Every writer dreams of having the perfect refuge to retreat to and dream up their next great work. For some writers this means living in the hustle and bustle of a big city, while for others it looks like a secluded experience in the countryside. Regardless of personal preferences and creative goals, for any writer, owning a home is a major aspiration.
Though this simple dream has always been a source of motivation for writers (and those from all professional backgrounds), it can be difficult for contemporary writers to make this dream a reality. This is because of the high costs associated with buying a home nationwide as well as the difficult and fickle nature of creative industries.
In light of the difficulty of becoming a homeowner, writers who wish to buy homes must make careful plans and see them through with discipline and determination.
This involves doing a large amount of research and no small amount of soul-searching to figure out a goal that is realistic for your specific needs.
If you are a creative writer who is asking yourself how you can live out the American dream of becoming a homeowner while continuing to invest in your artistic pursuits, this article is designed to help you make prudent and conscientious plans. It includes a breakdown of median annual salaries for creative writers in each state in the country as well as the average cost of a home in each place so that you can do the math to learn what is feasible for your particular situation.
The rising costs of buying a home in the U.S.
It’s no secret that the housing market in the United States has become quite unforgiving for prospective buyers in recent years, affecting those of all professional backgrounds. Over the past few decades, the cost of buying a home has surged to unprecedented levels, far outpacing wage growth.
Zillow reports that the average American home value is $348,853, having increased by 1.2% in the past year.
Unfortunately, the pandemic intensified this situation, with shelter-in-place restrictions leading to a rising demand all over the country. This financial hurdle has left many potential buyers struggling to secure a place they can call their own. Though home ownership was once valued as a path of stability, it has more recently become an aspiration, and for many it is an ambitious one at that.
There are many factors behind the explosion of the housing market in recent years, including rapid population growth in cities across the country, an increase in real estate speculation and investment, and a rise of zoning regulations that prevent development of affordable housing. There are also economic factors on the buyers’ side, from rising student loan rates to overall living costs that make it difficult to save money.
Buying a home on a writer’s living: a guide
There’s no reason to sugarcoat it: buying a home on a writer’s living is difficult. It requires extensive planning, a great deal of discipline, and most likely, some amount of compromise. But for those who are dead-set on their goal of becoming homeowners, it is possible.
What’s most important if you are beginning this process is making sure that you are making this decision for the right reasons. After all, buying a home can be a grueling process, and owning a home can present no shortage of financial, logistical, and emotional difficulties as well. This means you must know at the outset what it is worth to you.
Read on to learn more about what to keep in mind when approaching the question of homeownership as a writer.
The unique needs of writers when looking for a home
As you approach the question of buying a house, it’s good to start with an appraisal of your own personal goals and priorities. This will help you approach the vast and intimidating real estate market with a sense of purpose and clarity. As you learn about housing opportunities, keep in mind that you are looking for a place that will help you sustain your creative career.
Writers are not alone in the hunt to find affordable housing, but their needs and concerns are specific.
One of the main difficulties lies in the irregular income that many creative writers experience. Many writers work as freelancers, which means that unlike traditional 9-to-5 jobs, their income can be inconsistent, with periods of feast and famine. While many are able to use this setup to their advantage as renters, this volatility makes it challenging to meet the stable financial requirements needed to secure a mortgage. It can also make it difficult to save up the money to make a down payment.
Beyond the sporadic income stream, freelancing also means that many writers work from home. This is no small factor for prospective homeowners, who are effectively seeking office space as well as a place of residence. This is where compromise is often required: many who work from home forgo separate offices and turn rooms like kitchens and dining rooms into multi-use spaces. Still, some homes are more amenable to this than others, and it means it will be an important consideration as you review housing options.
Questions writers should ask themselves when considering homeownership
If you are a writer who is thinking seriously about becoming a homeowner, ask yourself the following questions as you navigate the waters of the real estate market:
- Is the place that I would like to live affordable enough for me to buy a home there? What compromises would I make to live in that area? Is there anywhere else I would be willing to live?
- Do I have the financial stability to cover the costs of homeownership? Beyond securing the mortgage, am I confident that I can continue to afford things like property taxes, insurance, repairs, and utilities?
- How does owning a home align with my long-term career goals?
- How high is my real estate literacy? Do I understand the variety of mortgage options and interest rates available to ensure that I will get a good deal?
As you can see, these questions cover a range of considerations, including location, financial preparedness, career and creative goals, and real estate expertise.
State-by-State Rankings of Home Prices and Creative Writer Salaries
The following list compiles data for each state to help prospective homeowners get a rough sense of the market in their desired location as well as what a creative writer’s salary looks like in those places. Be mindful that there are other factors impacting cost of living that you will have to consider – such as insurance, transportation options, and schooling for those who have children. That said, this list will help you get the lay of the land so that you can zero in on the best place for you to become a homeowner, as well as the best creative writer career salary opportunities in the country.
To establish this ranking, we compared the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ mean writers’ salary to Zillow’s typical home value in each state. All BLS data is taken from their May 2022 report, accessed August 2023. Zillow’s data was published in January 2023, accessed August 2023.
NOTE: The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary data for writers in the states of Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
Typical home value: $837,324
Mean annual salary for writers: $73,540
While there are many great reasons to move to Hawaii, affordable real estate isn’t one of them. Hawaii boasts the highest average home value in the country, making it a difficult place to buy a home on a writer’s salary.
Typical home value: $743,361
Mean annual salary for writers: $129,340
While California offers the highest mean annual salary for writers in the country, the exceptionally high property values in the state make housing out of reach even for those who are running successful writers’ careers. Further, property values are only increasing, with the state undergoing a whopping 15.6% property value increase over the last year.
- District of Columbia
Typical home value: $624,078
Mean annual salary for writers: $102,060
Washington D.C. is another place with high mean annual salaries for writers (the BLS ranks them third in the country) but extremely high property values that are escalating rapidly. This makes it a less-than stellar place for working writers to look for homes.
Typical home value: $587,874
Mean annual salary for writers: $86,350
Due to its high home values, Massachusetts is not the most encouraging place for working writers to become homeowners. That said, the many academic institutions in the state may offer unique opportunities for writers to teach or hold research positions, meaning those who are devoted to living there may establish career paths that allow them to write while putting homeownership within reach.
Typical home value: $577,352
Mean annual salary for writers: $86,420
Though its leafy beauty may make it an especially desirable place for writers to retreat to, Washington is another place with particularly high home values that are rising vastly with each year (a recent Zillow estimate projects a 17% increase over one year). This makes it a difficult place for working writers to afford a home, even though its mean annual salaries for writers rank among the top ten.
Typical home value: $543,142
Mean annual salary for writers: $81,590
Those looking to be inspired by Colorado’s natural beauty as they work on their next novel may unfortunately have trouble becoming homeowners there, as the state’s property values are increasing while writers’ salaries are not. Colorado home values have increased at a rate of 14.2% in the past year.
Typical home value: $510,933
Mean annual salary for writers: $70,110
The mean annual salary for writers in Utah falls directly in the middle of the list nationwide. However, the already higher-than-average home values are ballooning quickly (at a whopping 20% in the past year), meaning the state is expected to quickly rise in the list of most expensive places to buy a home in the country.
Typical home value: $498,557
Mean annual salary for writers: $81,590
Like many coastal states, Oregon’s property values are higher than average and rising rapidly. These numbers are likely to be even higher in its major cities. While it might be an attractive place for writers to live, it is not the most amenable to buying a house.
- New Jersey
Typical home value: $494,466
Mean annual salary for writers: $79,500
New Jersey’s home values rank among the top ten highest in the country, while its mean annual salary for writers ranks in the bottom half. Further, its home values have increased by 14.8 percent in the past year, contributing to the state’s notoriously high costs of living.
Typical home value: $442,819
Mean annual salary for writers: $60,160
Unfortunately for writers in the state, Idaho’s average writer salaries rank among the bottom ten in the country. Perhaps even more notable, its property values are increasing exorbitantly, with Zillow reporting a stunning 27.8% increase in home prices in the past year.
Typical home value: $446,601
Mean annual salary for writers: $70,270
Though its beautiful landscapes may provide bountiful inspiration for writers, the state of Montana is not among the most ideal for those who wish to buy homes, as its property values are rapidly increasing (with an estimated rate of 16.1%). This is partly due to a newfound interest in the state by luxury developers, whose properties have dramatically increased the value of homes in the surrounding areas.
- Rhode Island
Typical home value: $432,888
Mean annual salary for writers: $67,760
Unfortunately, the small state of Rhode Island is not well-disposed for writers looking to buy homes, with high property values that are growing at a rate of 16.3 percent. For those hoping to become homeowners in the Northeast, you can find other options that have a lower disparity between home value and mean annual salary for writers.
Typical home value: $420,493
Mean annual salary for writers: $61,300
Though many cities in Arizona are undergoing rapid growth, this does not necessarily yield an easy path to homeownership. Further, the salaries for writers in the state are lower than most, ranking in the bottom third of nationwide rankings.
Typical home value: $420,493
Mean annual salary for writers: $63,850
If you are a writer, you may have to hit the Vegas casinos to secure the funding needed to purchase a home in the state. Writer salaries in Nevada rank among the bottom third of the country, while home values are in the top half and rising steadily, at a rate of over 13% in the last year.
- New York
Typical home value: $441,462
Mean annual salary for writers: $111,320
New York offers the second highest salary rate for writers in the country, behind only California. However, its high property values still make it a difficult place for writers to become homeowners. To be clear, the $441,462 average is a statewide number that falls significantly below the average cost of a home in New York City, where property values often exceed one million dollars.
Typical home value: $390,856
Mean annual salary for writers: $62,970
Florida’s home values hover just above the national average, but its less-than-stellar writer salaries make the state among the more difficult places for writers to buy a home. Further, those interested in Florida should keep in mind that the state’s rural areas significantly lower the statewide average for home prices, which can be much higher in its major metropolitan areas.
Typical home value: $405,562
Mean annual salary for writers: $81,880
Maryland falls into the top third of states for writer salaries, but unfortunately, it also falls into the top half of states for home values, which are increasing at a rate of 13%. This means it is still quite challenging for writers to find homes they can afford.
Typical home value: $380,265
Mean annual salary for writers: $79,650
Vermont is one of the better states on the East Coast to find an affordable home, with its average home value falling just above the national average. Its rate of property value growth is also lower than some other states (though at 10.3 percent, that says more about the housing market than the state of Vermont). Its average writer salaries are within the top half of the nationwide list, but it may still be challenging for working writers to afford homes priced as high as they are in the state.
Typical home value: $370,404
Mean annual salary for writers: $80,260
Delaware’s median salaries for writers as well as its home values fall near the middle of national averages, which puts the state in the middle of this one. Further, its home prices are rising at a rapid rate, with Zillow projecting a 13.2 percent increase in the past year.
Typical home value: $374,598
Mean annual salary for writers: $87,320
Connecticut is the best state on the East Coast for working writers to become homeowners, with a home value hovering a bit above the national average and a mean annual writers’ salary that ranks among the top ten in the country. That said, home values are rising at a rapid rate (18%), so now is the time to purchase if you are considering this investment.
Typical home value: $371,623
Mean annual salary for writers: $85,840
Falling in the middle of our list, Virginia offers relatively high average salaries for writers with home values a bit above the national average. Virginia home values have risen at a rate of 10.9% in the past year, meaning those who are looking to buy soon should act quickly.
Typical home value: $331,190
Mean annual salary for writers: $68,190
Minnesota’s average home value is below the national average, though they are rising quickly, at a rate of 10.3% in the last year. Writer salaries are not exceptionally high, relatively speaking, which puts Minnesota in the middle of this list.
Typical home value: $331,628
Mean annual salary for writers: $59,880
On average, home values in Tennessee are lower than nationwide figures, but they are rising quickly, at a rate of 12.5% in the last year. It ranks among the bottom ten states for writer salaries in the country, which may discourage writers from moving to the state.
- North Carolina
Typical home value: $320,096
Mean annual salary for writers: $72,840
North Carolina is a state that is rising in popularity, notable for its beauty and (for now) relatively affordable cost of living. However, that is changing quickly, with home values increasing by 13.7% in the last year. Its average salaries for writers are near the middle of the nationwide list.
- South Carolina
Typical home value: $288,815
Mean annual salary for writers: $50,620
It’s worth noting first: South Carolina is near the very bottom of the list for annual salaries for writers in the country. However, its home prices are also much lower than the national average, making it more conceivable as a homebase than some states with higher salaries but higher home values as well.
Typical home value: $318,918
Mean annual salary for writers: $92,570
The Peach State ranks among the top five states for writers’ salaries in the country, making it a compelling option for writers. Its average home values still fall below the national average, though likely not for long, as they have risen by 13.4% in the past year. If you are considering buying property in Georgia, now is an excellent time to make your move.
Typical home value: $303,971
Mean annual salary for writers: $79,130
The average Texas home values are still currently below the national average, while the mean annual salary for writers falls somewhere in the middle of the list. It should be noted that metropolitan areas of Texas, such as Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio have much higher average home values.
Typical home value: $285,036
Mean annual salary for writers: $76,680
Wisconsin home values still fall well below the national average, while writer salaries are around the high middle of the nationwide list. Though home values have increased by 12.4% in the last year, the state is – for now – still considered to be an accessible place to live for those who are priced out in other places.
Typical home value: $255,965
Mean annual salary for writers: $60,050
Both home values and mean annual salaries for writers are below national averages in Pennsylvania, making it a potentially compelling place for writers to invest in homes. Act now, because property values have risen by 13.7% in the past year.
- North Dakota
Typical home value: $251,061
Mean annual salary for writers: $61,750
Thanks likely to its cold winters and rural setting, North Dakota is experiencing lower property value escalation than most other states, at a rate of around 4.4%. Its mean annual salary for writers is among the bottom third in the country, but those who are prudent may find the state to be one in which their homeowner dreams are possible.
Typical home value: $254,915
Mean annual salary for writers: $70,270
Nebraska is a state on the rise, with Omaha seeing big investments in recent years. Property is still affordable here, though they are increasing at a rate of 10.8 percent, meaning those interested in taking advantage should act fast.
Typical home value: $250,542
Mean annual salary for writers: $75,060
Illinois’ writer salaries are slightly above the national median, while its typical home value falls significantly below the national average. This can make it an attractive place for writers, who may find homeownership within reach.
Typical home value: $235,360
Mean annual salary for writers: $62,330
Michigan is worth considering if you are a writer who is looking to buy a home, as its typical home value falls more than $100,000 below the national average cost of a home. Home values are nevertheless rising quickly, at a rate of 13% in the past year.
Typical home value: $231,659
Mean annual salary for writers: $62,420
Indiana’s low home values could be considered the main draw for writers who wish to move to the state. Its low average salaries for writers could be considered a deterrent, though the low gap between them makes the state still feasible as an option for writers dead-set on owning homes in the state.
Typical home value: $235,055
Mean annual salary for writers: $75,990
With a low home value average and a mid-level salary average for writers, Missouri can be an affordable state for writers to make long-term homeownership plans. The state is known for its low cost of living, which should be seen as a great incentive for those who are considering a variety of places to move.
Typical home value: $211,054
Mean annual salary for writers: $51,130
Despite its famed Writer’s Workshop, Iowa ranks among the bottom ten states for writers’ salaries. Nevertheless, the relatively low cost of homes in the state means it is in the top ten states to purchase a home if you are living on a writer’s salary, even a very low one.
Typical home value: $218,666
Mean annual salary for writers: $62,080
Both Ohio’s home values and mean annual salaries for writers are low, but in proportion to one another, they make the state a compelling place for writers to buy homes. That said, the housing market is escalating like so many others, with a home value rate increase of 13.5 percent in the last year.
Typical home value: $223,246
Mean annual salary for writers: $67,970
Though home values are continuing to rise in Alabama, at present they are still well below the national average. Writers’ annual salaries in the state are not exceptional, but thanks to the low cost of housing, Alabama makes a strong contender as a place for writers to buy a home.
Typical home value: $198,935
Mean annual salary for writers: $49,260
Oklahoma falls at the very bottom of the list for writer salaries in the United States, but its average home value also is more than $100,000 below the nationwide average. This makes the state a compelling choice for writers who are concerned they will not be able to reach their homeowner goals in more costly states.
Typical home value: $199,636
Mean annual salary for writers: $51,430
Boasting among the lowest average home values in the country and an overall low cost of living, Arkansas is a place where writers who are concerned about being able to afford a home may be able to pursue their career ambitions with their homeowner goals within reach.
Typical home value: $200,954
Mean annual salary for writers: $53,400
Kentucky’s annual salaries for writers are among the lowest in the country. However, its home values and living costs are also quite low, making homeownership accessible. Like everywhere, these values are increasing – Zillow reports an increase of 10.9 percent in the last year, but those who are interested in buying a home at an affordable price still have a bit of time to make their move.
Typical home value: $215,641
Mean annual salary for writers: $68,360
Thanks to its relatively low home values and mid-tier salaries for writers, Kansas is a state where writers may find homes within reach. The low cost of living in the state makes it a place where a comfortable middle-class existence is possible.
Typical home value: $200,369
Mean annual salary for writers: $63,060
For writers who are looking for a state where their income will take them far, Louisiana is an excellent choice, boasting a low cost of living and homes that are feasible to buy at a writer’s income. Home values are also growing at a lower rate here than many other states – 6.2 percent in the past year – though it is worth diligently researching environmental risks of owning property in certain parts of the state.
Typical home value: $172,654
Mean annual salary for writers: $54,380
Mississippi’s writer salaries are among the lowest in the country, but its home values are as well. This means that one can live off of less, putting home ownership on the table for those who may not be able to afford it even if they were earning a higher salary in another state.
- West Virginia
Typical home value: $155,773
Mean annual salary for writers: $49,960
Though West Virginia has one of the very lowest average writer salaries in the country, its home values are also the lowest to be found in the United States. This means that the gap between salary range and home value is the smallest of any state in the country, making it the very most likely state for writers on a low income to realize the dream of purchasing a home.
Taking the next steps to become a writer
If you are not yet ready to purchase a home but are just at the early stages of building your career as a writer, you may still be wondering what you need to do in order to make your dreams a reality. One of the best things writers can do to launch their careers is attend a creative writing degree program. To learn more about the best online and in-person creative writing degree opportunities, take a look at our guide here.
For articles and essays on a variety of topics related to the craft of writing and what it means to pursue a creative profession, visit our blog here.
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