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How Much Home You Can Afford in 10 U.S. Cities

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How Much Home You Can Afford in 10 U.S. Cities
4 min. read

Image: fizkes / Shutterstock.com

The size of a home you can afford depends not only on your income, but also on geography as the price per square foot varies widely across the United States. Here’s how big of a home you can buy in some of the largest cities in the country.

Home size is one of the most important factors when making a purchase. However, the size you can afford for the same amount of money varies dramatically from one location to another.

A recent study from Realtor.com sampled 10 cities in the U.S. and analyzed how much home you could afford with $305,000 – the nationwide median home price – ranking them by price per square foot. On average, Americans pay $123 per square foot, but there’s a vast difference depending on the location of the home; the highest price per square foot in the report was more than $1,000, while the lowest hit just $42.

The reason for this disparity is that prices increase in markets where there is high demand but limited land. Prices can also increase due to high construction labor costs or regulated markets, where building is difficult due to fees, zoning and other rules. So, from the most affordable markets to those where space is costly, this is what you can buy for $305,000 in these U.S. metros.

Most Affordable Market: Detroit

The average price per square foot in Detroit is only $42, although it can go up in some neighborhoods. This means that $305,000 will buy you a mansion sprawling over 7,262 square feet.

Additionally, according to a report by SmartAsset, Detroit is also the market where the average household could afford the most home given the median income – 88% more than the local median home value. Plus, the city is also becoming more vibrant with millennials moving there and reviving the area.

Fair-Sized Homes Within Reach in Chicago, Dallas & Miami

With a vibrant job market and thriving culture, the Chicago real estate market offers great deals, partly due to high mortgage debt caused by the recession and a tendency to rent. The average price per square foot here is $193; so, for $305,000, you can get a 1,580-square-foot house.

Fair-sized homes in Dallas are also within reach; at $215 per square foot, you can own a 1,419-square-foot property. Here, county jurisdictions usually have more relaxed rules and regulations, and there aren’t many homeowners associations (HOAs). However, the style, function and quality of the buildings can differ greatly as a result.

The Miami market is also appealing with its attractive price per square foot, lower taxes, and amazing weather and culture. With an average price per square foot of $313, you can buy 974 square feet for the national median home price.

Next in Line: Seattle, Washington, D.C. & LA

Seattle has a thriving job market, but there aren’t many available homes. The average price per square foot is $454, meaning you can afford 672 square feet for $305,000. Some affordable and nice-sized options would be located in growing neighborhoods in the south of the city, though.

Limited land and lifestyle preferences increase prices in Washington, D.C.; it averages $473 per square foot. So, for the national median home price, you can afford 740 square feet in the capital city. However, there are still neighborhoods where one can find a good deal, such as in Shipley.

The average price per square foot hits $646 in the Los Angeles real estate market, meaning you get 472 square feet for $305,000. Nonetheless, some areas can strike double that price while others only half. The cheaper markets are often less attractive due to distance or noise issues, but the size will increase, as well.

Priciest Markets: Boston, New York & San Francisco

The most expensive market in the study was Boston, where the city has a booming economy, but a scarcity of homes. The price per square foot here strikes $1,160, which means that, on average, you’ll get 263 square feet. What’s more, single-family homes – which are the typical constructions – can’t alleviate the housing shortage, and tight restrictions impede multifamily homes from being built.

New York came in second with an average price per square foot of $1,106. For $305,000, you can afford 276 square feet in this city. Nonetheless, there are stark differences between boroughs. For example, homes in Brooklyn tend to be cheaper, and for those who don’t mind commuting, there are great properties in Queens. On the other hand, the priciest areas, such as Manhattan, can strike $10,000 per square foot.

San Francisco completes the top three with an average price per square foot of $1,004. Here, the nationwide median home price will buy you 304 square feet. The limited land mass and the tech boom have driven up prices in the city. Pushed by skyrocketing prices, many homebuyers are willing to cross the bay and move to Oakland.

Some cities in the U.S. have astonishingly high prices while other areas offer incredible bargains. Nevertheless, there are those areas in the middle that balance location, lifestyle and affordability.

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