How much should you be earning to live in Columbia?


Homeowners present and future, take note: analysis data courtesy of HSH.com has shed some light on how much you ought to be earning in order to comfortably buy and maintain a home in several nationwide cities. In order to acquire these numbers, HSH took the National Association of Realtor’s 2016 2nd quarter data for median-home prices and average interest rate to determine how much you would need to afford the base cost of a home as well as considering the cost of living in those cities to estimate prices of yearly expenses. Unsurprisingly, the data reflects a common modern truth of the expensiveness of coastal living; San Francisco leads the pack with a suggested annual salary of $161,947.60. With the converse of that logic, it does make sense that our neighboring major cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, both end up on the relatively cheap end of the scale, with St. Louis’ $38,131.22 being over four times cheaper than San Francisco. The slightly more expensive Kansas City still only costs $39,214 on average.

But what about Columbia?

Thanks to similar data from SmartAsset.com, we can now compare it safely to its larger cousins on either end of I-70. The ever-growing college town is in a similar bracket to most other such towns, albeit on the more expensive end of that spectrum – at $30,300, only Athens, Georgia is more expensive as collegiate cities go. Compared to nearby Independence and Springfield, MO, both of which weigh in well under $30,000, this seems a little pricy. But given the way that southwestern expansion as well as the turbulent recent years at the University have put Columbia back on Missouri (and the nation’s) radar, this slight edge in price comes as no real surprise.

Data from MissouriEconomy.org indicates that as of late 2015, Columbia has the highest cost of living in Missouri. Where Missouri as a whole sits at a comfortable 91% of the nation’s overall cost of living, Columbia clocks in at 98.5% – a full 7% above Kansas City. Interestingly, the cost of utilities is the highest weight in this ranking, which Columbia residents pay 130% of the nationwide average for. Given the expansion of the downtown area to accommodate a larger student population and more student housing, however, this statistic makes sense. Where Columbia does rank lower than the rest of the state is in its costs of transportation, which are only 90.8% of the nationwide average. The COMOConnect bus system with city and suburb-wide access is a big boon for that index; also of note is the prominent MKT Trail that stretches across town.

It is worth noting: given the college town climate of Columbia, renting is a key part of the local economy. Columbia’s average monthly rental price of $707 has no doubt inflated as a result of the explosion of student living downtown. Even so, it ranks notably below the average rent of its neighboring cities. Rentals in St. Louis average a cost of $1,229 per month. Interestingly, though, Columbia is edging toward the $828 average for Kansas City. It’ll be a while yet before the gap in costs of living closes on the scale of home buying, but Columbia’s growth is notable nonetheless. Pushing well ahead of nearby Jefferson City ($622) and all other cities in Missouri, the oft-neglected third I-70 city is on pace to become just as valuable as its kin. The collegiate reputation of Columbia is starting to misrepresent a burgeoning city that attracts a diverse group of citizens, and the data shows that it’s beginning to look a lot more like a third metro than its smaller neighbors.

Below is a chart of the data summarized. For context, the populations of the cities are 109,008 for Columbia, 459,772 for Kansas City, and 318,527 for St. Louis.

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