📏 Homes Are Getting Bigger AND More Expensive 📏
The median square footage for U.S. homes has increased 52% since 1980, but the median sale price has increased 609% in the same time period.
Median Price per Square Foot by Metro Area | Metro Area Trends | Changes in Square Footage Over Time | How the Median Price per Square Foot Has Increased | Comparison to 2008 | Most Expensive ZIP Codes by Price per Square Foot | Price per Square Foot Calculator | Methodology | FAQ
In a world grappling with record-breaking heat waves, unexpected disruptions in global food supply chains, and the perplexing notion of extraterrestrial encounters, the escalating cost of living still stands as a tangible concern.
We’ve already found that soaring home prices are connected to exceeding inflation rates and the surge in homelessness. Now, we examine if Americans are actually paying more for more space and how the price per square foot of homes has evolved over time.
By analyzing evolving price-per-square-foot metrics, we discern how affordability has shifted over time, drawing parallels with the 2007-2008 financial crisis and highlighting the drastic difference between now and the 1980s. Our research aims to provide insights into the relationship between housing costs and the size of homes Americans can actually afford.
We analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Realtor.com. Prices and square footage are based on the most recent, comprehensive national data, which is from 2022. For the 50 most-populous metros, we used data through June 2023.
Price per Square Foot Statistics 👣
- The median sale price per square foot for new single-family homes across the U.S. has increased 368% since 1980 — from $41 to $192. Jump to section👇
- The median square footage of new single-family homes in the U.S. increased 52% from 1980 to 2022 — from 1,570 square feet to 2,383 square feet.👇
- Adjusting for inflation, the median sale price per square foot for new single-family homes in the U.S. has increased 32% since 1980 — from $146 to $192.👇
- Compared to 2008, home buyers today face an 85% higher median sale price per square foot for houses.👇
- In the past five years, Providence, Rhode Island, has seen the biggest increase in median square footage (11%).👇
- Cleveland is the least expensive city based on the price per square foot ($133 per square foot).👇
- The most expensive city based on the price per square foot is San Jose, California ($845).👇
- The most expensive ZIP code by price per square foot is Point Reyes Station, California ($20,677), located just outside the San Francisco Bay Area. For comparison, the Bay Area has a price per square foot of $705 per square foot.👇
Median Square Footage of New Single-Family Homes in the U.S. (1980-2022)
Last year, we reported that the median square footage of new single-family homes increased as the average number of people per household slightly decreased since 1980. Now, the average number of people per household has slightly increased from 2.51 people to 2.6 people. This may be because of higher living costs over the past year, leading to more shared housing.
According to international standards, a residence is considered a single-family home if it’s at least 120 square feet. For comparison, the average American has ample space. The median square footage of a new single-family home in 2022 was 2,383 square feet. In 1980, it was 1,570 square feet.
That averages to about 916 square feet per person in 2022. It’s less than the square footage per person in 2021, which was 949 square feet, but more than what Americans in 1980 experienced — 569 square feet per person.
However, some ZIP codes are so expensive in terms of the price per square foot that the typical square footage is below 600 square feet, while home prices are over $1 million.
Median Sale Price of New Single Family-Homes Not Adjusted for Inflation (1980-2022)
The landscape for new single-family homes in 2022 revealed significant shifts in size and price. The median square footage in 2022 was 2,383 with a median price of $457,800. That comes out to about $192 per square foot or 368% more than the price per square foot in 1980 ($41).
Compared to 1980, the median square footage has expanded just 52%, while the median sale price has surged by an astonishing 609% during the same period. The median sale price in 1980 was just $64,600, or about $41 per square foot.
This disparity highlights a staggering reality: The rise in the median sale price has outpaced the increase in the median square footage by a striking 1,075% since 1980. This divide has further widened in recent years, with the rise in the median sale price surpassing the growth in the median square footage by 1,574% since 2020 and by 1,234% since 2022.
Adjusting the Median Price per Square Foot for Inflation
Encouragingly, when adjusting for inflation, changes in the price per square foot versus changes in the square footage seem less daunting. However, the numbers are still dire for the average home buyer.
Since 1980, the increase in the median price per square foot has outpaced inflation by 44%. Notably, this trend has accelerated over time, with the margin increasing by 75% since 2022.
A notable turning point emerged in the late 2000s when the rise in the median sale price per square foot exceeded inflation by 136% after the 2008 financial crisis — a notable leap from the 95% margin observed in 2000.
Since 2008, home prices have been on a considerable upward trajectory, whereas square footage barely keeps up. All in all, Americans are paying more for less.
|Year||Median Square Footage||Median Sale Price Adjusted for Inflation||Median Price/Sq. Ft. Adjusted for Inflation||% Increase in Price/Sq. Ft. Since 1980|
The Current Generation of Home Buyers Is Worse Off Than in 2008
Last year, we focused on the differing housing markets for boomers and millennials when they entered their 30s. This year, we’ll compare 2023 numbers with 2008, the peak of the financial crisis. That year, many millennials entered or graduated college with a dire financial outlook. Since then, the cost of living has only increased while wages haven’t kept up.
In 2022, millennials in their 30s encountered a substantial 161% surge in the median home sale price per square foot compared to their boomer counterparts at a similar age. Taking inflation into account, the disparity remains pronounced. Millennials in their 30s face a 10% increase in the median sale price per square foot, surpassing that of boomers at the same life stage.
This year, a similar narrative unfolds. Unadjusted, the median sale price per square foot for new single-family homes has soared 39% since 2019. When factoring in inflation, this increase remains significant at 21% during the same time period. These figures paint a sobering picture of the ongoing challenges younger generations experience in the housing market, both in the immediate and historical contexts.
Compared to the peak of the financial crisis, the median sale price per square foot for new single-family homes has demonstrated notable growth, marking an 85% increase without accounting for inflation. However, when adjusting for inflation, this increase remains substantial, albeit moderated, at 36% since 2008.
Back then, the median square footage stood at 2,234, while the median sale price, not adjusted for inflation, reached $232,100, resulting in a median price per square foot of $104.
|2008 Housing Market At a Glance|
|Year||Median Sale Price||Median Square Footage||Median Price per Square Foot||% Increase in Price per Square Foot, Adjusted for Inflation||% Increase in Price per Square Foot, Not Adjusted for Inflation|
Price per Square Foot Calculator
Wondering how you would fare in other decades, or curious if things were truly better just a few years ago? Use our national price per square foot calculator to get side-by-side comparisons for different years.
The 50 Most-Populous Cities, Ranked by Highest Price per Square Foot
|Rank||City||Median Price per Sq. Ft. (2023)||Median Price per Sq. Ft (2018)||% Increase in Median Price per Sq. Ft (2018-2023)||Median Square Footage (2023)||Median Home Sale Price (June 2023)|
|1||San Jose, CA||$845||$716||18%||1,772||$1,498,000|
|2||San Francisco, CA||$705||$554||27.3%||1,632||$1,150,000|
|3||Los Angeles, CA||$641||$430||49.1%||1,830||$1,172,450|
|4||San Diego, CA||$587||$372||57.8%||1,867||$1,095,000|
|5||New York, NY||$490||$292||67.8%||1,530||$749,000|
|19||Las Vegas, NV||$243||$172||41.3%||1,870||$455,000|
|22||Salt Lake City, UT||$235||$141||66.7%||2,661||$625,720|
|35||Virginia Beach, VA||$195||$140||39.3%||2,025||$395,000|
|36||Kansas City, MO||$193||$128||50.8%||2,352||$453,363|
|38||New Orleans, LA||$186||$150||24%||1,854||$345,000|
|39||San Antonio, TX||$182||$124||46.8%||2,020||$367,325|
|43||Oklahoma City, OK||$170||$111||53.2%||2,062||$350,000|
|44||St. Louis, MO||$170||$125||36%||1,700||$289,448|
San Jose, California, is the most expensive metro in the U.S. based on the price per square foot. The median price per square foot in San Jose is $845. That’s nearly 4x the national median ($214) and over 6x the price in Cleveland, the most affordable city based on price per square foot ($133).
Most Bang for Your Buck: Least Expensive Cities Based on the Price per Square Foot
These are the 10 least expensive cities in the U.S. based on the price per square foot. Southern and Midwestern states tend to really shine in this regard. Despite home prices increasing across the country, these regions are still typically cheaper than their Northeastern and Western counterparts.
Due to a slowdown in home sales, many areas are transitioning to a buyer’s market. As such, home prices are steadying, and buyers are seeing more reasonable home prices compared to cities in California, New York, and other expensive states.
|10 Least Expensive Cities Based on Price per Square Foot|
|Rank||City||Median Price per Sq. Ft. (2023)||Median Sq. Ft. (2023)||Median Home Price (2023)|
|7||Oklahoma City, OK||$350,000||2,062||$170|
|8||St. Louis, MO||$289,448||1,700||$170|
Least Bang for Your Buck: Most Expensive Cities Based on the Price per Square Foot
The most expensive cities in terms of the price per square foot are mostly in California, with six cities in the top 10. Expensive states also tend to be those that Americans leave. California and New York are represented on our list of the 10 most expensive cities based on the price per square foot, and both are in the top three states that Americans moved from in 2022.
|10 Most Expensive Cities Based on Price per Square Foot|
|Rank||City||Median Price per Sq. Ft. (2023)||Median Sq. Ft. (2023)||Median Home Price (2023)|
|1||San Jose, CA||$845||1,772||$1,498,000|
|2||San Francisco, CA||$705||1,632||$1,150,000|
|3||Los Angeles, CA||$641||1,830||$1,172,450|
|4||San Diego, CA||$587||1,867||$1,095,000|
|5||New York, NY||$490||1,530||$749,000|
10 Most Expensive ZIP Codes by Price per Square Foot
Zooming in, we looked at the most expensive ZIP codes – or neighborhoods – in the U.S. based on the price per square foot. Unsurprisingly, California takes the cake with six ZIP codes represented in the top 10.
Due to rising home prices, even suburbs and rural areas are seeing increases in home prices. When there isn’t a lot of inventory in an area, incredibly expensive properties can really drive up typical home prices in a neighborhood, as seen below.
|Rank||ZIP code||Closest Metro Area||City||Median Listing Price||Median Square Footage||Price per Square Foot|
|1||94956||San Francisco, CA||Point Reyes Station, CA||$11,000,000||532||$20,677|
|2||94970||San Francisco, CA||Stinson Beach, CA||$6,395,000||1,842||$3,472|
|3||10527||New York, NY||Granite Springs, NY||$25,562,500||7,766||$3,292|
|4||92661||Los Angeles, CA||Newport Beach, CA||$7,483,750||2,720||$2,751|
|5||95140||San Jose, CA||Mount Hamilton, CA||$2,630,000||1,000||$2,630|
|6||2199||Boston, MA||Boston, MA||$5,690,000||2,204||$2,582|
|7||94304||San Jose, CA||Palo Alto, CA||$53,900,000||21,082||$2,557|
|8||78954||Houston, TX||Round Top, TX||$2,156,250||892||$2,417|
|9||94971||San Francisco, CA||Tomales, CA||$3,631,250||1,612||$2,253|
|10||80101||Denver, CO||Agate, CO||$3,549,500||1,720||$2,064|
Top Changes in Price per Square Foot (June 2018 to June 2023)
Below, we compare the 10 cities with the largest changes in the price per square foot and the 10 cities with the smallest changes in the price per square foot. Cities that made our list of the most and least expensive cities overall are also represented on this list.
Three Florida cities make the top 10 for the largest changes in the price per square foot. Florida is a Southern state that still has a reputation for being affordable compared to states such as California and New York. However, it’s actually one of the most expensive states for homes in the South. It’s no surprise, then, that Tampa, Florida, saw the largest increase in price per square foot in the past five years (72%).
|10 Largest Changes in Price per Square Foot||10 Smallest Changes in Price per Square Foot|
|1. Tampa, FL (72%)||1. Baltimore, MD (13%)|
|2. New York, NY (68%)||2. San Jose, CA (18%)|
|3. Salt Lake City, UT (67%)||3. Detroit, MI (21%)|
|4. Austin, TX (66%)||4. New Orleans, LA (24%)|
|5. Nashville, TN (63%)||5. Cleveland, OH (24%)|
|6. Phoenix, AZ (62%)||6. San Francisco, CA (27%)|
|7. Boston, MA (60%)||7. Birmingham, AL (29%)|
|8. Orlando, FL (60%)||8. Chicago, IL (29%)|
|9. Miami, FL (60%)||9. Providence, RI (35%)|
|10. Charlotte, NC (59%)||10. Minneapolis, MN (35%)|
Only Eight Cities Saw Increases in Both Square Footage and Price Since 2018
Ninety-five percent of metros where increases in the price per square foot exceeded 50% from 2018 to 2023 also saw decreases in the median square footage.
Essentially, in the typical metro area, prices are increasing far faster than square footage. Americans aren’t paying more because they’re buying more, they’re paying more for the same size house or, in most cases, less.
Similar to last year, large increases in the price per square foot over the past five years suggest that home prices are surging faster than the growth in square footage. The trend remains unchanged this year and is consistent across our 50 most-populous metros.
This year, the change in the price per square footage was less than the national median (53.6%) in 43 cities. California metro areas, New York City, Boston, and Miami skew this because of how expensive they are compared to most cities.
There are only eight metros that saw increases in square footage and price over the past year. However, buyers shouldn’t get too excited. Many of these cities are still expensive. Although they may get slightly more square footage, they’re definitely paying for it.
|City||Median Price per Sq. Ft. (2023)||Median Price per Sq. Ft (2018)||% Increase in Median Price per Sq. Ft (2018-2023)||% Increase in Median Price (2018-2023)||% Increase in Sq. Ft. (2018-2023)||Median Square Footage (2023)||Median Home Price (June 2023)|
|Kansas City, MO||$193||$128||51%||51.9%||1%||2,352||$453,363|
|Virginia Beach, VA||$195||$211||39%||41.1%||1%||2,025||$395,000|
|San Jose, CA||$845||$264||18%||19.8%||1%||1,772||$1,498,000|
Top Changes in Overall Square Footage (June 2018 to June 2023)
The table below highlight the cities with the largest increases and decreases in just square footage, not factoring in price. In our study, only eight metros actually experienced an increase in square footage in the past five years.
Unfortunately for many Americans, several cities actually experienced decreases in the typical square footage over the past five years. If home buyers feel like they’re actually paying more for smaller homes, they would be correct for several major cities.
|Cities With Increases in Square Footage Since 2018||Cities With Largest Decreases in Square Footage Since 2018|
|1. Providence, RI (11%)||1. Charlotte, NC (-22%)|
|2. Hartford, CT (10%)||2. New York, NY (-20%)|
|3. Sacramento, CA (6%)||3. Houston, TX (-18%)|
|4. Memphis, TN (5%)||4. San Antonio, TX (-16%)|
|5. San Jose, CA (1%)||5. Indianapolis, IN (-16%)|
|6. Virginia Beach, VA (1%)||6. Louisville, KY (-14%)|
|7. Kansas City, MO (1%)||7. Atlanta, GA (-14%)|
|8. Cleveland, OH (11%)||8. Dallas, TX (-13.%)|
|–||9. Raleigh, NC (-12%)|
|–||10. Detroit, MI (-11%)|
Top Changes in Sale Price (June 2018 to June 2023)
In the past five years, cities around the country experienced notable changes in their home sale prices. Although cities such as San Francisco and San Jose remain the most expensive cities per square foot, they actually saw some of the lowest increases in prices. Decreasing prices may be caused by the limited pool of Americans with sufficient income to afford these expensive houses.
The list highlights the 10 largest increases and decreases in house prices, with Tampa and Nashville seeing significant price hikes, while Detroit and Baltimore experienced less significant increases in price.
|10 Largest Increases in Home Prices Since 2018||10 Smallest Increases in Home Prices Since 2018|
|1. Tampa, FL (60%)||1. Detroit, MI (6%)|
|2. Nashville, TN (56%)||2. Baltimore, MD (13%)|
|3. Memphis, TN (55%)||3. Houston, TX (15%)|
|4. Austin, TX (55%)||4. Chicago, IL (16%)|
|5. San Diego, CA (54%)||5. San Francisco, CA (16%)|
|6. Kansas City, MO (52%)||6. San Jose, CA (20%)|
|7. Miami, FL (52%)||7. Louisville, KY (20%)|
|8. Phoenix, AZ (50%)||8. New Orleans, LA (21%)|
|9.Hartford, CT (50%)||9. San Antonio, TX (23%)|
|10. Boston, MA (50%)||10. Minneapolis, MN (24%)|
Median sale prices and square footage of new single-family homes are retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent report of Annual Characteristics of New Housing Data, which includes data on sale price and square footage for new single-family homes sold in the U.S. from 1978-2022.
For more recent home prices and square footage — and for a snapshot of the overall market nationally and in each metro area, rather than just newly constructed single-family homes — we used Realtor.com’s historical housing inventory data. This includes data on the housing market that spans 2016-2023. This dataset allows us to see what size homes are being posted for sale and for how much in each metro area, giving us a more precise idea of how this ratio is changing over time, as well as the demand and market value for square footage at the metro level.
For an overall historical measure of inflation, we used CPIAUCSL, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: All Items. CPIAUCSL is a measure of the average monthly change in the price of goods and services paid by urban consumers between any two time periods, made available by the St. Louis Fed.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The most expensive city based on price per square foot is San Jose, California ($845 per square foot). Learn more.
Cleveland is the least expensive city based on price per square foot ($133 per square foot). Learn more.
Price per square foot is calculated by dividing a home’s sale price by its total square footage.
The average price per square foot in Texas is $209 per square foot. This is based on the average of the typical prices per square foot in the four major metro areas in Texas (Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio). Learn more.
A good price per square foot in Los Angeles is anything near or below $641 per square foot, the median price per square foot in the L.A. metro area. Learn more.
Price per square foot is used to measure how much home a buyer is actually receiving in relation to the overall cost of the home. It is calculated by dividing a home’s sale price by its total square footage.