Here are 20 cities where houses are cheaper than condos

·4 min read

A new study identifies 20 large cities, including Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston, where the average single-family home is cheaper than the mid-priced condominium.

Apartment and condo dwellers have flocked to more spacious detached homes in the last few years, an era of “upsizing” defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work.

The pandemic is easing, but remote work has endured. For families spending ever-longer hours in their homes, the nation’s one- and two-bedroom condos can start to feel cramped.

Houses usually cost more than condos: about $40,000 more, on average, based on February prices, according to Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of real estate research at the National Association of Realtors.

The impulse to flee cramped apartments for houses with yards helped push home prices up 40 percent in two years, with the median price peaking above $450,000 last autumn. Economists predict the condo-to-house trend will continue.

“I think that impulse to want a single-family home in a more spacious area is still there for people who are settling down and having kids,” especially families in the millennial generation, said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, the real-estate brokerage.

The pandemic “changed buyers’ preferences, and not only for one year,” Evangelou said. “Hybrid work arrangements may be the new normal,” sometimes with one partner commuting to a job while the other works from home. “When you don’t have enough space, you have to work at your dining table. Nobody wants to go back to that.”

Detached homes remain staggeringly expensive in many cities, especially on the West Coast. But median house prices are low in several large, desirable cities to the east.

An analysis published Monday by Point2, a real-estate analyst, studied the 200 largest cities and found 20 where the median-priced single-family house cost less than the mid-priced condo.

In Chicago, the analysis found, the median house costs $295,000; the median condo, $320,000. The median Cleveland house costs $115,000; the median condo, $181,000. A mid-priced house in Des Moines, Iowa, costs $180,000; a condo, $209,000.

Other cities where houses cost less than condos include Pittsburgh (median house price, $212,000), St. Paul, Minn. ($250,000) and even pricey Boston, where the median house costs $670,000, while the median condo fetches $675,000.

The analysis found dozens of other cities where a single-family house costs more than a condo, but not a lot more.

In Providence, R.I., the median house costs $334,000, just $3,000 more than the average condo. A Kansas City house averages $180,000, only $5,000 more than the mid-priced condo.

Using median income data, the study identified several large cities where the average family could bridge the price gap between condo and house with no more than six months’ pay. They include Buffalo, N.Y., where the median house costs $198,000; Milwaukee ($175,000), Richmond, Va. ($330,000), and Savannah, Ga. ($271,000).

Miami, New Orleans and Fort Worth, Texas, aren’t far behind, all with median house prices that fall within $50,000 of the median condo price.

Upsizing comes with tradeoffs. “Dense housing,” such as condos, “tends to get built where land is valuable,” Fairweather said, often in upscale neighborhoods with restaurants, nightlife and public transit. “On top of that, these condos may be coming with extra amenities that make them more valuable, like a pool or laundry service.”

Upsizing is a more realistic option in some housing markets than others. In 16 large cities analyzed by Point2, houses cost at least twice as much as condos. Some of the priciest markets lie in affluent suburbs with high land values.

In Pembroke Pines, Fla., part of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale sprawl, the median house costs $580,000, more than twice as much as the average condo.

In Naperville, the Chicago suburb, the median home fetches $496,000; the median condo, $217,000.

In Arlington, Va., outside the District of Columbia, the median house price has reached $1.1 million. Condos average $415,000.

And in Irvine, California, home to a University of California campus, the median house price is $2 million. The average condo costs half as much: a cool $1 million.

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