$142,448.33: What You Need to Earn to Buy 'Median' Home in Bay Area

Income needed to buy a home in 27 U.S. metro areas.  (HSH.com)

If you're looking for a bargain in housing -- or at least shelter that looks relatively inexpensive -- try Cleveland. Or Pittsburgh. Or Detroit, Cincinnati or St. Louis.

According to mortgage information site HSH.com, the median home price in each of those cities is under $140,000. At prevailing interest rates, you can get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with payments of $828 a month or less.

You know by now that buying or renting a place to lay your head in the Bay Area is an expensive proposition. San Francisco's Paragon Real Estate says regional median home sales prices ranged from $265,000 in Vallejo to $5.4 million in Atherton. HSH, using data from the National Association of Realtors, puts the regional median price for the final three months of 2014 at $742,900.

That's the number for the Census Bureau's San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Median, as a reminder, means that half of the homes purchased in the Bay Area during that period sold for more than that figure and half for less.

HSH calculates that at a 30-year fixed rate of 4.02 percent and 20 percent down on that $742,900 home -- meaning an upfront payment of almost $150,000 -- your monthly mortgage payment would come to $3,323.79. And the before-tax income you'd need to pay the bank, your insurance company and your taxes? HSH pegs that at $142,448.33 (see the assumptions behind the numbers).

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(And if you look to Silicon Valley, the situation is even more extreme. The National Association of Realtors says the median home price in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA -- that's Santa Clara and San Benito counties -- was $855,000 in the fourth quarter of 2014. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations using HSH's methodology suggests that you'd need to be bringing in $167,957.12 a year to afford the median-priced home in the South Bay.)

HSH calls the Bay Area "the king" of unaffordability -- and indeed, it's the only metropolitan area among the 27 the company ranks where buyers would need household income of more than $95,000 -- what you'd need to buy a home in the San Diego area -- to buy at the median price.

Who can buy at those prices?

Well, cash buyers, for one. Real-estate data firm Core Logic DataQuick says that in January cash sales accounted for about one in five home sales in the Bay Area -- a lower level than a couple years ago but still well above the historical average for the region.

So what about the rest of us, the people who don't have a big pile of currency or bitcoin to burn?

A U.S. Conference of Mayors study released last August estimated that in 2013, the median household income for Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties was $75,900 and is expected to rise to about $102,000 by 2021.

For Santa Clara County, the median household income was just under $93,500, rising to $130,000 in 2021 -- tops in the United States.

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So, you have to reach high above those median income figures to find the households that can buy that median home in today's market.

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