$1 million is a lot of money—but million-dollar houses can look drastically different depending on where you live.

By Lauren Phillips
October 15, 2019

If you had $1 million, there’s a lot of things you could do with that money; for many people, one of those things is buying a house. There’s more to it than coming up with cash for the down payment on a house, but $1 million can get you a good piece of property—though million-dollar homes are not all made equal.

According to a new report from Zillow, there is a so-called typical million-dollar home, but home values can vary widely between cities and regions. Zillow’s analysis found that the typical million-dollar home is a detached, single-family home. It’s about 2,200 square feet, has four bedrooms, and boasts two and a half bathrooms—and it’s also a made-up home based on Zillow’s study of million-dollar homes in cities across the United States.

If the home described above is the ideal for million-dollar houses, the reality truly depends on where you live. (Location, location, location and all that.) In El Paso, Texas, for example, $1 million will get you a 7,030-square-foot house with five bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms; in Greensboro, North Carolina, it’s a 5,540 square-foot-house with four bedrooms and 4.5 baths. These homes are practically palatial, and savvy home-buyers with a $1 million budget can likely get even larger spaces if they’re willing to venture even farther into the countryside, away from larger cities.

The flipside, though, is that homes in certain large, coastal cities offer much less bang for your buck. Using the same $1 million budget, aspiring home buyers could get a three-bedroom, one-bedroom apartment or condo with 1,150 square feet in San Francisco, California. (Depending on the home’s finishes and location, some million-dollar homes in major cities may offer even less space.) In Seattle, Washington, the average million-dollar home is 2,090 square feet, with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. The cost of living in major cities—close to amenities, entertainment centers, and more—is space.

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Technically, you don’t need to be a millionaire to buy a million-dollar home. If you’re able to get a mortgage for your big purchase, you’d just need enough money for the down payment—$200,000, if you’re following the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s recommendation of a 20 percent typical down payment on a house. (You’d need to have a good credit score, proof of income sufficient to make the required mortgage payments, and more, of course.) A smaller down payment might make it more difficult to buy that million-dollar home, but it’s doable in certain cases.

If you’re looking to make a huge home purchase, you might value size over location, in which case you’ll want to look in the suburbs and countryside. If you’re eager to stay in your city of choice, though, you can expect to live in a much smaller space for the same price someone buying a home out of town would pay. Your home remodeling costs and overall cost of living will be greater, too, but remember that salaries tend to be higher in larger cities. If you dream of living in a mansion, though, you’re more likely to make that fantasy come true if you move out of town.

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