What Size Home Can You Get for $500K

In 30 Major American Cities

Written by Carly Hallman

Ever asked yourself, “How much house can I afford?” Well, the answer depends on where you’re looking. The average price per square foot by city across the U.S. varies so much that what might get you a mansion in one area will earn you a broom cupboard in another. We took thirty of the most populated American cities and compared how much house $500,000 would get you, and the results are pretty surprising.

Homes for $500k in Each State

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What Size Home Can You Get for $500,000 in 30 Major American Cities?

The Median Price per Square Foot Across the USA

Price per Square Foot for New Single-Family Houses Sold
(2016 Census Data): $96.42
Northeast
$149.25
Midwest
$107.97
South
$87.80
West
$116.75

Median Value per Square Foot (All Homes) in Metro Areas (2016 Zillow Data)

City Median Price per Square Foot Approximate # of Square Feet for $500,000
Cleveland $84 5,952
Houston $86 5,813
San Antonio $87 5,747
Atlanta $89 5,618
Cincinnati $93 5,376
Charlotte $95 5,263
Pittsburgh $95 5,263
Detroit $97 5,154
Dallas/Forth Worth $98 5,102
Kansas City $100 5,000
Orlando $108 4,630
St. Louis $108 4,630
Tampa $108 4,630
Phoenix $128 3,906
Chicago $130 3,846
Philadelphia $131 3,817
Miami/Fort Lauderdale $152 3,289
Minneapolis/St. Paul $168 2,976
Baltimore $169 2,959
Riverside $178 2,809
Sacramento $196 2,551
Portland $200 2,500
Denver $209 2,392
Seattle $213 2,347
Washington, D.C. $222 2,252
New York City $234 2,137
Boston $240 2,083
San Diego $316 1,582
LA/Long Beach/Anaheim $370 1,351
San Francisco $507 986

Sources:

https://www.zillow.com/research/data/
https://www.census.gov/construction/chars/pdf/soldpricesqft.pdf

Considering that the average cost of a house in America is currently hovering around $370,000, our $500,000 price should give us a fairly average size house with plenty to spare. But what’s average in the Northeast, for instance, is not what’s verage in the South. The average cost per square foot to build a house in the Northeastern section of the U.S. is about $149.25, whereas the Southern price is only roughly 60 percent of that at $87.80.

While looking at these large chunks of the country and comparing prices it can be a bit shocking, and the numbers get truly ridiculous when you compare rural and urban areas. Rural homeowners typically spend about $5,000 less on their house each year compared to city-dwellers. Over ten years, that’s enough for a college education!

The differences can depend not only on whether or not you live in a city, but which city you live in. Just compare the cheapest cities to buy a house with the most expensive ones on our list. Compare the number of square feet you can buy for $500,000 in Cleveland with that of San Francisco, and it’s a difference of 4,966 square feet! For a frame of reference, normal-sized bedrooms and living rooms are usually between 300 and 400 square feet.

There is a huge difference between living in a 1,000 square foot house versus a 10,000 square foot one. To help paint the picture, the current “tiny home” trend in which people live as minimally as possible and off the grid, needing to design specific cupboards and spaces to accommodate this lifestyle, usually refers to homes somewhere between 100 and 1,000 square feet. But in San Francisco, you’d be getting a 986 square foot home, something that could be considered a “small home” in the tiny home community, for a steal at $500,000. And that’s if you can find one for that price range!

Naturally, house price per square foot by city only paints part of the picture. There may be a problem in finding something within the specific range of $500,000. Million-dollar homes and shacks sometimes pop up next to each other, especially when middle-class areas tend to dwindle. Remember that there is no true average house size in America, and it’s very unlikely that one would find something with the perfect average square feet of a house.

So, how much house can you afford? Where do you want to live? How much are houses in Texas compared with New York City or even San Francisco depend on the averages of specific neighborhoods? Luckily, when moving to major areas, individuals are usually given higher salaries or cost-of-living adjustments. You may earn more as well as pay more! Southern states may be the best states to buy a home, but always include income as a factor, too.


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