State-by-State Ranking of Where Teacher Salaries Go the Furthest in Buying a Home

Posted
10/15/2021
Teacher.org Staff
Lesson Plan Team

It's the American dream: a house, a yard, and a white picket fence. (Also 2.5 kids, a dog, and a car in the driveway. We can help you with the housing, but you'll have to figure the other parts out on your own.)

Housing costs have rocketed toward the moon over the past decade, however. In May of 2021 the median home price blasted past $350,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. That puts the biggest part of that dream out of reach for many in the country. For teachers, who are hard-working professionals who aren't always bringing in paychecks that match their commitment and effort, that has been particularly true.

That hurts, because one of the best things about being a teacher is being a part of the community. You watch generations of kids go through your classroom. You get to know their families. You see the names in the paper as they go on to accomplish things later in life, you run into them or their parents at the store and catch up, you see them at school reunions. You are part of their lives, and they are part of yours.

That's what a community is. Owning a home makes you part of that community in a way that's hard to beat. You're more than a teacher. You're a neighbor. You're there to stay, maybe even to teach the kids your former students have. You get the stability and security that comes with home ownership on top of all the great things that come with being a teacher.

Teachers Have it Rough in the Modern Home-Buying Derby

That's a pretty tough goal to reach for the latest generation of American educators.

In major metro areas like Seattle and Denver, it can seem like every home has multiple bids, sells in a matter of days, and goes for way more than listing price. But even out-of-the-way places like Boise have started to see home values skyrocket.

You have to bring an excellent credit score and a big down payment to the table to even get in the game. And even successful buyers usually lose on multiple offers before they hit pay dirt.

Whether you just graduated with a bachelor's degree in education or got a job a decade ago and weathered the Great Recession, that kind of pressure may deal you right out. According to the Urban Institute's Housing Finance Policy Center, the Millenial generation has a home ownership rate nearly ten points lower than either Gen X or the Baby Boomers that preceded them.

On top of that, the Economic Policy Institute reported in 2018 that the teacher pay gap reached its highest level ever. Stack a teacher up against a worker with comparable education and job duties, and you find that the average teacher makes almost 19 percent less each week.

That drove big protests and strikes in Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Housing costs were such a big issue in the Arizona case that a program called Home in Five was started in Maricopa county to help teachers cover down payment and closing costs.

Presidents of both parties have been talking about fixing this since at least the George W. Bush administration but the issue has gotten only worse since then. It's a cocktail of problems:

  • Skyrocketing home values in major metropolitan areas
  • Student debt accumulation and payment overhang
  • Stagnant real wage growth
  • The hangover of two major recessions in just over a decade

With inflation creeping into the equation, bringing higher cost-of-living expenses in almost every aspect of our lives, that house of your dreams can sometimes seem entirely out of reach on a teacher's salary.

Teaching in Places Where Home Ownership is Still on The Table

If all that sounds intimidating, it's time to think about it in a different way. You can start by remembering the cardinal rule of real estate:

Location, Location, Location

That's what this list is about: finding locations where teacher salary and housing prices hit that sweet spot where you can put down stakes and live the dream.

There's something else that has been at work in the real estate market in recent years: mobility.

COVID-19 saw a dramatic shift in domestic migration patterns, often tracking people moving out of high-cost housing markets in urban areas and into more affordable suburban and rural areas. Idaho was the number one destination in the country for domestic migration in 2020 according to U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data.

In general, housing prices trump salaries in the best places for home ownership. Despite having relatively low salaries for teachers, places like West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas top our list because housing costs are still rock-bottom compared to most of the country.

Affordability isn't just about low housing costs, though. It can also have a lot to do with above-average teacher pay. So New York, despite having some of the highest housing costs in the nation, comes in somewhere near the middle of our list because it also has the second highest teacher salaries in the country.

How We Ranked States Based on How Accessible Home Ownership is for Teachers

You won't have to be a STEM teacher to check our methodology here: we took the median high school teacher salary in every state and subtracted it from the average single family home value and ranked them by the difference. The bigger the gap, the less affordable it's going to be for you to buy a house.

The big brains at Zillow are the definitive resource for cross-state comparison of home values. By using their custom home valuation formula, called a Zestimate, and comparing it to actual sale values of homes, their statistical and machine learning models create an unprecedented picture of housing costs at seven different geographic levels.

Using the state level of average home prices, we've made a basic comparison to the median salary for high school teachers in those states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles that data annually, accounting for the typical nine or ten month working schedule that most teachers follow. The number only accounts for actual salary levels, not the additional bonuses and benefits that teachers can be eligible for. Those can be substantial, as you can see in our piece on the value of teacher benefits, but take-home pay is the part that mortgage companies are looking at.

We use the state level for comparison since teacher certificates and credentials are issued state-by-state. But if you wanted to get creative, you could also look to home values in states adjacent to the state where you are licensed. There are sometimes opportunities to buy homes and live in cities that are right on the border, letting you take advantage of the best of both worlds-a higher salary and lower home ownership costs.

With some careful planning, you can put this knowledge to use to unlock not only a meaningful, rewarding career in education, but also to get that little slice of heaven that comes from owning your own home. Along the way, you might find that both of those goals become more important to you than either one would be by itself.

State-by-State Ranking of Home Prices and Teacher Salaries

To establish this ranking, we compared the Bureau of Labor Statistics' median high school teacher salary to Zillow's typical home value in each state.

So here it is - a comprehensive state-by-state ranking based on where home ownership is most attainable on a teacher's salary!

 

  1. Hawaii

Typical home value: $820,594

Median high school teacher salary: $64,750

This island paradise tops the charts for typical home value, and represents the widest gap between home value and teacher salaries. The typical home value has increased 8.6 percent over the past year, while the average teacher salary has increased by 8.43 percent in the same timeframe. While it doesn't appear to be widening, the gap isn't closing either.

 

  1. District of Columbia

Typical home value: $785,400

Median high school teacher salary: $64,020

Teacher salaries in the nation's capital meet the national median of $63K, while home values are over twice the national typical home value. Home values have increased in this market by 5.6 percent over the past year, while teacher salaries have risen by only 1.65 percent. While a middle-class lifestyle is possible for teachers in DC, it can be a challenge.

 

  1. California

Typical home value: $682,099

Median high school teacher salary: $88,420

California is infamous for its high cost of living and rapidly rising property values. While the median high school teacher salary is significantly higher than the national median of $63K, home values in California have increased by 15.4% in the past year alone. Meanwhile, teacher salaries have increased just 1.6 percent. Accessibility of a middle-class lifestyle will depend heavily on the region and city teachers choose to live in.

 

  1. Massachusetts

Typical home value: $521,818

Median high school teacher salary: $83,680

Teachers in Massachusetts make significantly more than the national median of $63K, and home values are nearly double the national typical home value. Home values have increased by 14.8 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have gone up just 2.4 percent in that same timeframe. This is another state where accessing a middle class lifestyle is possible for some teachers, but rising property costs make it a challenge.

 

  1. Washington

Typical home value: $512,854

Median high school teacher salary: $76,820

Home values in Washington are rising rapidly-17 percent in the past year. Teacher salaries have increased by just 3.63 percent. While teacher salaries are well above the national median, home values are higher still. The accelerated rise in home prices indicates higher demand, so if you're considering a move to the Evergreen state, now is the time.

 

  1. Colorado

Typical home value: $491,022

Median high school teacher salary: $55,270

Colorado home values have increased by 14.2 percent in the past year, and teacher salaries have increased by 5.03 percent. That represents one of the largest increases in salary in the country, though it's not nearly enough to lessen the gap. Home values far exceed national typical home value, while teacher salaries fall short of the national median. High home prices make a middle-class lifestyle a challenge in this state, but salary trends are a reason for teachers to consider a move.

 

  1. Utah

Typical home value: $460,884

Median high school teacher salary: $61,570

Home values in Utah have increased a whopping 20 percent in the past year-one of the sharpest increases in the country. By contrast, teacher salaries have increased 4.1 percent. That's a bigger increase than many states, but salaries are still below the national median of $63K. Such a rapid growth in home values indicates skyrocketing demand, so if you're thinking about a move to Utah, do it soon.

 

  1. Oregon

Typical home value: $442,296

Median high school teacher salary: $72,370

Teachers in Oregon make a higher median salary than the U.S. median, but rising property values-15.1 percent in a year-contribute to a growing gap between home values and teacher salaries. The average teacher salary has risen just 1.46 percent in the same timeframe. Home ownership is accessible to teachers in the Beaver State, but it will depend heavily on location.

 

  1. Idaho

Typical home value: $390,682

Median high school teacher salary: $50,520

Teachers in Idaho make significantly less than the national median of $63K, and the average teacher salary has actually dropped by 2 percent in the past year. By contrast, the typical home value in Idaho has increased by a whopping 27.8 percent, widening this gap significantly. People are absolutely flocking to Idaho, and home prices reflect that demand. If you're a teacher considering a move, the time is now.

 

  1. New Jersey

Typical home value: $411,162

Median high school teacher salary: $77,790

Teacher salaries in New Jersey are significantly higher than the national average, but have risen only 1.46 percent in the past year. That's a paltry gain when compared to home prices, which have increased 14.8 percent in the same timeframe. New Jersey is known for a relatively high cost of living, but home ownership is still within reach of some teachers.

 

  1. Nevada

Typical home value: $372,760

Median high school teacher salary: $57,090

Nevada home values have increased by 13.8 in the past year, while teacher salaries have only increased by 2.64 percent. Home values are higher than the national typical home value of $287K, and teacher salaries are significantly lower than the $63K national median. The Silver State is challenging for teachers, with most jobs centering around the two hubs of Las Vegas and Reno, but home ownership is possible for some teachers.

 

  1. New Hampshire

Typical home value: $371,399

Median high school teacher salary: $62,170

Home values in New Hampshire have increased by 16.7 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have increased just 3.63 percent. Teacher salaries are closer to the national median of $63K, but home values are well above the national typical home value. Home ownership can be a challenge for teachers in New Hampshire, but it's far from impossible.

 

  1. Arizona

Typical home value: $351,661

Median high school teacher salary: $50,780

Arizona home values have increased significantly, climbing a whopping 22.7 percent in the past year. Meanwhile, teacher salaries have increased by just 2.71 percent in the same timeframe. Such a steep increase in home values indicates skyrocketing demand-people are moving to Arizona in droves. So if you're considering the Grand Canyon state, don't wait much longer.

 

  1. Montana

Typical home value: $348,471

Median high school teacher salary: $50,720

The typical home value in Montana is up 16.1 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have increased by just 1.46 percent in the same timeframe. More and more people are moving to this state, as indicated by a sharp increase in home values. Teacher salaries will vary by location, but home ownership is well within reach for some teachers.

 

  1. Maryland

Typical home value: $371,997

Median high school teacher salary: $76,840

Typical home values in Maryland have increased 13 percent in the past year. By contrast, teacher salaries have increased by just 1.46 percent. Higher-than-average teacher salaries make a middle-class lifestyle relatively accessible in this state, though housing costs will likely continue to rise sharply.

 

  1. Rhode Island

Typical home value: $372,802

Median high school teacher salary: $79,010

Typical Rhode Island home values are up 16.3 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have increased just 0.84 percent-basically no change at all. Teacher salaries do significantly exceed the national median of $63K, and home values will likely continue to rise. If you're considering a move to this coastal state, don't wait much longer.

 

  1. Virginia

Typical home value: $327,545

Median high school teacher salary: $59,267

Virginia home values are up 10.9 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen 2.78 percent. Teacher salaries fall well below the national median of $63K, while home values exceed the national typical home value. Both salaries and home values will depend heavily on location, but a middle-class lifestyle is a challenge in this state.

 

  1. Connecticut

Typical home value: $330,853

Median high school teacher salary: $78,240

Connecticut home values have increased a whopping 18 percent over the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 1.68 percent in the same timeframe. The sharp increase in home values indicates a rise in demand, so if you are considering a move to this state, don't wait too long.

 

  1. Florida

Typical home value: $303,556

Median high school teacher salary: $60,470

Typical home values in Florida have risen 12.7 percent in the past year, compared to an increase in teacher salaries of just 0.98%-a negligible change. While a middle-class lifestyle is accessible to teachers in Florida, it will depend on location and other cost-of-living factors.

 

  1. Maine

Typical home value: $297,465

Median high school teacher salary: $57,020

Home values in Maine have increased by 17.1 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen 3.21 percent across the state. Maine home values are just above the national average typical value, while teacher salaries fall well below the $63K national median. Home values will continue to rise, so if you're considering a move to the lobster-and-blueberries capital of the U.S., don't wait too long.

 

  1. Minnesota

Typical home value: $301,175

Median high school teacher salary: $62,410

Typical home values in Minnesota are up 10.3 percent over the past year, and teacher salaries have increased by a meager 0.69 percent in the same timeframe, widening this gap significantly. Home ownership is within reach for teachers in this state, but in some locations it will be a challenge.

 

  1. Alaska

Typical home value: $313,969

Median high school teacher salary: $75,600

Alaska home values have increased by just 3.2 percent in the past year, and teacher salaries are up 1.18 percent. While this is still a wide gap, it's one of the few states where the increases are somewhat comparable in the past year. With salaries significantly higher than the national median, this can be an attractive state for teachers.

 

  1. Vermont

Typical home value: $300,038

Median high school teacher salary: $63,080

Vermont home values are up 10.3 percent in the past year, compared to a 0.72% increase in teacher salaries. Both numbers hover near what's typical nationally, though home prices will likely continue to rise in the coming years.

 

  1. Delaware

Typical home value: $302,996

Median high school teacher salary: $68,360

Delaware home values have increased 13.2 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 1.46 percent in the same timeframe. Steeply rising home prices indicate an increase in demand, so if you're thinking about moving to Delaware, now is the time.

 

  1. New York

Typical home value: $315,687

Median high school teacher salary: $86,230

Typical home values in New York have risen 10.9 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have increased by just 0.77 percent in the same period. Home values just exceed what's typical nationally, while teacher salaries are significantly higher than the national median. A notoriously high cost of living is a roadblock in this state, but higher-paid teachers do have access to a middle class lifestyle.

 

  1. Wyoming

Typical home value: $268,950

Median high school teacher salary: $61,730

Wyoming home values are up 4.6 percent in the past year, and teacher salaries have risen by just 0.96% in the same timeframe. Both home values and teacher salaries fall below national medians. A lack of jobs may be a challenge in this sparsely populated state, but some teachers will find home ownership well within their reach in Wyoming.

 

  1. North Dakota

Typical home value: $250,326

Median high school teacher salary: $54,200

Teacher salaries in North Dakota have risen by 2.45 percent in the past year, while home values have risen by 4.4 percent. Though still a significant gap, these numbers represent a more comparable increase than many states. While salaries fall below the national median, a low cost of living makes this an attractive state for many teachers.

 

  1. North Carolina

Typical home value: $245,003

Median high school teacher salary: $50,360

North Carolina teacher salaries have gone up by just 0.45 percent in the past year, while home values have increased by 13.7 percent. Home values will continue to increase in the coming years, so if you're considering a move to this southern state, don't delay too long.

 

  1. South Dakota

Typical home value: $239,786

Median high school teacher salary: $45,320

Teacher salaries in South Dakota have risen by 2.06 percent in the past year, while home values have increased by 9.2 percent. A low cost of living makes this an attractive state for teachers, but a sparse population means fewer job opportunities overall.

 

  1. New Mexico

Typical home value: $245,921

Median high school teacher salary: $55,740

New Mexico home values have risen by 14.4 percent, while teacher salaries have increased just 1.23 percent in the same timeframe. The steep rise in housing values indicates an increase in demand, so if you're considering moving to this beautiful desert state, now is the time.

 

  1. Texas

Typical home value: $241,987

Median high school teacher salary: $58,400

Texas home values have risen by 12.4 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have increased a meager 0.97%. Accessibility of a middle-class lifestyle will vary by location, but home ownership is possible for some teachers in the Lone Star State.

 

  1. Georgia

Typical home value: $241,606

Median high school teacher salary: $61,360

Home values in Georgia have risen 13.4 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have actually decreased by 0.04% in the same timeframe. Despite this discouraging decrease, the gap remains markedly less than many states, and home ownership is well within reach of many teachers in the Peach State.

 

  1. Tennessee

Typical home value: $225,138

Median high school teacher salary: $52,770

Home values in Tennessee have risen 12.9 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 1 percent, mirroring trends in other southern states. Both teacher salaries and home values fall below national medians, but a low cost of living in most areas makes this an attractive state for teachers.

 

  1. South Carolina

Typical home value: $223,947

Median high school teacher salary: $53,180

South Carolina home values have increased by 11.4 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 0.06 percent-essentially no change at all, similar to other southern states. While salaries fall below the national median, home values are also lower than what's typical nationally, and teachers may find home ownership within their reach in this state.

 

  1. Wisconsin

Typical home value: $228,108

Median high school teacher salary: $58,630

Wisconsin home values have risen 12.4 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have gone up just 1.02 percent in the same year-a meager change, as in most other states. Both home values and teacher salaries fall below what's typical nationally, and many teachers find a middle-class lifestyle within their reach in this midwestern state.

 

  1. Pennsylvania

Typical home value: $229,906

Median high school teacher salary: $67,180

Home values in Pennsylvania have increased by 13.7 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 1.34 percent in the same timeframe. Home values and teacher salaries both fall short of national medians, and both salary and cost of living will vary widely by location.

 

  1. Illinois

Typical home value: $230,989

Median high school teacher salary: $70,740

Illinois home values have risen by 10 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have gone up just 1.79 percent. That said, home values fall below the national typical value of $287K, while teacher salaries significantly exceed the national $63K median, making this state one of the most attractive for making the most of your salary as a teacher.

 

  1. Missouri

Typical home value: $192,094

Median high school teacher salary: $45,290

Home values in Missouri have risen by 12.9 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 1.46 percent in the same timeframe. A low cost of living makes this an attractive state for teachers, despite a median salary that's well below the national median.

 

  1. Nebraska

Typical home value: $203,828

Median high school teacher salary: $62,090

Nebraska home values have increased by 10.8 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen 2.16 percent in the same timeframe. Home values fall well short of the national $287K typical value, while teacher salaries are approaching the national median of $63K. A relatively low cost of living makes this an attractive state for teachers.

 

  1. Michigan

Typical home value: $203,472

Median high school teacher salary: $62,210

Home values in Michigan have increased by 13 percent, while teacher salaries have hardly increased at all-just 1.1 percent. Home values fall short of the national typical value, while teacher salaries nearly reach the national median. A middle-class lifestyle can be well within reach for teachers in this state.

 

  1. Louisiana

Typical home value: $186,064

Median high school teacher salary: $50,810

Home values in Louisiana have increased by 6.2 percent since spring 2020, while teacher salaries have risen only 0.55 percent in the same timeframe-essentially no change. Both home values and teacher salaries fall well below national medians, and a low cost-of-living makes a middle-class lifestyle accessible to many teachers in this state.

 

  1. Indiana

Typical home value: $183,095

Median high school teacher salary: $50,940

Indiana home values have risen by 12.2 percent in the past year, and teacher salaries have increased by just 0.87 percent-essentially no change. Both home values and teacher salaries are below what's typical nationally, but the smaller gap between them puts the Hoosier State in the top 10.

 

  1. Kansas

Typical home value: $175,986

Median high school teacher salary: $53,140

Home values in Kansas have increased by 10.5 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen by 5.09 percent-one of the highest increases in the country. While teacher salaries fall well below the national median of $63K, lower housing costs and a lower cost of living make this an attractive state for teachers.

 

  1. Ohio

Typical home value: $180,374

Median high school teacher salary: $66,420

Ohio home values have increased by 13.5 percent in the past year, and teacher salaries have increased by just 0.46 percent in the same year-hardly any increase at all. Home values fall well below what's typical nationally, while teacher salaries exceed the national median of $63K, making this an affordable state for teachers.

 

  1. Alabama

Typical home value: $167,076

Median high school teacher salary: $53,440

Home values in Alabama have gone up 10.9 percent since spring 2020, while teacher salaries have risen a paltry 0.33 percent. This state is fairly affordable for teachers, with home values well below the typical national value and a low cost of living.

 

  1. Kentucky

Typical home value: $167,059

Median high school teacher salary: $55,540

Kentucky home values have risen by 9.9 percent in the past year, while teacher salaries have risen just 0.88 percent-essentially no change at all. Though teacher salaries are well below the national median of $63K, home values are also well below what's typical nationally, making this a more affordable state for teachers.

 

  1. Iowa

Typical home value: $165,562

Median high school teacher salary: $57,140

Home values in Iowa have risen 6.3 percent since spring 2020, while teacher salaries have risen 1.25 percent in the same timeframe. Both home values and teacher salaries are well below national medians, and the small gap between them puts this state in the top 5.

 

  1. Oklahoma

Typical home value: $149,781

Median high school teacher salary: $48,370

Oklahoma home values have risen 9.4 percent since spring 2020, though they are still well below the national typical value of $287K. Teacher salaries increased just 0.3 percent in the past year-a negligible change. Despite teacher salaries lower than the national median, this is one of the states where a teacher's salary goes the furthest.

 

  1. Arkansas

Typical home value: $146,625

Median high school teacher salary: $51,310

Typical home values in Arkansas have increased by 6.6 percent in the past year. At the same time, teacher salaries have increased just 1.06 percent. More affordable housing overall makes Arkansas a state where a teacher's salary puts home ownership well within reach.

 

  1. Mississippi

Typical home value: $140,634

Median high school teacher salary: $45,400

Mississippi is among the lowest in the nation for teacher salaries, with a median well below the national median of $63K. It also has some of the lowest home values in the country, which have risen 7.6 percent in the past year. Teacher salaries have risen just 1.73 percent in the same period. Despite that modest increase, a low cost of living and low housing prices makes this one of the most affordable states for teachers.

 

  1. West Virginia

Typical home value: $116,778

Median high school teacher salary: $48,780

Teacher salaries in West Virginia have increased just 0.5 percent in the past year, while home values have risen 6.6 percent, following similar trends to other states. Salaries are well below the national median, but lower home prices make this the state with the smallest gap between the two-the state where a teacher's salary may go the furthest.

 

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job growth figures for High School Teachers represents national data, not school-specific information.

Housing price data pulled from the Zillow Home Value Index for Single-Family Homes.

Data Accessed June 2021.

Comments

Subscribe
SIGN UP TODAY

Get the latest news for teachers.
close-link