The very word “mansion” drips with subtext: Wealth, luxury, success.
Mansions, of course, have long played a special role in the American psyche—from Gilded Age monuments to egregious affluence in New York, from futuristic edifices for the West Coast tech elite to the larger-then-life residences of comic book titans Richie Rich, Scrooge McDuck, and Batman.
For most Americans, the idea of living in a mansion falls squarely in the realm of the daydream—one perhaps indulged while watching “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” or for those old enough to still hear the unmistakable enunciation of Robin Leach ringing in their ears during an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
But here’s the reality: Even in today’s fraught, price-squeezed housing market, you don’t actually need to be rich or famous to afford a sprawling home. You just need to know where to look. For those ready to make their reveries a reality, Realtor.com®’s data team has scoured the country to pinpoint where buyers can find the best deals on oversized abodes.
A reality check: The lower price tags on many of these homes are due to their age and condition. Some are in desperate need of a little TLC. So if you’re on the prowl for truly affordable mansions, get ready to roll up your sleeves.
But you also may be surprised at what you can get. During the height of COVID-19, bigger was better when it came to real estate. Stir-crazy homebuyers went on a tear buying up larger homes in which to ride out the pandemic. Now that the world is getting back to something resembling normal, these larger homes could be especially ripe for the right buyers as the housing market cools, says Robert Dietz, economist at the National Association of Home Builders.
Plus, it takes a special buyer to want to take on a massive fixer-upper—even at an attractive price.
“You might think that with higher interest rates, and the typical buyers priced out, investors usually come in,” says Dietz. “But now, even they’re stepping to the sidelines a bit.”
The best deals can be found in the South and Midwest, where land and homes are typically cheaper, says Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. They’re typically a mix of smaller cities, as well as towns within commuting distance of larger urban areas.
We defined mansions as single-family homes clocking in at 5,000 square feet and above. We limited our list to cities with median prices for these larger abodes at or below $1 million and only included metros with at least 20 such listings in the last week of July. In addition, only the most affordable city from any state was included in the list, to ensure geographical diversity.
Ready for some champagne wishes and caviar dreams—on a budget? Here’s where to head.
1. Chicago, IL
Median mansion price: $449,000
Median mansion price per square foot: $89
The Windy City tops the list for affordable mansions, with a median mansion listing price of just $89 per square foot—less than half the overall price per square foot in the metro.
Many cry out for renovations, including new floors or kitchens or bathrooms. They’re what Nancy Nugent, the global real estate advisor and senior vice president at Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty, calls “high-value rehab opportunities.” These are true luxury fixer-uppers.
“Buyers used to love to get a good value proposition on a rehab property like these,” Nugent says. “But not so much anymore. You have supply chain issues, so the cost of renovations are up. And then you have the delays. If you need a new refrigerator or a new washer and dryer for these properties, you might be waiting months and paying more than what you expected.”
That dynamic—combined with the increased cost to borrow—means more of these properties are left sitting on the market longer than normal, Nugent says. So there are more options for the right buyer.
2. Conyers, GA
MLS / Realtor.com
Median mansion price: $624,450
Median mansion price per square foot: $105
About 35 minutes southwest of downtown Atlanta is Conyers, a modest but storied suburban neighborhood, with plenty of bigger homes.
“I see buyers from out of state who are looking for more land or a bigger property, and this is a great option for them,” says Tim Hur, a real estate agent and managing broker at Point Honors and Associates in Duluth, GA.
The area has historically had a small-town feel, Hur says. But Conyers’ downtown has been revitalized and become more demographically diverse, attracting families looking for the “live, work, play” lifestyle.
What stands out most is the relative affordability. Buyers can score a nearly 6,400-square-foot, five bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom house for just $710,000.
“You’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck,” Hur says. “Something comparable would cost a million or a million and-a-half in the center of Atlanta or another metro.”
Watch: The 10 Most Affordable Lake Towns in America in 2022
3. Houma, LA
MLS / Realtor.com
Median mansion price: $599,999
Median mansion price per square foot: $106
Houma, LA, about an hour southwest of New Orleans, has had a string of bad luck. It was smashed by Hurricane Ida last year, damaging the area’s homes and businesses. That’s on top of the decline of the oil and gas industries, leading to scores of local layoffs.
When there was lots of off-shore drilling, the area was flush with cash, and people built larger, lavish homes, says Kelli Guidry, an associate real estate broker at Bayou Region Home Team at eXp in Houma. When the industry started hurting in the years leading up to the pandemic, people left, leaving mansions without buyers.
Selling a home for up to $450,000 is still doable, Guidry says, but anything higher is hard to move.
“For the few people who are shopping in that [$500,000 or higher] price range, they have their pick,” she says. “It’s a buyer’s market.”
Median mansion price: $670,000
Median mansion price per square foot: $110
Cleveland has one of the most fascinating histories in the upper Midwest. It was an industrial boomtown in the late 19th century, with massive investments from the era’s titans of industry, including John D. Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil Company originated there. Other rich folk of the era flocked to the city as well, giving name to its “Millionaire’s Row,” where industrial magnates took up residence. At the time, it was considered among the grandest and most luxurious neighborhoods in the country.
Because Cleveland’s wealthy residents invested heavily in the city, it became as rich culturally as it was materially, boasting grand museums, gardens, churches, and performance venues. And because the city was built before the era of mass automobile transportation, the urban core is highly walkable, reminiscent of European cities.
The second half of the 20th century saw the area falter, like other industrial hotspots of the time. But downtown Cleveland is still a vibrant center of culture, and the housing market is full of opportunities for those looking for a bargain mansion.
The suburbs on the edge of the city’s downtown is where to find them, says David Sharkey, the president of Progressive Urban Real Estate. A lot of the best deals on big homes are in old, diverse neighborhoods, where homes built in the 1910s and 1920s offer buyers a wide range of options.
“Lakewood, Lindale, Cleveland Heights,” are the neighborhoods and nearby suburbs to look in,” Sharkey says. “I see these big buildings, with 2,000-square-foot units, and people are buying them, combining the units, finishing the attic, and now they have a 5,000-square-foot, custom home.”
Sharkey believes discounted mansions will continue to be a trend in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. This 5,200-square-foot, century-old home in Lakewood, OH is for sale for just under $600,000.
5. Joplin, MO
MLS / Realtor.com
Median mansion price: $627,500
Median mansion price per square foot: $110
About two and a half hours straight south from Kansas City, MO—right at the intersection of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri—sits the small town of Joplin, MO.
Joplin was a lead and zinc mining powerhouse in the 19th century but most of the mines were closed after World War II. Since then, the area has struggled to recover, with nearly one out of every five residents living below the poverty line, according to the 2021 Census.
Large homes in Joplin are a steal. Buyers can find massive, recently constructed, multi-bedroom homes for well-under the price of a top-dollar condominium in Kansas City that’s only a fraction of the size.
6. Tulsa, OK
MLS / Realtor.com
Median mansion price: $764,500
Median mansion price per square foot: $120
Tulsa, OK, known for most of the late 20th century as “The Oil Capital of the World” is now one of the most affordable places to find an oversized, luxury home.
Like other cities on our list, Tulsa was once a booming center of industry, attracting oil barons who built sprawling estates and brought healthy financial investments to the area. The city was a hub for early jazz and blues, and became known for its cultural cachet (as well as the tragic destruction of its once thriving “Black Wall Street”).
But expansion in Tulsa stagnated in the 1980s, as the oil industry moved to Houston—leaving Tulsa with negative population growth in the early part of the 21st century.
While the city’s slump was a hindrance to economic growth, it also became known as a great place for real estate investment. For those looking for large single-family homes at low prices, Tulsa—especially the southern half of the city—offers stately, newer construction on large lots, along with oversized homes in older, more conventional neighborhoods, at low prices.
This five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom house with a wet bar, game room, and sunroom on nearly half an acre is on the market for $749,000.
Median mansion price: $746,000
Median mansion price per square foot: $121
Indianapolis, known as the “Crossroads of America,” has more mansions under $1 million than any other city on the list. There are dozens for sale, many with reduced asking prices, as the market shifts toward buyers.
But the inventory increase in high-end real estate in the area might be deceptive, says Kristie Smith, the managing broker at Indy Homes, who specializes in luxury home renovations and sales.
“The biggest thing right now,” she says, “is that buyers looking to spend this kind of money on their home here want it to be turnkey.”
With higher interest rates making mortgages more expensive, more buyers are taking their time and don’t feel pressured to compete with multiple offers as soon as a listing comes online.
“It’s a limited buyer who has the means, the time, the temperament, and the knowledge to take on a high-end home if it still needs work done,” says Smith.
MLS / Realtor.com
Median mansion price: $769,950
Median mansion price per square foot: $129
Red brick and stone mansions at a reasonable price are abundant in Derby City.
While Louisville saw home values climb in recent years, the area’s home prices have stayed well below the median price nationally. And in just the past few months, Louisville’s median listing price has dropped by almost 5%—and the number of listings has hit a two-year high.
The current mansion listings in the area include a wide variety of homes, reflecting the unique history of Louisville. The city boomed in the 1800s, after the advent of the steamboat, making its position on the Ohio River a prime spot for commercial action.
After cars and modern transportation made commuting possible, the area’s rich and famous began moving further from the city center. Now that’s where sprawling newer homes on Louisville’s outskirts for just under $1 million offer a turnkey luxury experience.
Median mansion price: $749,900
Median mansion price per square foot: $132
Just an hour south of the nation’s capital lies the historic city of Fredericksburg, the childhood home of President George Washington.
Today, Fredericksburg’s proximity to Washington, DC, makes it an especially attractive prospect for people who have the work flexibility to leave the density and congestion of the area behind.
Mansions can be found for a steal in the city, compared to the sky-high prices in the nation’s capital or even Virginia’s capital of Richmond. And there are far more of them in Fredericksburg than in the next closest population hub of Baltimore.
For what a three-bedroom condo in DC runs—about $1 million—buyers can get a six-bedroom house on two acres of land, in Fredericksburg.
10. Birmingham, AL
MLS / Realtor.com
Median mansion price: $877,000
Median mansion price per square foot: $140
Birmingham has the highest per-square-foot cost for high-end real estate on the list, but is still well below the national average.
After becoming known as “The Pittsburg of the South,” because of the heavy industrial presence in the city in the early 20th century, Birmingham saw a population boom that earned it another nickname:“The Magic City.”
But after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, Birmingham saw its population decline since from the 1960s due to “white flight.”
But the contracting population has a silver lining, as its kept real estate prices low. Buyers can pick up a 8,700-square-foot, century-old, brick house for just $629,900.