As Chapel Hill wrestles with whether and how to expand housing choice, it’s worth documenting how many homes here are available to middle income buyers.

Our method is simple: we determine the maximum amount of home a middle income buyer can afford, then check to see how many homes are for sale in Chapel Hill. The median household income for Chapel Hill is $77,037. Based on Redfin’s affordability calculator, a household earning that amount with zero debt (lol) and $20,000 set aside for a down payment can afford a home that costs just under $275,000 (an amount that includes estimated principal and interest based on a 6 percent interest rate, insurance, and PMI, but excludes utilities or any HOA dues).

Chapel Hill has a large renter population, driven in part by our student population. That also contributes to a large gap in household incomes based on tenure: the median income for renter households is $39,395, about a quarter of that for owner households ($162,671).

Still, there’s a sizable contingent of households here with middle incomes: there are over 1,800 households in Chapel Hill with incomes between $50,000-$100,000 and between the ages of 25-44 (including renter and owner households). This group likely includes renters who are looking to buy their first home and young families looking to move into a larger home to accommodate a growing family.

So, what options do these households have?

The following table shows active listings in Chapel Hill for homes less than or equal to $275,000 (i.e., affordable for a household with an income of $77,000, no debt, and making a $20,000 down payment).

For the sake of comparison, we also include homes for sale for $1 million or more (which would be affordable for a household with an income of $250,000 making a $200,000 down payment).

Since real estate markets are constantly in flux, we intend to update this table on a regular basis.

Week of: Homes for sale
≤ $275,000
Homes for sale
≥ $1 million
January 23, 2023 There is 1 condo for sale for $149,900. There are 9 homes available ranging in price from $1,000,000 to $6,000,000. All 9 are single family homes.
Table is baed on TBB’s review of listings of existing homes for sale within Chapel Hill town limits. Unbuilt spec homes and homes under contract are excluded.




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Stephen Whitlow lives in Chapel Hill. Trained as an urban planner at DCRP, he works for a research, evaluation, and technical assistance firm and focuses on the areas of housing affordability, fair housing,...