House (or apartment) poor
Just because you're paying your rent or mortgage every month on the dot doesn't mean you can really afford it. That's the idea of "house poor," people spending so much on housing costs that they're not spending on much of anything else -- or saving, for that matter.
Is this you?
The National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy just updated their "Paycheck to Paycheck" data this week to show the income you need to avoid spending too much on the typical home or rental in metro areas across the country.
Their calculations suggest that plenty of workers -- from bank tellers to security guards to school bus drivers -- had better double up with another working stiff, or they'll have a hard time of it. That's all right for a variety of families, but it's less all right for single folks and any couples dealing with a job loss.
In the Baltimore region, the two housing groups say, you need to earn almost $70,000 a year to buy the median-priced home and not spend more than 28 percent of your income on the mortgage, taxes and insurance (a common measure of affordability). This assumes a 10 percent down payment, bigger than FHA's minimum requirements.
You don't need to earn as much if you're renting, but it's still a good chunk of change.
A Baltimore-area renter making $42,000 can just afford a one-bedroom rental at HUD's "fair market rent" of $1,052 a month, according to the Paycheck to Paycheck report. A $50,000 income is just enough for a two-bedroom with fair market rent of $1,263 a month.
That calculation considers rent affordable as long as it doesn't eat up more than 30 percent of monthly income, a bit higher than the homeownership figure because renters aren't responsible for broken toilets, leaky roofs and other maintenance costs.
The Baltimore metro area is the 29th most expensive housing market in the country, according to Paycheck to Paycheck. Its $242,000 median price is far behind No. 1 San Francisco ($585,000), but far above the typical price nationally ($176,000) let alone in the cheapest region, Youngstown in Ohio ($77,000).
Paycheck to Paycheck uses National Association of Home Builders data, which includes new-home sales as well as existing homes. That probably explains why its median price for the Baltimore area is a bit higher than what Metropolitan Regional Information Systems recorded for the same period, July through September.
As for rents, the Baltimore metro area is even higher up the list -- 22nd most expensive out of 210 regions.
The median household income in the Baltimore metro area in 2009, the most recent figures from state planners, was about $67,000. So about half the households in the region don't make enough to afford the median home, while half do (if only barely in some cases).
Here's hoping you make more than enough to comfortably pay your mortgage or rent.