Compared to Other U.S. Cities, Cost of Chicago Real Estate is Lower

I was quite surprised to find that, when matched up with Chicago, there was quite a big difference in the cost of real estate and the cost of living. Chicago is much more affordable.

Chicago cost of living
I can’t travel anywhere without scoping out the real estate market. Over my 22-year career in Chicago real estate, I’ve often compared our city to other metropolitan areas in every aspect possible—lifestyle, cost of living, what the city has to offer, etc.
Having recently visited each end of the United States with one trip to New York and another to San Francisco, I naturally dug into where the real estate markets currently stand in these cities. I was quite surprised to find that, when matched up with Chicago, there was quite a big difference in the cost of real estate and the cost of living.
Chicago real estate more affordable
Even considering the current real estate market and its volatility, housing in New York and San Francisco is considerably more expensive compared to Chicago. In looking at other major cities as well, Chicago consistently fares more affordable, with the biggest difference being that Chicago offers the lower cost of housing. Using Sperling’s Cost of Living Index, here’s how a range of salaries in Chicago should increase to across the country for a comparable lifestyle:

CityComparable Salary
San Francisco$277,858
New York City$225,203
Washington, D.C.$179,838
Los Angeles$194,959

CityComparable Salary
San Francisco$370,000
New York City$300,270
Washington, D.C.$239,784
Los Angeles$259,784

CityComparable Salary
San Francisco$555,716
New York City$450,405
Washington, D.C.$359,676
Los Angeles$389,919

That’s simply comparing how far your dollars go in those cities. When it comes to housing, Washington D.C. is most comparable to Chicago, and housing is 54% more costly. San Francisco’s housing costs are a whopping 206% higher than the Second City—not to mention that an analogous lifestyle in San Francisco means earning nearly double the salary you would need in Chicago.
Chicago homes sell a lifestyle as well
While Chicago real estate is considerable more affordable, that’s not always reason enough to pack up and move across the globe. Very few of us would purchase a home in a city that had nothing else to offer simply because the price tag was right.
But purchasing a Chicago home buys a lifestyle as well. Residents of New York and San Francisco might offer that those cities have much to offer in the urban way, but Chicago certainly doesn’t come up short. Chicago residents have a long list of reasons they love this city, and being able to enjoy those things doesn’t come with that high price tag.
Chicago homes put a roof over your head, sure. But becoming a Chicago resident also means:
Endless entertainment: From great food to a long list of leisure activities to all the music and theater to take in, Chicago will never leave you bored. Even those things that might be considered tourist attractions—Millennium Park, the Art Institute, Museum Campus, John Hancock Tower—are so magnificent that they continue to be enjoyed by longtime Chicagoans.
Healthcare: Chicago has some of the finest, highest ranked hospitals in the country, with Rush University Medical Center being named a top hospital by US News and World Report and Northwestern Memorial Hospital being recognized as one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals by a leading healthcare report.
Ease of living: Public transportation, walkability and an urban setting make Chicago an incredibly easy place to live. Plenty of Chicago homes for sale are within a stone’s throw of a grocery store, restaurants and things to do.
Great schools: Chicago’s private schools are noted for their commitment to academics, community and citizenship, and many tops schools are in some of the most coveted Chicago neighborhoods.
If you’re considering relocating to Chicago, give me a call. I’ll be happy to share my experiences and insight on real estate in the U.S. and tell you more about opportunities in Chicago real estate. I can be reached at (312) 498-5080 or by email at
City photos from Flickr; Courtesy of (clockwise from top left) sneakerdog; sean loyless; eva abreu; http2007; dherrera; kevitivity; bryce_edwards.