Arlington County, Va.
Salary to comfortably afford a three-bedroom: $158,474
This 208,000-population community across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., attracts lots of wealthy suburbanites by offering a short commute to and from downtown via the Metro.
Arlington also hosts the Pentagon, which means lots of uniformed military personnel and defense contractors call the county home.All of that demand helped push the median Arlington three-bedroom home's price up 10% during 2013 to $693,333. Blomquist says the only silver lining to the cloud of high home prices is that the typical Arlington household earns $100,474 a year. Still, that's less than two-thirds of what RealtyTrac estimates a family needs to comfortably afford a three-bedroom place there. San Mateo County, Calif.
Salary to comfortably afford a three-bedroom: $170,284 High-flying Facebook has its worldwide headquarters in San Mateo County, so you might as well "unfriend" the idea of finding affordable housing there. That's because the 718,500-population county, between San Francisco city limits and the heart of Silicon Valley, has some of America's costliest homes.
Salary to comfortably afford a three-bedroom: $177,922 Marin County is such a poster child for the hip-but-affluent California lifestyle that President George W. Bush once referred to "American Taliban" member John Walker Lindh (who grew up there) as "some misguided Marin County hot-tubber." Located just north of the San Francisco line, 252,000-person Marin hosts Belvedere, Tiburon and other super-exclusive communities. Median prices for three-bedroom homes in the county rose 15% last year to reach $778,417. Unfortunately, locals need nearly twice Marin's County's $90,535 median household income to easily afford such places. "You have to be very wealthy to buy a house in Marin County," Blomquist says. San Francisco, Calif.
Salary to comfortably afford a three-bedroom: $228,569 If you left your heart in San Francisco, it's probably because the local home prices gave you a heart attack. The City by the Bay has perhaps America's most-expensive housing, with median prices on three-bedroom homes rising 9% last year to a cool $1 million. Comfortably affording such a place requires more than three times the 805,000-population community's $73,012 median annual household income. Blomquist attributes Frisco's high prices to the booming local economy, which creates strong housing demand in a city with little buildable land because it's surrounded by water on three sides. "San Francisco is just the epitome of a market with a very-limited housing supply and it's going to be that way forever because there's a limited amount of land," he says.