For $200K, Would You Rather Buy a Box in Manhattan or a Mansion in San Antonio?

Many say that location is the number one factor when deciding on buying a house, when in reality, it’s actually our finances. Realizing that with $200,000 you can only buy 126 square feet of living space in Manhattan, while in Cleveland you can get over 3,700 square feet, can seriously put things into perspective. The perfect home combines a great location with a good price and plenty of space; however, it’s really hard to land such a deal nowadays, especially in vibrant cities where the median home price is through the roof — a major contributor to the shrinking homeownership rates of large cities.

Comparing home prices in major U.S. cities and seeing mind-blowing differences isn’t anything new, but there’s something about this topic that keeps us curious. This time, we looked at how much space one could buy for the approximate U.S. national median home price of $200,000 in some of the largest cities in the country. It turns out, not as much as you would expect in some places.

While the results were indeed astonishing, we didn’t think there would be such a huge discrepancy between the most expensive and least expensive cities. So, if you’re in the market to buy a place with a decent floor plan, and which doesn’t involve winning the lottery, check out our rundown below.

How Much Space Can $200K Get You? — From 126 Square Feet in Manhattan to 3,769 in Cleveland, and Everything In Between

At $1,585, the median price per square foot in Manhattan is miles away from Cleveland’s ($53/square foot). We calculated that, for $200,000, you could buy a tiny 126-square-foot room in the borough, but it would be difficult to actually live in such a place. Plus, it’s highly unlikely you’d even find a listing of that size and price in Manhattan, the home of some of the most luxurious condos and co-ops in the country.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Cleveland, for $200,000, you could buy more than enough space to enjoy, and then some. You could own a house so big that you’d be hosting fancy Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, with spare rooms for your extended family.

San Francisco, Boston and San Jose are in the same boat as Manhattan, where prices are sky-high, and the market is on fire, while El Paso, San Antonio and Memphis boast an affordability similar to Cleveland’s. San Antonio stand outs from the latter group with its thriving business activity, and the health and education sectors driving the economy in the area. The development pipeline is also robust, so San Antonio is definitely worth looking into, because with $200,000, you could buy a sizable 3,249-square-foot home there.

For the same amount, you could purchase a home ranging from 400 to 600 square feet in Los Angeles and San Diego or one as large as 2,000 square feet in Nashville or Orlando. Some might describe moving to LA as the American Dream, but you’d need a lot more than $200,000 to buy your dream house there. Orlando can be an alternative to LA, with its pleasant climate, its nightlife and job opportunities, with the one major difference being that the cost of living is considerably lower — including the average property tax bill.

Although major cities, the following are slightly more affordable than San Diego or LA. For $200,000, you’d end up with decent living conditions in Miami (835 square feet), Portland (773 square feet) and Chicago (1,102 square feet), but probably not in the neighborhoods you’d want.

Southern Hospitality—the Best Places to Buy a Home for $200K

If you don’t mind the hot weather, Austin and Dallas are great candidates, but so are Atlanta and Charlotte. Atlanta, being a regional powerhouse with a healthy economy, is the most expensive city out of the 5, but also the most vibrant when it comes to entertainment. For $200,000, you could live comfortably in a 1,119-square-foot home in Atlanta or enjoy an extra 500 square feet if you prefer Charlotte.

Everything’s bigger in Texas — and your house could be too! For $200K, you could buy a big house in Austin (1,341 square feet), and an even bigger one in Dallas (1,824 square feet). Both cities have their own charm, so choosing one over the other all boils down to personal preference.

Looking at the data, it’s safe to say that if you’re in the market to buy a home this year, chances are that you’ll need to come up with a lot more than just the U.S. median price to buy a spacious home in one of the country’s high-profile cities, or a lot less, if you chose a more affordable city. Either way, one thing is for sure, you’ll sacrifice either space or location to stay within this budget.

Coworking as Relief to Housing Crunch 

Growing home prices and the crowding of large urban centers means today’s buyers, especially first-time buyers, need to make sacrifices when settling down into their own homes. Choosing smaller option may save on money, but in an age of rising hybrid and work-from-home work models means many professionals are in nee of at least occasional access to professionally set up office environments.  

As with many other issues impacting both residential and commercial real estate, the growing coworking sector may offer the solution. Considering that $200,000 buys less than 500 square feet, NYC coworking, Boston coworking, San Francisco coworking and San Jose coworking offering real relief for these unaffordable housing markets. 

While $200,000 will buy up to 1,000 square feet, easy access to Seattle coworking, Los Angeles coworking, Denver coworking and Miami coworking could prove to be the closer for locals. Stretching their buying power to up to 1,500 square feet Atlanta coworking, Austin coworking, Chicago coworking and Philadelphia coworking can still provide real relief in these increasingly crowded and pricey markets.  


We used PropertyShark data to determine the median home size (square footage) in each city and 2016 U.S. Census data to determine the median home price. To calculate the median price per square foot we divided the median home sale price with the median home size in each location and used the rounded amount ($200,000) of the national median home price of $214,000, to determine how much space you can buy in each city.

Robert Demeter

Robert Demeter

Robert is a copywriter at CommercialCafe and brings 3+ years of experience in commercial real estate. He previously worked as a copywriter at PropertyShark, as a senior associate editor at Commercial Property Executive and Multi-Housing News, and also wrote monthly market reports at Yardi Matrix.

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