How Big a Home Can You Afford? A Surprising Price per Square Foot Tour Across America

How Big a House Can You Afford? That Depends On Where You Live


If you’re hoping to buy a home, one of the main things you’ve likely obsessed over is how big a home you can get. Can you afford a four-bedroom, or barely stretch your budget to two? Have you saved up enough for a mammoth mansion, or will you need to squeeze into a shoebox-size studio instead?

Whether you can afford a small, medium, or extra-large home depends, of course, on how much cash and income you have on hand. But another critical factor is where you plan to live.

Because at some point in the search process, chances are better than even you’ll find yourself muttering a variation on the classic bedraggled buyers refrain: “For the price of a [fill in home type] here, we could buy a [expletive deleted] luxury estate in [fill in lower-end town, city, or state]!”

The unavoidable truth: With real estate, your hard-earned dollars can indeed buy a lot more space in certain places over others. But just how wide is the range?

To give you a sense of how much house your money can buy, the data team at® chose a strategic selection of cities across the country and homed in not on their home prices, but a far more telling metric: price per square foot.

“Price per square foot is a good benchmark because it’s a way to compare homes in an apples-to-apples way,” says Andrew Chen, personal finance expert and founder of Hack Your Wealth.

On average, Americans pay $123 per square foot for a house, but that varies widely based on where you’re looking to buy—a point made vividly clear in this choice sampling of cities with America’s highest price per square foot (clocking in at over $1,000!), the lowest (a mere $42), and a few gems in the middle both in terms of price and geography.

“In general, price per square foot is higher in markets where there’s high demand but land is scarce due to underlying geographic constraints,” explains Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. In other words, when people pack themselves onto a tiny island (e.g., Manhattan), price per square foot tends to shoot up.

Other factors? “Prices are also higher in markets with steeper construction labor costs or more regulated markets where fees, zoning, and other rules make building difficult,” Dietz continues.

Curious about where you can snag a lot of—or very little—home for your money? Here’s how we crunched the numbers*:

  • We looked at the median price you’d pay per square foot for a home in the largest 100 cities nationwide.
  • As a benchmark, we assumed you’d pay the nationwide median list price for a home, which was $305,000 when the data was collected.
  • We calculated how many square feet that $305,000 would theoretically buy you in a sampling of 10 cities across the country—ranked here from most to least expensive.

Spoiler alert: In the priciest cities, $305,000 won’t buy you much home at all. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any property for that sum, unless you’re willing to live in a tiny home (which clock in at around 100 to 400 square feet). But in other areas, you may be surprised by some of the places your money can buy.

So let’s take a whirlwind home-shopping spree across the U.S.! Brace yourself for an eye-opening look at just how gigantic—or teeny—your house could be.

How Big a House Can You Afford? That Depends on Where You Live

Tony Frenzel/

1. Boston, MA

Median price per square foot: $1,160
How much home $305,000 can buy: 263 square feet

House in Boston, MA
House in Boston, MA

Who would have thought that Boston would have bragging rights as America’s priciest real estate per square foot?

Whether you dig the hyperintellectual vibe, the Red Sox, the cliquey New England iciness, or just those ivy-clad brick row houses the city is famous for, prepare to pony up close to a million for the privilege—or else settle for a “house” more the size of a granny pod instead.

The reason Beantown is so pricey, according to a study by Apartment List, is that city officials haven’t greenlighted enough construction to keep pace with its booming economy. From 2008 to 2018, Boston officials permitted the construction of 2.3 new housing units per 1,000 residents. But job growth was almost double that, at 5.8 jobs per 1,000 residents.

Furthermore, the type of housing being built (mainly luxury single-family houses) has done little to ease Boston’s growing pains (which would have been better alleviated with larger apartment buildings). Many municipalities place so many restrictions on multifamily housing that they effectively prohibit such homes from ever being built, according to a report from the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance.

Boston’s housing shortage has gotten so ridiculous that Elias Papadopoulos, a broker at Re/Max Unlimited in Brookline, MA, worries that a tipping point might soon be reached where aspiring Bostonians head elsewhere.

“When the housing prices climb to a level where the possible income someone would earn is not enough to offset the housing, people will stop moving to the area,” he says.

Nonetheless, deals can still be found if you know where to look. Boston real estate investor Jason Luongo of suggests home shopping in Mattapan (where the price per square foot is a more reasonable $305) or Hyde Park ($289).

Or join the commuters migrating to areas like West Roxbury, where you can buy a spacious bungalow like this 5,160-square-foot, two-bedroom above for $575,000 (or $485 per square foot).

2. New York, NY

Median price per square foot: $1,106
How much home $305,000 can buy: 276 square feet

House near New York, NY

New York may come in second in the pecking order for price per square foot, but don’t be fooled: That number conceals a wide range. There are five boroughs here, after all.

In the outer boroughs such as Brooklyn, you’ll pay $699 per square foot; in the Bronx that drops to $316. Meanwhile, the ritziest areas of Manhattan break the $10,000 per square foot barrier, according to a report by NeighborhoodX. That basically means a million bucks will buy you a large walk-in closet. Enjoy!

That said, New Yorkers may have a different attitude to square footage than buyers in other markets. Who needs a big house when you have the Big Apple right outside your front door?

“In today’s environment, where smaller carbon footprints are becoming more in vogue, smaller can be better,” says real estate broker and attorney Michael Shapot, of the Shapot Team in New York.

One way to save on housing in New York City is to look at co-ops.

“Co-op apartments, which have subletting restrictions and a board approval process for purchasers, are generally 10% to 40% less expensive than comparable condos in New York City,” says Sonja Gosine, spokesperson at Hauseit.

If you want to spend less and get more house, count on commuting from farther out. Hello, Queens!

3. San Francisco, CA

Average price per square foot: $1,004
How much home $305,000 can buy: 304 square feet

House near San Francisco
House near San Francisco, CA

In San Francisco, legends abound about gainfully employed people living in vans and coffin-size plywood boxes—and these stories are true. Think Silicon Valley’s tech boom is to blame? It’s more than just that.

For starters, just check out a map: San Francisco is a peninsula surrounded by water. Yet unlike the island of Manhattan, which realized it had nowhere to build but up, most of S.F. is hampered by height restrictions of 40 feet, or about four stories. Meanwhile, NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) activists have further strangled new construction to preserve their views and keep the price of homes they already own high. Unless these policies change, $305,000 won’t buy you much more than a parking space.

“Cities near the corporate offices of Apple, Facebook, and Google demand premium prices,” says Manu Changotra of, in the San Francisco Bay area.

But there is hope, if you’re willing to cross the bay to where land is more plentiful.

“As prices heated up in San Francisco, many young renters and homeowners have headed to Oakland,” says Doug Brien, CEO and co-founder of Mynd Property Management. “Communities like Concord have more land and friendlier land development policies, so prices are lower.”

4. Los Angeles, CA

Average price per square foot: $646
How much home $305,000 can buy: 472 square feet

House near Los Angeles, CA

This star-studded town’s price per square foot may seem high at $646, but get this: Certain pockets of L.A. will cost double that, and other areas half. Chalk it up to this city’s epic urban sprawl—about 469 square miles. As a result, there are vast differences in location and desirability from one neighborhood to the next.

“The higher-end areas of much of West Los Angeles have an average price ranging from $800 to $1,200 per [square] foot,” says Michael Edlin of Coldwell Banker in Pacific Palisades, CA. “Neighborhoods that are much cheaper are less desirable either because of distance or factors such as noise.”

When you’re buying real estate, consider how those characteristics can affect your investment in the future. Almost anyone who’s invested in Beverly Hills real estate, for example, should be glad they did.

“In the last seven years we have seen properties in the city of Beverly Hills jump from $700 to $800 per square foot to nearly $1,300 to $1,500,” says Safir Shamsi at Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills. “Since then, adjacent areas such as West Hollywood gentrified tremendously.”

If you can’t afford these neighborhoods now, think about the areas farther out that may be the next big thing.

“We are now seeing that pattern steadily make its way east to downtown, south to Mid-City, and north to the [San Fernando] Valley, all still attainable markets to get into,” says Shamsi.

If you can commute to Compton, you can find a nice single-family home with a remodeled kitchen like this 1,810-square-foot, three-bedroom for $480,000 (or $265 per square foot).

5. Washington, DC

Average price per square foot: $473
How much home $305,000 can buy: 740 square feet

Our nation’s capital may not be as pricey as San Francisco or New York City, but it suffers from a similar problem: a limited land mass—68 square miles to be exact. Plus, during the week, the daily surge of government workers boosts this population from a sleepy 600,000 to 5.4 million. Many Washingtonians would gladly wedge themselves into a tiny studio if it means they won’t have to slog through a long commute.

“Lifestyle is the main factor in price per square foot,” says AJ Heidmann of McEnearney Associates based in Arlington, VA. “Walking to work, shopping, activities, and nightlife wins every time. Proximity to a Metro station comes in second.”

Amazon’s decision to open an office here has already pushed up the price per square foot in nearby areas.

“Look to the effect of Amazon HQ2 coming to the newly created National Landing area of Arlington and Alexandria, VA,” Heidmann points out. “Those neighborhoods have already seen a big bump in price per square foot.”

Nonetheless, deals can still be found in neighborhoods like Shipley, where you can get a cute but compact house like this 1,346-square-foot, three-bedroom condo for $410,000 (or $305 per square foot).

6. Seattle, WA

Average price per square foot: $454
How much home $305,000 can buy: 672 square feet

In 2010, Amazon employed 5,000 people in Seattle. Today, the e-commerce giant employs nearly 10 times that, at 45,000, and has spawned over 50,000 spinoff jobs in the area. Many of these workers want to buy homes; problem is, no one’s selling.

In King County, where Seattle is based, there’s just one home on average available for every 1,060 people, according to the local Northwest Multiple Listings Service.

So if you’re looking for a home office and a grassy yard for your dogs, count on a long commute, or head due east. Across Lake Washington, Bellevue and Redmond are great options or those working at Microsoft, Amazon, or any of the other tech companies on the Eastside.

Another alternative: “People looking for a more affordable option will find them the farther they go south of the city,” says Liz Johnson, a real estate agent at Keller Williams in Lake Tapps, WA.

For example, in up-and-coming neighborhood Kent—only a 30-minute drive south of Seattle—you can still snag a 2,590-square-foot, four-bedroom on a large, landscaped lot for $750,000 (or $290 per square foot).

7. Miami, FL

Average price per square foot: $313
How much home $305,000 can buy: 974 square feet

house near miami
House near Miami, FL

If you long for sunny days and beachside strolls along with ample space su casa, Miami has it all.

“Miami has a very attractive price per square foot, as well as great weather, beaches, lower taxes, and a vibrant art and dining scene,” says Jamey Prezzi of ONE Sotheby’s Realty in Miami. Many retirees moving here don’t want a huge beach house, opting instead for the more maintenance-free life offered by condos.

“When people move to Miami, they often expect to downsize for a real city living experience,” Prezzi continues. “Properties tend to be smaller.”

8. Dallas, TX

Average price per square foot: $215
How much home $305,000 can buy: 1,419 square feet

House in Dallas, TX
House in Dallas, TX

The saying “everything’s bigger in Texas” applies to real estate, too. Pay the nationwide median, and it’ll get you a fairly nice-sized houses for stretching your legs. For this, you can thank the state’s construction-friendly zoning and permit process, giving real estate developers plenty of wiggle room to get new homes up in record time.

“The county jurisdictions typically have more relaxed rules and regulations,” says Dallas real estate agent Benjamin Ross at MyActiveAgent.

“In Texas there aren’t many HOAs,” Ross adds. “However, there is also a price that comes with these relaxed rules: Buildings vary widely in function, style, and quality. Nonetheless, people often find the lower price per square foot worth it.”

As for where you’ll snag the biggest home for your buck, Ross points to the city’s surplus of older home—that is, if you don’t mind a little renovation to make it your own.

“Many home buyers are fine buying a home with an outdated floor plan or in need of some repair if they can get the right price,” says Ross.

But even new (or newish) won’t be too much of a financial stretch, as you’ll see with this 26-year-old, 1,580-square-foot, three-bedroom for $282,000 (or $178 per square foot).

9. Chicago, IL

Average price per square foot: $193
How much home $305,000 can buy: 1,580 square feet

Chicago is the third-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., with a diverse job market and thriving culture. Given all those perks, home buyers might be pleasantly surprised to find that the price per square foot here is modest, putting a decent-size home well within reach.

One reason for the big home bargains: Chicago was hit hard by the recession of 2008, and hasn’t fully bounced back. Many homeowners are still underwater on their mortgages. Plus, Chicagoans tend to rent rather than buy, which explains why housing prices have remained low despite tight inventory.

Chicago comprises 77 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character and feel—some safer than others—so you’ll want a real estate agent who knows the territory.

“Chicago’s West Loop is a good example of an established area that’s near employment hubs,” says Quentin Green, broker for Downtown Realty Company, a full-service brokerage specializing in luxury residential in Chicago’s downtown and surrounding areas. “It’s close to both the central business district and the Fulton Market District, home to a plethora of corporate offices. Home prices are skyrocketing, with values increasing nearly 10% over the past few years.”

Other neighborhoods worth checking out include South Loop, Lincoln Park, and Lakeview, where you can get a 2,100-square-foot three-bedroom for $489,900 (or $233 per square foot).

10. Detroit, MI

Average price per square foot: $42
How much home $305,000 can buy: 7,262 square feet (!)

House in Detroit, MI

If you’re tired of living in cramped quarters and dying to kick back in a massive mansion, Detroit may seem dreamy—infamously filled with crumbling Victorians once owned by auto industry elite, some of them now selling for a single buck. But are these deals for real?

Susan Bozinovic, a real estate agent with Century 21 Town and Country in Michigan, has seen it happen.

“In the 1980s, my dad sold his Detroit house for $1 just so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on it, given it was in such a bad neighborhood that nobody wanted it,” she says.

Now the area is becoming hot with millennial buyers. Plenty of amazing deals on big homes still exist (most for more than a dollar, however). Can you pick the right area to invest in?

Motor City’s real estate renaissance has been rumbling for years, starting in 2009, when tech billionaire Dan Gilbert relocated Quicken Loans to the area. Since then, Gilbert’s real estate company, Bedrock, has bought and renovated close to 100 commercial properties in the downtown area, sparking a wave of residential renovations in its wake.

Still, Detroit’s rebirth is still patchy at best, so if you’re truly ready to expand your living quarters, choose your neighborhood carefully.

“Because of a large geographic area and lots of blighted areas, the revitalization of the city is not even,” Bozinovic says. “Certain parts of the city limits are booming incredibly, like the New Center, Cork Town, Mexican Town, or downtown.” Others, not so much.

“That statistic of $44 per square foot in Detroit is misleading because it takes into account all 140 square miles of Detroit, including the blighted areas,” Bozinovic points out. “If we are to narrow down into hot spots, the price per square foot can easily go upward of $300.”

The take-home lesson? “If you are moving into Detroit seeking to buy a mansion, you’ll get better quality choices outside of the city limits in suburban areas like Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, or along the Lake Saint Clair,” Boziniovic concludes. “Michigan is full of lakes, so you can find some amazing gems built right on those lakes that really take your breath away.”

* The price data used in this piece is from August 2019.

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And the Top 5 Landscaping Trends of 2020 Are…

Daily: Top Landscaping Trends of 2020


Most folks want to start the new year with some serious self-improvement: Lose 20 pounds, write the next great American novel—and, yes, finally whip that scraggly backyard into shape. But when it comes to landscaping changes, where should they start?

Well, you’re in luck: The National Association of Landscape Professionals has predicted the top design styles, colors, and smart tech of 2020. What’s most striking is this appears to be the year of, well, you. Personal style is going to be big this year, from the patterns chosen in the hardscaping (pathways or sidewalks) to the elements chosen for the outdoor space.

“People are more interested [these days] in decor on the inside of their home, and that translates into the outside of their home,” says Lisa Stryker, spokeswoman for the association, which represents almost 1 million landscape and lawn and tree care professionals nationwide.

“With the rise of Pinterest and social sharing, there’s so much more focus on design in general. They see design as a reflection of their personal style, and that carries to the outside living spaces as well,” Stryker explains.

Here are the big landscaping trends for 2020:

1. Ornate, geometric designs are catching on

Homeowners are eager to take the latest interior design patterns—and bring them outside. More folks are incorporating waves, lattice, and basketweave designs and textured materials into the layout of their backyards. Even porcelain tiles, traditionally used in bathrooms, are popping up outside the home, appearing in walkways, patios, and retaining walls. Natural stones have also remained very popular.

“Materials can be used in many design patterns and shapes,” says Stryker. “Patterns that have become popular, like that chevron pattern (a repeating V), are used on the outside.”

2. Contemporary and transitional landscaping design is hot

Homeowners are also bringing their styles to their yards. The sleek, simple, and polished aesthetic is being used in outdoor kitchens, modern fire and water features, and eye-catching sculpture.

“You know how popular the grays, the sleek lines, and the contemporary [style is],” says Stryker. “Our landscaping designers are receiving more requests for that sleek and modern style in the outdoor design and materials.”

They’re also appearing in the less glamorous but necessary elements of a year-round garden. Folks are choosing native plants that can survive in different climates and are opting for heat lamps, which will let them enjoy their gardens into the fall and sometimes even winter.

3. Blue is everywhere

Shades of blue were declared the top colors of the year by paint companies from Sherwin-Williams to Pantone. But cobalt and dark navy hues aren’t just for covering interior walls. More homeowners are expected to add touches of the calming color in their outdoor oases.

“The dark blues that are the colors of the year are a return to simplicity,” Stryker says. “It’s a very natural color that’s calming and relaxing. In the outdoor spaces in general, there’s a desire for the natural tones and textures. And blue is obviously a key component in nature.”

This could be with a blue sculpture that draws the eye, a statement water feature, or the shades of the plants that they choose. Landscapers expect they’ll choose plants like blue fortune, delphinium, hydrangea, globe thistle, or grape hyacinth.

“Incorporating those natural colors of the blues are unexpected,” says Stryker. “Pops of color are also welcome and a key part of design.”

4. Do it your way

This is the year to embrace your own style, and your own quirks. If you want to install rows of organic tomatoes and Italian eggplants in raised beds, go for it! If you’re into bright bird feeders, go nuts. If you’re looking for a relaxing escape from the rest of the world with a vine-covered pergola and a stone patio with a hot tub out back or an outdoor kitchen complete with a pizza oven, this is your time.

Landscaping professionals expect homeowners will personalize their yards, whatever the size. They anticipate seeing more container and vertical gardens in smaller outdoor spaces.

“More and more homeowners are asking designers for very specific landscape elements that fit their family’s lifestyle,” says Stryker. “Edible gardens and children’s gardens are very popular. And that’s reflective of the farm-to-table movement.”

5. Remote-controlled irrigation

Smart tech is big inside the home—so why shouldn’t it be used outside, too?

Homeowners are expected to install high-tech irrigation systems in the coming year that will save them from having to manually water their lawns. The systems can be programmed to irrigate the backyard with just the right amount and save water in the process.

The best part? Folks can control them online or through a smartphone app—and prices are coming down.

“For years, that technology has been evolving,” says Stryker. “Now with the touch of a button, clients have an ease of controlling the irrigation themselves.”

The post And the Top 5 Landscaping Trends of 2020 Are… appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

This Gorgeous Country Is the No. 1 Place to Retire Abroad—and You Can Do It on Just $2,200 a Month

Algarve, Portugal


Picturesque beaches lined with golden sand, charming cobblestone streets, breathtaking medieval castles, fresh and delicious food — these are just some of the perks you’ll enjoy while living in Portugal.

On Thursday, International Living magazine released its 2020 list of the best countries to retire abroad, and Portugal snagged the No. 1 spot, earning high marks for quality health care, a reasonable cost of living and the ease with which you can fit into life there (people are friendly, and, while it’s not an English-speaking country, many locals speak English). It climbed from the No. 7 spot a year prior.

Tricia Pimental, 69, who moved there from Utah, recently told MarketWatch that living in Portugal is “all about family, food and fun”—and the price tag. International Living estimates that a couple could live a good life on $2,200 a month; Tricia’s estimates were about the same. Other perks of this Iberian Peninsula country: It’s one of the most peaceful in the world and, as Travel & Leisure writes, has a “dynamism that feels fresh and distinctive” as well as “year-round temperate weather.”

Panama took the No. 2 spot on the list, with high marks for the benefits/discounts it gives retirees (its pensionado program affords seniors discounts on everything from entertainment to train and bus fares to restaurants and prescriptions) and the ease of getting visas and residency. Panama is also relatively safe, with a low cost of living and decent health care.

When MarketWatch interviewed Mary Taft, 63, who recently moved to the country from Massachusetts, she raved about her experience in the town of Boquete: “It’s a place of indescribable beauty, and the culture is complex and vibrant,” she reported. “It’s not a sleepy town in the mountains; there’s arts and culture, birding, sailing, hiking, restaurants with chefs from around the world—it’s a foodie paradise. There’s so much going on here.”

10 best countries to retire abroad

  1. Portugal
  2. Panama
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Mexico
  5. Colombia
  6. Ecuador
  7. Malaysia
  8. Spain
  9. France
  10. Vietnam

To rank these countries, the magazine asked its correspondents and on-the-ground experts living in 24 different countries to rate their countries based on housing, benefits/discounts, visas/residency, ease of fitting in, development, climate, health care, governance, cost of living and other factors.

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$11.75M Jaw-Dropping Jackson Hole Retreat Is This Week’s Most Expensive Listing

$11.75M Jaw-Dropping Jackson Hole, WY Retreat Is The Week's Most Expensive Listing

Tasteful and rustic in all the right places, this upscale estate in Jackson Hole, WY, is listed for $11,750,000—making it this week’s most expensive new listing on®. Happy luxe new year!

Built in 2017 in careful collaboration with the current owners—a retired couple from Baltimore, according to the home’s listing agent, Carol Linton—the home’s take on a refined modern farmhouse is picture-perfect from every angle.

The mountain getaway sits on 1.52 acres in The Club at 3 Creek Ranch, a member-owned private club with golf, fly-fishing, tennis, and other amenities. It’s located just minutes from downtown Jackson Hole and ski areas.

With four bedrooms and 4.5-bathrooms, the 6,700-square-foot home offers plenty of space to host friends and family. Linton explains the first floor contains the owner’s suite, kitchen, and other main rooms, while the guest suites are on the second level, each with their own sitting room.

The interiors feature lovely stonework, reclaimed timbers, and cozy fireplaces in all the main rooms. The largely neutral color palette is jazzed up by the occasional pop of color—a blue velvet sofa here, distressed turquoise barn doors there, or an eye-catching piece of art in the hall. Sadly, the furnishings are not included in the home sale.

Jackson Hole estate exterior

Living room Jackson Hole WY
Living room

Jackson Hole estate family room
Family room

Hallway Jackson Hole WY estate

Sitting area with Barn doors
Sitting area

Owner's suite bedroom Jackson Hole WY
Master suite

Owner's suite bathroom Jackson Hole WY
Master bath

The walls of windows off the living room open to create a seamless indoor-outdoor entertaining space during the warmer months. The estate’s backdrop is spectacular and rugged, constantly changing with the seasons.

“Really each room has its own view corridor,” Linton says.

Now that the home is complete, the owners are looking for a new project, according to Linton. They’re ready to build something a bit smaller. “They’re empty nesters,” she adds.

Those in the market will find a beautifully rendered, move-in ready, and pricey estate to suit even the most discerning tastes of wealthy buyers. And frankly, we can’t wait to see what kind of masterpiece the owners come up with next.

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Rental Prices Shot Up—and Dropped—the Most in These Cities and States

Rental Prices Shot Up—and Dropped—The Most in These Cities and States


It’s official: The rent is too damn high.

Rental prices went up in 38 states (plus Washington, DC) in 2019, according to a recent report from rental site Abodo. They fell—but only a slightly—in the other 12.

“The big takeaway was renters did pay more than they did last year,” says Abodo spokesman Sam Radbil. “Rent rates rose because more people are renting and they’re renting longer than they did before.”

Nationally, median rents jumped 4.1% for one-bedroom units, hitting $1,078 a month by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, prices for two-beds surged 5.5%, to reach $1,343.

To come up with its findings, Abodo looked at its more than 1 million listings for one- and two-bedroom apartments in the 110 largest cities.

Many renters are being priced out of the bigger, most expensive cities—so they’re moving to smaller, surrounding ones that are a bit more affordable. That extra demand for housing is now pushing rents up in these places, too, says Radbil.

Who, or what, is to blame for higher rents? Point the finger at the strong economy, the increase in millennials and baby boomers seeking out rentals, and inflation as the main reasons. Also, there are a lot of people who prefer to rent rather than buy because they’re scarred by the housing bust of more than a decade ago or are worried about what the upcoming presidential election will portend for housing.

“They’re not sure where the economy is going to go,” says Radbil.

Which states saw the biggest rent hikes?

Rental prices shot up the most in Utah, going up an average 3.78% in 2019. By the end of the year, they had reached $965 a month for a one-bedroom abode.

“In states like Utah, people are relocating for jobs,” says Radbil. Many folks are coming from California and other high-priced hubs. “People need to find places where they can live and afford to live a lifestyle that they want.”

They also ticked up in Wisconsin, rising 3.02%, to an average $945 a month.

While these increases are likely bad news for renters, these weren’t the most expensive states for those leasing the roof over their heads. That honor went to Massachusetts, where the average rent for a one-bed was an eye-popping $2,218 a month. It was followed by Hawaii, at $1,880.

The cities where rents rose the most

The city where rent shot up the most is the one most folks would least expect. Average, monthly rents surged by a head-spinning 7.48% in Detroit, to hit $886 a month for a one-bedroom unit.

“They’re seeing a housing boom,” says Radbil. There are more people moving there, which increases the demand for housing as the city begins to come back. “New construction has actually started there, which is obviously going to cost more.”

The Motor City was followed by Cleveland, with a 3.85% increase to reach $782, and Mesa, AZ, with a 2.57% bump pushing prices to an average $1,115.

The highest rents in the nation were the usual suspects: San Francisco and New York City. They were an average $3,877 and $3,082 a month respectively for a one-bedroom unit. Ouch!

In these markets, tenants are cramming four and five roommates into small apartments and converting living rooms into bedrooms.

“People are going to find a way to survive in a city where the opportunities lie,” Radbil says.

Which states saw the biggest rent declines?

Lucky tenants in Montana saw the biggest price cuts last year. Rents fell 1.6%, to an average $745 a month for a one-bed.

“People go where the jobs are. And if there are less jobs in those states, there’s going to be less demand,” says Radbil. “So the price [for housing] is going to decrease. ”

Big Sky Country was followed by Nevada, where rents fell 1.44%, to reach $1,136.

Those hoping to save a few bucks may want to head to West Virginia. The average, monthly rent in the state was just $637 for a one-bed in 2019—the lowest in the nation. It was followed by North Dakota, at $672.

The cities where rents fell the most

Despite the higher prices nationally, there were a few cities where renters got a bit of a reprieve. Average prices fell the most in Dayton, OH, in 2019, falling 4.11% to reach $758 a month for a one-bedroom.

“The job growth wasn’t as stellar as it was nationally,” says Radbil. “So the demand for housing in Dayton declined.”

They also dipped in Las Vegas by 2.55%, to reach $1,227 a month, and Los Angeles, dropping 2.27% to hit a still-high $2,465 a month.

Renters scored the best deals in Toledo, OH, where rents were just $517 a month for a one-bedroom unit. The city was followed by Evansville, IN, where rents were a still-reasonable $562 a month.

“Cities like Toledo and Dayton, and many other cities as well, there are fewer opportunities careerwise,” says Radbil. “And some people would say they’re less desirable places to live, and rents will reflect [that].”

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Mortgage Rates Remain Stable to Start 2020—and That Could Mean an Early Start to the Spring Home-Buying Season

Mortgage Rates Remain Stable to Start 2020—and That Could Mean an Early Start to the Spring Home-Buying Season

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The new decade has kicked off with a fairly stable interest-rate environment for home loans.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.72% during the week ending Jan. 2, down two basis points from the previous week, Freddie Mac, reported Thursday.

Similarly, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell three basis points to an average of 3.16%, according to Freddie Mac. The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage, meanwhile, increased one basis point to an average of 3.46%.

Overall, mortgage rates started off 2020 roughly 80 basis points lower than they were at the start of 2019. “The stability is welcome news after the interest rate turbulence of the last year, which caused a slowdown in the housing market and other interest rate sensitive sectors,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Mortgage rates roughly follow the direction of the 10-year Treasury note, which fell five basis points Thursday despite stocks setting new records to kick off 2020.

If rates remain around historic lows, then that could mean that spring will come early for the home-buying market. “As mortgage rates remain favorable, buyers are likely to get a head start on the spring shopping season in the first couple months of this year,” said George Ratiu, senior economist at

( is operated by News Corp subsidiary Move Inc., and MarketWatch is a unit of Dow Jones, which is also a News Corp subsidiary.)

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Americans Are Taking Cash Out of Their Homes—And It Is Costing Them

Andy Jaconsohn for The Wall Street Journal

Many U.S. homeowners who need cash are taking it out of their properties. The trade-off: higher interest rates.

Over the past two years, a big chunk of homeowners took on higher interest rates when they refinanced to tap their home equity. These cash-out refinancings, as they are known, free up money homeowners can use to pay down credit-card debt, renovate or invest in a new property.

Nearly 60% of cash-out refinancings in 2018 came with higher interest rates, the biggest share since before the financial crisis, according to Black Knight Inc., a mortgage-data and technology firm. This year, that number fell to around 44% of cash-out deals, but it remains at more than three times its average between 2009 and 2017.

This corner of the mortgage market illuminates the crosscurrents in the U.S. economy: After roughly a decade of rising home prices, homeowners are flush with record amounts of home equity they can tap. But many Americans remain short on cash and are increasingly relying on debt to fund their lives.

“There’s something in their life that is causing them to need money,” said Sam Polland, a mortgage-loan officer at Sandy Spring Bank in Rockville, Md. “They are willing to go up in rate to get the equity out of their house.”

For some homeowners, the trade-off is worth it. While mortgage rates have crept up, they are still lower than what borrowers would pay if they tapped a credit-card or home-equity line of credit.

Cash-out refis made up a significant share of refinancings in the third quarter, helping fuel a rebound in the mortgage market after a dismal 2018. Led by refis, lenders originated $700 billion in mortgages in the third quarter, the most since before the financial crisis, according to industry research group Inside Mortgage Finance.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has been under 4% for much of the year. That is low by historical standards, but higher than periods in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 when borrowers last flooded the market. Black Knight found that 39% of the people who did cash-out refis in the third quarter had obtained their mortgages during those four low-rate years.

Paul Thompson, who works in product development, got a mortgage at 4% when he bought his Dallas house in 2015. This month, he refinanced at 4.625% and took out about $30,000.

The higher rate was worth it, he said, because it gave him the cash to renovate an investment property next door that he bought this fall. His parents are planning to move in once it is finished.

“It just gives me some cushion should I have to go back to being self-employed,” said Mr. Thompson.

Paul Thompson, at top, refinanced his Dallas home at a higher rate. He says it was worth it, because it allowed him to tap about $30,000 to renovate an investment property next door.

Andy Jaconsohn for The Wall Street Journal

Summer Garrett, Mr. Thompson’s loan officer at Caliber Home Loans Inc., said cash-out deals made up about 30% of her business over the past few months. Many clients use them to pay off credit-card debt, she said.

The use of cash-out refinancings worries some economists because it echoes the precrisis era, when homeowners used their homes like ATMs. Consumers who struggle to pay mortgages that have swelled due to a cash-out refinancing risk losing their homes. Credit-card debt, by contrast, is unsecured.

But the volume of cash-out refinancings remains well below precrisis levels. And many lenders say this type of activity isn’t uncommon deep in an economic expansion marked by rapid home-price growth in much of the country.

Cash-out refinancings also look increasingly attractive next to home-equity lines of credit. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has fallen at a much faster pace than Heloc rates this year because they are based on different benchmark rates that haven’t moved in tandem.

In September, the average 30-year mortgage rate was almost 3 percentage points lower than the average Heloc rate, the biggest gap on record going back to 1992, according to personal-finance website

Homeowners sometimes lower their rates through cash-out deals.

Matthew Miller traded in an adjustable-rate mortgage at 4.75% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 3.5% this fall.

The New York-based architect took out the ARM last year to finance the purchase of a home in Sagaponack, N.Y. Because the house wasn’t up to code, he had trouble finding a lender and accepted a rate higher than the market rate as a result.

He renovated the property to bring it up to code, allowing him to refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage. The renovation also increased his equity; he pulled out $350,000 through a cash-out refinancing to cover the construction costs.

“It was a stressful process, definitely,” he said. “But now that it’s done it feels really good.”

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No Excuses! 12 Homes With Fitness Features for Keeping All Those Resolutions

No Excuses! 12 Homes With Fitness Features for Keeping All Those Resolutions

This is the year. Not only is 2020 the dawn of a brand-new decade, it’s also the perfect time for making a new commitment to healthy habits. And it all starts at home.

We’re not talking strategic feng shui, messy meal prep, or pricey Peloton bikes. We’re talking about homes that are outfitted with their own fitness facilities that will inspire you to jump-start your lifestyle makeover.

Whether you’re looking to perfect your Pilates or yoga technique in your own customized studio, swim your way to fitness in a private pool, or just pump iron and crush cardio in an accommodating space, these 12 homes currently on the market make going to the gym as easy as stepping into your own backyard, basement, bungalow, or spare space.

And even if, like most of us, those ambitious resolutions are long forgotten by Valentine’s Day, if you buy one of these homes equipped with a fitness facility, they’ll still be there when next January rolls around.

New year, new you, new house—let’s get going.

1. 1550 N. 40th St., Unit 11, Mesa, AZ

Price: $1,299,000

Fitness features: Although this rambling ranch was just completed in 2014, construction on a brand-new, 40-foot lap pool wrapped up this month, making this property a serious swimmer’s dream. Equal parts traditional and modern, the four-bedroom, five-bathroom, 4,482-square-foot home also includes garage space for 20-plus cars, a gated driveway, an option for a separate guest wing with private entrance, and much more.

lap pool at house in Mesa AZ
Mesa, AZ


2. 19600 NW 55th Ave., Ridgefield, WA

Price: $2,600,000

Fitness features: It’s hard to get laps in when you live in a rainy climate, which is why it’s nice that this gorgeous 8,700-square-foot funky, mod farmhouse has an indoor lap pool and spa. The 10-acre property has several other surprises, including the wine cellar, energy-efficient geothermal and solar panels, and wraparound decks. But being able to jump into your own beautiful indoor pool for a morning workout sounds like a dreamy way to keep those goals on track.

Ridgefield, WA lap pool
Ridgefield, WA


3. 1624 SE 7th Ct., Deerfield Beach, FL 

Price: $1,549,000

Fitness features: Sitting by deep water frontage, this striking Key West–style house is meant for soaking up those warm tropical days in style. It features a waterfront 50-foot lap pool. Of course the five-bedroom, four-bathroom home offers plenty of areas that could be transformed into a home gym, but the luxury of swimming with a view might be enough to keep just about any resolution going through spring. The home sits just three lots from the Intracoastal Waterway and boasts lighthouse views.

Deerfield Beach, FL house with lap pool
Deerfield Beach, FL


4. 1583 NW Snowbird Dr., Salem, OR

Price: $725,000

Fitness features: Picture-perfect valley views wrap around this three-bedroom, 3.5-bath home with 4,696 square feet of living space. It was custom-built in 1994 with its own indoor pool and hot tub. Dual owner’s suites, a large office, and high ceilings make this house an attractive option for almost any buyer. But the ability to escape long, rainy Oregon days with a water workout at home, anytime, makes a big splash.

Salem OR house indoor lap pool
Salem, OR


5. 27061 N. 117th Pl., Scottsdale, AZ

Price: $1,795,000

Fitness features: Like a resort in every way, this three-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom desert mountain home is situated around an oversize pool with water feature and lap lane for an authentic workout experience. The home’s interiors are muted and spacious, but it’s the expansive outdoor living areas and fire feature surrounding the pool that are meant to take center stage, thanks to large windows facing the backyard and views beyond.

Scottsdale, AZ


6. 70 Hale Hookipa Way, Kihei, HI

Price: $7,888,000

Fitness features: Named the Wailea Wellness Hale, this tropical hideaway certainly lives up to its name, with healthy living amenities including kitchen and herb gardens and fruit trees for farm-to-table eating, and spa facilities with massage, sauna, and steam room. You’ll also find a fully equipped fitness center with yoga and Pilates equipment, outside shower, pool, and spa. Built in 1983 with ocean views, this is a spectacular retreat focused on being kind to your body. And for the soul, there’s 10,000 square feet of living space, including a 125-bottle wine room and easy golf club and beach access.

Wellness Hale Kihei HI pool
Kihei, HI


7. 1165 Bayou Paul Ln., Saint Gabriel, LA

Price: $759,000

Fitness features: Completed in 2018, this traditional farmhouse has it all: beamed ceilings, modern systems, four bedrooms, and four bathrooms. The 3,754 square feet of living space includes a fully equipped home gym with audio system, bedroom, and bathroom. The gym has even been insulated for sound, so during workouts you can feel free to rock out with the Bose audio and go full beast mode to get in those last few reps without bothering the rest of the family.

Saint Gabriel, LA homy gym
Saint Gabriel, LA


8. 5105 26th Rd. N, Arlington, VA

Price: $1,895,000

Fitness features: With custom features and designer flair throughout, this six-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom, 6,105-square-foot, Craftsman-style house is subdued and yet takes bold chances in all the right places. The little girl’s bedroom chandelier and blue laundry room wall are among the whimsical touches that make the space feel fresh and modern. And the designers didn’t hold back on the home gym, either. The basement includes a gigantic living area and large fitness room with treadmill, elliptical, weights, and more, with room to spare.

Arlington, VA home gym
Arlington, VA


9. 2627 Meadowlark Hills Ct., Spring, TX

Price: $675,000

Fitness features: LEED-certified and sitting next to a 150-acre nature preserve, this spacious six-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home was completed in 2015, and includes every amenity imaginable in its 5,577 square feet. In addition to the spa bath in the owner’s suite, and backyard pool and spa, this house includes a yoga-ballet studio. So while your friends schlep to the gym, you can just say om in your own home.

Spring, TX home yoga ballet studio
Spring, TX


10. 922 26th Ave., S. Unit A, Seattle, WA 

Price: $600,000

Fitness features: This award-winning Greenleaf Build home was completed in 2008. The 1,250-square-foot, two-bedroom, 1.5-bath home is located in the heart of Seattle, and yet has a one-car garage, a rare amenity in the city. High ceilings, a private deck, and reclaimed wood make this a one-of-a-kind residence. And, there’s a Zen surprise with an upstairs yoga studio, so you can practice those poses anytime in peaceful privacy.

Seattle WA home toga studio
Seattle, WA


11. 335 Chunns Cove Rd., Asheville, NC

Price: $569,900

Fitness features: Built in 1928, this storybook cottage recently got an update across its 2,100 square feet of living space. The total square footage doesn’t include the yoga loft, with skylight and window. Other highlights of this three-bedroom, two-bath charmer include the basement, which could be used as an art studio or in-law suite, large kitchen for gathering and entertaining, hardwood floors, and tiered gardens.

Asheville, NC home yoga studio
Asheville, NC


12. 1424 Pleasant Ln., Glenview, IL

Price: $1,495,000

Fitness features: This stately 6,100-square-foot home was built in 1980. Refined and elegant upstairs, it’s all fun in the basement, which includes a theater room, rec space, and a fully equipped, state-of-the-art gym. The grounds include a sport court. According to the listing, there are also two bonus rooms, which would make great yoga or art studios to add to the home’s health and wellness upgrades.

Glenview IL home gym
Glenview, IL

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