Real estate site Trulia released a study today on the home-buying prospects for different careers in the Bay Area. The outlook across the spectrum isn’t good. And unless you’re a doctor eyeing just 41 percent of available housing stock, the prognosis appears grim.
Trulia economist Cheryl Young looked at median wages in four fields—doctors, first responders, teachers, and restaurant workers—and assessed what percentage of homes on the market they can afford.
Note that afford in this case means spending 31 percent of monthly income on housing.
(Back in 2014, Trulia competitor Redfin released an even more pessimistic statistic for home buying odds, but used a formula that assumed less income toward housing.)
San Francisco doctors making $208,000/year fare the best: 41.6 percent of houses on the market are attainable at that salary. Alas, that’s as good as it gets.
Note that this statistic is suspect, since $208,000/year is actually the cap on wages that doctors have to report. The real average is presumably higher.
Still, it’s potentially useful for comparison: In Oakland, it’s 76 percent for $196,000/year, and in San Jose, 56.94 percent with $193,000/year. San Francisco’s rate is the lowest in the country.
Things get uglier from there: First responders (i.e., cops, sheriffs deputies, and firefighters) are almost entirely priced out despite a six-figure median wage ($100,625/year). Only around 2.6 of homes are cheap enough to buy without undue burden, as Young calculates.
For teachers (elementary, middle, and secondary school) averaging a bit over $72,000/year, the rate is a pitiful 0.4 percent.
And of course restaurant workers (who earn an average annual salary of $28,600) are off the board entirely.
Salary data comes from Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reports from May of 2016, the most recent available.
How much money the average worker makes does vary with how you parse it.
For example, one BLS report surveys, SF, Oakland and Hayward, and says that a rank-and-file firefighter makes $90,760/year.
But a separate report, which Trulia used, instead pools SF, Redwood City, and South SF, and gives firefighters it’s $89,000/year.
And some local workers may be better off than BLS estimates. Most firefighters and police officers, for example, end up accruing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay, some nearly doubling their salaries this way.
On the other hand, San Francisco Unified School District estimates that district teachers make a bit less than the average from BLS: The top salary schedule maxes out at $68,767/year and that’s for 15-year veterans.
Teachers may earn bonuses on top of base pay; however, given home prices these days an extra couple of grand isn’t going to make a big difference in this context.