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Visualizing the Size of Half a Million Dollar House in Every State

Half a million dollars can get you over 3,000 square feet of home real estate in the United States, based on the national median price per square feet. That sounds like a big number, but when you consider that the 2018 median size of a new home in America is 2,386 square feet (which is 1,000 square feet larger than 50 years ago), it’s no surprise that mortgage debt has hit a record-high $14 trillion. However, depending on where you go in America, your $500,000 may stretch further. After all, the first rule of real estate is: “location, location, location.”

Half a Million Dollar House

  • Sales per square foot range across the country from $98/sq ft in Mississippi to $552/sq ft in Washington, D.C.
  • A home in West Virginia can be purchased for one-third the price of one in Washington, D.C.
  • 30-year mortgage rates recently hit 3.29%, the lowest in 50 years, a promising indicator for home buyers.
  • 11% of realtors have indicated a fall in buyer traffic amid coronavirus fears, a troubling indicator for home sellers.

Our data comes from Zillow and we use median list price per square foot to derive how many square feet could be purchased with half a million dollars in all 50 states. Our viz is a grid map indicating the purchasing amount for each state: a larger square and lighter shade of pink indicates that more square feet can be purchased in that state.

Top 5 States with the Most Real Estate Purchased with $500,000

1. Mississippi: 5,208 Sq. Ft. ($98/Sq. Ft.)
2. West Virginia: 5,155 Sq. Ft. ($97/Sq. Ft.)
3. Arkansas: 4,950 Sq. Ft. ($101/Sq. Ft.)
4. Alabama: 4,762 Sq. Ft. ($105/Sq. Ft.)
5. Indiana: 4,630 Sq. Ft. ($108/Sq. Ft.)

Top 5 States with the Least Real Estate Purchased with $500,000

1. Washington, D.C.: 906 Sq. Ft. ($552/Sq. Ft.)
2. Hawaii: 940 Sq. Ft. ($532/Sq. Ft.)
3. California: 1,587 Sq. Ft. ($315/Sq. Ft.)
4. Massachusetts: 1,859 Sq. Ft. ($269/Sq. Ft.)
5. Colorado: 1,931 Sq. Ft. ($259/Sq. Ft.)

If you are looking to purchase more real estate for your money, head south: Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states in America where half a million dollars will get you more than 5,000 square feet. Housing in these states is a bargain: the average home price in West Virginia is one-third the price of homes in Washington, D.C. And, while Gulf states like Mississippi and Alabama offer lots of real estate for your money, keep in mind that it will cost more to insure homes in these states as they are at risk for hurricanes and floods.

Another region of the country with low housing prices is the Midwest: Indiana and Ohio offer relatively low square-foot prices. These so-called “Rust Belt” states have large housing stocks due to their population losses. On the flipside, in some coastal states such as California and Massachusetts , don’t offer under 2,000 square feet of real estate isn’t available for $500,000. These are some of the most expensive states to live in, and Washington DC, where you get less than 1,000 square feet, is one of the most expensive cities to live in. With these real estate prices, it’s no wonder these states also lead the nation in consumer debt.

The housing market has performed well in recent quarters, with the average rate on 30-year loans rising to 3.36% from 3.29%, making it the lowest level in 50 years. However, like most markets, real estate has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, 11% of realtors indicated a reduction in buyer traffic due to the coronavirus.

With low rates and low traffic, this may be the time to buy a house: if you’re considering it, check out our HowMuch guide to home loans.

Where would you buy real estate if you had $500,000? How does your state compare in purchasing power? Let us know in the comments and share with your friends.

About the article


Juan Carlos