- Raleigh, NC, ranks first nationally for spacious living in an urban environment, with a median home size of almost 1,950 square feet and a median lot of around 10,500 square feet
- Southern cities manage to perfectly blend spacious homes and sprawling backyards, with seven of them in the top 10
- Among the 50 largest US cities, only four have median home sizes sprawling over more than 2,000 sq. ft. — Milwaukee, WI, Omaha, NE, Austin, TX, and Miami, FL, have the country’s biggest homes
- Five cities have residential lot sizes bigger than 10,000 sq. ft., with Nashville, TN, and Atlanta, GA, on top
Something that has lingered for many people in the aftermath of the pandemic is the desire to live in airy spaces where we can live, work, play and have a sense of privacy – all under one roof. With the normalization of remote work for a significant segment of the workforce, chasing big homes is gaining even more traction across the US.
But getting access to spacious living might be challenging these days, especially if you’re not ready to let go of your urban lifestyle. Sizes of both residential lots and houses have generally been on a downward slope during the last decade whereas prices have been trending up. The median size of a new single family home is sitting at around 2,299 square feet, down 4% from 2013 to 2022. Similarly, median home lots have dwindled by 8%, to 8,891 square feet, during the same period. The home price of a new home in the meantime has soared to an all-time high – roughly $457K in 2022, up 70% from 2013.
Zooming in on city-level data, the story becomes more nuanced, with significant regional variations. Living large is becoming less attainable in land-strapped environments like Philadelphia, PA, or expensive hotspots like California’s coastal hubs. In Philly, for example, housing lots are now 43% smaller than they were a decade earlier. In Los Angeles, CA, an average home covering 1,576 square feet on a 6,900-square-foot lot costs north of $1M, double what a similarly sized home called for ten years prior.
However, as you move away from the coasts, your chances of finding a big home with some nice outdoor space for entertaining improve substantially. In fact, according to our recent study of the 50 largest US cities, the South reigns supreme for spacious living.
To determine the most attractive urban destinations for Americans in search of both generous homes and expansive backyards, we ranked all 50 cities based on a combined metric of the median size of homes and the median size of the lots they’re sitting on. We’ve added other factors such as home prices, median household incomes, safety and commute times to see how accessible and desirable those cities are for homebuyers.
Seven southern cities made the top 10 of hotspots for spacious living, including Raleigh, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Charlotte, NC, which occupy the first three spots in the ranking. A couple of midsized Californian cities also make good relocation candidates for people hunting for space.
Here’s a closer look at the places where you can enjoy plenty of home space both indoors and outdoors without letting go of an urban lifestyle.
Raleigh in North Carolina leads the nation for generous space at home
Alongside Texas and Florida, North Carolina ranks high on migration radars for people across the country, and for good reason. The job market is strong, the schools are great and the cost of living in all the state's major cities is still lower compared to other urban hubs. Raleigh in particular also offers great prospects for those in search of spacious living.
The median size of a single family home in Raleigh is a generous 1,947 square feet and residential lots cover roughly 10,500 square feet. To put things into perspective, that’s approximately one-fifth of a football field. It may come as no surprise then that Raleigh emerged as the country’s best city for those in search of spacious living. Generally, a home in Raleigh takes up less than 18% of the lot, which means people are left with a sizeable backyard that allows them to garden, play catch with the kids, or entertain.
Contrary to the national trend, homes in Raleigh gained square footage in recent years. The largest homes were built during the past decade (2013 to 2022), when the median size of a new home was over 2,400 square feet, 23% larger than the city's median home overall. Residential lots for these new homes, on the other hand, at 7,000 square feet, decreased by one third compared to the median backyard in Raleigh in general.
The new home market shows steady growth, giving homebuyers plenty of options to find a place that checks all their boxes. More than 13,600 building permits were issued for new homes in the last 10 years, putting the city 22nd among the most active single family construction markets in the country.
To further cement Raleigh’s position as one of the most desirable places to move to, the city boasts safe neighborhoods, a favorable home-price-to-income ratio, and the commuting time is an acceptable 24 minutes on average.
Charlotte is the second North Carolina city that cracks the top 10 US of capitals for home space. It offers great perks for those who value space both indoors and outdoors. The size of a standard home in Charlotte hovers around 1,900 square feet and lots are over 10,600 square feet, resulting in a lot occupancy of a little under 18%.
The 2013 to 2022 decade – a hot one in terms of housing demand – registered a trend of expanding home sizes and shrinking lots, as the local market tried to adjust and balance buyers’ desire for space with their need for affordable homes. The median size of a home built in Charlotte over the past decade stands at 2,265 square feet, while the median lot for these homes is a little over 7,300 square feet, 31% smaller than the overall median lot size.
Staying in the South, Atlanta, GA, takes second place in our general ranking of cities offering spacious abodes, with building lots of over 11,500 square feet and median homes at 1,953 square feet.
Atlanta’s single family homes expanded over the past decade, registering a hefty median size of 2,500 square feet. Building lots, on the other hand, lost significant space and are almost 50% smaller than the city’s overall median lot size. Faced with a massive influx of newcomers, available land is in fact harder to come by in Atlanta whereas real estate prices keep rising. Home value in Atlanta now stands at $425,898, up 17% from ten years ago.
Another southern hotspot, Nashville, TN, ranks fifth overall for home space. Boasting the largest median lot size among the country’s 50 biggest cities – roughly 11,813 square feet – Music City is great not only for live entertainment but for backyard fun as well.
The median home in the city hovers at around 1,830 square feet, which means that it takes up about 15.5% of the lot, leaving residents with enough yard space for everything from grilling to gardening or simply enjoying the perfect sunset.
New homes in Nashville saw quite a jump in size recently: properties built over the past ten years, at 2,435 square feet, are 25% larger than the overall inventory. Nashville residents who are more interested in having a big backyard than a lot of indoor space should shop around for older homes: those built during the 1950s come with very generous lots of almost 19,000 square feet, but they will probably require some serious remodeling work to suit contemporary preferences.
The parade of Southern cities where residents have the chance of enjoying space, both indoors and outdoors, continues with Tulsa, OK, rounding out the top 10. Lot sizes in Tulsa are a little under 9,000 square feet, while the median home hovers around 1,674 square feet, which means that, generally, homes in the area occupy a little over 19% of their lots. Another enticing thing about Tulsa is home affordability, with prices hovering at just under $200K.
Those keen on getting as much interior space as possible in Tulsa should search for newer homes: those built between 2013 and 2022 feature a luxurious 2,800 square feet. Furthermore, the lots of these new homes, at over 9,000 square feet, are actually larger than the median lot size overall, so buying new in Tulsa comes with significant advantages in terms of both home and backyard space.
Omaha surpasses all other Midwestern hotspots for access to large living spaces
Omaha, NE, ranks fourth among the country’s 50 largest cities, offering both indoor and backyard space to its residents.
Median lot sizes in Omaha hover at just under 8,500 square feet, while the median home is a very impressive 2,432 square feet – the second-largest homes among the country’s 50 biggest cities. The size of homes in Omaha results in a 29% lot occupancy, which is higher compared to the other cities in top 10 – however, it still leaves plenty of backyard for homeowners to enjoy.
Another Midwest destination, Milwaukee, WI, landed the 16th spot in the ranking. Homes in the area boast the most square footage among the 50 largest cities – approx. 2,440 square feet – but outdoor space is far less generous. Lot sizes in Milwaukee hover around 5,840 square feet.
Texas goes big with homes and backyards even in its busiest urban hubs
Texas manages to reconcile big city living with access to generous homes and backyards. Austin’s 2,000-square-foot homes and generous lots spreading over around 8,600 square feet make it an attractive destination for those who want it all: the roomy home, the big backyard and the thriving urban environment with plenty of things to love and enjoy. In fact, Austin’s abodes have a good 400 square feet on rival cities in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.
But all this space comes at a price in Austin which has seen its property prices doubling over the last decade. With a price tag of over $586K, Austin joins the list of the most expensive real estate markets, below only DC, Boston, NYC, Seattle, Denver, Miami and a few California cities which feature higher home values.
In an attempt to reduce the price burden, residential lots have become smaller over the last decade. While inside space mounted to an amazing 2,400 square feet for homes built between 2013 and 2022, lot sizes dropped to 7,200 square feet for these homes, 16% smaller than the overall city median.
In response to a growing demand that puts pressure on the local market, builders are actively working towards amplifying the housing stock. The local single family home construction market is in fact booming, with 20 building permits per 1,000 residents in 2022, second only to Atlanta.
Austin is not the only Texan city where residents can benefit from a great blend of roomy homes and spacious backyards: Dallas and Arlington rank 13th and 14th among the country’s largest 50 cities, while Houston lands 18th place.
Jacksonville leads Florida’s home and backyard space race
Jacksonville, Florida, is usually known, and much appreciated, for its great weather and gorgeous beaches. Space is also added to that list of benefits as the city’s housing market comes with a lot of room to breathe at home. Jacksonville ranks 7th in our ranking of the best cities for living large.
The median home in Jacksonville is about 1,818 square feet, built on median lots of slightly over 9,100 square feet. This means that homes in Jacksonville generally take up about 20% of their lot. The 2013-to-2022 period saw significantly larger homes being built, at 2,274 square feet – but building lots started to dwindle.
Miami, in the meantime, is less friendly in terms of backyard space, with lot sizes at around 6,900 sq. ft. But interiors can be generous at a median of 2,009 sq. ft.
Midsized Californian cities manage to satisfy the craving for space at home
For fans of spacious living, California’s midsized cities emerge as surprisingly great destinations, where they can bask in plenty of space in and around the home. Bakersfield ranks 8th among the country’s biggest 50 cities, striking a good balance between home and lot size and quality of life. The median home in Bakersfield is 1,950 square feet, while home lots are around 7,840 square feet. Fresno, California, follows closely behind, ranking 9th with its 1,870 square-feet homes and median home lots of almost 8,000 square feet.
Home prices in both cities hover at over $370K, with Bakersfield more expensive by a few thousand dollars. However, Bakersfield has an advantage when it comes to median household income: $69K per year compared to $57K in Fresno.
The worst cities for home space: Philadelphia, PA, and Chicago, IL
At the other end of the spectrum, Midwest and East Coast cities including Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, and Detroit, MI, are rather squeezed for space.
Philadelphia, PA, ranks last in terms of home and backyard square footage among the country’s largest 50 cities. In fact, due to the characteristics of the housing inventory in Philadelphia, where townhouses are prevalent, people have to settle for median lot sizes of around 1,420 square feet. The median home size ranges around 1,280 square feet.
Lot sizes decreased massively in Philadelphia when comparing the 2013-2022 decade to the general inventory: by 35%, from a median lot size of 1,420 square feet to one of just 915 square feet. This significant drop in lot sizes over the past decade can be attributed to the fact that far fewer detached single family homes were built, in favor of townhouses.
Chicago, IL, is another urban hotspot where tending to your backyard won’t take too long: the median lot size is almost 1,700 square feet, but much of it is taken up by the home. The median home size in Chicago stands at around 1,457 square feet overall. In Milwaukee, by contrast, you’d get 40% more home space than in the Windy City and still enjoy spectacular Lake Michigan views.
Big or small home, self storage can help deal with space issues
Large backyards usually involve belongings such as garden furniture, gardening tools and equipment, and kid toys. And during the cold season, they all belong inside, protected from the elements, adding to all the other belongings. Do our homes have space for everything? Even owning a big home cannot always provide the room we need to live comfortably in an uncluttered environment. That’s where self storage comes in as a solution for homeowners to maintain their homes and their backyards in tip-top shape.
The recent surge in popularity of the service has resulted in a development boom that put more storage facilities in all major cities, allowing people to find the right unit for their needs in close proximity to their homes. Naturally, prices can vary significantly depending on location. A 10’x10’ self storage unit in Raleigh, for example, rents for $96, while the same type of storage unit in Atlanta costs around $144. Below you can check out self storage availability and costs in the country’s top 50 cities:
Self Storage Rates and Availability in the Country's 50 Largest Cities*Non-climate-controlled 10'x10' storage units
Source: StorageCafe analysis of Yardi Matrix data
From the expansive properties of Raleigh or Atlanta to the creative utilization of space in densely populated metropolises, this ranking highlights the unique housing characteristics that shape our cities. As housing preferences continue to evolve, understanding the variations in home and backyard sizes provides valuable insights into the dynamic nature of urban living and the diverse needs of residents across different communities.
Check out how each of the country’s 50 largest cities fare in terms of offering the best chances at spacious living:
The 50 Largest US Cities Ranked by Spacious Living Potential
|Rank||City||Lot Size||Home Size||Crime Rate*||Median Income ($)||Commuting Time (minutes)||House Price||Self Storage per Capita (sq. ft.)||Self Storage Rent**|
|17||Colorado Springs, CO||8,160||1,600||38||$72,000||23.2||$462,300||10.6||$110|
|21||Fort Worth, TX||7,040||1,730||32||$67,900||27.1||$313,500||6.1||$100|
|22||San Antonio, TX||7,410||1,680||45||$55,100||24.3||$268,300||8.8||$112|
|26||Baltimore City, MD||7,380||1,680||100||$54,100||30.7||$177,200||3.5||$125|
|27||Las Vegas, NV||5,660||1,810||30||$61,400||25.8||$414,800||7.1||$124|
|29||San Jose, CA||6,320||1,780||27||$125,100||29.8||$1,396,900||3.8||$179|
|30||New York City, NY||2,700||1,920||21||$70,700||41.4||$707,700||2.4||$255|
|33||El Paso, TX||6,600||1,560||15||$51,300||23.5||$210,000||6.0||$99|
|34||Los Angeles, CA||6,880||1,580||29||$69,800||31.6||$970,900||1.8||$265|
|37||San Diego, CA||6,530||1,500||21||$89,500||24.3||$1,011,900||3.9||$189|
|39||Kansas City, MO||7,100||1,240||58||$60,000||22.1||$232,000||4.0||$113|
|40||Long Beach, CA||3,240||1,580||33||$71,200||30.7||$844,200||2.1||$202|
|42||San Francisco, CA||2,660||1,600||49||$126,200||32.8||$1,399,800||2.1||$275|
|46||Virginia Beach, VA||2,590||1,410||17||$81,800||23.5||$388,800||10.4||$113|
**Non-climate-controlled 10'x10' storage units
StorageCafe analysis of data from PropertyShark, U.S. Census, Zillow, FBI and Yardi Matrix
This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.
In this report, we ranked the country’s 50 largest cities by population according to their attractiveness in terms of home and lot sizes, plus the quality of life they provide.
The metrics we considered in the ranking, and their weightings in the calculation, are the following: median home size (40%), median lot size (40%), crime rate per 1,000 residents (4.25%), median income (4.25%), commuting time (4.25%), house price (4.25%), self storage street rates (1.5%) and self storage inventory per capita (1.5%).
We took the data regarding median home and lot sizes from our sister division PropertyShark. For this analysis, we considered single family homes, townhouses, duplexes, triplexes and quadruplexes. We calculated the median home size figures as totals of all the floor sizes.
We used Zillow Home Values Index for home prices.
The median income and commuting time at city level are both from the US Census and are the latest available data, from 2021.
The data regarding home and lots size evolution over the past decade (2013 to 2022) at a national level are also from the US Census.
We calculated crime rate at city level, per 1,000 residents, based on the latest available FBI data.
The data on self storage costs and availability comes from Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe‘s sister division and a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.
Fair use and distribution
This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content, but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.