The Occupations That Could Easily Make You a Philly Homeowner

Considering law school? Perhaps that's not such a bad idea in Philadelphia, according to Zillow.

Affordable rowhomes in West Philadelphia. | Google Streetview

Row homes in West Philadelphia. | Google Street View

It’s a question all of us were undoubtedly asked as kids and one some of us likely blanked at around the time high school neared its end: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Our guess is “anything that will help me buy a house” was probably not your first answer.  That being said, Zillow‘s latest report might help us rethink our current occupations and where we decide to settle. According to the report press release, home affordability by occupation (Census data was used to find medium incomes) is not the same in every city. Or put another way, “markets with the cheapest homes aren’t necessarily the most affordable for every worker.”

As an example, those in education earning a medium income will find they can more easily afford a home in parts of California, than say, in Salt Lake City, Utah:

In Bakersfield, Calif., the median home value is $166,300, and the average annual teacher salary is $61,000 a year . Since people in Bakersfield are accustomed to spending 22 percent of their income on a house payment, a Bakersfield teacher could afford a $310,000 home. In today’s market, that includes about 86 percent of the homes on the market – more than anywhere else in the country. 

Meanwhile, a medium income-earning teacher in Salt Lake City ($38,000/year), where homeowners also happen to spend 22 percent of their incomes on mortgage payments, will find they’re able to to purchase a $195,000 home – meaning, as Zillow notes, “only about a quarter of the homes on the Salt Lake City market would fall within their budget.”

But we’re in Philadelphia and we want to know what professions are living it up here, right? Okay, then. Below some occupations and what they can afford, from great to least, within the Philadelphia metro region:

• Lawyers and judges make a median salary of $116,000 and can afford 86.9% of listings – up to a $566,000 home. 

• Firefighters make a median salary of $73,000 and can afford 69.7% of listings – up to a $359,000 home. 

• Teachers make a median salary of $49,000 and can afford 45.0% of listings – up to a $239,000 home. 

• Construction workers make a median salary of $32,000 and can afford 22.8% of listings – up to a $157,000 home. 

• Food-service workers make a median salary of $11,000 and can afford 6.4% of listings – up to a $55,000 home. 

This is all still kind of up in the air, though. As mentioned earlier, not only does where you live matter, but also how much you decide to shell out on mortgage payments, as well as other factors. From Zillow:

“There’s a lot more to home buying affordability than just the cost of the home. Incomes vary a lot across the country – even within the same occupation,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “There’s also the question of how much of your paycheck you’re willing to put toward a house payment, and finally, whether you can find a home in your price range. Many potential buyers are checking all the right boxes prior to buying a home – saving a healthy down payment, organizing finances and qualifying for a loan – only to find there are few homes available within their budget and close to their job.”