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Where Single-Family Homes Are Cheaper Than Condos

Point2 analysts looked at the country’s major cities to determine where transitioning from a condo to a house would be easier.

Point2 analyzed the median price for sold condo and house units in the 200 largest cities, 150 of which happen to be core cities within their metros, as well as 50 that are non-main cities, defined in our study as “secondary.”

Considering the local median household income, we then calculated the price-difference-to-income ratio. The equivalent to the number of years’ worth of income that it would take to match the difference between a condo and a detached home.

Such a move would not only be possible but also profitable in some core cities such as:

  • The cities where houses cost less than condos are all core cities within their respective metros: Houses sell cheaper in Detroit (75%), Akron, OH (39%), Cleveland (36%), and many more main cities.
  • Core city Rochester, NY, is the only place where single-family homes and condos display the same median price: $183,000.
  • Upsizing comes easy in Providence, RI: It takes less than a month’s salary to cover the $3,000 price difference between a condo and a detached home.
  • In 10 cities, the price-difference-to-income ratio is between 0.1 and 0.4, meaning it would take less than half of the yearly income to cover the price difference between a condo and a house.
  • Fontana, CA, Joliet, IL, Chesapeake, VA, and McKinney, TX, are the only secondary cities where it would take a maximum of one year’s income to match the price difference.
  • Upsizing is also achievable in the core cities of Killeen, TX, Kansas City, KS, and Norfolk, VA, all of which boast a 0.1 ratio and net differences of less than $8,000.
  • But, not all large cities make upsizing easy: Houses are more than twice the median price of condos in Bellevue, WA (185%), Arlington, VA (173%), and more.
  • Honolulu claims the highest ratio (10.1), meaning the $744,000 price difference between a condo and a house is the equivalent of 10 years’ income here.

Single-Family Homes Cheaper Than Condos in Core Cities

Four houses for the median price of 1 condo in Detroit, where a single-family home is $171k cheaper:

New data shows going from a condo to a house is more than possible in 21 of the 200 largest U.S. cities where single-family homes are either cheaper or equally priced to condos.

Coincidentally, all of them are the main cities in their respective metro — from urban hubs like Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Memphis, or Cleveland to less buzzing areas, such as Jackson, MS, Macon, GA, or Rockford, IL. Even more interesting is that most of these core cities have experienced either decreases or minimal increases in population, according to the latest Census data. For example, the population declined by almost 9% in Jackson, MS, an area that’s seen its fair share of challenges leading to the drastic demographic dip.

The biggest price difference is in Detroit (75%), where a single-family home is $171,000 cheaper than a condo — although some houses here might need extra TLC. This cost difference means one could almost buy four detached homes for the median price of one condo. Similarly, in Akron, OH, houses are 39% cheaper than condos, which translates into a $66,000 difference — the same price gap as in Cleveland, where houses are 36% cheaper than condos.

In 17 other core cities, detached homes are $5,000 to $72,000 cheaper than condos. This includes Jersey City, NJ — the only outlier with a 10% spike in population. More precisely, single-family homes in Jersey City are 4% (or $22,000) cheaper than condos. Notably, Rochester, NY, is the only large city where detached homes and condos are up for sale for a similar median price: $183,000.

Upsizing a Breeze in Providence, RI, But Not in California Cities: Price Differences Amount to 5 to 9 Years’ Income

In Honolulu, the $744,000 price difference between a condo and a house can be covered… by saving one’s entire income for 10 years:

Analyzing median prices isn’t enough to gauge how realistic it is to upsize from a condo to a house in major U.S. cities. Accordingly, this is where the price-difference-to-income ratio comes into play to determine how easy it would be to match the difference between the two property types.

In 10 cities, the price-difference-to-income ratio is less than 0.5, which is the equivalent of less than half the annual median income. Besides the major cities where houses are either cheaper or boast the same median price as condos, upsizing comes the easiest in Providence, RI. Given the city’s 0.05 ratio and $3,000 price gap, it takes less than a month’s salary to cover the difference between a condo and a detached home. Next up are Killeen, TX, Kansas City, KS, and Norfolk, VA, with 0.1 ratios and price differences of less than $8,000.

Making the transition from condo to house is particularly difficult in Honolulu (10.1 ratio). Houses in the most exotic city on the list cost $1,198,000. That’s 164% more than the median price of a condo — a difference that’s equivalent to more than 10 years’ local median income.

Back on the mainland, California sets itself apart with the most cities where matching the upsizing price difference would take quite some time. Perhaps surprisingly, it would be easier in Los Angeles and Long Beach than in Irvine and Glendale, both secondary cities within the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro. The price difference is the equivalent of more than nine years’ income in Irvine and more than seven years’ in Glendale.

Other cities where it would take more than five years’ full income to close the price gap between a condo and a house are Bellevue, WA, Hialeah, FL, and Arlington, VA.

Houses Double, Almost Triple the Median Price of Condos

Properties are 160%+ more expensive in Bellevue, WA, Arlington, VA, Pembroke Pines, FL, and more:

Upsizing is no easy financial feat. But, in some major cities, it feels more unattainable than in others. In fact, in 16 of the major cities analyzed, houses cost more than twice as much as condos, with prices 103% (Spring Valley, NV) to 164% higher (Honolulu, HI, Pembroke Pines, FL, Overland Park, KS).

However, the highest price discrepancies between single-family homes and condos can be found in Bellevue, WA (185%) and Arlington, VA (173%) — the only less-sunny outliers in a sea of California cities where houses sell for over $1M.

At almost $144,300, Bellevue enjoys the third-highest median income among the 200 largest cities in the country — higher than its core sister cities in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro. This comes in handy given the city's pricey condos ($535,000) and even pricier single-family homes ($1,525,000). Consequently, upsizing here means splurging almost $1,000,000 extra. In Arlington, VA, condos go for a median of $415,000, while houses cost $1,132,000. Here, the 173% price difference translates into $717,000.

Back on the West Coast, houses and condos in Sunnyvale have a smaller percentile difference in median price (61%), particularly for a city in California. Even so, the city claims the largest price tags for both condos ($1,240,000) and detached houses ($1,991,000), along with one of the highest net differences: $751,000.

From Condo to House in Secondary Cities

Fontana, CA, & Joliet, IL, are the only non-core cities where the price difference is less than one year’s income:

Among the 200 largest cities in the U.S., 50 are non-core cities within their respective metro. As per their residential property profile, these secondary cities look more prone to larger shares of detached homes compared to the urban hubs that tend to get the title of “main city” within a metro. In fact, houses make up more than half of the homes for sale in 46 of the 50 secondary cities analyzed. And, in 13 of them, detached homes make up the vast majority of listings, reaching 98% in Overland Park, KS, Denton, TX, and Palmdale, CA.

Additionally, price differences in the secondary cities analyzed are between $32,000 and $960,000, with houses ranging from 6% more expensive (Fontana, CA) to up to 164% in Overland Park, KS, and Pembroke Pines, FL.

Interestingly, there are only four secondary cities where the difference in median price going from a condo to a detached home corresponds to a maximum of one year’s income: Fontana, CA (0.3 ratio), Joliet, IL (0.7), Chesapeake, VA, and McKinney, TX (both 1.0).

In Fontana (part of the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro where 85% of listings are single-family homes), the price difference amounts to less than half a year’s income of almost $94,000. As for Joliet, not only does the city have some of the most affordable home prices compared to the other cities ($190,000 for a condo, $247,000 for a house), but it also displays one of the smallest price gaps between the two properties: $57,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, closing the price gap can take more than five years’ income (ratio at least 5.0) in six secondary cities, all of them in either the LA metro area (Irvine, Glendale, Torrance, and Huntington Beach) or in the Miami metro (Hialeah and Hollywood, FL).

Notably, the cities that registered the highest population gains recently are secondary: Enterprise, NV (69%), Frisco, TX (33%), and Santa Clarita, CA (26%). In fact, seven of the top 10 cities with the highest increases in population between 2016 and 2021 were secondary. Frisco and Santa Clarita also happened to enjoy some of the highest median incomes among the 200 largest U.S. cities, well above $100,000.

To read the full report, including more data, charts and methodology, click here.

About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years of writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is an avid jazz lover and likes to read. She can be reached at [email protected].

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