How much does "quality of life" really cost? Forget platitudes about happiness. For many Americans, quality of life comes down to how much house you can afford. And that's a matter of income as much as it's a matter of geography. In that competition, geography determines a lot. The median home price in San Francisco - a cool $781,600 - is more than six times the median home price in Pittsburgh, meaning you'd need to earn at least $147,996 in the Golden Gate City, a far cry from the $31,134 you'd need to make annually if you live near the gates of the Rust Belt. has analyzed 27 metro areas to come up with a picture of affordability that may confirm some of the assumptions you have or may surprise you completely. Either way, all 27 areas saw a decrease in mortgage rates in Q4, 2015-with a national average of 4.02%, down 0.06% from Q3.

Rates aside, the actual cost of homes took a surprising quarterly turn - falling in all but five areas around the country between Q3 and Q4. But, when you look at Q4 2015 against the same quarter in 2014, home prices went up in every metro area except three. Orlando, in particular, was on fire with a 13.89% uptick year-over-year, with Denver nipping at its heels with a 12.29% uptick. Here are ten hot spots, coast to coast. 

Washington, D.C.

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As many observers have noted, the center of American political power represents a housing situation that's just as vexing as any partisan squabble. Income inequality, green space, and crime rates run (predictably) along some very distinct lines - most notably the District's geographical quadrants.  Washington, D.C. saw both a quarterly and year-over-year decline in home prices (one of only three across the U.S. to do so) -down 4.37% between Q3 and Q4 of 2015 and down 0.32% since Q4 2014. Salaries also dropped more than $3,200 quarter-to-quarter. Even in spite of that double dip, the city is slowly growing more affordable, with a median home price of $371,600 -owing, in part, to the glut of condos that have cropped up almost overnight around transportation hubs and in areas that had been fallow for more than 40 years.