What $1 Million Buys In Homes Across The U.S.


    Shopping for a seven-figure spread? You’re in luck.

    That’s because nationwide, homeowners are slashing asking prices, often by significant margins, making this year’s list of million-dollar properties much more palatable than those in years past. These homes are still beyond the means of the average American, but there’s some comfort in a million-dollar home looking like a million-dollar home rather than a hastily built McMansion or a shoebox-sized studio apartment.

    In Los Angeles, $1 million buys a four-bedroom, Craftsman-style Hollywood home with wood-beamed ceilings typical of turn-of-the-century California architecture. In Texas, seven figures nets a 5,522-square-foot, five-bedroom house in Dallas, or a 5,520-square-foot, six-bedroom home in Houston.

    In the Big Apple, $1 million buys much less.

    Assuming you meet the approval of the co-op board, “for a million bucks you get a sweet one-bedroom apartment, or a humble two-bedroom apartment,” says Harry DiOrio, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York.

    If “you’re forced into the higher-priced world of condos, you can forget about the two-bedroom on a million-dollar budget, unless, of course, you’re willing to cross the river into Brooklyn or Queens or head north into Harlem.”

    Stick to Manhattan, and your bucks will bag you a 611-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, close to the East River with views of the city, the bridges, Brooklyn and Queens, and access to a pool, garden and spa–but almost a mile from the nearest subway stop.

    Luxury List
    Forbes.com studied the 15 largest U.S. metro areas and developed a list of real estate’s most basic luxury unit, the million-dollar home. We included properties from New York to Seattle, and home styles ranging from city townhouses to suburban Victorians.

    In places hit hardest by the subprime crisis, buying a million-dollar property might seem a silly notion. But there exists a market for such homes.

    Those looking in the Detroit metro might head to Pleasant Ridge, an affluent community with around 2,000 residents just outside the city. Here, one can buy a fetching Tudor-style home of ivy-covered brick, with 4,000 square feet of space, for $1 million.

    In spots largely unaffected by problematic lending or other economic conditions, such as California’s Bay Area, a million dollars doesn’t seem wildly excessive: The median home price in San Francisco is $846,800; it’s $852,500 in San Jose.

    These prices are the result of concentrated wealth in the local economy, high regulatory and business costs for builders that are passed along to buyers, and a very small, confined geographic space that allows for little new development.

    “A million dollars won’t get you very much,” says Courtney Charney, a broker with Alain Pinel Realtors in Atherton, Calif. If you go for an area with good schools, she says, “You’re probably only getting a thousand square feet.”

    What does $1 million buy in your community? Weigh in. Add your thoughts in the Reader Comments section below.

    In San Francisco proper, prospects are a bit more grim, as a million bucks won’t buy a house without shared walls. That’s right–even in cheaper areas, like the Sunset, houses are so tightly packed that they bump up against one another.

    Still, there are suburbs, like Burlingame, Calif., between San Francisco and San Jose, where $1 million translates into a modest 1,650-square-foot house with three bedrooms and a good-sized yard.

    But if you move into a desirable suburb, a million will only land a “second-tier location,” says Charney.

    Best Bets
    Prime California markets have always been off-kilter, but in cities such as Minneapolis and Boston, $1 million buys a good-sized house in a desirable neighborhood. In the Fremont section of Seattle, residents have views of the city skyline as well as Mount Ranier. Here, seven figures buys a three-bedroom, two-bath home on a terraced ridge, with large windows to take advantage of the sunlight and bird’s-eye view.

    No plans to settle in Seattle? Take comfort in this: While home sales nationwide are at a historic low, those at or above the $1 million mark can be yours for less.

    by Matt Woolsey, FORBES.com

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