BAM Key Details:
- A new Redfin report shows the typical U.S. teacher can afford only 12% of the homes for sale within commuting distance of their school—down from 17% last summer and 30% in 2019.
- “Commuting distance” is the distance someone could drive in 20 minutes during rush hour.
- The Midwest is the most affordable for educators looking to buy or rent, while California is the least affordable for teachers looking to buy a home, and Florida is the least affordable for teachers looking for places to rent.
According to a new Redfin report, the typical U.S. teacher can afford only 12% of the for-sale homes within commuting distance of the school in which they work.
That figure is down from 17% last summer—and from 30% in 2019.
And only three metros in Redfin’s study had an affordable share above 50%.
Adding insult to injury, the average teacher can comfortably afford only 27% of the available rentals within commuting distance of the schools that pay them to keep teaching.
These findings are based on Redfin’s analysis of median teacher salaries in the 50 most populous U.S. metros in 2022—including over 70,000 Pre-K-12 public and private schools.
Here’s what you need to know.
Teacher salaries can’t keep up with inflation and rising home prices
Teachers in the U.S. are faced with a shrinking pool of affordable housing options within commuting distance of the schools in which they work.
For clarity’s sake, “commuting distance” is the distance they can travel by car within 20 minutes during rush hour traffic.
And it’s not just that teachers in this country are faced with a longer commute time, thanks to higher home prices and teacher salaries that can’t keep pace with inflation.
The average salary for a public school teacher rose 2% from 2021 to 2022 to $66,745. But, adjusted for inflation, that salary is actually $3,644 less than it was a decade ago, according to the National Education Association (NEA).
Nearly half of the 50 most populous U.S. metros saw teacher salaries decline in 2022 from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, as teacher pay pretends to keep up, home prices keep on climbing, which has driven many educators out of the field, resulting in a severe teacher shortage in some areas.
In 2023, the typical U.S. school has an average of 796 homes for sale within commuting distance—down 24% from 2022 and 46% from 2019. Meanwhile, high mortgage rates have convinced many homeowners to stay put, leaving today’s buyers with far fewer options—especially when it comes to homes at or below the median price point.
The shortage of affordable homes is exacerbating the shortage of teachers. Many teachers who can’t afford to buy a house near work are either renting and missing out on the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, or leaving education in search of more lucrative careers.
Creative solutions—and roadblocks
In some cities, policymakers have started converting old schools, convents, and historic buildings, and convents into affordable housing to persuade local educators to stick around.
Also, while half of the 50 U.S. states have proposed laws to increase teacher pay this year, only about a handful of those proposals have succeeded.
The Midwest has the most affordable options for educators
Of the four main U.S. regions, the Midwest has the most affordable housing options for teachers looking to either buy or rent homes near their schools.
Detroit is a prime example of this. The average teacher in this metro can afford two-thirds (67%) of the for-sale homes within commuting distance of their place of employment—the highest affordability share of all the 50 metros in Redfin’s study.
Next up is Cleveland, where the median teacher salary puts 59% of commutable homes in the affordable range.
So, the top five affordable home markets for educators—
- Detroit, MI (67%)
- Cleveland (59%)
- Pittsburgh (53%)
- Philadelphia (49%)
- St. Louis (40%)
The list for rentals is almost identical (though in a different order):
- Cleveland (where 82% of available rentals are affordable to the typical teacher)
- Pittsburgh (76%)
- Detroit (73%)
- Milwaukee (73%)
- Philadelphia (62%)
The metros in both of the above lists have two things in common:
- Their housing prices rank among the most affordable
- Their median teacher salaries don’t rank near the bottom
The second advantage doesn’t mean median teacher pay in these metros ranks at or near the top among the 50 most populous metros. But the gap between home prices and household income is small enough to make a larger share of homes affordable to local educators.
Detroit, for example, has a median home sale price of $187,000—the lowest of any major U.S. metro area. And while teacher pay still ranks 26th (out of 50), the median teacher salary of $64,221 puts the median home price well within reach.
Compare that to Miami, with a median home sale price of $515,000—well above what the typical teacher can afford with a salary of $60,463.
California is the least affordable for educators looking to buy a home
In San Diego and San Jose, California, none of the for-sale homes situated within commuting distance of local schools, on average, are affordable for anyone on the median teacher salary.
Just north of zero, these metros all have about 1% of homes near schools that a typical teacher could afford:
- Austin, TX
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Nashville, TN
- Denver, CO
- Boston, MA
- Oakland, CA
While California has the highest median teacher salaries, it also has some of the priciest homes in the country. San Francisco, for starters, has a median teacher salary of $98,789, which is the second highest among the 50 most populous metros in Redfin’s study (Riverside, CA, took the number one spot with $100,326).
San Francisco also has a median home sale price of $1.5 million—the highest in the U.S.
And, as a rule, most folks earning $98,789 (or something close to that) can’t afford a $1.5 million home. So, a typical San Fran educator shopping for an affordable home near their school will, most likely, need to search outside that 20-minute commute radius.
Florida is the least affordable for educators looking to rent
Teachers looking for places to rent near their school will find that most difficult (and disheartening) in Florida—specifically in four key metros, starting with Miami, where only 2% of available rentals near schools are affordable on the median teacher salary.
All but one of the five metros with the smallest affordability shares for rentals within commuting distance of schools are in Florida:
- Miami (2%)
- Fort Lauderdale (4%)
- Orlando (4%)
- West Palm Beach (6%)
- Nashville (6%)
As for teacher salaries, the picture gets even darker. According to the National Education Association, from 2021 to 2022, Florida ranked 48th in the U.S. for teacher pay, with an average salary of $51,230. Orlando has the lowest at $49,561—an 8% drop from 2021—according to the metro ranking in Redfin’s report.
Florida has seen one of the fastest increases in housing costs since the pandemic, largely due to the massive influx of remote workers moving in from other areas of the country.
Orlando has seen the biggest drop in teacher employment (-30%) since 2019, followed by three high-end California metros:
- San Jose (-27%)
- Sacramento (-19%)
- San Diego (-17%).
Housing affordability for teachers declines most in Virginia Beach, Providence, and Tampa
The average teacher in Virginia Beach can afford 9% of for-sale homes within commuting distance of their place of employment—down from 71% in 2019. That 62 percentage point (ppt) drop is the steepest among all the 50 metros in Redfin’s study, followed by—
- Providence, RI (-45 ppts)
- Tampa (-44 ppts)
- Jacksonville, FL (-41 ppts)
- Las Vegas (-41 ppts)
Virginia Beach is one of 10 U.S. metros where teachers earn less in 2023 than they did in 2019. The median teacher salary for this metro is $59,316—down 18% from $72,148 in 2019.
Teacher salaries changed the least in expensive coastal metros. In San Francisco, for example, an average of 1% of for-sale homes situated near schools are affordable on the median teacher salary—unchanged from just before the pandemic.
Rounding out the top five metros where housing affordability changed the least from 2019–2023:
- San Jose
- New York
All five saw their affordable housing shares fall by less than 5 percentage points for the same reason: all had hardly any homes affordable on the median teacher salary to begin with.
Teacher pay declined most last year in Baltimore and Orlando—rose the most in St. Louis
Almost half (21) of the 50 most populous U.S. metros saw a decline in the median teacher salary from 2021 to 2022. And Baltimore and Orlando top the list:
- Baltimore ($63,601 in 2022—down 15% from $74,476 in 2021)
- Orlando (-8%)
- Virginia Beach (-8%)
- Minneapolis (-8%)
- Pittsburgh (-7%)
St. Louis saw the largest increase in the median teacher salary, rising 10% from the previous year to $59,610 in 2022.
The top five metros where teacher pay increased the most from 2021 to 2022:
- St. Louis, MO (+10%)
- Seattle (9%)
- Oakland (8%)
- San Francisco (8%)
- San Diego (7%)
Also, thanks to the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant program, thousands of Missouri teachers recently received bumps in their pay.
Speaking of teacher employment, St. Louis saw a 9% increase from 2019—the biggest of all the major U.S. metros.
Takeaways for real estate agents
Since the lifting of pandemic restrictions, teachers no longer have the option of working from home, sparing them the cost of a daily commute.
So, not only are they being paid less compared to 2019 in at least ten major metro areas, but more of that income is now going to transportation costs.
Given that, what can you do as a real estate agent to help your teacher clients stretch their incomes as far as possible, even if buying a home in the next 6-12 months is a no-go? The more you can help potential clients improve their quality of life, the more likely they are to remember you when it comes time to do some serious home shopping.
Don’t neglect long-term leads simply because they’re not (yet) in a position to buy. Look for ways to help them get closer to that. And keep them informed of any changes in the market that could work to their advantage.