The 13 Most Expensive Cities in the US

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February 9, 2022

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Whether you are considering relocating for a job or want the life experience of moving to another city, it’s helpful to understand the cost of living there. Since housing is the most significant determinant in a city’s cost of living, it’s also important to know the median home prices in a city before you make a big move.

Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in the thirteen most expensive cities in the US to help you make an informed decision about areas that you may be considering moving to.

Couple walking on beach in Honolulu

High Cost of Living Cities in the US

 

1. Honolulu, HI

A steady South Pacific breeze, beautiful beaches, and cascading mountains make Honolulu a dream location for many. You also get to celebrate for three days each year at the Honolulu Festival which features a vibrant blend of Asian, Pacific, and Hawaiian cultures culminating in a grand parade through Waikiki.

It all sounds incredible, but how affordable is it to live there? The first thing to keep in mind is that Honolulu is considered one of the most isolated big cities on earth so most food and supplies must be imported which adds to costs. Additionally, Hawaii is the most expensive state for energy in the nation, with the highest average monthly electricity bill, according to a report by Finder.com.

According to Zillow, the median home value in Honolulu is currently $779,742.

 

2. New York, NY

Frank Sinatra famously sang that “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” though one has to wonder if “Ol’ Blue Eyes” also factored in the high cost of living in NYC.  That’s because New York City has the distinction of being the most expensive city in the United States. In fact, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research, the cost of living in Manhattan is a jaw-dropping 154% higher than the national average. Given the high cost of living there, it’s not uncommon for an average salary to be unable to offset the Big Apple’s sky-high living expenses.

As Frank would say “it’s up to you” to determine if you can afford to live in the Big Apple.

Zillow lists the median home value in NYC as $722,787.

 

3. Berkeley, CA

The best place to get a view of Berkeley as well as the entire Bay Area is from the observation deck of the Campanile. It’s the third-tallest bell and clock tower in the world and features three daily concerts.  Bangles singer Susanna Hoff has performed there but back when she graduated from UC Berkeley in 1980, it’s safe to say that the cost of living and home prices were much lower than what they are now. In fact, according to the Best Places website, Berkeley now has a cost of living that’s well over double the national average. You will have to decide if it’s worth the amazing views.

Median home value: $1.5 Million

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4. Washington D.C.

The home of the United State's Federal Government sits at the #4 spot on our list. The robust career hub in Washington D.C. hosts dozens of big-name private sector companies and government agencies, and its no surprise that the District of Columbia  has an average household income of $139,500 in 2021 (DC Health Matters). The Nation's Capital brings in tons of international and intranational tourism, with people flocking to the Smithsonian, Washington Monument, Capitol Building and more. A hot job market, attractive tourism spots, diverse dining and entertainment options put Washington D.C.'s home value in the top 10, all while home prices have increased by around 6% over the last year.

Median home value: $691,607

5. San Francisco, CA

Is there anything cooler for local baseball fans than paddling after a home run that was hit into McCovey Cove? This unofficial section of Giants’ ballpark and named after former Giants great Willie McCovey offers incredible experiences from April to October in the “City by the Bay.”

However, if you decide to move to the epicenter of technology and financial services it will cost you. In fact, San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to buy a home in the US. Moreover, the median home price and median monthly rent in the city are both four times more than the national average. Much of that has to do with the fact that the city is surrounded by water and local zoning laws that restrict building heights to 40 feet in most districts. 

Median home value: $1.5 Million

 

6. Santa Barbara, CA

Old Mission Santa Barbara with its St. Francis Courtyard is a living national landmark that “welcomes all while working for a more just future.” Locals are also surrounded by the Santa Ynez Mountains and beautiful weather nearly year-round. But how affordable is it?  With four cities in the seven listed here, California is already a very expensive place to live. However, according to data from AreaVibes, the cost of living in Santa Barbara is 40% higher than the California average and 97% higher than the national average.

Median home value: $1.5 Million

 

7. Anchorage, AK

One of the perks of living in Anchorage is free winter admission to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It’s located in the traditional territory of Eklutna, a Dena’ina Athabascan tribe, and is one of America’s cultural treasures.

Anchorage Skyline

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and located on the Cook Inlet amidst the breathtaking Chugach, Kenai, and Talkeetna mountains. It’s also surprisingly expensive to live there. According to Salary.com, Anchorage has a cost of living that is 37% higher than the national average. 

Reasons for the high cost of living are primarily due to its location and the need to ship and fly in necessities. This causes the cost of goods and services to be much higher than in other areas of the United States.

Median home value: $351, 177

 

8. Oakland, CA

No matter where the football Raiders play, for many people they will always be synonymous with Oakland and legendary coach John Madden. Despite being located only minutes across the Bay from San Francisco, Oakland is a distinct city with its own maritime history, warmer temperatures, and highly rated airport. Even without being able to tailgate in any more Raiders home games, there’s still plenty to do in the city. For example, a local “secret” is a neighborhood called Hive Oakland. This gathering spot in Oakland's Uptown District is thriving with the arts, diversity, and some of the best mezcal and tequila to be found anywhere. The catch is that it will cost you if you choose to live there. That’s because according to PayScale, Oakland’s cost of living is 49% higher than the national average.

Median home value: $951, 792

 

9. Boston, MA 

Everyone knows of Boston’s historical significance and are familiar with the Boston Tea Party and the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. However, many may not be aware that the country’s first chocolate factory was opened in Boston in 1765 by Walter Baker, or that the city’s nickname of “Beantown” literally got its name from the fact that the first settlers there loved beans.  

Dave Loggins famously sang “Please come to Boston for the springtime” so not surprisingly the city also boasts America’s first botanical garden (Public Garden, 1837) and oldest public park (Boston Common, 1634.) These two areas are known as the dual jewels of the Emerald Necklace. The area features an ice-skating rink in winter, formal flower beds, a lagoon with weeping willows, and the famous waterfowl-shaped Swann Boats.

It's a historic and beautiful place to wander but how much will it cost you? According to Numbeo, Boston ranks 13th in the current cost of living index per city and Zillow lists the median home value in Boston at $696,000.

 

10. Seattle, WA 

This city on Puget Sound is surrounded by water, mountains, evergreen forests, and technology companies!

Perhaps you’ve seen inspirational videos that feature people throwing forty-pound fish at Pike Place Fish? No stop in Seattle would be complete without a visit to the public farmer's market overlooking Elliott Bay and the Seattle Waterfront.

Originally opened in 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the nation. Here, locals enjoy eateries, fresh produce stands, fishmongers, and craft stalls. Locals and tourists alike enjoy entertainment during their meal or stroll by way of the ubiquitous buskers. There are magicians, piano players, and entertainers of every sort.

When locals want to get away, they always have the option of hiking Mt Rainier. It’s 14,410 feet above sea level, has an active volcano as well as the most glaciated peak in the United States.

This all sounds amazing but how affordable is it? According to Zillow the typical home value of homes in Seattle is $888,202.

 

11. Miami, FL 

Mojitos, watersports, and a bustling nightlife land Miami the #11 spot on our list of Most Expensive Cities. Home of the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Marlins, this city is a hotbed of culture, cuisine and entertainment. These amenities and 0 State income tax have made Miami one of the most flocked-to cities in the entire country.

Miami Skyline

The strong demand for housing in South Florida has increased home prices by a whopping 17% from 2020 to 2021. Despite the rising prices, Miami remains a big target for homebuyers around the world. 

Median home value: $440,360

 

12. Philadelphia, PA 

No visit to this historic city would be complete without a visit to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and The Franklin Institute. You’ll also want to check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art and climb the steps in the shadow of the Rocky Statue.

However, locals will tell you that what they enjoy doing in their free time is grabbing a cheesesteak and spending some time in the city’s Fairmount Park. The place with the best cheesesteak is always a source of great debate. A few of the most well-known establishments are Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks which are in South Philadelphia. However, other well-known cheesesteak shops include Jim’s on South Street near Center City and Dalessandro’s in the city’s Roxborough section.

It's not far from there that you will find the shaded woods and waterfalls of Fairmount Park’s Valley Green and the Wissahickon Creek.

Edgar Allen Poe once described the area this way. “Now the Wissahickon of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue.” The good news is the area looks the same way today as it did back then.

However, the question for possible homebuyers is how remarkable are home prices in Philadelphia? According to Zillow, the typical home value of homes in Philadelphia is $228,079.

 

13. Pittsburgh, PA 

Perhaps no city in the U.S. has been more reimagined than Pittsburgh. In addition to strolling along three different rivers, things to do here include a walk through the Strip District, a ride up the Duquesne Incline, or a visit to The Andy Warhol Museum.

Pittsburgh is synonymous with the steel industry. Pittsburgh's Steel Valley along the Monongahela River made the steel that helped build America including producing heavy equipment for the US Military. The city was also the site of the Battle of Homestead in July of 1892. This was an industrial lockout and strike of steelworkers that culminated in a battle between strikers and private security agents.  

The challenges of making a transition from working in the steel mills was highlighted in the 1983 movie All the Right Moves which starred Tom Cruise.

So, is a move to Pittsburgh the right move for you? According to Zillow, the typical home value of homes in Pittsburgh is $222,884. 

 

Conclusion

The most expensive cities in the US also boast vibrant art scenes, strong communities, and jobs in the new economy. However, logistics and a tight housing market are factors that have driven up the cost of living in these otherwise great locations to hang your hat.

Nonetheless, the best place to live is always the one that is the best place for you. Ready to see how much house you can afford? We’re happy to help! Call 888-673-5521 to speak with one of our mortgage consultants about a mortgage option that works for you

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