83 Percent of California Homes Unaffordable on a Teacher’s Salary

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No Homes in San Francisco within Reach for Teachers



UPDATE: A refreshed version of this report, including an updated methodology, the most current salary and property information as well as historical analysis is now available to view here.

Teachers help form the foundation for strong, local communities, yet just 17 percent of homes for sale in California are affordable on a teacher’s salary. That percentage drops to zero in pricey San Francisco, where the average teacher can’t afford a single home. With the current median list price in California at $485,000, the state’s 300,000 elementary, middle and high school teachers, who have an average annual salary of $69,300, will find it difficult to impossible to find an affordable home. How did we get to this point?

The California real estate market has been exceptional since the gold rush in the 1800s. People continue to come from across the country and around the world seeking the sun, surf and silicon (jobs). This demand has driven up home prices across the state for many decades. Compounding the affordability problem, in many areas, not enough new homes have been built to keep up. The result is that homeownership is out of reach for most working Californians. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, 71 percent of Californians households earn less than $100,000 per year.

Map of For Sale Home Affordability in California Counties (Click for full size).
Map of For Sale Home Affordability in California Counties (Click for full size).

What is an Affordable Price?

Finding an affordable home is about balancing your income with your monthly mortgage payment and other expenses. A general guideline when buying a home is that a monthly home payment should not exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly income. On an average annual salary of $69,300, a teacher should pay no more than about $1,600 a month. Given current interest rates, property taxes, home insurance and home owners association (HOA) expenses, a teacher can afford a $260,000 single family home or condo. Of the 50,559 for sale in California, just 17.4 percent are listed below $260,000.

Just how hard is it to find an affordable home? In San Francisco County, the average teacher earns $59,700 per year and there are zero homes for sale that we have calculated as affordable on such a salary. By comparison, there are 139 listings with price tags over $1 million. In San Mateo, there are currently seven homes for sale in a teacher’s price range, while there are 254 homes listed for more than $1 million.

Pockets of Affordability Along the Coast and Inland

Counties along the Pacific Coast are generally much less affordable than inland counties, but ocean-loving teachers can find a few more options in Marin and Orange counties, where 12 percent and 9 percent of currently listed homes are affordable on a teacher’s salary, respectively. Away from the coast, from Riverside up through San Bernardino and Sacramento, teachers can afford a third to half of homes currently for sale.

What a Teacher’s Salary Can Buy

Although it may only be a 490-square-foot studio in San Mateo, or a 1-bed, 1-bath condo in Santa Clara, here’s a look at what a teacher’s salary can buy in each county.

County Median Teacher Salary 2012 Max Affordable Home Price Link to Listing
Alameda $ 70,500 $ 270,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1430 sqft house
Butte $ 62,600 $ 230,000 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 1779 sqft house
Contra Costa $ 63,500 $ 240,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1376 sqft house
El Dorado $ 65,100 $ 240,000 2 bed, 1 bath, 816 sqft house
Los Angeles $ 69,400 $ 260,000 2 bed, 1.5 bath, 970 sqft condo
Marin $ 72,400 $ 280,000 2 bed, 1 bath, 903 sqft condo
Merced $ 66,300 $ 250,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 2510 sqft house
Monterey $ 65,100 $ 240,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1146 sqft house
Orange $ 78,100 $ 310,000 2 bed, 2 bath, 1027 sqft condo
Placer $ 66,400 $ 250,000 2 bed, 1.5 bath, 964 sqft house
Riverside $ 72,400 $ 280,000 3 bed, 1 bath, 1042 sqft house
Sacramento $ 66,200 $ 250,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1438 sqft house
San Bernardino $ 69,300 $ 260,000 4 bed, 3 bath, 1652 sqft house
San Diego $ 68,700 $ 260,000 2 bed, 1 bath, 791 sqft condo
San Francisco $ 59,700 $ 220,000 No Affordable Listings
San Joaquin $ 62,100 $ 230,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1232 sqft house
San Luis Obispo $ 64,700 $ 240,000 3 bed, 1 bath, 888 sqft house
San Mateo $ 70,600 $ 270,000 0 bed, 1 bath, 490 sqft condo
Santa Barbara $ 70,500 $ 270,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1690 sqft house
Santa Clara $ 72,900 $ 280,000 1 bed, 1 bath, 722 sqft condo
Santa Cruz $ 57,900 $ 210,000 1 bed, 1 bath, 575 sqft house
Solano $ 62,700 $ 230,000 3 bed, 2 bath, 1056 sqft house
Sonoma $ 62,000 $ 230,000 2 bed, 2 bath, 844 sqft condo
Stanislaus $ 70,500 $ 270,000 3 bed, 3 bath, 1887 sqft house
Ventura $ 68,200 $ 260,000 2 bed, 2 bath, 986 sqft condo
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Tommy is a Real Estate Data Analyst at Redfin in Seattle. He brings interesting information and insights to home buyers, sellers, owners, as well as industry experts. Throughout his career working in the real estate and analytics, he's never met a number or chart he didn't find interesting. Tommy grew up in Atlanta, GA and earned a degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. With his wife and two kids, you can find him on the Burke-Gilman Trail biking through Seattle, or hiking up in the Cascade Mountains.

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