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A Whole Neighborhood in Detroit or a Single Home in San Francisco: How Home Prices in the Golden City Compare

While tales of high housing costs in San Francisco have recently become par for the course, it can still be difficult to put into perspective just how expensive the city is. 

LendingTree, the nation’s largest online loan marketplace, has taken a unique look at just how expensive the Golden Gate City can be. We did this by calculating how many median-priced homes a person can buy in each of the nation’s 50 largest cities for the cost of a single median-priced home in San Francisco. 

Because the cost of housing in San Francisco is so high, we found that a person could buy multiple homes in most of the nation’s other big cities for what it would cost them to buy a single house in San Francisco.

Key findings

At a cost of $1,195,700, a single median-priced home in San Francisco is worth an average of 5.4 homes in another one of the nation’s largest cities. There are many factors that contribute to the steep price of homes in San Francisco, like a high median income,  a dense population and restrictive zoning laws that make increasing the city’s housing supply difficult. 

While the median income in San Francisco is among the highest in our study, the ratio of income to home price is among the lowest. A median-priced home in San Francisco costs almost 10 times the area’s median yearly income. As a result, even though San Franciscans make more money that most other big city dwellers, they aren’t necessarily getting the most bang for their buck when it comes to buying a home. 

San Jose, Calif. is the city with housing costs that are the closest to those in San Francisco. Even so, at a cost of $968,500, a median-priced home in San Jose is $227,200 cheaper than a median-priced home in San Francisco.

For the cost of a single home in San Francisco, a person could buy virtually an entire neighborhood in Detroit. A median-priced home in the Motor City only costs $51,600, meaning that a person could buy 23 homes there for the cost of a single home in San Francisco and still have some money left over.

Cities where the cost of a single home in San Francisco buys the most

Detroit

  • Median home price: $51,600
  • Difference between the median home prices in the two cities: $1,144,100
  • Number of homes that can be purchased for the cost of a single home in San Francisco: 23.2

Memphis, Tenn.

  • Median home price: $103,700
  • Difference between the median home prices in the two cities: $1,092,000
  • Number of homes that can be purchased for the cost of a single home in San Francisco: 11.5

Milwaukee

  • Median home price: $126,300
  • Difference between the median home prices in the two cities: $1,069,400
  • Number of homes that can be purchased for the cost of a single home in San Francisco: 9.5

 

Cities-where-you-can-afford-most-house

Cities where the cost of a single home in San Francisco buys the least

San Jose, Calif.

  • Median home price: $968,500
  • Difference between the median home prices in the two cities: $227,200
  • Number of homes that can be purchased for the cost of a single home in San Francisco: 1.2

Seattle

  • Median home price: $758,200
  • Difference between the median home prices in the two cities: $437,500
  • Number of homes that can be purchased for the cost of a single home in San Francisco: 1.6

Oakland, Calif. 

  • Median home price: $717,700
  • Difference between the median home prices in the two cities: $478,00
  • Number of homes that can be purchased for the cost of a single home in San Francisco: 1.7

 

How to purchase a home in San Francisco

As our study makes clear, housing in San Francisco is very expensive. As a result, many San Franciscans may struggle to afford a home. Fortunately, there are ways that can make homeownership easier for those who are struggling. 

For example, shopping around for a loan before buying can be a good way to save money. Comparing mortgage rates may save potential buyers thousands of dollars every year and may also bring down their monthly mortgage payments. Beyond shopping around, LendingTree has compiled a list of several homebuying programs that can help potential buyers, including those who may not fit conventional buyer profiles, or who might need a little bit of extra help in purchasing a home.

Refinancing a home to save money San Francisco

While it’s important to take cost-saving measures before buying a house, there are ways to bring housing costs down and save money after a purchase has been made, like refinancing one’s mortgage. 

While it can vary from person to person, refinancing can save a borrower tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a loan. For example, if one were to buy a median-priced home in San Francisco with a 20% down payment and a “fair” credit score and then refinance a year later after they brought their credit score up to the “good” level, they could save $301 on their monthly payment and $34,022 over the life of their loan at today’s current rates. 

While serious savings are possible, it is important to note that not everyone would necessarily benefit from refinancing, and the amount that a person can save will vary. For more information on what refinancing is and when it might be appropriate to refinance, check out LendingTree’s refinance page.

Methodology

All of the data used to compile this report comes from the Census’ Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey with one-year estimates (the most recent survey available at the time of this piece’s writing). We looked at data on the city level. 

To determine the number of homes that a person could buy per city, we divided the cost of a median-priced home in San Francisco from the cost of a median-priced home in each of the nation’s 50 largest cities as determined by population. 

To find the proportion of income to home price, we divided the median income in a city from the median home price in a city. 

 

 

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