10 Least Affordable Down Payment Cities in the US — and 10 Much Cheaper Options

Aerial view of of a residential neighborhood in Hawthorne, in Los Angeles, CA.
Melpomenem / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Buying a home — likely the biggest purchase you will ever make — is a huge commitment that can be thrilling and distressing in equal measure.

As we close out an economically difficult 2022, the housing market has shifted from a rough inflation situation to a deflation cycle. Corrected by the Federal Reserve’s persistent interest rate hikes, U.S. home prices have declined for four consecutive months, per Fortune.

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But house prices and mortgage rates are still high and the years prospective homebuyers have to wait to save enough for a down payment is rising every year.

SmartAsset’s annual “Years of Work Needed to Afford a Down Payment” report has once again broken down how long it will take first-time homebuyers to save for the standard 20% down payment in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. Assuming a 20% wage save every year, SmartAsset used 2021 median home values and median household income to rank the cities where it takes the longest to collect a down payment.

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Because many Americans opt for paying down less than the recommended 20% on houses (despite the threat of having to pay mortgage insurance premiums), the study has provided the period of time required to work to afford a 12% down payment as well. Take a look.

Here’s where it takes the longest for an average household to save for a down payment:

1. Los Angeles, California

  • Median home value: $812,800
  • Median household income: $70,372
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 6.93
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 11.55

2. San Francisco, California

  • Median home value: $1,306,400
  • Median household income: $121,826
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 6.43
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 10.72

3. Oakland, California

  • Median home value: $848,600
  • Median household income: $82,236
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 6.19
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 10.32

4. New York City, New York

  • Median home value: $685,700
  • Median household income: $67,997
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 6.05
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 10.08

5. Long Beach, California

  • Median home value: $693,600
  • Median household income: $73,905
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 5.63
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 9.39
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6. San Jose, California

  • Median home value: $1,119,500
  • Median household income: $126,377
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 5.32
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 8.86

7. Miami, Florida

  • Median home value: $411,300
  • Median household income: $48,789
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 5.06
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 8.43

8. Boston, Massachusetts

  • Median home value: $659,700
  • Median household income: $79,283
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 4.99
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 8.32

9. San Diego, California

  • Median home value: $768,800
  • Median household income: $93,042
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 4.96
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 8.26

10. Seattle, Washington

  • Median home value: $848,100
  • Median household income: $110,781
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 4.59
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 7.66

As the figures show, California markets rule the top ten with six entries: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, San Jose and San Diego. San Francisco might be the most expensive city in America (medium home value = $1,306,800), but prospective Los Angeles homeowners will need almost 12 years to afford a down payment due to a lower median household income ($70,372).

As you scroll down SmartAsset’s rankings, you’ll see that it takes less time in Midwestern and Southern cities to gather the necessary funds for a down payment. Check it out below.

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These 10 U.S. cities have the shortest wait times to afford a down payment:

41. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Median home value: $160,100
  • Median household income: $46,637
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 2.06
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.43

42. Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • Median home value: $172,000
  • Median household income: $51,008
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 2.02
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.37

43. Omaha, Nebraska

  • Median home value: $211,900
  • Median household income: $62,948
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 2.02
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.37

44. Kansas City, Missouri

  • Median home value: $213,400
  • Median household income: $63,396
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 2.02
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.37

45. Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Median home value: $188,700
  • Median household income: $58,479
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 1.94
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.23

46. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

  • Median home value: $190,900
  • Median household income: $59,214
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 1.93
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.22

47. Memphis, Tennessee

  • Median home value: $142,800
  • Median household income: $44,317
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 1.93
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 3.22

48. El Paso, Texas

  • Median home value: $152,800
  • Median household income: $51,241
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 1.79
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 2.98

49. Wichita, Kansas

  • Median home value: $165,700
  • Median household income: $56,293
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 1.77
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 2.94

50. Detroit, Michigan

  • Median home value: $69,300
  • Median household income: $36,140
  • Years of work to afford 12% down: 1.15
  • Years of work to afford 20% down: 1.92

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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