It's no secret that the nation's housing market is molten hot. Low inventory, affordable mortgage rates and intense competition have sent average home prices soaring – especially in markets that were pricy to begin with.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index has jumped by nearly a fifth over the past 12 months. The 20-city index, which measures only the very largest metro housing markets, is up by even more.
To determine what the highest average home prices look like on the ground, we turned to the latest data from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). Their Cost of Living Index measures prices in 258 urban areas for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services (such as getting your hair done or going to a movie).
Signs of inflation abound, but housing prices are what really stand out. As of the end of the second quarter of 2021, average home prices in the U.S. came to $395,284, according to C2ER. That's up from $326,412 just five years ago.
That sticker shock is even more salient in a select set of U.S. cities.
With C2ER's data in hand, we were able to identify the 15 U.S. cities with the highest average home prices – and the premiums they command to what the typical American pays for a home. (Spoiler alert: The 15 U.S. cities with the highest average home prices have an average home price of $1.1 million, or 2.7 times the national average.)
How expensive does it get? Take a closer look at the U.S. cities with the highest average home prices. For good measure, we've also included data on median household incomes, average rents, related housing costs and other pertinent information.
C2ER's Cost of Living Index is based on price data collected during the second quarter of 2021. City-level data on populations, median household incomes and other demographic data are courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau.
15. Anchorage, Alaska
- Population: 288,000
- Median household income: $82,716 (U.S.: $65,712)
- Average home price: $585,500 (U.S.: $395,284)
- Premium to U.S. average: 48.1%
Everything is more expensive in Alaska. The remote location of The Last Frontier State is to blame.
Anchorage's living expenses run around 23% higher than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index, led by elevated housing costs and home prices.
Indeed, overall housing costs, which includes rents, mortgages and related expenses, are 34% higher than the U.S. mean. The average home price of more than $585,500 is more than 48% greater than what the typical American pays to keep a roof over his or her head.
The city looks more affordable on a median basis. Median household income of nearly $83,000 is well above the national median. And with a median home value of $314,600, residents can find affordable dwellings on the market.
Meanwhile, sometimes it makes more financial sense to rent. The average apartment in Anchorage rents for $1,282 a month – essentially inline with the U.S. average of $1,215.
14. Portland, Oregon
- Population: 653,467
- Median household income: $76,231
- Average home price: $617,776
- Premium to U.S. average: 56.3%
Oregon's most populous city has long been a magnet for progressive types and folks who love living near the great outdoors. Portland's quirky charms have made it one of the nation's fastest growing urban areas with a metro population of more than a million in recent years, and that has put upward pressure on prices.
Indeed, Portland housing prices have zoomed 19.5% over the past 12 months, according to S&P Case-Shiller. That's helped make the city's overall housing costs 73% higher than the national average. Home prices that average $617,776 – more than 56% above the U.S. mean – don't do residents any favors either.
Denizens of the Rose City pay up in other ways, too. The average apartment rents for $2,537 a month, or more than double what the typical American renter pays. Principal and interest payments on mortgages are pricier, too, averaging $1,951 per month. The U.S. average is a more manageable $1,250 a month.
13. Stamford, Connecticut
- Population: 129,636
- Median household income: $100,713
- Average home price: $659,900
- Premium to U.S. average: 66.9%
With its close proximity to New York City, Stamford has long welcomed wealthy commuters who make their living in the Big Apple.
Residents also can earn a good salary closer to home. The metro area, which includes Norwalk and Bridgeport, is the base for many hedge funds and major corporations. Stamford itself hosts prominent S&P 500 companies such as Charter Communications (CHTR (opens in new tab)), Synchrony Financial (SYF (opens in new tab)) and United Rentals (URI (opens in new tab)).
Naturally, all those high-paying jobs make Stamford and its surrounding area exceedingly pricey. The city's average home price is almost 67% greater than the national average. More broadly, housing-related expenses (including rents and mortgages) are 80% higher than what the typical American pays to keep a roof over his or her head.
Renters don't catch a break either. The average apartment rents for $2,525 a month in Stamford. That's more than double the U.S. average of $1,215 a month, per C2ER.
12. Boston, Massachusetts
- Population: 694,295
- Median household income: $79,018
- Average home price: $799,000
- Premium to U.S. average: 102.1%
With its unparalleled collection of universities, hospitals, historical sites, and tech and biotech employers, it's easy to see why Boston is such an appealing place to live. And while there's no question the city's popularity comes at a high cost, it's not nearly as high as some East Coast cities that are often mentioned in the same breath as Boston.
After all, the high concentrations of students, recent grads and young professionals require some level of affordability to get by while they're starting out. So while the city's overall living costs are 50% higher than the national average, that's a relative bargain compared to, say, New York City or San Francisco.
Putting down roots in Boston, however, is another matter entirely. At nearly $800,000, home prices are more than twice the U.S. average. Principal and interest payments on mortgages ($2,523 per month) are likewise double what the rest of the nation shells out ($1,250 a month). Keeping the lights and heat on is a pricey proposition, too, with utilities running about 28% higher than the U.S. mean.
11. Seattle, Washington
- Population: 753,655
- Median household income: $102,486
- Average home price: $828,335
- Premium to U.S. average: 109.6%
Seattle has long been known for its red-hot housing market. And now low inventory and high competition are only adding further fuel to its home-price fire. Heck, house prices in the Emerald City soared nearly 26% over the past year, according to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index.
A booming tech scene doesn't help matters either. Microsoft (MSFT (opens in new tab)) and Amazon.com (AMZN (opens in new tab)) are both based in the Seattle area, as are many smaller high-tech companies. The bottom line is that Seattle's average home price is nearly 110% greater than the national average. Overall housing costs – including rents, mortgages and related expenses – are 112% higher than the U.S. mean.
Seattle has relatively high median household income that's 56% greater than the national level, but elevated and rising home prices sure do take a bite. At least residents can take some comfort in the fact that their utility bills run only about 8% more than what the typical American pays.
10. Queens, New York
- Population: 2,253,858
- Median household income: $73,696
- Average home price: $839,166
- Premium to U.S. average: 112.3%
New Yorkers priced out of Manhattan used to move to Brooklyn. But now Brooklyn is no longer a bargain either, and that has folks flocking to Queens.
The borough once best known for Archie Bunker and the New York Mets is becoming trendier by the day, and prices are following suit. The average home price is knocking on the door of $840,000, or more than twice the national average.
It should come as no surprise that housing-related costs are also 122% greater than the U.S. average. After all, the mean monthly apartment rent comes to $2,848 vs. $1,215 a month nationally. And the average mortgage carries a principal and interest-rate payment of $2,700 per month vs. $1,250 across the U.S. Again, that's more than twice what the typical American pays.
Looking at it another way, although Queens' median household income is $7,984 greater than the national median, the borough's median home value of $620,100 is nearly $225,000 higher than the U.S. median.
9. Oakland, California
- Population: 433,044
- Median household income: $82,018
- Average home price: $843,314
- Premium to U.S. average: 113.3%
Oakland anchors one corner of a sort of Bermuda Triangle around San Francisco Bay where affordable prices go missing. The second corner is San Francisco, as famous for its sky-high real estate as it is for Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf. The third corner is Silicon Valley, home to tech giants handing out six-figure salaries like candy on Halloween.
Compared to its neighbors to the west and south, Oakland might seem a bargain. But consider this: Although median household income in Oakland is about 25% greater than the national level, its median home value ($807,600) is 236% higher than the national median. The average home price, meanwhile, is more than twice the U.S. mean. Indeed, Oakland home prices rose more than 20% over the past year alone, according to Zillow.
It doesn't end there. The average apartment rents for $2,567 a month, vs. $1,215 nationally, per C2ER. Monthly principal and interest payments on mortgages come to $2,662 – or $1,412 more than the national average. As for utilities? They're almost a third higher than the national average.
8. Alexandria, Virginia
- Population: 159,428
- Median household income: $103,284
- Average home price: $895,571
- Premium to U.S. average: 126.6%
Washington, D.C., and its close-in suburbs like Alexandria are a magnet for the highly educated seeking high-powered jobs. Naturally, many of those ambitious folks are highly paid, and the region's prices reflect that.
Taken as a whole, the official Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area claims an average home price of $1,021,211 – a premium of 158% to the U.S. average. But for our purposes, we're looking at only the priciest cities within that unwieldy Census Bureau designation.
Which brings us to Alexandria, where the average home price of nearly $896,000 is upwards of 127% more expensive than the typical American dwelling. Overall housing prices are 109% greater than the U.S. mean, driven partly by average apartment rents of $2,081 a month (vs. $1,215 nationally), and average principal and interest payments on mortgages of $2,829 a month (vs. the national average of $1,250).
Happily for locals, somewhat more reasonable prices for transportation, healthcare and utilities make the total cost of living in Alexandria "only" 37% higher than the U.S. average.
7. Los Angeles, California
- Population: 3,979,537
- Median household income: $67,418
- Average home price: $904,318
- Premium to U.S. average: 128.8%
Few cities can top Los Angeles for excess and glamour, but most of its residents don't work in Hollywood or shop on Rodeo Drive. While high living expenses make L.A. one of the most expensive U.S. cities, median annual incomes are only about $1,700 above the national average.
Home prices – and overall housing costs – are the main culprits when it comes to L.A.'s comparative lack of affordability. True, as is the case with many other cities on this list, the area's average home price is skewed by the dwellings of so many high- and ultra-high net worth residents. Regardless, Los Angeles' median home value of $697,200 (vs. $240,500 for the U.S.) is still plenty daunting for folks of more typical means.
The city's average home price of $904,318 offers a premium of nearly 129% to the national average. And that's after having increased more than 19% over the past year alone, per the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price index.
As one would expect, renting is also rough on the wallet. Apartment rents, on average, are 126% higher than the U.S. average. On the plus side, utilities are only about 5% more expensive in the City of Angels.
6. San Diego, California
- Population: 1,423,852
- Median household income: $85,507
- Average home price: $905,750
- Premium to U.S. average: 129.1%
San Diego, with its miles of beaches and nearly ideal climate, is paradise for those who love the outdoors. Be it surfing, sailing, hiking, biking, golfing or just exploring Balboa Park, this city on the Pacific has something for everyone.
And for those who prefer more sedentary activities, San Diego offers a world-class zoo, museums, professional sports teams and a wide-ranging restaurant scene.
What's not to like?
Well, living in San Diego can really stretch a budget. At $905,750, the average home price is nearly 130% greater than the national average. Or consider it this way: San Diego's median home value comes to $658,400, or 174% higher than the U.S. median of $240,500. The city's median household income, however, is only 30% greater than the U.S. level. Renters feel the pinch, too, with the average apartment going for $2,558 a month vs. the national average of $1,215.
5. Arlington, Virginia
- Population: 236,842
- Median household income: $119,755
- Average home price: $950,969
- Premium to U.S. average: 140.6%
As noted with Alexandria above, Washington, D.C., and its close-in suburbs sport some of the highest living costs in the nation. So it should come as no surprise that Arlington makes the top five for highest home prices on our list.
This suburb, home to the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, sits just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. As with its neighbors, Arlington attracts ambitious, well-paid people – and has the home prices to prove it.
Housing-related expenses, including rents and mortgages, are 2.3 times higher than the national average. Locals can thank an average home price of more than $950,000 for much of that inflation. Arlington is also the first city on our list to top $3,000 per month in an average principal and interest payments on mortgages.
On the plus side for residents, Arlington's median household income of nearly $120,000 is among the highest in the U.S. Per capita income of $74,537 is more than double the national figure of $35,672.
4. Brooklyn, New York
- Population: 2,559,903
- Median household income: $66,937
- Average home price: $1,258,150
- Premium to U.S. average: 218.3%
Technically, Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs that make up New York City, but in recent years it has emerged as something of a metropolis unto itself. Indeed, if Brooklyn were an independent city, its population would be on par with Chicago, the third-largest city in the nation.
Not so long ago, Brooklyn was considered a viable alternative for those who couldn't afford to live in Manhattan. Not anymore. Housing-related expenses including rents and mortgages are more than triple the national average.
And the average home price? Fuggedaboutit. At nearly $1.3 million, Brooklyn homes cost more than three times the national average. The average apartment rent of $3,532 is also about three times the U.S. mean.
Brooklyn is a sprawling borough, where the ultra-high-net-worth residents of, say, Brooklyn Heights, help skew its average home price upward. But its median home value of $793,600 – vs. $240,500 U.S. – is shocking too.
And here's the kicker: Brooklyn's median household income is only about a thousand bucks higher than the U.S. median.
3. Honolulu, Hawaii
- Population: 974,563
- Median household income: $87,470
- Average home price: $1,388,889
- Premium to U.S. average: 251.4%
To enjoy the perks of living in such a remote Pacific paradise, Honolulu residents pay more than they would on the mainland for pretty much everything – and it's not hard to understand why. Most goods sold in Hawaii must arrive either by boat or by plane, which jacks up the price considerably.
Honolulu's average home price is 3.5 times greater than the national average. The median home value of $739,700 is likewise brutal. Meanwhile, average monthly principal and interest payments on mortgages come to $4,253. That's 3.4 times the national average of $1,250.
Renters face a similar dilemma. The average apartment lease goes for $3,141 per month in Honolulu, vs. a national average of $1,215.
And Honolulu's elevated living costs hardly end with housing prices. The city reports the most expensive groceries of all 258 urban areas surveyed by C2ER, as well as the second-highest utility bills.
2. San Francisco, California
- Population: 881,549
- Median household income: $123,859
- Average home price: $1,394,651
- Premium to U.S. average: 252.8%
Years of relentless growth driven by high-paid tech workers have given San Francisco some of the highest living costs in the country, meaning even those with fat paychecks can struggle to make ends meet.
Houses are famously expensive – an obstacle for aspiring homeowners. The average home price is a staggering $1.4 million in San Francisco, according to C2ER. The median home value is an astronomical $1.2 million.
Let's pause on that for a moment: Half of the city's homes cost more than $1.2 million.
At $4,402 a month, average principal and interest payments on mortgages are the second-highest in the U.S. – or 3.5 times what the typical American pays.
Renters don't fare much better. The average rent for an apartment in San Francisco is $3,765 a month. That's about 3.1 times the national average. Total housing costs, including rents, mortgages and related expenses, run nearly 240% above the U.S. average.
1. Manhattan, New York
- Population: 1,628,706
- Median household income: $93,651
- Average home price: $2,404,750
- Premium to U.S. average: 508.4%
If you've ever been to Manhattan, you don't need us to tell you that it's an expensive place to visit.
But it's even more expensive to live there.
With space at a premium and location paramount, the average price of a home in Manhattan is $2.4 million, or more than six times greater than the national average. Heck, Manhattan home prices are 72% higher than San Francisco, which comes in a (distant) second on our list.
True, the island borough's median home value comes to $1.1 million, or $89,200 less than S.F. But average monthly principal and interest payments on mortgages stand at $7,736, which absolutely blows away every other city in the U.S. (The national average is $1,250.)
Typical rent for an apartment averages a stunning $4,383 a month, also by far and away the highest of any American city.
The bottom line? Manhattan residents spend more than five times the national average to keep a roof over their heads.
Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.
A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.
Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.
In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics and more.
Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.
Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.
A Retirement Income Distribution Plan Is as Critical as Saving
Designing a strategy to efficiently use your retirement savings is a critical step on your retirement planning journey to maximize your income and ensure a long-lasting retirement.
By Bradley Rosen • Published
The Markets Were Miserable Last Year, But That’s Great News
It’s all about perspective. Hopefully, you learned that your financial plan can withstand market downturns. If not, now you know you need to make adjustments.
By Andrew Rosen, CFP®, CEP • Published
10 Big U.S. Cities With the Cheapest Apartment Rents
places to live Rents jumped nationwide over the past year, but these big U.S. cities remain comparatively affordable for apartment dwellers.
By Dan Burrows • Published
The 11 Most Expensive Cities in the U.S.
real estate From metro areas on both coasts to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, these are the priciest cities in the U.S. to call home.
By Dan Burrows • Published
The 25 Cheapest Places to Live: U.S. Cities Edition
places to live Take a look at our list of the cheapest places to live in America for city dwellers. Is one of the cheapest places to live in the U.S. right for you?
By Dan Burrows • Published
10 Things to Know About Hurricane Insurance Claims
Becoming a Homeowner Hurricane damage? Know what’s covered, what isn’t, and how to make the most of your policy if you need to file a claim.
By Kimberly Lankford • Published
11 Reasons You Don't Want to Retire in Florida
retirement An overabundance of boomers, critters, sweat and weirdness. Welcome to the dark side of the Sunshine State.
By Bob Niedt • Last updated
13 Tax Breaks for Homeowners and Home Buyers
Tax Breaks Owning (or buying) a home is expensive. But at least there are some tax deductions, credits, and exclusions that can help you recoup some of those costs.
By Rocky Mengle • Last updated
The 10 "Real" Richest Counties in the U.S.
real estate People living in the richest counties in America enjoy high incomes without the heavy cost pressures that usually come with them.
By Dan Burrows • Published
15 Home Features Today's Buyers Want Most
home Thinking about selling your house? Here are 15 home features potential buyers are coveting right now.
By Patricia Mertz Esswein • Last updated