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Million-dollar homes aren't the mansions they used to be

What homes can you buy for $1 million?
What kind of home can you buy for $1 million? 01:04

How much house will a million dollars buy you? Across most of the U.S., about 2,200 square feet, four bedrooms and two-and-half bathrooms, according to Zillow. 

In short, not nearly as much as a million bucks used to buy. Just five years ago, that same million would get you an additional 350 square feet and a half-bathroom.

Indeed, rising real estate prices have downgraded the scale and status of the $1 million home, which in some parts of the U.S. is now the price of entry for homeownership, an analysis by the real estate firm makes clear. 

What's as true as ever, by contrast, is that just how much house you get depends on — yes — location, location, location.

Texas, home of everything bigger, is where a million dollars will stretch the furthest, such as a 7,200-square-foot mansion with an indoor swimming pool, three clawfoot bathtubs and Spanish-style tilework in El Paso. 

In Spring, Texas, a town on the outskirts of Houston, a million-dollar-house has a touch under 6,000 square feet, while buyers in Corpus Christi and Plano can get more than 5,000 square feet in their million-dollar property, such as this four-bedroom, four-bathroom Plano home complete with a backyard pool listed at $975,000.

This four-bedroom, four-bathroom mansion in Plano, Texas, measures 4,100 square feet and is listed at $975,000. Courtesy Zillow

The cities that offer the biggest bang per million tend to be in the South. Buyers in Knoxville, Tennessee, can expect to get 6,500 square feet of living space, while those in Memphis can rest easy-enough in 5,500 square feet. St. Louis; Greensboro, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; and Tulsa, Oklahoma, round out the best value list. 

At the other end of the spectrum: California. In the state's priciest city, San Francisco, $1 million won't even get you a second bathroom. A typical single-family listing at that asking price offers 1,150 square feet, three bedrooms, and one bath. In nearby Fremont, Oakland and San Jose, $1 million will get you about 1,500 square feet.

This 1,060-square-foot house in San Jose, California, has two bedrooms and one bathroom on a 4,000-square-foot lot. It is listed at $998,000. Courtesy Zillow

Rounding out the list of cities where a million likely means living in less than 2,000 square feet: Honolulu, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. 

Nationwide, the median home size measures 1,500 square feet, according to the Census bureau, although new houses have been getting bigger and bigger. In 1999, just over a third of new single-family homes measured more than 2,500 square feet. Last year, half did.

At the same time, both economic and population growth concentrated in av ever-smaller number of cities have pushed even unspectacular housing out of the reach of many people.

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