If you’re a first-time condo-buyer, your budget probably isn’t huge. But how far will it stretch? We set out to find out what you’ll get for your dollars in various cities. Unsurprisingly, results vary widely. (San Francisco residents, best of luck to you …)
These results are based on current posted listings (as of March 2014). As we searched, there were a few ground rules: first, we started by searching for units priced at $100,000 and $200,000 in each city (in some cases, as you’ll see, this just wasn’t possible). Second, we looked for representative examples. So no foreclosures, and no shockingly-cheap outliers that were far below the next-cheapest unit, which raises some red flags regarding condition and other factors.
In terms of income requirements, according to the Zillow’s mortgage calculator, you’ll need to make about $30,000 a year to afford a $100,000 condo and about $50,000 for a $200,000 place.
New York City
A one-bedroom condo in Manhattan for under a hundred grand? Forget it. But if you look into the other boroughs, you just might find something.
For an even $100,000, you can buy a one-bedroom condo near the Bronx Zoo, with a new bathroom, hardwood floors, and granite countertops.
For $200,000, you can get a one-bedroom condo in Forest Hills, Queens, with hardwood floors and a spacious kitchen.
For affordable condos here, your best bets are the northern and western parts of the city.
Less than $100,000 will get you a one-bedroom condo in Flagami, near the airport, with ceramic tile, a remodeled kitchen, an assigned parking spot, and a balcony.
Moving up to $200,000, your options include an 840-square-foot unit right on the water, with postcard vistas and hardwood floors.
The Windy City’s condos include many historic buildings with cozy charm. But, as in most big cities, the nice ones don’t come cheap.
Under $100,000, you’re essentially out of luck. But add on just a little bit more to get to $110,000, and you’ll find a few offerings. For example there’s this Logan Square apartment, in a 1928 building. It’s an intimate 575 square feet, but with a new kitchen and a common deck, it’s a good fit for a first condo.
Step up to $200,000 and you’ll get close to the action—like this new-ish unit right on Michigan Avenue in the South Loop, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a kitchen island, and a whirlpool tub in the bathroom.
Cue the laugh track: Affordable housing in San Francisco? You’ll probably have better luck searching for the Loch Ness Monster. The city’s median—median!—condo price reached $950,000 in January (the situation’s slightly better across the bay in Oakland … but only slightly). The median price for a single-family house is actually a tiny bit cheaper, but since we’re talking about condos here, let’s check out some of the least-shockingly-expensive options.
At the low end, for $204,000, this Mission Dolores condo has one bedroom and an off-street parking spot. (Note that you must be a first-time home-buyer and income eligible.)
Even that’s a pretty atypical, though. In general, a “low-end” (a relative term here) condo in San Francisco proper will still be over $350,000, like this one-bedroom unit in a 2002 building in Ingleside Heights.
With a few exceptions, Seattle’s condo prices currently start around $125,000.
For $130,000, for example, there’s this one-bedroom unit in Maple Leaf, with a fireplace and in-unit washer and dryer.
For $200,000, there are many options in various neighborhoods, including this one in Greenwood’s Sapphire Condos, built in 2006. The unit has its own balcony, and the building has amenities such as a rooftop deck and an exercise room.
Austin is known as an up-and-coming city, and it’s more affordable than its coastal counterparts.
Options below $100,000 include this one-bedroom condo in Parker Lane, near downtown, with a “breezy patio.”
In the $150,000 to $200,000 range, there are condos in many centrally-located neighborhoods, and with excellent amenities, including this one with a lofted bedroom, 1.5 baths, a fireplace, and high-end finishes.
Your dollar goes pretty far in Nashville, compared to the other cities on this list.
Even below $100,000, the pickings are more than minimal—$80,000 will get you this two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo.
If your wallet’s a bit bigger, $179,000 will get you a spectacular loft in a landmark historic building in the downtown arts district.
Prices in the Mile High City are … well, okay, not low, but pretty darn reasonable.
At $100,000, you’ll find a good selection of condos around the city, including this two-bedroom unit in Hampden South, just off the freeway.
For $200,000, you can buy a two-bedroom condo in a newer building in the City Park area.