[Editor’s Note: If you were a member of my VIP Email List on Wednesday, you know that I’m giving away $100. If you missed it, perhaps you should join the list as I’ll be doing more giveaways.]
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote, Your Life or Your Home. In it, I explained that people generally work 45 years and housing expenses. It’s estimated that people spend about 1/3 of their money on their homes, which translates to 15 years of work. (It’s not exactly that simple as income typically changes throughout one’s lifetime.)
I got an email from Zillow that reminded me about this. Their press release stated research that Mortgage Payments Require Largest Share of Income Since 2009.
If you think about it, it seems obvious. How could it be any other way with the housing recovery and rising interest rates on mortgages? I suppose income could be growing faster to outpace the recovery, but income (at a nationwide average level) doesn’t usually fluctuate that much.
This is the rare case where the headline didn’t seem to tell the most interesting story. It was almost anti-clickbait.
Zillow looked at the 35 largest housing markets and gave a regional breakdown of “Share of Income Spent On Mortgage” for each. They gave averages for the past and projections for the future, but I was mostly interested in the 2018 number. Maybe I’m just in a “live for now” mood today.
I think it’s worth looking at the national numbers to get some perspective on the average. From 1985-2000 mortgages were around 21% of income. In 2018 it’s only 17%, and that’s despite growing a lot over the last 9 years to reach a high. There are other housing expenses than just mortgages, but it still seems like this is below the 1/3 (33%) estimation that I’ve seen as an average.
I immediately decided to calculate our own number. I bet most people don’t know it off the top of their head. Our income fluctuates quite a bit due blogging, dog sitting, and whatever else we’ve got going on. I picked out a reasonable average and our mortgage came out to 21.6% of income. I’m changing my name from Lazy Man to Mr. National Average (at least in this case.) That may not be a fair number as we have a 15-year mortgage and most people probably have 30-year mortgages. It would likely have been closer to 15% if we didn’t love the idea of not paying the bank for 15 years.
The regional details in the report showed how much this number can fluctuate. If you scroll towards the bottom of the chart, you’ll see two of the extremes, Indianapolis at ~12% and San Jose at over 51% of income. Of course the job situation in Silicon Valley is very different than Indianapolis. It’s no surprise that housing prices were at opposite sides of the spectrum in these two cities. However, this number is a percentage of income, which means it should be normalized for all the high tech salaries in San Jose.
If you had guess without looking at the chart, you’d think that New York City would be like San Jose. We know the housing in New York City is outrageous, right? We’ll it’s 27.7% of income, which is just 6% more than average of the US. That’s not insignificant, but I found it notable that NYC is a lot closer to Indianapolis (15% difference) than San Jose (24% difference.)
When I wrote that aforementioned VIP Email List earlier this week, I asked people for suggestions on how to improve the website. Many of them asked for more practical advice. It’s hard to know what’s practical for a diverse group of people. However, what if we used this chart to figure out if relocation could pay off for us?
I know there are a lot of factors that go into choosing where you live. However, with so much of your income tied up by this decision, it’s probably worth taking a second look and seeing what you are spending on your home and what you could be spending. It’ll make a much bigger difference than that subscription to Netflix.