The cost of living feels like it's skyrocketing, especially with the current uptick in interest rates, inflation, and utility bills. If you're nestled in one of the USA's priciest housing states, these hikes can feel especially steep. Let's dive into the top states where your housing dollars might stretch a bit thin and explore smart strategies to cushion the blow.
Most Expensive States for Housing
Owning or renting a house in any of these below states will hit your pocket hard, and the current economic climate won’t help. Rising inflation and steadily increasing interest rates are having an impact on day-to-day living. If you are struggling to cope financially and live in one of the states listed below, read on to consider your options and see what choices are available to help manage your finances.
- Median home price: $835,000
- Median household income: $82,200
- Housing Affordability: 315
- Cost of Living: 193.3
- Employment Rate: 58.1%
With a cost of living index score of 193.3, Hawaii is by far the most expensive US state to live in. This is due to the scarcity of land resources, the remote location resulting in a large amount of imported goods, and high demand due to the picture-perfect lifestyle and idyllic setting. The fact that Hawaii is a tourism hotspot also boosts prices.
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- Median home price: $411,000
- Median household income: $73,000
- Housing Affordability: 230
- Cost of Living: 148.2
- Employment Rate: 57.2%
New York scores as reasonable in many cost of living categories, with healthcare and utilities scoring just above the national average. Yet, housing is where New Yorkers are really affected, with a housing affordability score of 230. This is due to the lack of available housing in the state combined with the demand to live in the most populated city in the US, New York City.
- Median home price: $725,000
- Median household income: $81,500
- Housing Affordability: 202
- Cost of Living: 142.2
- Employment Rate: 59.6%
With magnificent beaches and perfect year-round weather, it’s not surprising that California is the most populated US state. Living in California may have a negative impact on your bank balance, with utilities and groceries both significantly higher than the national average. California is also one of the most expensive states to buy a house, with the highest median home price in mainland US.
- Median home price: $555,000
- Median household income: $86,600
- Housing Affordability: 177
- Cost of Living: 135
- Employment Rate: 63.5%
A combination of inflation and land costs has made Massachusetts one of the most expensive states to buy a property. Massachusetts also scores far above average in transportation costs, utilities, and groceries, with costs exceeding 20% greater than the national average.
- Median home price: $485,000
- Median household income: $81,900
- Housing Affordability: 172.6
- Cost of Living: 130.1
- Employment Rate: 61.2%
Oregon may be a surprising entrant on this list, but costs in recent years have soared. The demand to live in Oregon has increased post COVID-19 pandemic, with people fleeing bigger cities in California and Washington in search of a better work-life balance. This has resulted in higher demand for properties in the Beaver State, and the supply side has not been able to keep up. Groceries and utilities and reasonably priced, but the cost of transportation is also far higher than expected, with a score of 128.1.
- Median home price: $345,000
- Median household income: $81,000
- Housing Affordability: 126.9
- Cost of Living: 127.1
- Employment Rate: 63.1%
Alaska has one of the lowest median home prices amounts on our top 10 list, but don’t let that fool you. The Last Frontier has a cost of living index score of 127.1 for reasons other than housing costs. Grocery costs and healthcare costs are more expensive than in any other US state. Groceries cost more because of the remoteness of Alaska and the extra shipping costs, while healthcare providers can charge a premium due to the lack of competition.
- Median home price: $390,000
- Median household income: $97,300
- Housing Affordability: 165.9
- Cost of Living: 124
- Employment Rate: 63%
Maryland has surged in popularity in recent years, and with the excellent transport links available to multiple major cities, it’s not hard to see why. This increased demand has had a knock-on effect on housing costs, with a housing affordability score of 165.9. On the bright side, Maryland is the first state on this list to feature healthcare costs below the national average.
- Median home price: $359,000
- Median household income: $81,000
- Housing Affordability: 134.6
- Cost of Living: 121.6
- Employment Rate: 61.8%
Connecticut is a beautiful place to live, with stunning scenery and a high quality of life available. However, this comes at a price, with all expense categories scoring above the US average. Utility costs, in particular, stand out as being the most expensive when compared with other states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).
- Median home price: $414,000
- Median household income: $75,000
- Housing Affordability: 121.7
- Cost of Living: 117.2
- Employment Rate: 61.4%
Another Eastern seaboard state features on our Top 10 list, with Rhode Island coming in at number 9. While it may be the smallest US state, the Ocean State still charges big premiums across all cost of living categories, with higher than average housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, and healthcare costs.
- Median home price: $332,000
- Median household income: $76,000
- Housing Affordability: 136.2
- Cost of Living: 117
- Employment Rate: 60.1%
Similar to fellow New England state Connecticut, the price you pay for living in beautiful Vermont is sky-high utility and transportation bills. Vermont’s remote location makes energy delivery more complex, resulting in higher costs. Vermont scores above the US average in all cost of living categories.
Want to Live in an Expensive State? Consider These Financial Strategies
If you live, or want to live in an area where the cost of living by state in 2023 is very high, there are several strategies you can consider to offset the costs. Here are some ideas to help you manage high housing costs.
- Sell your home and move to a cheaper state: This may seem drastic, but selling your home in an expensive state at a premium and buying a home where the cost of living is cheaper will give your finances a considerable boost. You should be able to buy an equivalent house for a far more affordable price, freeing up some cash.
- Put down a large down payment: If you have the funds available, consider making a large down payment on your home in an expensive state. With the cost of borrowing increasing quickly, the extra down payment will help reduce the amount of interest you pay over the lifetime of the loan. To learn more, check out How Much Down Payment is Required for a House?.
- Get better mortgage terms: If your credit score or employment situation has improved, you may be eligible to refinance your mortgage with better terms.
- Utilize FHA loans: If you have a lower credit score and are unable to put down a considerable down payment, consider tapping into FHA loans. Depending on your credit score, you might be eligible to put down as little as 3.5%. In expensive areas, you may be able to borrow upwards of $800,000 with an FHA loan.
- Analyze your spending and budget: If you examine your day-to-day spending, you will find areas where you spend more money than you expected. Use this information to budget your spending and save yourself some valuable cash. You can We've rounded up 15 Clever Ways to Save Money.
The cost of living index is the measurement tool used to identify the relative living expense in each state. The average cost of living is set at 100, so if a state has a cost of living greater than 100, it is more expensive to live in than the average state. A cost of living index score below 100 indicates that living in that state is cheaper than average.
The cost of living index is calculated by assessing the cost of a standardized bundle of goods and services. Items taken into account when calculating the cost of living index include everyday food and groceries, housing costs, utility bills, transport costs, and healthcare costs, amongst other things.
As we know, different goods and services have different prices across the US. For example, certain areas of the country may have expensive housing costs compared to other locations but identical transportation costs. The cost of living index assigns a weight to each item based on that item’s importance and impact on the average budget. Each item is weighted to give a final cost of living score indicating the relative cost of living in the state.
The Bottom Line
If you reside in any of the most expensive states to live in, highlighted in our handy guide, rising costs may force you to look at options to save money. Living and buying a home in the U.S. is getting more expensive, especially in pricier states. This article broke down housing costs for different states and the reasons behind them, like location and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But there's good news! There are ways to manage these costs, such as looking into different loan options, moving to a cheaper state, or simply rethinking your budget. By staying informed and planning ahead, anyone can make smarter choices about where and how they live.