Americans must make $120K a year to afford a home in 2024, realtor says

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By Dan Sears

Americans now need to make $120K a year to afford a typical middle-class life and qualify to purchase a home, one expert discusses.

“I think most of us in America would define the middle class as somebody who can work a 40-hour-a-week career and can have the income to purchase the average home in America,” Freddie Smith, an Orlando realtor and TikTok creator, told Fox News Digital.

The TikToker, whose videos explore millennial and Gen Z struggles to afford a home and the general cost of living in today’s economic climate, dissected the common factors of living a middle-class existence.

“A lot of us grew up middle class, and we watched what middle class was in the 80s and 90s as millennials. And nowadays, what has moved the goalpost more than anything is the housing market,” the relator said.

Smith explained how, just a few years ago, $60-$70K a year would have been sufficient to qualify for a home. 


Freddie Smith
Freddie Smith said the amount an American needs to make has doubled in recent years. Freddie Smith/TikTok

With the average cost of a house being around $400K-$420K in 2024, people’s salaries would need to be around $120K a year for people to even qualify, Smith explained.

The realtor highlights how this wage-to-housing gap has forced many people to rent for a longer period.

“Rent prices are taking up 30-40% of people’s income, making it harder for them to save for a house. So it’s this perpetual cycle that is keeping people out of the middle class,” he explains, noting this trend has been continuing at a rapid pace over the last few years.

Smith also explained how a $120K salary, even without children, becomes a far lower number when confronted with the crippling debt most Americans are facing today.

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“Most people are carrying student loan debt, which is at an all-time high, and the average payment in the country is $500 a month for your college degree. [There are] some people I’m seeing in my comment section saying ‘$500, I wish, it was $1,200 a month for me’,” said Smith.

Credit card debt is also at a record high in America, and while Smith acknowledges that reckless spending could be a factor, he has learned from many Americans commenting on his posts that many are forced to use their cards for groceries because they ran out of money.

According to DQYDJ, the average American income in 2023 was roughly $69K a year, with only 18.8% percent of Americans reaching $100K or more a year. According to the same source, the top 10 percent of individual earnings started at $135,605 a year.

The middle class is in a segmented state, Smith argues, largely determined by how much debt one finds themselves in. 

“If you are someone who bought a house before 2020 and you have it paid off or you have a 3% interest rate, you are not burdened by the housing costs like the 2024 adults are now,” the relator said, explaining how debt, especially college debt, housing costs and childcare are burdening millennials and Gen Zers starting their lives.

“People are spending about $1,200 to $1,500 a month on daycare, and I’ve even heard it as much as $3,000-$4,000. So when you add in somebody who’s renting for $2,500, $2,000 for daycare, $1,000 for two college loans, just that alone, you need $100,000 as an income just for that,” said Smith.

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For slightly older individuals who had a chance to pay off their debt and have grown-up children, $70K remains a comfortable middle-class wage to them.

“‘These millennials are whining. These Gen Zers just work harder.’ If you bought your house before and don’t have those other payments, that’s really the three-layered cake. Housing, college [debt] and daycare” explained Smith, highlighting these three factors greatly determine your middle-class placement.


Freddie Smith
Smith said that Gen-Z and millennials have been hurt the most by current home prices. Freddie Smith/Instagram

As a result of high housing costs, many young people are choosing to stay at home with their families to save funds.

Smith explains how he is seeing communal living go even further in Florida, where separate families are choosing to live under one roof.

“Many families [with] 3 or 4 adults and [say] five children, they all split a big house, and they all take care of each other. You can see that they have a lot of toys and they’re pooling their money,” Smith detailed.

The TikToker enumerates how millennials and older Gen Zers had a “difficult” hand dealt to them. Younger Gen Zers, however, have a lot of “opportunity” to “crush in today’s economy” if they plan carefully to avoid debt and make smart financial choices.

“The millennials, they’re the pinched generation where college essentially stopped working for most. The debt piled up, and the old American dream died, and we got left holding the bag,” he said.

The creator said that through posting on TikTok, he has learned a tremendous amount about the everyday struggles real Americans are facing through his comment section.

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“People in America, real society, are sharing all this with me. And I’m learning at a rapid pace from all different individuals. It’s not just googling it, or asking 100 college students what they think. It’s thousands and thousands of people sharing what’s going on,” said Smith.

The realtor discussed how there is a “bigger conversation” around an evolving American Dream that we’re likely to see take place over the next few years.

“We’re basically redefining the American dream from top to bottom, like the way that we see work and work-life balance,” said the creator, explaining how the idea of owning a home might grow old alongside past generations.

“I don’t even know if millennials and Gen Zers want to follow that path of buying a house and living in it for 40 years and staying at the same job for 40 years. I don’t think creatively, work-life balance wise, is also what our long-term play is,” he said.

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