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Real Estate: 10 Homes You Could Own for $375,000

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We compare homes for sale in American metropolitan areas to see which places offer the biggest bang for the prospective homebuyer's buck.

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The phrase "quality of life" carries drastically different meanings for all of us. For a young professional it may mean living in the big city with access to world-class restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and Matt Damon sightings at one of the neighborhood's 16 Starbucks (SBUX) whose home is a cramped, bed bug-infested studio apartment. For a family with young children, however, a high quality of life may be having a house with a three-car garage and a yard in the suburbs where the only stars ever spotted are in a light pollution-free night sky.

When looking for a place to settle down, we take many factors into consideration -- low crime rate, culture, good public schools, access to public transportation, etc. -- but it's the cost of housing that tops the livability list. We compared homes for sale in 10 different American metropolitan areas to see which places offered the biggest bang for the prospective homebuyer's buck. With a budget of $375,000, see how far your dollar stretches from the mountains to the prairies...from sea to shining sea.

#10 Manhattan
Not a huge surprise that the Big Apple takes the biggest bite out of the budget in terms of space and amenities. For sale by Prudential (PRU), this 450-square-foot studio in a co-op building on the Upper East Side, with an asking price of $375,000, costs $833 per square foot. Heaped on top of the mortgage payments are monthly maintenance fees to the tune of $768 which cover building expenses, insurance, and real estate taxes.

While the building has a few attractive features like a 24-hour doorman, live-in super, roof deck, and garage (additional), the real selling point is its zip code. It's one of the most desirable in the city. Being two blocks from the subway, three blocks from the public library, five (avenue) blocks from Central Park, and zero blocks from a million other things, that apartment's eventual owner won't be doing much more than sleeping in it.

#9 Boston

Of all the "most expensive cities" lists, rarely does Boston make the top five, let alone the top two. That's why I wasn't expecting this historic 1880 South End condo, albeit beautifully restored, to be so small for the price. With only 530 square feet, this one-bedroom, priced at $374,999, costs a staggering $707 per square foot. Sure, it's a whole lot nicer than the Manhattan apartment with its custom kitchen and bath and Bosch washer and dryer but come on -- Boston is no New York.

That being said, the South End neighborhood is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places and experienced a cultural renaissance (read: gentrification) with its Tremont Street now boasting trendy restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The apartment is around the corner from the Boston Center for the Arts which hosts music and dance performances and a visual arts gallery. Now if only you could bundle yourself up in the art scene and have it keep you warm during those long, New England winters.

#8 San Francisco

Justification for buying this $375,000 studio may fall under the "location, location, location" argument but its Civic Center neighborhood isn't all this renovated 1966 high-rise condo has going for it. Every precious square foot counts in a studio and this one has the Manhattan one beat by 100 of them. At 550 square feet, it has a cost of roughly $682 per square foot. It also features floor-to-ceiling windows, a (relatively) open modern kitchen with high-end appliances, a private balcony with downtown and bay views, a deeded garage parking spot, and a 24-hour attended lobby. Though it's a small space, it could actually serve as a livable respite from the city's hustle and bustle.

#7 Seattle
For $375,000, you get a little more breathing room with this 786-square-foot one-bedroom-plus-den loft and a little less dent in your wallet at a $477-per-square-foot cost. Built in 2007, this building is Seattle's first green residential high rise and has received numerous awards for design and sustainability. With its exposed concrete, floor-to-ceiling windows, and gourmet kitchen, it rivals a similarly chic Tribeca loft at about a quarter of the price. And good luck finding a Tribeca loft that's eco-friendly.

The downtown waterfront neighborhood of Belltown is one of those post-industrial, arts districts so it's chock full o' activity for the hipster set. The downside to living in Seattle is, obviously, the gloomy weather and the Realtor's ad doesn't say anything about complimentary umbrellas. Looks like it's BYOU.

#6 Salt Lake City

Located in a historic 100-year-old building in the heart of downtown, this 1,115-square-foot two-bedroom loft has an asking price of just $374,900 -- which comes out to an affordable $336 per square foot -- and is totally modernized. With its granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and geothermal HVAC system -- and assuming the hit HBO series Big Love is 100% accurate -- you'll be the hippest Mormon on the block! You can also take the TRAX light rail to Symphony Hall, the Art Center, the Natural History Museum, or Clark Planetarium, go on a shopping spree at Gateway Mall, visit one of the art galleries on Pierpont Avenue, or just sit back and admire the stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains. You'll score big points for romance with the wife -- or wives, says the TV show.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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