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Last updated: June 20, 2019 • Real Estate Fun Facts, Real Estate Market

Top 5 Most Expensive Cities to Live in the USA

Have we made America great again in our pursuit of the American Dream? How far are we willing to go for it? We put a price tag on everything and we forget to enjoy the little things. Let’s imagine that the US is like the human body and we run an x-ray scan in order to find the most expensive cities in our country. For the best view, we have to inject a contrast agent. Where do you think that substance would go first? If you said California, then you were correct. That contrast agent will split between the West Coast and the East Coast, with a few spots for ski resorts, seaside resorts, and small enclaves of richness.

Unfortunately, only statistics can help us, and for every variable, we will get different results and lists. And the numbers change every day. People move from one state to another or from one city to another. They change jobs as big employers come and go. So it is very hard to put up a list with the most expensive cities to live in because that list would only be valid for a minute or two. So, we’ve picked the most expensive cities that are in most similar lists across the world wide web – those that claim their position loud and clear! Ironically, most of them are also on our list with cities that pride themselves on the best public transportation.  

San Francisco real estate

SAN FRANCISCO

Fantastic! Vibrant! Steep! A city of contrasts! – this is how people describe the City by the Bay. According to San Francisco Travel, the city expected over 26 million tourists in 2018. Those tourists have occupied about 85% of the hotel rooms available. Suppose the numbers are the same for 2019, this means a threefold increase in population during the year – a possible explanation for our dollar’s low purchasing power parity in this city. San Francisco ranks 13 by population, with less than 1 million inhabitants (884,363 according to Wikipedia). All visitors are fascinated by The Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars (which cost $7 a ride!), the Chinatown and the island of Alcatraz. With so many tourist attractions, and with such a high number of tourists every year, why not purchase a vacation rental property here? A simple search on Airbnb, for example, reveals that more than 300 people have a house or a room to rent in San Francisco.

Although expensive, San Francisco offers its residents the chance to study for free at the City College. So, to qualify, students must be California residents for one year and one day and reside in San Francisco. Niche reports that 78% of students are employed 2 years after graduation and reviews are fairly positive. Due to the residency requirement, San Francisco real estate agents advise those who want to attend the City College with no tuition fees to buy a property in San Francisco rather than rent.

With rent at an average of $3,300 per month, it has the most expensive rent in the country. The cheapest properties on the market right now are a little under $200,000 for a 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom. However, residents seem to do very well financially, with a median family income of more than $120,000. While the charm of the city and it’s Asian influence might be appealing, by moving to the second most expensive city in the country, one could save up to 20 grand a year.

New York real estate

NEW YORK

If you can make it in the Big Apple, you can make it anywhere, isn’t it so? What still lures people to move to this city? For some, the fact that it is so hard to get here and find an affordable place to live among the other 8.5 million people. For others, it is the vibe, the fashion, and the skyscrapers. A magnet for daydreamers, New York has the third highest rent prices, a little over $2,200 per month. But if you remember the news about the new Amazon HQ2, (which in the meantime became history), that project would have increased rent by $200 in no time, especially in Long Island City and the adjacent neighborhoods. According to Income by Zip Code, 8.9% of households make more than $200,000 per year, the average household income being $93,443/year. However, many employees prefer to live in New Jersey and commute. New York is among the cities with the most efficient public transportation network, after all.  

New York is so well connected that it attracted over 62 million tourists in 2017 alone! Everybody dreams about visiting the city that never sleeps at least once in their lifetime. A good excuse to live in this bustling city is to study. A few dozen private and public Universities are ready to receive new applications. Real estate agents in New York help both American and international students find the right student accommodation. And don’t say we didn’t warn you: student rooms can be extremely expensive!

If you ever looked for a property in New York, you had come across co-ops, for sure. “Cooperatives” are a popular form of housing arrangement here – about 75% of owner-occupied buildings, and are completely different than condos. Co-ops are also cheaper (as low as $60,000), but the downside is that you don’t own the real estate, but instead a number of shares issued by the corporation that owns the building. The larger your co-op, the more shares you own. The good thing is that all expenses are included in the maintenance fee (from the doorman to any special assessments).

How do you purchase a co-op? First, you have to prepare a thick file with more documents that prove your income history and employability. Ask a New York real estate agent to help! Then, wait for a response from the board of directors who run/own the building. Before you embark in the process, keep in mind that you might not be allowed to rent your property or to list it on websites like Airbnb. Every building has its own set of rules decided by the co-op board. Don’t obey those rules and you will be fined!

San Jose real estate market

SAN JOSE

From San Francisco, drive South on the Interstate 280 – 42 miles away is the third most expensive city in the US – San Jose. Even a mobile home is priced over $120,000 here! But you will live in the heart of Silicon Valley! If you were a landlord here, you would pocket an average rent of $2,395 every month, depending on your rental property. However, the median income in this startup heaven is $90,303 and growing, due to the fierce competition among tech firms.

High salaries push up the cost of real estate in San Jose so it’s more and more expensive to be a homeowner here. Home prices have increased by 17% in 2018. Moreover, San Jose has the highest cost of living in the US! Given these facts, now is the best time to invest in a rental property in this area. Why buy to rent? Because students who want to work in the Silicon Valley will attend a University nearby: Santa Clara University, University of California Berkeley campus or Stanford University.  Another great idea would be to purchase land for an RV park (and charge $1,500 or less for an RV spot) – it has a huge ROI!

So, San Jose deserves its place in our list but you should keep your eyes on it too! Or maybe you’ll be more tempted to invest in the capital.

Washington real estate

WASHINGTON, D.C.

While in most countries, the capital city is also the most populous, this is not the case in our country. The US capital since 1790 and carrying the name of our first president, Washington is now home to 702,445 people, according to 2018 estimates from the US Census Bureau. Here are our country’s famous landmarks such as The White House, the US Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. A city full of history, Washington hosts some of the best museums in the country which makes our capital a great holiday destination for families with children around 4th of July.

Washington fought recession and now, the real estate market here is growing optimistically pushing the rent at an average of $2,139, according to RentCafe.

Had you wanted to purchase a condo today, you would have found a foreclosure at $65,000. Washington is not known for its affordable properties but there are always a few listings below $100,000 so Washington could be the ideal place for house flipping. House prices continue to grow, struggling to remain in the affordability range. Undoubtedly, the new Amazon HQ2 in Arlington will propel the market and real estate agents in Washington and Arlington are ready to start house hunting not only with real estate investors but with those who move here for the new job opportunities.

For the next most expensive city to live in the US let’s go back in the West and overfly Seattle.

Seattle real estate

SEATTLE

The growth of Amazon has had a definitive impact on Seattle too. This online retailer has been shaping the area since 2007. With 25,000 employees, Amazon is among the major employers like Boeing, Microsoft, Walmart, Lewis-McChord, and the University of Washington.

Tourism is also important for the city, and the port of Seattle is of great importance as cruises often dock here on the way to Alaska. The Port of Seattle expected 1.1 million tourists in 2018. One year before, more than 40 million tourists had visited Seattle. Compare this number to the city’s permanent population of about 725,000 people! Don’t tell me this is not the Land of Opportunity!

Renting in Seattle remains at an average of $2,000, with a very slight increase of only 3%. However, Seattle is known for having the smallest apartments in the country so if you’re into tiny homes or prefab homes, here is the place to sell them! There is also a high demand for housing, more than the market can supply! The cheapest condo on the market has only 660 sq ft (2 bedrooms / 1 bathroom) and is priced at $120,000.

After holding the title of “the nation’s hottest housing market”, the latest headlines announce that the real estate market is cooling down here, which, in a certain way, is a good thing. Seattle and the surrounding area has long been a boiling real estate bubble. Naturally, home sellers took advantage of the favorable economics of the city and pushed the prices up, jumping over the affordability limit, for the delight of Seattle realtors®, but it was just a matter of time before the demand for lower-priced properties would have deflated it.

Among the most expensive cities to live in the US are also BOSTON, LOS ANGELES, and HONOLULU. The first two are well-known real estate bubbles.

Los Angeles has the highest rate of homelessness and a recent report released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority concluded that this issue is the result of racial discrimination. In Los Angeles County the median home price reached $600,000 – this means that half of the properties are priced above this price, and half are priced below. Although expensive, Los Angeles, together with Seattle and Washington, are also among the best cities for senior living. These cities are wheelchair-friendly and local authorities pay attention to the special needs of disabled people.

On the Atlantic Coast, the real estate market in Boston is cooling and the average rent is under $1,000, according to RentCafe, but the greater Boston area is still pricey. A single-family house had a median price of $600,000 in October 2018.

On the sunny side, Honolulu is still among the best cities to live in. Home prices are on the rise and sales volumes have dropped more than 10%, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors®. Finding an affordable house in Honolulu will be a challenge, though, since most houses are priced $800,000 and above, and half of the condos for sale are $475,000 and more.  
Don’t be intimidated by the most expensive cities to live in the USA! Our job at RealEstateAgent.com is to cover all the needs, so we have already searched for the best cities to raise a family, to invest in real estate or to become a boating family so feel free to read more!

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