Housing 101: Most teachers can’t buy a house close to their school

Back to school means early morning wake-ups, heavy backpacks and loads of homework.

For many teachers in California, the return of the school years also means a lengthy commute to work.

Few California teachers can afford to buy a home within a 20-minute drive of their school, according to a new report from Redfin.


The Golden State boasts some of the biggest paychecks for teachers in the nation – Riverside-area teachers lead the way at $100,000 – but they also deal with some of the highest housing costs.

It’s basic math with an average salary of about $90,000 for the state’s teachers and a median home price of more than $800,000. Even a two-teacher household would have trouble purchasing in the Bay Area, the Central Coast, Orange County and San Diego (see table below).

Fewer than 3% of teachers could buy a home close to their schools in seven of the eight regions researched by Redfin. About 9% of teachers could be close to their school in Riverside, the only region above 5%.


Renting an apartment or a single-family home was easier financially for teachers. More than two of every five teachers could find affordable rentals within a 20-minute commute in Oakland, Riverside and Sacramento.

But buying a home builds generational and long-term wealth. And while renting is more affordable than buying, a majority of renters spend more than 40% of their income on housing, leaving little money to save for a down payment.

“The shortage of affordable homes is exacerbating the shortage of teachers,” says Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “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.”  

Or in some cases, teachers are leaving California for more affordable but lower-paying states. Pennsylvania boasts the most affordable market for teachers, with about half of teachers able to buy close to their schools.

The California Teachers Association and negotiators for specific school districts are always lobbying for pay increases, and often cite the inability to buy homes close to where they work.
Of course, affordability is an issue for a large majority of Californians. Only 16% of households could afford to buy a home during the second quarter, according to the California Association of Realtors.

Percentage of teachers who can buy or rent a home within
a 20-minute drive from their school

CityAble to buy a homeAble to rentMedian salary for local teachers
Los Angeles1%28%$92,161
San Diego0%12%$83,648
San Francisco1%25%$98,789
San Jose0%23%$96,267

Source: Redfin

Double-digit profit declines from home sales compared to a year ago in most regions of California

California home-sellers celebrated some of the biggest paydays in the nation during the second quarter – and some of the largest percentage drops in profits.


Home prices – and profits – peaked a year ago, from San Diego to San Francisco. But with fast-rising mortgage rates and few homes listed for sale, the housing market has been in flux since.


Case in point: San Jose-area homeowners who sold their homes enjoyed a nation-leading $600,000 profit during the second quarter, according to ATTOM Data. San Francisco and San Diego home-sellers had gains of $416,000 and $301,500, respectively, the second- and third-largest profits in the U.S. (see table below).

But those paydays were much lower than a year ago, when prices reached record highs in much of the state.

San Francisco had the nation’s fourth-largest profit drop at 27%, while Sacramento and Los Angeles were off 22% and 20%, according to ATTOM Data.

Seven of the state’s eight regions surveyed had double-digit percentage declines compared to a year ago. Bakersfield had no change, and the city’s home-sellers netted $125,000 and 61% return on their investment – easily exceeding the national average of $113,000 and 48%.


Now, before homeowners become too concerned about declining profits, home prices have already started to rebound in recent weeks, according to ATTOM Data. 

California’s median home price inched up 0.2% to $832,000 in July compared to a year ago, the first year-over-year increase since last fall, according to the California Association of Realtors. 

“Just when it looked like the housing market was flattening out, prices have spiked again,” says ATTOM CEO Rob Barber. “It’s way too early to predict another long-term price run-up, especially since buying a home is a financial stretch for so many households around the country. But, clearly, the market has more steam left in it.”

CityProfit% gain from purchase price% change in profit from a year ago
Bakersfield$125,00061%No change
Los Angeles$244,62539%-19.8%
San Diego$301,50057%-10.7%
San Francisco$410,00059%-27%
San Jose$600,00071%-14.3%

Source: ATTOM Data

A fast-moving wildfire gets closer to a neighborhood in Southern California. ADOBE STOCK

1.3 million homes in California face significant risk from wildfires

As California enters the final weeks of summer, the fire risk dramatically increases, especially after near-record rainfall this past winter.

Several insurance companies – including Allstate and State Farm – have stopped accepting new homeowners’ insurance policies or dramatically increased rates to help offset the fast-rising costs to replace destroyed or repair damaged homes by wildfires.

While the decision has angered many homeowners, the decision is easy to understand – California has the highest wildfire risk in the U.S., according to CoreLogic.

California has about 1.28 million homes at a high risk of fire, more than all of the Western states combined, from Texas to Washington state, with a reconstruction cost of $761 billion.  

And five of the cities in the Western states that face the greatest wildfire risk are in California, including 242,000 homes in Los Angeles (see table below).


CalFire has responded to almost 4,200 wildfires through the third week of August, with more than 142,000 burned. Fewer than 35 structures have been damaged or destroyed by the wildfires.

CalFire officials urge homeowners, especially those in high-risk areas, to be careful and provide a fire barrier between their homes and nature.

Seven of the state’s largest wildfires have happened during the past five years, and 11 of the top 20, according to CalFire. And six of the most destructive fires have occurred since 2018, including the devastating Camp Fire that burned much of Paradise, destroying 18,800 buildings and killing 85 people in the Northern California city in 2018.

Homes at-risk of wildfires and how much to rebuild

CityTotal at-risk homesTotal reconstruction cost value
Los Angeles242,187$182.9 billion
Riverside212,902$111.7 billion
San Diego153,981$95.4 billion
Sacramento101,441$59.9 billion
San Francisco92,824$64.9 billion

Source: CoreLogic