How much you have to earn to buy (and live comfortably) in Australia's capital cities

How much you have to earn to buy (and live comfortably) in Australia's capital cities

Whether you’re moving to Australia, or are dreaming of greener pastures in another state, you’ll need to calculate your cost of living before buying.  

Australian property hopefuls may feel like soaring house prices are pushing the dream of home ownership outside of their reach. Housing affordability is a particular problem for younger generations. Less than a third (29 per cent) of 25-35-year-olds are homeowners, according to the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey. 

It stands to reason then that most of the wealth is in the hands of older Australians, who are far more likely to own a home. Over 65s’ wealth has grown 61 per cent since the survey started in 2001, while their 20- and 30-something counterparts have seen their wealth grow at 3.2 per cent. 

To state the obvious, the meteoric rises in property prices we’ve seen in the last few years on the east coast of Australia have not been matched by wage increases. As a result, homeowners have to earn a lot more than they did a few years ago to comfortably make repayments. 

RateCity crunched the numbers and ranked Australia’s capital cities in ascending order based on how much you have to earn to buy (and avoid mortgage stress).

While many of us measure mortgage stress based on our ability to keep up to date with household bills, the financial definition is spending 30% or more of your pre-tax income on home loan repayments as a rule of thumb.

A smaller deposit would generally push the interest rate higher or attract mortgage insurance. The estimates also do not account for the added financial pressure of coming up with a deposit. 

Compare the following average house prices against average salary in that Australian capital city, and the household income you’ll need to avoid mortgage stress.



134 Melville Street, Hobart, TAS, 7000 – $405,000 sold

 Median house price: $409,592 

Monthly repayments: $1,660 

Average household income: $70,356 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $66,411



14 Ely Place, Adelaide, SA, 5000 – $515,000 sold 

Median house price: $519,517 

Monthly repayments: $2,106 

Average household income: $75,504 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $89,841



6 Suzanne Street, Wynnum West, QLD, 4178 – $550,000 sold

Median house price: $551,840

Monthly repayments: $2,237 

Average household income: $77,844 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $89,475 



6A Lynton Street, Mount Hawthorn, WA, 6016 – $550,000 sold

Median house price: $554,095 

Monthly repayments: $2,246 

Average household income: $80,289 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress:  $89,841



 38 Harney Street, Ludmilla, NT, 0820 – $592,000 sold

Median house price: $593,329 

Monthly repayments: $2,405 

Average household income: $84,500 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $96,202



3 Levelque Street, Harrison, ACT, 2914 – $723,000 sold 

Median house price: $723,980 

Monthly repayments: $2,935 

Average household income: $92,248 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $117,386



95 Barnett Street, Kensington, VIC, 3031 – $880,000 sold

Median house price: $880,902 

Monthly repayments: $3,571 

Average household income: $78,780 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $142,829



55 Nagle Avenue, Maroubra, NSW, 2035

Median house price: $1,167,516 

Monthly repayments: $4,733 

Average household income: $80,292 

Household income needed to avoid mortgage stress: $189,300

Salary needed to own a median priced house (while avoiding mortgage stress)


Median house price

Deposit needed (20%)

Monthly repayments (4.5% interest)

Annual household income needed to avoid mortgage stress









































 Note: Average house prices are from Domain State of the Market Report, September 2017. Average income based on ABS average weekly earnings, May 2017.

Where can you afford to live in Australia? 

These figures demonstrate that unfortunately, people on single incomes have little hope of attaining a mid-range property on the east coast of Australia without mortgage stress – unless they are on six figure salaries. 

Couples with one average earner and one low earner or non-earner are unlikely to be able to comfortably repay a loan for an east coast property. 

For those looking to buy in the most popular Aussie capital cities, the following is worth keeping in mind: 


  • For first home buyers wanting to move to Sydney, an average household income of nearly $200,000 is needed.
  • The average family would not qualify for a loan, as when you compare the average mortgage repayments to an average Sydney income, the repayments would be 70 percent of their income. 


  • For first home buyers wanting to move to Melbourne, an average household income of nearly $150,000 is needed.
  • The average family would not qualify for a loan, as when you compare the average mortgage repayments to an average Melbourne income, the repayments would be 54 percent of their income.

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Learn more about home loans

What is mortgage stress?

Mortgage stress is when you don’t have enough income to comfortably meet your monthly mortgage repayments and maintain your lifestyle. Many experts believe that mortgage stress starts when you are spending 30 per cent or more of your pre-tax income on mortgage repayments.

Mortgage stress can lead to people defaulting on their loans which can have serious long term repercussions.

The best way to avoid mortgage stress is to include at least a 2 – 3 per cent buffer in your estimated monthly repayments. If you could still make your monthly repayments comfortably at a rate of up to 8 or 9 per cent then you should be in good position to meet your obligations. If you think that a rate rise would leave you at a risk of defaulting on your loan, consider borrowing less money.

If you do find yourself in mortgage stress, talk to your bank about ways to potentially reduce your mortgage burden. Contacting a financial counsellor can also be a good idea. You can locate a free counselling service in your state by calling the national hotline: 1800 007 007 or visiting

What percentage of income should my mortgage repayments be?

As a general rule, mortgage repayments should be less than 30 per cent of your pre-tax income to avoid falling into mortgage stress. When mortgage repayments exceed this amount it becomes hard to budget for other living expenses and your lifestyle quality may be diminished.

How much debt is too much?

A home loan is considered to be too large when the monthly repayments exceed 30 per cent of your pre-tax income. Anything over this threshold is officially known as ‘mortgage stress’ – and for good reason – it can seriously affect your lifestyle and your actual stress levels.

The best way to avoid mortgage stress is by factoring in a sizeable buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent. If this then tips you over into the mortgage stress category, then it’s likely you’re taking on too much debt.

If you’re wondering if this kind of buffer is really necessary, consider this: historically, the average interest rate is around 7 per cent, so the chances of your 30 year loan spending half of its time above this rate is entirely plausible – and that’s before you’ve even factored in any of life’s emergencies such as the loss of one income or the arrival of a new family member.

How do I calculate monthly mortgage repayments?

Work out your mortgage repayments using a home loan calculator that takes into account your deposit size, property value and interest rate. This is divided by the loan term you choose (for example, there are 360 months in a 30-year mortgage) to determine the monthly repayments over this time frame.

Over the course of your loan, your monthly repayment amount will be affected by changes to your interest rate, plus any circumstances where you opt to pay interest-only for a period of time, instead of principal and interest.

How much are repayments on a $250K mortgage?

The exact repayment amount for a $250,000 mortgage will be determined by several factors including your deposit size, interest rate and the type of loan. It is best to use a mortgage calculator to determine your actual repayment size.

For example, the monthly repayments on a $250,000 loan with a 5 per cent interest rate over 30 years will be $1342. For a loan of $300,000 on the same rate and loan term, the monthly repayments will be $1610 and for a $500,000 loan, the monthly repayments will be $2684.

How much money can I borrow for a home loan?

Tip: You can use RateCity how much can I borrow calculator to get a quick answer.

How much money you can borrow for a home loan will depend on a number of factors including your employment status, your income (and your partner’s income if you are taking out a joint loan), the size of your deposit, your living expenses and any other debt you might hold, including credit cards. 

A good place to start is to work out how much you can afford to make in monthly repayments, factoring in a buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent to allow for interest rate rises along the way. You’ll also need to factor in additional costs that come with purchasing a property such as stamp duty, legal fees, building inspections, strata or council fees.

If you are planning on renting the property, you can factor in the expected rental income to help offset the mortgage, but again it’s prudent to add a significant buffer to allow for rental management fees, maintenance costs and short periods of no rental income when tenants move out. It’s also wise to factor in changes in personal circumstances – the typical home loan lasts for around 30 years and a lot can happen between now and then.

How long should I have my mortgage for?

The standard length of a mortgage is between 25-30 years however they can be as long as 40 years and as few as one. There is a benefit to having a shorter mortgage as the faster you pay off the amount you owe, the less you’ll pay your bank in interest.

Of course, shorter mortgages will require higher monthly payments so plug the numbers into a mortgage calculator to find out how many years you can potentially shave off your budget.

For example monthly repayments on a $500,000 over 25 years with an interest rate of 5% are $2923. On the same loan with the same interest rate over 30 years repayments would be $2684 a month. At first blush, the 30 year mortgage sounds great with significantly lower monthly repayments but remember, stretching your loan out by an extra five years will see you hand over $89,396 in interest repayments to your bank.

What is a low-deposit home loan?

A low-deposit home loan is a mortgage where you need to borrow more than 80 per cent of the purchase price – in other words, your deposit is less than 20 per cent of the purchase price.

For example, if you want to buy a $500,000 property, you’ll need a low-deposit home loan if your deposit is less than $100,000 and therefore you need to borrow more than $400,000.

As a general rule, you’ll need to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance) if you take out a low-deposit home loan. You can use this LMI calculator to estimate your LMI payment.

What are the pros and cons of no-deposit home loans?

It’s no longer possible to get a no-deposit home loan in Australia. In some circumstances, you might be able to take out a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit – but before you do so, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.

The big advantage of borrowing 95 per cent (also known as a 95 per cent home loan) is that you get to buy your property sooner. That may be particularly important if you plan to purchase in a rising market, where prices are increasing faster than you can accumulate savings.

But 95 per cent home loans also have disadvantages. First, the 95 per cent home loan market is relatively small, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Second, you’ll probably have to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance). Third, you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate. Fourth, the more you borrow, the more you’ll ultimately have to pay in interest. Fifth, if your property declines in value, your mortgage might end up being worth more than your home.

Are bad credit home loans dangerous?

Bad credit home loans can be dangerous if the borrower signs up for a loan they’ll struggle to repay. This might occur if the borrower takes out a mortgage at the limit of their financial capacity, especially if they have some combination of a low income, an insecure job and poor savings habits.

Bad credit home loans can also be dangerous if the borrower buys a home in a stagnant or falling market – because if the home has to be sold, they might be left with ‘negative equity’ (where the home is worth less than the mortgage).

That said, bad credit home loans can work out well if the borrower is able to repay the mortgage – for example, if they borrow conservatively, have a decent income, a secure job and good savings habits. Another good sign is if the borrower buys a property in a market that is likely to rise over the long term.

Can I get a home loan if I am on an employment contract?

Some lenders will allow you to apply for a mortgage if you are a contractor or freelancer. However, many lenders prefer you to be in a permanent, ongoing role, because a more stable income means you’re more likely to keep up with your repayments.

If you’re a contractor, freelancer, or are otherwise self-employed, it may still be possible to apply for a low-doc home loan, as these mortgages require less specific proof of income.

Which mortgage is the best for me?

The best mortgage to suit your needs will vary depending on your individual circumstances. If you want to be mortgage free as soon as possible, consider taking out a mortgage with a shorter term, such as 25 years as opposed to 30 years, and make the highest possible mortgage repayments. You might also want to consider a loan with an offset facility to help reduce costs. Investors, on the other hand, might have different objectives so the choice of loan will differ.

Whether you decide on a fixed or variable interest rate will depend on your own preference for stability in repayment amounts, and flexibility when it comes to features.

If you do not have a deposit or will not be in a financial position to make large repayments right away you may wish to consider asking a parent to be a guarantor or looking at interest only loans. Again, which one of these options suits you best is reliant on many factors and you should seek professional advice if you are unsure which mortgage will suit you best.

How do I save for a mortgage when renting?

Saving for a deposit to secure a mortgage when renting is challenging but it can be done with time and patience. If you’re on a single income it can be even more difficult but this shouldn’t discourage you from buying your own home.

To save for a deposit, plan out a monthly budget and put it in a prominent position so it acts as a daily reminder of your ultimate goal. In your budget, set aside an amount of money each week to go into a savings account so you can start building up the ‘0’s’ in your account.  There are a range of online savings accounts that offer reasonable interest, although some will only off you high rates for the first few months so be wary of this.

If you aren’t able to save a large deposit, you can consider ways of entering the market that require small or no deposits. This can include getting a parent to act as guarantor for your home loan or entering the market with an interest only loan.

What is a debt service ratio?

A method of gauging a borrower’s home loan serviceability (ability to afford home loan repayments), the debt service ratio (DSR) is the fraction of an applicant’s income that will need to go towards paying back a loan. The DSR is typically expressed as a percentage, and lenders may decline loans to borrowers with too high a DSR (often over 30 per cent).