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A Room in Manhattan or a Mansion in Memphis? How Much Residential Space $250,000 Can Buy in the 100 Largest U.S. Cities?

Key Takeaways:

  • In the top 10 U.S. cities with the most expensive square footage, $250,000 buys less than 600 square feet.
  • In the country’s top 10 cities with the most affordable square footage, $250,000 buys more than 2,500 square feet.
  • In Manhattan, the cost per square foot is $1,079, while in Cleveland it’s $54 per square foot.
  • $250,000 buys more than 1,000 square feet in Texas cities with more than 900,000 residents, but the same amount buys less than 600 square feet in LA and San Diego.
  • In Memphis, $250,000 buys more than 10 times as much space as it does in San Francisco.

Location, location, location -it’s a well-worn catchphrase in real estate. However, in today’s COVID-19 impacted markets, location has taken on a whole new meaning. In fact, according to data from Harris Poll, almost a third of Americans are looking for properties in areas that are less densely populated. Some of the factors responsible for this trend are the decreased health risks and access to work and job opportunities which, in many cases, no longer limit employees by physical presence due to remote possibilities.

With the closure of many of the locales and cultural events that drew people to big cities and more time spent at home, more living space has become particularly important. Hence, the increased interest in moving to less tightly inhabited areas – that usually provide more living space for the money. The gap can stretch from just $54,000 to buy 1,000 square feet of space in Cleveland to more than $1 million to purchase the same amount in Manhattan.

With this new trend and such striking cost disparities, we analyzed how much space a home-buyer could get for $250,000 in the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. We chose a quarter-of-a-million sale price because that figure is the national median home price from 2018, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, with a 5.1% price increase added per the House Price Index to bring it closer to present day. Additionally, our top 100 list actually includes 104 cities because New York City was divided at the borough level.

So, if you’re in the market and considering where to replant your roots, — whether that’s in a seaside location, a quiet Midwestern city, or in a spacious Texas city — here’s how much space you can expect to buy for $250,000.

Buying Power in the City: From 200 Square Feet in Manhattan to 3,000 in Memphis

New York — both the city and the state — has always been a place of extremes, and this holds true in terms of how much square footage $250,000 can buy. For example, in Buffalo, where the median home size is 1,713 square feet, that amount can procure more than 4,000 feet of space. Conversely, in New York City’s famously pricey borough of Manhattan, the same amount would buy only 232 square feet.

Looking westward to two of the nation’s artistic hubs, the location of the city once again results in sharp price contrasts. For instance, in Memphis, Tennessee, $250,000 buys more than 10 times as much space as it does in San Francisco — 3,324 square feet versus 269. What’s more, location also matters even in cities not as famous for their high costs of housing as San Francisco and Manhattan. For example, would-be urban-dwellers can buy 700 square feet more in Philadelphia than they can in Chicago — 1,745 square feet versus 1,060.

Open Spaces & Sprawling Suburbs: Five Times More Space in San Antonio than in Irvine

In Orange County’s Irvine — with its suburban-style homes and location near Los Angeles and the beach, where the median home size is a generous 1,861 square feet, $250,000 buys only one fourth of that space – 525 square feet. This lands Irvine’s median home price at almost $1 million.

San Antonio, Texas, a city dotted with suburban homes, is far more accessible. Here, $250,000 buys five times as much space as it does in Irvine: 2,503 square feet versus 500. Meanwhile, the cost per square foot in San Antonio is $100 as opposed to almost $500 in Irvine.

Offering a compromise between the prices in Irvine and the generous space in San Antonio is Plano, Texas. This city is situated just 20 miles from economic powerhouse Dallas and famed for its low taxes and high quality of life. In this area, $250,000 will buy 1,657 square feet of living space — three times as much space as in Irvine, but still almost 1,000 square feet less than in its fellow Texas city of San Antonio.

Seaside Cities: Three Times More Space in Tampa Than Long Beach

Living by the beach is often equated with a luxurious lifestyle and corresponding price tags. Yet, our study found that it’s not just proximity to the beach, but rather the location of the city that determines price per square foot.

For instance, with more than five miles of Pacific Ocean beachfront and proximity to Downtown LA and Hollywood, Long Beach affords only 506 square feet of space for $250,000. Alternatively, on the eastern seaboard, far down south — and in stark contrast relative to price per square foot — Tampa affords more than three times as much living space for the same price. Here, you can buy 1,764 square feet, as opposed to just over 500 square feet in Long Beach.

On the other side of the Florida panhandle, Miami is a more even keel between the previous two cities. There, $250,000 can buy 1,030 square feet — almost half as much as in Tampa and twice as much as in Long Beach, Calif. As such, Miami’s $368,270 median home sale is a middle ground between Long Beach’s $631,336 median and Tampa’s $270,738 median.

Dramatic Price Differences in Most Populous Cities: Double the Space in Austin Versus San Diego

In the country’s most populated cities with more than 900,000 residents, the difference in price per square foot between coastal cities and Texas cities is miles apart. As expected, vast Texas leads the way in providing the most space for the lowest price. In fact, in every Texas city we analyzed, $250,000 will buy more than 1,000 square feet. Specifically, in cities with more than 1 million residents — such as San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas — this amount will provide home-buyers with 2,503, 2,318 and 1,722 square feet, respectively. Likewise, Phoenix — Arizona’s desert city that’s also home to more than 1 million people — provides buyers 1,485 square feet for $250,000.

Meanwhile, with populations hovering around 1 million residents, Austin, and San Diego have vastly different pricing. In Austin, $250,000 buys more than double the amount of space as it does in San Diego — 1,139 versus 523 square feet.

Less Than 600 Square Feet in the 10 Most Expensive U.S. Cities

In contrast to Texas and Arizona, New York, and California have the highest prices per square foot, as expected. In terms of cost of space in cities with more than 2 million residents — such as Houston, LA, and Queens and Brooklyn — there is no comparing Texas to California and New York. For example, in Houston, $250,000 could buy 2,318 square feet, whereas in Los Angeles or New York City’s Queens and Brooklyn, it would only buy 524, 625 and 534 square feet, respectively — less than half the space in Houston.

Among the 10 cities with the least square footage for $250,000, the majority are in California. And, besides Manhattan’s 232 and San Francisco’s 269 square feet, the other eight most-expensive cities allow between 347 to 506 square feet. Los Angeles — with nearly 10 times as many residents as Long Beach — is almost equally as expensive. Here, $250,000 buys 524 square feet versus Long Beach’s 506.

The rest of the California cities are in the San Francisco Bay Area. In wealthy tech hubs like Fremont and San Jose, $250,000 buys 347 and 372 square feet, respectively. However, the area’s median home sizes are five times as large as those numbers, at more than 1,500 square feet in each city. Further north in less-expensive Oakland, $250,000 buys 444 square feet and is the only San Francisco Bay Area city with a median home sale price below $1 million.

As for the East Coast’s most expensive and crowded cities, Boston provides 397 square feet for $250,000, while the capital, Washington D.C., affords 477 feet. Likewise, in nearby Arlington, Virginia, the same price buys a mere 420 square feet of space.

Among the New York City boroughs on the list, only Manhattan is among the top 10 most expensive, where $250,000 buys just 232 square feet of space. Although they didn’t make the top 10 most expensive, $250,000 in Queens and Brooklyn purchases only 625 and 534 square feet, respectively. However, in Hawaii’s urban Honolulu, $250,000 buys only about half — 353 feet of space.

More Than 2,000 Square Feet in the Most Affordable U.S. Cities

Scattered on the East Coast and in the Midwest, the nation’s top 10 cities with the least expensive space allow between 2,667 and 5,407 square feet for $250,000.

For example, in Texas’s Laredo, Corpus Christi and Lubbock, buyers can purchase 2,863, 3,431 and 3,458 square feet, respectively, for $250,000. Meanwhile, Ohio is home to two of the nation’s most affordable cities. In Toledo, $250,000 buys 3,662 square feet of space, while in Cleveland, buyers can get 4,667 square feet — almost 10 times more than Washington D.C.’s 477 feet.

With the exception of Buffalo, all other cities on the list are in the Midwest. Specifically, in Lexington, Kentucky, $250,000 buys 2,667 square feet of space. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, that same amount buys 3,248 square feet, while in Detroit — the least-expensive city in the top 100 — the same amount buys an enormous 5,407 square feet.

Notably, in each of the top 10 cities with the lowest cost per square foot, the median home sale price was below our $250,000 figure. Furthermore, in each of these cities, the median home size is greater than 2,000 square feet. As a result, $250,000 buys well more than that amount of space — between 2,667 and 5,407 square feet.

Methodology

The 100 most populous cities in the Unites States were identified based on 2018 U.S. Census data. Our list contains 104 entries, as New York City’s boroughs were each considered individually.

Median home size in terms of square footage in each city was determined using PropertyShark.com data for 94 entries and Point2Homes.com data for listings active in April 2020 for six entries: Lexington, Ky.; Louisville, Ky.; Boise City, Idaho; Madison, Wis.; New Orleans, La.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Sacramento, Calif.

Median home sale price was determined using 2018 U.S. Census one-year estimate data for each entry. Per the House Price Index, it was increased by 5.1% from the fourth quarter of 2018 through the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

To determine the median price per square foot, each city’s median sale price was divided by the median home size in that city. The rounded $250,000 amount was extracted from the national median home price of $229,700 in 2018. To that, we added the above-mentioned 5.1% increase per the House Price Index. The median price per square foot was the determining factor for ranking how much space could be purchased in each city with $250,000. The lowest price per square foot afforded the most space.

The following residential property types were considered: single-family homes, duplexes, condominiums, and townhouses.

Please use the Search feature on the table below to see how much space $250,000 buys in various cities.

CityStateSquare Feet for $250,000Median Home Sale Price 2019Median Home Size
DetroitMichigan 5,407 $54,232 1,173
ClevelandOhio 4,667 $74,726 1,395
BuffaloNew York 4,145 $103,313 1,713
ToledoOhio 3,662 $83,975 1,230
LubbockTexas 3,458 $153,761 2,127
Corpus ChristiTexas 3,431 $153,446 2,106
MemphisTennessee 3,324 $108,989 1,449
Fort WayneIndiana 3,248 $121,601 1,580
LaredoTexas 2,863 $131,165 1,502
LexingtonKentucky 2,667 $203,158 2,167
LouisvilleKentucky 2,601 $177,304 1,845
El PasoTexas 2,591 $137,576 1,426
PittsburghPennsylvania 2,525 $147,350 1,488
MilwaukeeWisconsin 2,516 $132,741 1,336
San AntonioTexas 2,503 $163,536 1,637
CincinnatiOhio 2,496 $155,338 1,551
TulsaOklahoma 2,410 $151,449 1,460
IndianapolisIndiana 2,389 $149,978 1,433
GreensboroNorth Carolina 2,342 $164,587 1,542
HoustonTexas 2,318 $188,234 1,745
Winston-SalemNorth Carolina 2,283 $157,230 1,436
TucsonArizona 2,282 $176,358 1,610
JacksonvilleFlorida 2,240 $193,069 1,730
ArlingtonTexas 2,240 $198,429 1,778
GarlandTexas 2,218 $184,030 1,633
NewarkNew Jersey 2,188 $264,642 2,316
WichitaKansas 2,178 $146,930 1,280
Fort WorthTexas 2,109 $198,954 1,678
IrvingTexas 2,072 $210,936 1,748
St. LouisMissouri 2,028 $162,695 1,320
ColumbusOhio 1,970 $167,529 1,320
Oklahoma CityOklahoma 1,962 $169,947 1,334
OmahaNebraska 1,939 $171,733 1,332
North Las VegasNevada 1,922 $275,572 2,119
AlbuquerqueNew Mexico 1,896 $217,872 1,652
BaltimoreMaryland 1,871 $176,358 1,320
ParadiseNevada 1,816 $273,786 1,989
CharlotteNorth Carolina 1,802 $242,676 1,749
Kansas CityMissouri 1,767 $174,886 1,236
Boise CityIdaho 1,766 $293,019 2,070
TampaFlorida 1,764 $270,738 1,910
LincolnNebraska 1,746 $182,454 1,274
PhiladelphiaPennsylvania 1,745 $176,253 1,230
MadisonWisconsin 1,727 $272,314 1,881
St. PetersburgFlorida 1,724 $231,956 1,600
DallasTexas 1,722 $220,395 1,518
DurhamNorth Carolina 1,706 $244,463 1,668
NorfolkVirginia 1,696 $223,338 1,515
Las VegasNevada 1,693 $299,535 2,028
New OrleansLouisiana 1,670 $255,288 1,705
PlanoTexas 1,657 $358,496 2,376
RaleighNorth Carolina 1,636 $282,614 1,849
ChesapeakeVirginia 1,620 $288,605 1,870
MesaArizona 1,602 $254,868 1,633
St. PaulMinnesota 1,591 $227,121 1,445
GlendaleArizona 1,575 $239,733 1,510
HendersonNevada 1,568 $357,235 2,241
PhoenixArizona 1,485 $261,804 1,555
BakersfieldCalifornia 1,460 $270,317 1,579
Virginia BeachVirginia 1,450 $299,955 1,740
Gilbert townArizona 1,438 $367,640 2,114
MinneapolisMinnesota 1,428 $283,245 1,618
NashvilleTennessee 1,425 $288,079 1,642
ChandlerArizona 1,379 $334,533 1,845
FresnoCalifornia 1,377 $270,317 1,489
RichmondVirginia 1,370 $268,951 1,474
Anchorage municipalityAlaska 1,333 $337,686 1,800
Colorado SpringsColorado 1,272 $303,108 1,542
StocktonCalifornia 1,218 $315,090 1,535
SacramentoCalifornia 1,211 $376,573 1,824
AtlantaGeorgia 1,187 $317,612 1,508
AustinTexas 1,139 $384,141 1,750
RenoNevada 1,132 $383,090 1,734
ChicagoIllinois 1,060 $285,452 1,210
AuroraColorado 1,059 $343,152 1,453
MiamiFlorida 1,030 $368,270 1,518
RiversideCalifornia975 $404,635 1,578
ScottsdaleArizona971 $516,672 2,006
OrlandoFlorida947 $276,098 1,046
BronxNew York922 $458,341 1,690
HialeahFlorida857 $279,986 960
Chula VistaCalifornia744 $559,868 1,666
Jersey CityNew Jersey722 $438,162 1,265
DenverColorado673 $457,290 1,231
Staten islandNew York655 $584,356 1,530
QueensNew York625 $606,847 1,517
Santa AnaCalifornia606 $561,865 1,362
AnaheimCalifornia596 $637,537 1,519
SeattleWashington565 $796,868 1,800
PortlandOregon557 $474,001 1,056
BrooklynNew York534 $798,129 1,706
IrvineCalifornia525 $886,624 1,861
Los AngelesCalifornia524 $717,202 1,504
San DiegoCalifornia523 $688,090 1,440
Long BeachCalifornia506 $631,336 1,278
WashingtonDistrict of Columbia477 $649,413 1,239
OaklandCalifornia444 $754,303 1,341
ArlingtonVirginia420 $743,057 1,248
BostonMassachusetts397 $604,535 961
San JoseCalifornia372 $1,017,894 1,516
Urban HonoluluHawaii353 $741,375 1,047
FremontCalifornia347 $1,112,168 1,545
San FranciscoCalifornia269 $1,256,681 1,350
ManhattanNew York232 $1,065,083 987
Andreea Popescu

Andreea Popescu

Andreea Popescu is a copywriter with ten years of legal experience, including real estate and marketing. She is an ABA-certified paralegal and has an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from California State University, Northridge. She worked as a legal manager at a marketing firm and as a legal writer. Currently, Andreea brings her combined knowledge of the fields to report on real estate developments for CommercialEdge and PropertyShark. Reach her at [email protected]