Mapping The Most (And Least) Valuable States In America

Everyone knows location is the most important part of real estate. You can’t change where your house is (all things being equal). You have to consider school districts, crime rates, commute times—the list goes on and on. It can be much simpler when you’re considering buying a home to compare apples to apples so you can see how the real estate market differs according to location.

So created a new visualization showing land and housing prices at a glance.


The blue dots represent the value of an acre of land, and the red circles indicate the median value of a home. The bigger the blue dot and the larger the red circle, the more expensive it is to become a property owner. Small circles and dots likewise indicate a very low cost of purchasing property. The home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Consumer Survey, and the numbers behind the land values come from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

As notes, several things stand out in our illustration.

An acre of land is much more valuable in the Northeast compared to any other part of the country. This is partly because the Eastern seaboard is a very densely populated area with several large cities, most notably New York. It is also a historical artifact that Europeans settled New England first and then moved west, meaning that New York and Massachusetts have some of the oldest modern structures anywhere in the U.S. In other words, Eastern cities are a lot older than Midwestern cities, so there isn’t a lot of farmland for suburban expansion anymore. We should also mention that in terms of geographic size, these are some of the smallest states in the country. Matter of fact, the three states where the cost of an acre of land is greater than the median price of a house are all located on the East Coast, and they happen to be some of the smallest states in the Union (Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey).

Median home values (the red circles) are a different and more complicated story. California has the most expensive houses by far ($449,100). Oregon and Washington boast similarly high housing valuations as well ($264,100 and $284,000, respectively). It is also expensive to buy a home on the East Coast with six out of the top ten states with the most expensive median home values.

But there’s a noticeable dip in both housing and land prices in southern and midwestern states. Prices slowly rise the further you move from east to west. This highlights unique economic developments over the last several years, including the boom in oil exploration in North Dakota and the growth of Western cities thanks to young people,like Denver. Snowbirds also tend to move to Florida and Arizona after they retire, which also pushes up housing prices in those places.

Top 5 Most Expensive States to Buy a Home 

  1. California - Value per acre: $39,092; Median Home Value: $449,100
  2. Massachusetts - Value per acre: $102,214;  Median Home Value: $352,100
  3. New Jersey - Value per acre: $196,410; Median Home Value: $322,600
  4. Maryland - Value per acre: $75,429; Median Home Value: $299,800
  5. New York - Value per acre: 41,314; Median Home Value: $293,500

Top 5 Cheapest States to Buy a Home

  1. West Virginia - Value per acre: $10,537; Median Home Value: $112,100
  2. Mississippi - Value per acre: $5,565; Median Home Value: 112,700
  3. Arkansas - Value per acre: $6,739; Median Home Value: $120,700
  4. Oklahoma - Value per acre: $7,364; Median Home Value: $126,800
  5. Kentucky - Value per acre: $7,209; Median Home Value: $130,000

All this shows that the laws of supply and demand are alive and well in the real estate market. You can easily find cheap acres of land where they are plentiful and un-useful (sorry, Nevada), but owning property is a lot more expensive in smaller places crowded with lots of people. As always, location, location, location.


Drop-Hammer Fri, 10/06/2017 - 22:53 Permalink

The whole real estate thing is a load of horse-shite.  Real estate is only valuable when you sell it.  Til then, it is just a headache-inducing albatross around your neck.

Juliette Drop-Hammer Sat, 10/07/2017 - 07:18 Permalink

Not if you build in bricks and mortar, or concrete, or a combination thereof (concrete for the cellar, bricks above ground level). No maintenance, no termites, no rot, no mildew ... This also means concrete floors of course.Besides you should buy a condo house, rent out three or five flats and live in one. Let the tenants pay all of your community taxes etc. You won't even have to work anymore.

In reply to by Drop-Hammer

LyLo Juliette Sat, 10/07/2017 - 09:29 Permalink

My grandparents had an amazing brick house with concrete floors and a ton of glassblock.  (Straight up looked like a prison, though.)  It was great and everything...  Right up until my aunt moved my grandma to another home, and didn't turn off the water.  In northern Ohio.  In the winter. Suddenly, it really sucked that the house was all brick with concrete floors.  (True story, bro.)

In reply to by Juliette

HopefulCynical LyLo Sat, 10/07/2017 - 10:15 Permalink

That's a problem with stupid, not real estate.People who say RE is a bad investment fall into two categories, from what I've seen. First, people who don't do their homework (independent appraisals/inspections,etc.) and who don't want to be bothered doing routine maintenance. Those folks wind up buying houses with problems, and then they don't want to put the work into fixing them, so they pay through the nose to have the work done. Second, people who don't figure out that you have to throw every spare penny at the mortgage until it's paid off; every cent above the monthly payment amount has to, by law, go strictly to principle. (I don't think they've changed that, but given the banksters' hold on government, it's possible.)Live somewhere for 15 years, and get a big chunk of $$$ when you leave - or - live somewhere for 15 years, and turn in the keys when you leave.Now, if you're a nomad and aren't going to be in one place for more than a few years, then yeah, renting is probably the way to go. Just make sure your income compensates for the fact that your rent payment is basically flushed down the sewer every month. Houses are a good way to build wealth over time, if you buy them right and aren't a lazybone.

In reply to by LyLo

Jack's Raging … HopefulCynical Sat, 10/07/2017 - 15:44 Permalink

Nomad here. The way I see it, real estate is very relative. If done right (quality construction), done by yourself, in such a manner than you can pay the thing off in 10-15 years...yeah. Good deal. This is especially true if you're approaching the higher bounds of your income potential and have reasonable certainty of the future.

That's a really rosy picture though. Stagflation sabotages the ability for the overwhelming percentage of the population to achieve the above conditions. Furthermore, the notion that renting is wasted money is a fallacy. You're getting a place to live and keep your belongings. It's no different than any other transaction. Beyond that, With the glut of labor out there, mobility and adaptability are essential. The opportunity cost of being anchored in one place is tremendously greater than people seem to realize. I tend to relocate to a different geography about every 3 years on average. Proverbially speaking, I take 1/2 a step back and move 2 steps forward every time. Moving is easier and cheaper to do than ever before in human history. Being mobile brings greater focus to what is important, and encourages you to shed many encumbrances--financial and otherwise. The amount of revolving obligations stays very low, because you neither acquire them, nor maintain them for very long. The only real problem I have is not being able to maintain a robust set of tools, or have a place to fabricate or work on my vehicle. I've seen a lot of places, and met many different people. I haven't yet found the right combination to convinced me to die there.

In reply to by HopefulCynical

Drop-Hammer Juliette Sat, 10/07/2017 - 10:42 Permalink

Been there and done that.  All of my properties are in communities that have started to raise my property assessments and thus property taxes (and everyone else's besides) to help bail them out of their fiscal mismanagement/corruption sh*t-hole).  Then there is the corresponding increase in property insurance.  I sat down and figured that I had multiple depreciating assets that required maintenance/upkeep, land-scaping, multiple roofs that would need replacement, multiple HVAC systems that required maintenance/upkeep and eventual replacement, multiple water heaters that would require replacement, multiple plumbing/electric systems that would require repairs, tenant wear and tear/damages, cleaning up/repairing units when tenants move, and of course the mortgage payments (jew debt I got into and would owe three times what I originally borrowed).  And finally, I had to ask myself the question as to what was the added value to my life and time and what was the cost to my peace of mind.  My answer was to sell off everything, bank the cash, and be content with my retirement pension.  So, different strokes for different folks.

In reply to by Juliette

Duc888 Fri, 10/06/2017 - 22:56 Permalink

  There are still some very good deals to be had landwise in NH and VT.  Just gotta pick the correct TOWN to reside in because of property taxes.

Jack's Raging … Duc888 Sat, 10/07/2017 - 15:49 Permalink

NH does have great land prices, and in some places the taxes are extraordinary low. NH is very much on my list (FSP), but I just haven't been able to get it to work professionally there. I deal in heavy/complex fabrication & construction--which NH is just void of. Another absolutely BEAUTIFUL state with incredibly low land prices and property taxes is Tennessee. I am prospecting going that direction when my current projects are concluded.

In reply to by Duc888

swmnguy Juggernaut x2 Sat, 10/07/2017 - 09:23 Permalink

On paper, they use the same US Dollar in California and New York City or Boston as they do in Arkansas or South Dakota, but that's not really true.  The effects of Financialization in the Elite enclaves puts their version of the US Dollar on about the level of the Brazilian Real; about 30 cents.So your median house will be $600k, and your median income will be $150k, and you're still paying more than you can afford for a house.  Rent will be on the same scale, as will gasoline and many groceries and necessities of living.Or you could live in rural MN, where I grew up, and buy a house for $80k.  But you're making about $25k, working full time.It's pretty basic economics.

In reply to by Juggernaut x2