Yes, L.A. Is the Least Affordable Big City in America for Home Buyers

Yes, L.A. Is the Least Affordable Big City in America for Home Buyers
File photo by Jeremy Levine/Flickr

Depending on how you slice your data, New York, the Bay Area, Honolulu and Los Angeles often juggle the title for least-affordable housing market in the United States.

A new NerdWallet analysis of square footage affordability in top 100 American real estate markets pretty much puts L.A. back on top.

We say pretty much because out of those 100 metro areas, Los Angeles ranked 99th in affordability. We were beaten by No. 100, greater McAllen, Texas (population 815,996).

But among the truly big cities, L.A. was king.

The personal finance site looked at 2004 Zillow data to estimate the average price for a square foot of house in a given market. Income figures seemed a little foreign to us: NerdWallet explains that instead of using median household incomes (L.A. County's is $55,909), it came up with another formula:

Incomes were then adjusted to include federal income tax, and the post-tax figure was multiplied by the 10-year U.S. personal savings rate of 4.8 percent to calculate yearly savings. We assumed the saving period to buy a house is 10 years.

Greater Los Angeles' estimated family income was pegged at $85,210. The higher figure didn't help affordability much, however.

This is where the data is so scary it's almost laughable. What you could afford if you did live in a family that took in $85,210 a year, NerdWallet says, is a monthly mortgage of $1,262.

I know, right? That figure is lower than the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city of L.A. (which is $2,000, according to Apartment List).

The house price you can afford if you live in said $85,210-a-year family is $256,736, which is almost half what a median home now costs in the Los Angeles market, according to Redfin.

The meat and potatoes of this NerdWallet report, however, are all about the square footage you can afford in each city. In L.A., you're able to buy a tiny house — 757 square feet at market rate — if you live in that $85K-a-year family, which most Angelenos don't.

By the way, New York ranked as the 92nd least affordable housing market. San Francisco was 95th. San Diego was 97th. San Jose, 96th. Honolulu 98th. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura was 90th.

The most affordable American city is Indianapolis, NerdWallet says, where you can get a place for $294,318, but where incomes are a healthy $81,523.

Happy house hunting.


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