Almost $82K salary buys a median-priced SD home

Of 25 metro areas, San Diego second least affordable

It's always been known that San Diego has among the least affordable homes in the nation. But a new study by hsh.com, a mortgage research firm, breaks new ground. It lists the salary required to buy a median-priced home in 25 metro areas.

Only San Francisco, at $115,510, is higher than San Diego's $81,570. The study assumes that the median San Diego home price is $476,790, the mortgage rate 4.37 percent, and monthly payment $1,903.31.

The cheapest metro area is Cleveland, at $19,435, and second cheapest, Cincinnati, at $22,227. (For some reason, Detroit is not on the list.) Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, and Washington DC are all less expensive than San Diego.

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Come on… New York City less expensive than San Diego? Doesn't pass the sniff test.

Neither does Los Angeles. You can't find a neighborhood as clean and nice and safe as my neighborhood in La Mesa a similar distance from Downtown Los Angeles.

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa: It may be true that you can't find as nice a house near downtown L.A. as you can in La Mesa, but keep in mind these statistics take in an entire metro area. Best, Don Bauder

viewer: Personally, I like Art Madrid. I think he has done a good job for La Mesa. Best, Don Bauder

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa: Actually, data by other organizations, such as Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller show San Diego prices consistently among the highest, and higher than New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. even when not in relation to average pay. The surprise in this study was San Diego being less affordable than Los Angeles.

The corresponding figure for L.A. is $72,127; New York City $66,127; Boston $63,673, and Washington D.C. $62,810. Best, Don Bauder

But Mr. Bauder, it doesn't jibe with the anecdotal evidence. I have lots of family in LA. They visit. They comment on how affordable nice neighborhoods in easy driving distance to Downtown are here in SD. I visit them. I'm always surprised at how high prices are in neighborhoods comparable to mine. All of West L.A. is untouchable for anybody making less than 150K. As for NYC, maybe the average of all five boroughs is lower, but the places where middle class folks want to live are more expensive than they are here.

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa: Much statistical information does not seem realistic from one's personal experiences. Statistical information can be misleading, to be sure. For example, stats for New York and Washington D.C., in particular, include what one would consider slums. The same is true in San Diego and Los Angeles.

All that said, I find these stats credible. It does take a high salary to afford a median-priced home in San Diego. For example, median household income in San Diego County between 2008 and 2012 was $63,373. You can see that San Diegans have to stretch to buy a home. But we knew that. Best, Don Bauder

I have little doubt that the statistics are correct. But I would say - admittedly based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience only - that L.A. is much more expensive than S.D. for a comparable middle class to upper middle class home. If your criteria are, let's say, 1500-2000 sq ft home, safe neighborhood, less than 45 min commute to work in downtown (or a major employment center in the city of LA or SD) I think this would cost at least 200K more in LA than SD.

Traffic and topography are big issues in LA. If you work in downtown LA, or El Segundo, or somewhere like that, and want a nice affordable home you either have to drive WAY East or crawl through a densely packed mountain pass into the San Fernando or San Gabriel Valley.

ImJustABill: I don't go along with 200k more. But remember, this survey takes in an entire metro area. Your 200k could be correct and still not throw the survey off. Best, Don Bauder

Yeah, come to think of it 200k is too high. But I would still say that a house with similar neighborhood and work commute in LA would be more expensive than in SD. Maybe 50K is more realistic.

ImJustABill: You may be right. The L.A. metro area is far larger than San Diego's. But I don't think that observation throws off the study. Best, Don Bauder

The other part in that equation is that the San Diego job market does not offer up nearly the same kind of salaries as New York or Boston. At least that's the way I remember it from my time there in the late 90's. I remember SD being a very expensive town overall. And that's coming from a native Brooklynite.

MondoGrapes: Generally, San Diego salaries are moderately above the U.S., while its cost of living is well above. Best, Don Bauder

Does this take into account the thousands of additional taxes the guy making $82K is paying in California every year?

nnojr:d As far as I can determine, the study does not take into account the higher California taxes. Best, Don Bauder

there still is a high percentage of homes "under water" in the county

I wonder what effect that has on the market, and this ( imho bogus) study

Murphyjunk: Yes, there are still a lot of homes under water in San Diego. Some of those homes are being bought by institutional money pouring into the San Diego market. In fact, that pooled investor money is buying all kinds of homes, and accounts for a very large percentage of home sales.

If I thought the study was bogus, I wouldn't have printed it. It is roughly in line with other studies. San Diego residential housing prices are extremely high in comparison with other metro areas, and in comparison with local household incomes. Best, Don Bauder

San Diego pay is in real dollars and "sunshine dollars." Unfortunately, the mortgage lenders do not accept the latter as house payments. Add the tax burdens to the equation and you have un-affordability for younger buyers. While the study may be flawed, the conclusions are correct.

Visduh: Yes, San Diego has a sunshine tax. The people have psychic income -- lower pay for the privilege of living in such a nice climate.

San Diego, LA, Orange County, San Jose, and San Francisco have home prices that are higher than in other metro areas. In the Bay Area, pay is higher to compensate somewhat for the higher housing costs. But San Diego compensation is above the national average, but not strongly above as in the Bay Area. Best, Don Bauder

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