The Real Estate Market, Explained in One Graph

The U.S. housing market has now surpassed its pre-recession peak by 4.3%. This is great news for the economy, although there’s still an ongoing debate about the possibility of another housing crash. Whatever you believe about real estate, there’s no doubt that prices depend on where you live. We create a new visualization to demonstrate what this looks like.

According to Zillow, the median price for a house is $200,400, up 7.4% over last year. So, naturally, how big of a house can you afford with a mortgage of $200,400? Our visualization answers this question on a sliding color-coded scale. We broke each state into a grid with 25 boxes, representing 2,500 square feet—that’s a large home with at least 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Green boxes indicate affordability and orange and red boxes mean it’s expensive. We then graphed how much house you can purchase with exactly $200,400.

The results highlight the enormous differences between housing values in the U.S. It is all about location, location, location. In the Hoosier State, your $200k mortgage can purchase 2,330-sq. ft., but in Washington D.C. only 497 sq. ft. That’s the difference between a large home and a cramped studio apartment.

The fact that Washington D.C. boasts the most expensive housing market in the coutry should come as no surprise to observers of the economy in the aftermath of the recession. While real estate market crashed in other metro areas, it kept rising in Washington D.C. The nation’s capital has actually started to come back down to Earth, but the area is still an outlier. If you can get a high-paying job in the government, chances are that you’ll need to find a roommate to make ends meet.

Except for Ohio, rural states without large cities dominate the list of affordability. The five most affordable states to purchase a home for a mortgage of $200,400:

1. Indiana - 2,330 sq. ft.

2. Arkansas - 2,227 sq. ft.

3. Mississippi - 2,277 sq. ft.

4. West Virginia - 2,252 sq. ft.

5. Ohio - 2,252 sq. ft.

The five most unaffordable states highlight pockets of high economic growth in the U.S. (like Colorado) or a restriction in housing availability (like Hawaii, which is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!).

1. Washington D.C. - 403 sq. ft.

2. Hawaii - 418 sq. ft.

3. California - 713 sq. ft.

4. Massachusetts - 887 sq. ft.

5. Colorado - 982 sq. ft.

Think about the inequality here: The fourth most unaffordable state in the country (Massachusetts) is still more than twice as affordable as Washington D.C. and Hawaii.

Whether you are buying a home or just renting, chances are you know that the price you pay can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. If you ever think you are paying too much, just know that someone else in Washington D.C. is paying a heck of lot more for a smaller home.

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