How much property would a million dollars get you a decade ago?

It’s no secret that property prices aren’t as cheap as they used to be. There are many factors behind this, but the primary one is inflation. Over time, inflation as a result of the Great Recession in 2007, and the subsequent housing market crash, have led to increased property prices. This has been furthered by urbanization, i.e. the more built-up an area gets – with the addition of schools, malls, and other amenities – the greater the property value becomes. But just how much has the property market changed in the last decade?

To find out just how much prices have increased, our investment expert here at ibrinfo compared how many square feet (sq. ft) of property $1 million dollars could get you in 2012 and 2022.

We looked at price statistics taken from Zillow and Redfin for the top cities in all 50 states – to investigate how much property values have changed in a decade. We also wanted to identify which cities were the most expensive in terms of buying real estate today and a decade ago.

When you think of a million dollars, it seems like a lot of money that should last forever. In reality, though, the results of our research might just surprise you.


We collated a list of the biggest cities in each US state, using figures from Wikipedia and World Population Review. We then used data on prices per square foot of property taken from Zillow and Redfin, comparing figures from the first 8 months of both 2012 and 2022 for a fairer comparison. The data was collected in October 2022 and used the most-recently available data at the time of writing.

Home prices per square foot increased considerably within a decade

Over the course of a decade, property prices have seen some dramatic changes. It’s safe to say that $1 million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to in real estate value, and the amount of property you can buy is now significantly less than it was in 2012. Major economic events, such as the global financial crash in 2008, have caused the property market to suffer in the long-term, leaving potential homeowners still bearing the brunt of increased prices in 2022.

Across the data collected in this study, we found that almost every city in the US has seen property prices increase over the decade between 2012 and 2022, offering less square footage of property per $1 million dollars. 

How many square feet was $1 million dollars worth a decade ago?

Real estate aside, money undeniably went further 10 years ago than it does today. Using the data we collected, we calculated the square footage of property that you could buy with $1 million dollars for each of the biggest cities in all 50 states in 2012.

The ten most value-for-money states in terms of property value in 2012 were:

City State Square feet of property per $1 million (USD)
Jackson Mississippi 33,333
Indianapolis Indiana 18,868
Wichita Kansas 16,667
Providence Rhode Island 15,385
Birmingham Alabama 15,152
Jacksonville Florida 15,152
Las Vegas Nevada 14,493
Kansas City Missouri 14,085
Columbus Ohio 13,889
Newark New Jersey 13,810

Our research found that the most affordable city in 2012 was Jackson, Mississippi. This city offered a generous 33,333 square feet of property for $1 million dollars, significantly more than any other city on the list. In last place on the list was Newark, New Jersey – providing an ample amount of property at 13,810 sq. ft.

Interestingly, some major cities appeared in this list. Las Vegas, Nevada is a huge tourist attraction – yet the city was relatively good value for money in 2012, with $1 million dollars getting you 14,493 square feet of property.

Similarly, we used the data to identify which 10 cities were the least value-for-money in 2012:

City State Square feet of property per $1 million (USD)
Honolulu Hawaii 2,513
Boston Massachusetts 2,874
New York New York 3,204
Seattle Washington 4,065
Los Angeles California 4,255
Burlington Vermont 5,848
Portland Maine 5,991
Anchorage Alaska 6,250
Cheyenne Wyoming 6,897
Denver Colorado 6,944

Our research found that the most expensive city to buy property in 2012 was Honolulu, Hawaii. $1 million dollars here in 2012 got you just 2,513 square feet of property. This isn’t too surprising, given Hawaii’s overall popularity as a tourist destination. Honolulu also has a great location as a business and finance hub, alongside its major draws in the hospitality industry and its military base. 

Unsurprisingly, many of the cities on this list are some of the biggest cities in the US. New York was the 3rd most expensive city, offering 3,204 square feet of property for $1 million dollars. Similarly, Los Angeles, California came in 5th – in this popular city $1 million dollars would buy you just 4,255 sq. ft of property.

How much property can $1 million dollars get you in 2022?

The US has seen the knock-on effects of the 2007 Great Recession for the past ten years, alongside seeing 3 presidents in-office – one of which being controversial figure Donald Trump. Financial instability and political impacts have led to real estate inflation, making property more valuable since 2012.

Having established the best and worst value-for-money cities in 2012, we used the data collected to do exactly the same for cities in the US in 2022.

We calculated the prices of property per square foot to determine which cities were the best value-for-money in 2022:

City State Square feet of property per $1 million (USD)
Detroit Michigan 14,545
Jackson Mississippi 11,111
Charleston West Virginia 10,870
Wichita Kansas 9,112
Milwaukee Wisconsin 7,992
Indianapolis Indiana 7,874
Little Rock Arkansas 7,797
Birmingham Alabama 7,214
Omaha Nebraska 6,981
Louisville Kentucky 6,950

Instantly, you’ll notice that the 2012 top-value city, Jackson, MS has only fallen to 2nd place in the updated 2022 ranking. This Mississippi city offers 11,111 square feet of property per $1 million dollars – significantly less than its former amount in 2012, but still a fairly large figure in the 2022 rankings.

In first place for 2022, Detroit, Michigan offers 14,545 sq. ft of property for $1 million dollars. Interestingly, the top spot in 2022 is only slightly more than the lowest spot in 2012 – highlighting a drastic increase in property value.

Once again, we used the same data to calculate the top ten least value-for-money cities in 2022:

City State Square feet of property per $1 million (USD)
Honolulu Hawaii 1,508
Boston Massachusetts 1,529
New York New York 1,534
Los Angeles California 1,572
Seattle Washington 1,641
Denver Colorado 2,579
Portland Maine 2,905
Salt Lake City Utah 2,961
Portland Oregon 3,029
Boise Idaho 3,191

The majority of the cities on this list were unsurprising, with the top 3 remaining in the same places as the 2012 ranking. However, the 2022 list did see the addition of a few cities – Salt Lake City (UT), Portland (OR), and Boise (ID).

Honolulu remains in 1st place for the least square feet of property per $1 million dollars, providing just 1,508 square feet. Similarly, Boston offers just 1,529 square feet, and New York just 1,534 square feet. All three cities provide significantly less property for your money compared to 10 years ago.

How much have things changed?

Finally, now that we’ve compiled the most and least expensive cities to buy property in, both in 2012 and 2022, we wanted to compare the city data we collected between years to determine which cities have experienced the most change in property value in 10 years.

Our research found that the city with the biggest change in square feet for $1 million dollars is Jackson, Mississippi. The city has seen a drastic decrease in property size, offering just 11,111 sq. ft for $1 million in 2022, compared to the generous 33,333 sq. ft in 2012 – that’s a decrease of 22,222 square feet in 10 years. Despite this major increase in land price, Jackson (MS) was still the 2nd best-value city for property per square foot in 2022.

Interestingly, several of the cities on this list were also featured in the top-10 best value-for-money cities in 2022, despite all of them seeing a decrease in property size for $1 million dollars. Indianapolis has seen a decrease in property size by 10,994 square feet in 10 years, dropping from 2nd place in the most-value-for-money ranking in 2012 with 18,868 sq. ft – to 6th place in 2022 with just 7,874 sq. ft per $1 million dollars.

Likewise, we used the city data to calculate the cities that had seen the least amount of change in property value over 10 years.



Square feet of property per $1 million (USD) in 2012

Square feet of property per $1 million (USD) in 2022

Difference in square feet of property per $1 million (USD)


West Virginia



↓ 481





↓ 1,005





↓ 1,345





↓ 1,372





↓ 1,457

New York

New York



↓ 1,670





↓ 1,818


North Dakota



↓ 1,966





↓ 2,413





↓ 2,424

We discovered that the least amount of change had been seen in Charleston, West Virginia. This city placed 3rd on the best value-for-money ranking in 2022, offering 10,870 square feet per $1 million dollars. This is a decrease of just 481 sq. ft from the 11,351 square feet of property that you could buy in 2012. Known for its historic landmarks, Charleston has surprisingly remained fairly good value-for-money.

We found that multiple of the cities with the least amount of change were ranked on the least-value list for both 2012 and 2022. Whilst it could be assumed that these cities would see the biggest decrease in property size, due to their overpopulated and desirable locations, it seems that many have stayed relatively the same throughout the decade.

Honolulu (HI) had the 2nd lowest change in property size, decreasing just 1,005 sq. ft in ten years. However, the city placed 1st on both the 2012 and 2022 least-value rankings, dropping from just 2,513 square feet in 2012 to an even lower 1,508 sq. ft in 2022.

Interestingly, our research found that just one city had actually increased the amount of property that you could purchase with $1 million dollars in the last decade. Detroit, Michigan had placed 1st on the 2022 best-value ranking, offering a very generous 14,545 sq. ft of property for one million dollars. This is up by a substantial 3,556 square feet from the 10,989 sq. ft available in 2012.

Final Thoughts

In our research, we aimed to find out just how much property value has increased in 10 years. We found out how much property you could buy with $1 million dollars, and the results were fascinating.

It was particularly interesting to see that just one city had increased the property size you could purchase with $1 million dollars. This demonstrates how much property prices have increased in the last 10 years, and also highlights that one million dollars doesn’t go as far as many would think.

We found that some cities were consistently low-value-for-money, such as New York and Honolulu – primarily due to their business potential and high tourism influx. In contrast – surprisingly, many of the cities on the high-value-for-money list remained there, even ten years later.

Of course, we don’t expect everyone to have $1 million dollars to put down on a property, this amount was chosen to highlight the drastic change in property value since 2012. However, we hope that this research has been useful to help you understand just how much property you might expect to buy within your own budget.

Related: What’s a Good Credit Score to Buy a House?, The Three Major Credit Bureaus, How To Add Tradelines To Your Credit Report

About the author Greg Lorenzo

Greg is a financial expert who has been advising his audience on loans for over 10 years. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area, and he is passionate about helping people get the best possible deal on their loans. Greg is an expert in negotiating loans, and he has a proven track record of getting his clients the best possible terms. He is also a strong advocate for financial literacy, and he regularly gives workshops and seminars on the topic.

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