The Best “Bang for Your Buck” in the U.S.

Ever watch House Hunters? It’s the HGTV sensation where potential homebuyers visit a few different homes, and make an offer on one of them. I love watching it because I like guessing which house they’re going to pick, although I get really annoyed when they pick the “wrong one.”

There’s one episode that I found particularly memorable. A young family of four was looking for a vacation home near the Florida coast. They had a budget of half a million dollars with which they were hoping to buy a beachfront property. As usual, they looked at three homes. Two were nicely constructed single family homes just a short walk from the beach. The third was a broken-down double-wide trailer which sat right on an inner coastal waterway. Obviously, I knew they wouldn’t pick the trailer. After all, who, in their right mind, would spend HALF A MILLION DOLLARS to live in a double-wide?

Well apparently, these homeowners would. The seller even threw in a few bonus manatees for the backyard. (I jest, although the waterway was home to a few of those lovable sea cows!) While the home was not anyone’s “dream home,” the property itself was stunning.

The moral of the story is that backyard manatees will really drive up the price of your home. Actually, the message you should glean from this little House Hunters gem is that location really impacts the “bang for your buck,” so to speak. If you had half a million dollars, you could afford either a six bedroom/seven bathroom historic mansion in Detroit, or a decrepit trailer on a Florida waterway. Pretty crazy, right?

So what places in the U.S. offer the best bang for your buck? It’s hard to say, since the real estate market is always changing, but it can be pretty interesting to take a look at what current listings have to offer. I browsed HomeFinder.com for real estate listings. Assuming we’ve got $150,000 to spend, what areas of the United States are going to offer us the most house? Let’s find out!

Las Vegas, NV

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas! If you’re down to party, this is the place. It’s the ultimate “desert oasis” for any fun-loving family. $150,000 will get you a pretty decent home in a gated community, just 15 minutes away from all the action of the strip. For this price tag, you can get a single-family property with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and 2018 square feet. Not bad at all, especially when you take into account the granite countertops, upgraded carpet, cherry cabinets, and golf course location. All in all, you’d only pay $75 per square foot for a beautiful Las Vegas home.

Chicago, IL

Looking for a different type of city life?  Chicago is not exactly your cheapest option. And if you’re looking to get close to Lake Michigan, you’ll pay dearly. A one bedroom, one bathroom condominium unit will run you a little bit over your budget, at $175,000. Purchase of your 850 square foot living space gets you access to an exercise room, party room, pool, and sundeck as well. But the price per square foot? It’s over two and a half times the price you’d pay in Las Vegas: about $205 per square foot. And don’t forget, renting a parking space can also get pretty pricey!

Dallas, TX

Everything’s bigger in Texas! Even your home! You can get a decent house in Dallas without paying the big bucks. $169,000 buys you a move-in-ready four bedroom, two and a half bathroom home with 2,642 square feet. The listing I looked at showed a stunning property, with a big and well-landscaped backyard, spacious kitchen, and gorgeous master suite. For just $64 per square foot, this home has better value than Las Vegas or Chicago.

Hamilton, New Jersey

Kind of a random city, I know, but I was curious to see what the home values were like in New Jersey. Hamilton is a great location because it’s only one hour from New York City, 45 minutes from Philadelphia, and an hour from the Jersey shore. In Hamilton, $154,900 won’t get you much. You’ll get a two-story corner lot with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, and unfortunately, only 864 square feet of living space. While it does feature hardwood floors, as well as a completely redone bathroom and full basement, you’ll pay dearly at $179 per square foot. Bear in mind that CNN and Money Magazine rated Hamilton the 51st best place to live in the country in 2008, so you’re probably paying more for the community than the property itself.

Orlando, FL

It would be pretty darn cool to be Mickey Mouse’s neighbor. I would personally love to be able to purchase an annual pass to Disney World so my son could have a magical childhood. If you’re looking for year-round sunshine and easy access to the happiest place on earth, you can snag a brand-spanking-new townhome in Orlando for just $159,990. It’s only a half-hour drive from the mouse, and it features an “open kitchen design,” four bedrooms, and two and a half bathrooms. With 1,784 square feet of living space, it’s pretty darn affordable, at just $90 per square foot.

Beaverton, OR

Now let’s check out homes near the west coast. Ever thought about moving to Oregon? Ranking #98 on CNN’s “best places to live,” Beaverton is a beautiful Portland suburb. According to CNN, it’s an athlete’s dream city, with close proximity to both the ocean and the slopes, with plenty of hiking, biking, and golfing opportunities and almost a thousand acres of parkland. For $169,900 you can get an adorable home with three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. It’s a foreclosure, but you’ll have brand-new carpets and a few fresh coats of paint, as well as a fenced-in patio. But at over $130 a square foot, you’ll get a great location with a not-so-amazing value.

It’s pretty crazy how location can influence home prices. You’ll pay the same price for a tiny condo in Chicago that you will for a spacious and beautifully-decorated home in Dallas. Where would your “dream home” be located? Let us know in the comments below!

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