There was a time when $1 million could buy an urban penthouse, a waterfront villa, even a mountain chalet.
But those days are a thing of the past, according to Liam Bailey, head of residential research for worldwide property adviser Knight Frank. "One million dollars doesn't buy very much in the most desirable global property locations," he says.
Translation: Good luck finding four bedrooms, never mind a waterfront locale, for $1 million--at least in today's highly desirable markets like Paris, London and New York.
In the latter, says Elizabeth Stribling, president of Manhattan-based real estate brokerage Stribling & Associates, "Generally speaking, you're spending $1 million for a prime, one-bedroom apartment."
And despite bloated inventory typical of a sluggish market, those set on living downtown, but looking for a $1 million two-bedroom will need to travel north to the far corners of the less-hip Upper East or West Sides, she says.
Little changes when you look at similarly established markets overseas, says Bailey. Among them: London, Tokyo and Paris, where, for the most part, $1 million buys only 328, 522 and 594 square feet respectively, according to the firm's calculations.
"Not only has time marched on in real estate markets, but the position of the US dollar as the world currency has weakened significantly against the Sterling and Euro as well," says Ian Payne, senior vice president and managing director for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific for Realogy global relocation firm Cartus. To put that into perspective, the purchasing power of $1 million is nearly a quarter less in the U.K. today than it was five years ago, he says.
"So in London, depending on where you are, that might buy you a very nice three-bedroom apartment or it might buy you a one-bedroom apartment," he says, "but it no longer gets you anything wildly impressive."
Newer to the list of increasingly expensive locales are emerging markets like New Delhi and Dubai, which have seen property values soar in recent years.
But fortunately for those without a multitude of zeros to spend on a home, the dollar--or one million--can go much further if you're willing to look further afield.
In the U.S., George Ballantyne, vice president of Sotheby's International Realty, points to areas in the Midwest, such as Michigan and Ohio. "Once you get away from the two coasts and away from the sort of resort markets," he says, "$1 million will still buy an absolutely extraordinary property."
Eleanor Farnsworth, a luxury agent with Prudential Gardner, lets New Orleans serve as an example. Despite the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, she says many areas have remained largely intact--think the high-end areas of the University and garden districts--and thus in demand. In fact, $1 million can still get you a nice four- or five-bedroom home in a good location, she says.
And across the ocean, space is still to be had for a reasonable sum in and around Eastern Europe, despite the region's increasing popularity, says Jamie Liddell, chief foreign correspondent for London-based Homes Overseas Magazine.
"The rise of Eastern Europe--the band from the Baltic nations all the way down to the Balkans--has been the major story of the last five years," he says. "But if you were to take $1 million to Central Warsaw, Central Prague or Budapest, you'd be still be looking at a five-, six-bedroom house out in the pleasant suburbs or a penthouse suite overlooking the river."
In fact, there are even picturesque areas of France, such as Burgundy, Champagne and the Bordeaux regions, where $1 million gets some pretty stellar property. "Here, you can still buy a grand, historic manor house, or even a small château, for around $ 1 million," says Alexander V.G. Kraft, chief executive of Sotheby's International Realty France.
He adds, "Depending on the market and the type of property you are looking for, [you] can still get 'a million dollar property' that actually looks the part."
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