricing had adjusted to fit single person salary expectations. All who wanted to buy and settle down were happy. That was 1989 to 1992, not at all unlike the enviroment today. All of us who held on to our purchase have enjoyed quadruple price increases and an opportunity to sell-out and/or rent or upgrade to $600k houses if we choose. So, please do not dispare in real estate timing is everything and patience is a virtue and most important; happiness is found in location, location, location.

A Keating 5 Beneficiary
in Phoenix AZ

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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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