As the epicenter of the country's business, fashion, art, media and financial markets, New York City is a haven for professionals and creatives seeking virtually unlimited opportunities, surrounded by some of the best dining, shopping, nightlife and real estate in the world.
New York has always attracted those who aspire to prove themselves in "if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere" style. But the city's near-endless opportunities for work and play do not come cheap.
Here's what you can expect to pay while living in the New York City area:
- $563,100 is the median home sale price for the New York City area, based on Zillow data. That figure jumps to $945,100 for Manhattan alone.
- $2,900 is the median monthly rent for the metro area, or $3,450 for Manhattan, based on Zillow data.
- $127 will buy you an unlimited 30-day MetroCard, good on New York City buses and subways.
- $514 per month per person for groceries, per data from crowdsourced information site Numbeo.
- The sales tax is 8.875%.
- In addition to standard federal and state income tax, New York City residents also pay a city income tax ranging from 2.907% to 3.876%, depending on income bracket.
The True Cost of Living in New York City
New York City ranks No. 90 in the U.S. News 2019 Best Places to Live list, with the highest score on its report card being its near-perfect desirability ranking (9 out of 10). This figure reflects Gotham's unwavering popularity as an in-demand destination. The Big Apple also received strong ratings for its thriving job market.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual salary for the New York City metro area is $63,799, which is strong compared to big cities in the rest of the country. The median annual salary for the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. is $50,620.
According to real estate portal StreetEasy, renters in Manhattan, the city's most expensive borough, pay $18,900 in average annual housing costs, while homeowners pay $36,252 per year. However, homeowners spend a smaller percentage of their income on their housing than renters, according to the statistics. Manhattan renters earn $62,173 on average per year, giving them a 30% percent housing cost-to-income ratio. Homeowners, meanwhile, average $142,046 in earnings annually for a 26% percent cost-to-income ratio.
Out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, New York City is the fourth-most expensive place to live in the U.S.
[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home.]
Home Prices in New York City
The median home price for the New York metro area is $563,100 as of February 2020, according to data from real estate information company Zillow. That's nearly double the national median home price of $249,700. In the Manhattan market, that figure skyrockets to $945,100, or almost four times the national median.
As with most major cities, home costs vary sharply across New York City neighborhoods. Those with their eye on Tribeca, Nolita, SoHo in Manhattan or the Boerum Hill-Cobble Hill-Carroll Gardens section of what is colloquially known as Brownstone Brooklyn will pay some of the highest prices in the city – and country. Recorded 2019 sales prices in these desirable neighborhoods ranged from $1.45 million to $4.1 million, according to StreetEasy. However, there are values to be found in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island neighborhoods where price tags fall well under the city's median.
Affording a Home in New York City
There is no doubt that buying a home in the most central neighborhoods of New York City is a challenge, but it is by no means impossible. Mortgage interest rates are near historic lows right now; Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate on March 19 was 3.65%, a slight increase from the 3.29% two weeks prior that hit a nearly 50-year low for mortgage rates.
Saving for a down payment is often the most significant barrier to entry for homebuyers. Potential New York City buyers should be aware that, due to extremely high demand, down payments of less than 20% are practically unheard of in the city. If available, those properties are likely to be in outer-borough neighborhoods that are seeing community rebuilding efforts without displacement (basically improving neighborhoods without gentrification, which pushes prices up).
Many upscale co-ops often demand even more than 20% down or forbid financing altogether. With multifamily buildings being the prevalent housing choice in the city, don't forget to factor monthly maintenance or common charges into your housing budget as well.
Other Costs of Living in New York City
As the fourth-most expensive city in the country, you'll see higher prices on many products and services in the Big Apple.
Food is a major expense for most households. In New York City, families can expect to spend about $725 per month on food compared to the national average of about $660, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Busy New Yorkers, surrounded by the world's best restaurants, also spend a larger portion of that food budget on dining out – about $324 per month in New York City versus $288 for all Americans.
Another area where New Yorkers outspend the rest of the country is education. New York City is home to several elite private schools and universities, making them an attractive option for parents and college students. In New York, all households spend an average of $3,000 per year for education expenses compared to the national average of $1,407. Fashion-conscious New Yorkers also spend more on apparel: $2,574 per year compared to $1,866, according to the BLS.
However, thanks to the extensive public transit system, transportation is one area where New Yorkers save. Nearly 90% of U.S. households own at least one car, a figure that falls to 45% in New York City. As a result, city dwellers spend an average of just $8,494 per year on transportation, or $1,267 less than the average U.S. household.
How to Afford New York City
New York City may be expensive, but due to its sheer size, there are bargains to be found across the five boroughs. Sure, New York is home to 76 Michelin-starred restaurants, but there are also excellent inexpensive cafes, diners and food trucks on every corner.
There are abundant free entertainment options across the city, as well. Free summer movies and concerts fill local parks every summer. Museums offer free days, and many are pay-what-you-wish all year-round. A stroll through Central Park or along the High Line costs nothing at all. Enjoy a no-cost harbor cruise courtesy of the Staten Island Ferry, or snag free seats at "Saturday Night Live," "The Daily Show" or one of the many other shows that film in the city.
To save on housing costs, renters would do well to find a roommate for sharing expenses. Those looking to buy a home in New York City should save as large a down payment as possible and work on their credit score to secure the best mortgage rate. Choosing a comparable alternative to your pricier dream neighborhood is another great way to save if you want to afford New York City living.
If city life is what you crave, look no further.
You want to live in a major urban center, but how do you know which city has what you want? What may seem like a major metro area can turn out to be more sprawling and suburban than you expect. The U.S. News Best Places to Live ranking includes the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., but the population of a metro area may not provide the full picture of the size of those primary cities. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest cities based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates for 2018, the most recent data available. Read on for the biggest cities in the U.S. by population.25. Portland, Oregon
25. Portland, Oregon
City Population: 653,115
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 8
Metro Area Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330
Portland is the 25th-largest city by population in the U.S. While the larger Portland metro area is home to 2,382,037 residents, the city of Portland accounts for just 653,115 residents. In the Best Places to Live ranking, Portland takes the No. 8 spot thanks to its steady population growth due to net migration and its desirability, based on a series of SurveyMonkey surveys asking U.S. residents where they would prefer to live. In the Most Desirable Places to Live ranking, Portland takes the top spot, tied with Honolulu, San Francisco and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Learn more about the Portland metro area.24. Nashville, Tennessee
24. Nashville, Tennessee
City Population: 669,053
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 15
Metro Area Population: 1,830,410
Median Home Price: $248,883
Median Annual Salary: $47,110
Nashville has a slightly larger population than Portland, but its metro area is smaller by more than 500,000 people. Nashville’s downtown hosts the central business district as well as the city’s renowned country music scene, but neighborhoods with a more suburban feel are also within the city limits. The metro area includes cities like Murfreesboro and Franklin, which offer a much more small-town feel than Nashville.
Learn more about the Nashville metro area.23. Detroit
City Population: 672,662
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 92
Metro Area Population: 4,304,613
Median Home Price: $156,508
Median Annual Salary: $52,100
Once a much larger city, Detroit is currently the 23rd-most populous city in the U.S. with 672,662 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Motor City’s population peaked in 1950, with 1,849,568 residents living within the city limits. But long-term job loss and other issues led many people to leave Detroit for the suburbs or other major cities. The Detroit metro area, however, remains large with more than 4.3 million residents, and many of them still drive into the city regularly for work, sporting events or other entertainment.
Learn more about the Detroit metro area.22. El Paso, Texas
22. El Paso, Texas
City Population: 682,669
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 110
Metro Area Population: 838,527
Median Home Price: $151,300
Median Annual Salary: $38,610
The city of El Paso, with a population of 682,669, makes up the majority of the metro area’s population, which is 838,527. At the western tip of Texas, El Paso is just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, a major Mexican city with more than 1.4 million residents, according to United Nations data. With other major U.S. metro areas far off, however, more El Paso residents live within the city proper, and there are few cities or towns than can technically be considered suburbs. The outskirts of the city of El Paso include rural land, with plenty of farms holding an El Paso address.
Learn more about the El Paso metro area.21. Boston
City Population: 694,583
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 27
Metro Area Population: 4,771,936
Median Home Price: $423,450
Median Annual Salary: $65,420
It may come as a surprise that Boston doesn’t rank higher on the list of biggest cities, but only 694,583 residents call the city of Boston home. Many other cities and towns are located close to the heart of Boston, including Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline, and some visitors unfamiliar with the area won't even recognize that they’ve left Boston itself when traveling to these places.
Learn more about the Boston metro area.20. Washington, D.C.
20. Washington, D.C.
City Population: 702,455
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 19
Metro Area Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210
The nation’s capital isn’t a part of a state, but it still manages to be home to 702,455 residents. Of course, the surrounding cities in Maryland and Virginia, where many people who work in the District of Columbia live, account for many more people – the entire Washington metro area contains more than 6 million residents. Washington ranks No. 19 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Its flourishing job market, with plenty of federal government, government contractor and tech jobs, helps keep the median annual salary high at $69,210.
Learn more about the District of Columbia metro area.19. Denver
City Population: 716,492
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 2
Metro Area Population: 2,798,684
Median Home Price: $393,842
Median Annual Salary: $57,400
The Denver metro area ranks No. 2 on the overall Best Places to Live list, and the city is home to 716,492 residents. But about 2.8 million residents populate the metro area, which includes Aurora and Lakewood, among many other cities. Denver’s downtown certainly offers the city atmosphere many newcomers are looking for, but the city proper includes a variety of neighborhoods, such as Five Points, Washington Park and Cheesman Park, that evoke different vibes – whether it’s more eclectic, quiet or with easy access to parks and downtown.
Learn more about the Denver metro area.18. Seattle
City Population: 744,955
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 9
Metro Area Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120
Seattle and its surrounding suburbs have seen significant growth, making this area both a highly desirable place to live and an expensive one. Inside the Seattle city limits, 744,955 people are full-time residents, while the larger metro area totals 3,735,216 residents. People living just outside Seattle may not have direct access to the Puget Sound, but there’s a good chance they won’t have to commute into the city each day, as there are plenty of major employers in the suburbs. Microsoft's headquarters, for example, is located in Redmond, Washington.
Learn more about the Seattle metro area.17. Indianapolis
City Population: 867,125
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 38
Metro Area Population: 1,989,030
Median Home Price: $173,700
Median Annual Salary: $48,030
In central Indiana, the state capital is home to 867,125 people. While dozens of surrounding cities and towns make up the Indianapolis metro area, none have an individual population over 100,000, which makes the area a major draw. Ranking No. 38 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Indianapolis receives its highest score for its low cost of living. Indianapolis-area residents spend just 20.72% of the median annual household income on housing expenses.
Learn more about the Indianapolis metro area.16. Charlotte, North Carolina
16. Charlotte, North Carolina
City Population: 872,498
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 20
Metro Area Population: 2,427,024
Median Home Price: $213,983
Median Annual Salary: $50,150
With a population of 872,498, Charlotte is the 16th-most populous city in the U.S. Contributing to Charlotte’s rank is the fact that the entire metro area is growing rapidly. Between 2013 and 2017, the Charlotte metro area increased in population by 7.06% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the 14th-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 most populous in the U.S.
Learn more about the Charlotte metro area.15. San Francisco
15. San Francisco
City Population: 883,305
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 7
Metro Area Population: 4,461,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700
With a population of 883,305, San Francisco draws people to the city – and keeps them there – with its views of the San Francisco Bay, hilly terrain and Northern California climate. Of course, other parts of the San Francisco metro area are popular spots for people to relocate as well, including Oakland, Palo Alto and Berkeley. The total population of the San Francisco metro area is nearly 4.5 million residents.
Learn more about the San Francisco metro area.14. Columbus, Ohio
14. Columbus, Ohio
City Population: 892,533
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 51
Metro Area Population: 2,023,695
Median Home Price: $182,600
Median Annual Salary: $50,020
With a population of nearly 900,000, the capital of Ohio is the most populous city in the state. However, if you include the surrounding suburbs, with cities such as Dublin, Grove City and Westerville, the metro area's population is only the third-largest in the state. While the Columbus metro area is home to 2,023,695 people, Cleveland, with more than 2.7 million residents, and Cincinnati, with more than 2.1 million residents, are larger metro areas.
Learn more about the Columbus metro area.13. Fort Worth, Texas
13. Fort Worth, Texas
City Population: 895,008
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 21
Metro Area Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250
With 895,008 residents, Fort Worth is the 13th-most populous city in the U.S. Fort Worth is the only city on this list that isn’t the largest municipality in its metro area. The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is aptly named, as both major cities contribute to the large population and economy of the region. The metro area is home to more than 7 million residents.
Learn more about the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.12. Jacksonville, Florida
12. Jacksonville, Florida
City Population: 903,889
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 42
Metro Area Population: 1,447,884
Median Home Price: $174,658
Median Annual Salary: $45,760
With just over 900,000 residents, the city of Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the contiguous U.S., in addition to being the 12th-largest city by population in all 50 states. The Jacksonville metro area, which is home to 1,447,884 residents, reaches up to Florida’s border with Georgia and includes plenty of coastal mileage. Like many other spots in Florida, Jacksonville is growing fast: The metro area increased in population by 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.
Learn more about the Jacksonville metro area.11. Austin, Texas
11. Austin, Texas
City Population: 964,254
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 1
Metro Area Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840
Ranking No. 1 on the overall Best Places to Live list three years in a row, Austin has a metro area population of 2,000,590, with almost half of its residents living in the city. For years, Austin has attracted many young professionals with its ever-growing number of tech jobs. As the cost of living has increased over the years, more companies have set up shop outside the city center, where apartment rents and home prices are lower.
Learn more about the Austin metro area.10. San Jose, California
10. San Jose, California
City Population: 1,030,119
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 14
Metro Area Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180
Located just south of the San Francisco metro area, San Jose has long been a dream destination for technology startups looking to make it big. The city itself has a population of more than 1 million residents, and the surrounding metro area adds slightly more than 900,000 more to the mix. Of course, with the strongest job market in the U.S., the San Jose metro area naturally attracts residents and keeps them there, with a median annual salary of $77,180 and unemployment rate of just 2.6%.
Learn more about the San Jose metro area.9. Dallas
City Population: 1,345,047
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 21
Metro Area Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250
While the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has already earned a mention on this list, the city of Dallas takes the No. 9 spot, with a population of 1,345,047. While Dallas has a large downtown that provides that often-desired urban feel, there’s no mistaking that Texas vibe many people enjoy in the area. With more than 7 million residents, Dallas-Fort Worth is the most populous metro area in Texas, but there are still Texas cities larger than Dallas on the list.
Learn more about the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.8. San Diego
8. San Diego
City Population: 1,425,976
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 36
Metro Area Population: 3,283,665
Median Home Price: $555,325
Median Annual Salary: $56,410
With a population of 1,425,976, San Diego is a major draw for new residents and tourists. Sunny weather, ample attractions and beautiful beaches located within the city limits keep people happy year-round. The San Diego metro area comprises 3,283,665 residents and reaches down to California’s border with Mexico, including the cities National City and Chula Vista slightly south of San Diego. San Ysidro, which meets the Mexican border, is a district of the city of San Diego.
Learn more about the San Diego metro area.7. San Antonio
7. San Antonio
City Population: 1,532,233
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 34
Metro Area Population: 2,377,507
Median Home Price: $211,800
Median Annual Salary: $46,200
With a population of 1,532,233, this city is part of the San Antonio metro area, which has a total population of 2,377,507. The metro area reaches into eight counties, and the second-largest city is New Braunfels, which has fewer than 80,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While San Antonio has a downtown with a smattering of high-rise buildings, the best-known areas are historic parts of the city, including the San Antonio River Walk, the ruins of the Alamo and the surrounding museums and parks.
Learn more about the San Antonio metro area.6. Philadelphia
City Population: 1,584,138
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 102
Metro Area Population: 6,065,644
Median Home Price: $200,142
Median Annual Salary: $54,940
Philadelphia is a major city with a storied history that has built up a dense surrounding metro area. The city has a population of 1,584,138, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 estimate, while the metro area population is made up of more than 6 million residents. Philadelphia’s proximity to other states means the metro area includes not only nearby areas in Pennsylvania, but also New Jersey, Delaware and small portions of Maryland.
Learn more about the Philadelphia metro area.5. Phoenix
City Population: 1,660,272
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 26
Metro Area Population: 4,561,038
Median Home Price: $234,183
Median Annual Salary: $49,500
In the Arizona desert, Phoenix attracts residents with its year-round warm, dry weather and undeniable Southwestern feel. The city of Phoenix has a population of 1,660,272, although the metro area reaches far and wide and is made up of more than 4.5 million residents. On the overall Best Places to Live list, where Phoenix ranks No. 26, the metro area scores highest for its desirability and growth due to net migration. The Phoenix metro area grew by 6.3% due to net migration between 2013 and 2017.
Learn more about the Phoenix metro area.4. Houston
City Population: 2,325,502
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 30
Metro Area Population: 6,636,208
Median Home Price: $223,875
Median Annual Salary: $53,820
With a population of 2,325,502, Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. Many parts of the larger Houston metro area, home to more than 6.6 million people, are unincorporated, making it relatively easy to develop new properties and improve existing ones to better house the ever-growing population. Easier property development means the Houston area is able to maintain a relatively low cost of living: Residents of the metro area spend 22.6% of the median annual household income on housing expenses.
Learn more about the Houston metro area.3. Chicago
City Population: 2,705,994
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 104
Metro Area Population: 9,549,229
Median Home Price: $221,983
Median Annual Salary: $54,160
It may carry the nickname "Second City," but Chicago is in fact the third-largest city by population in the U.S. More than 2.7 million people live in the city, and an additional 6.8 million people live in the surrounding suburbs, which include Evanston, Naperville and Aurora in Illinois, as well as a couple of municipalities in Wisconsin and Indiana. While Chicago remains one of the largest cities in the U.S., it may not stay near the top for too long: Between 2013 and 2017, the Chicago metro area’s population shrank by 2.44% due to net migration, making it the sixth-fastest shrinking metro area out of the 125 most populous in the U.S.
Learn more about the Chicago metro area.2. Los Angeles
2. Los Angeles
City Population: 3,990,456
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 107
Metro Area Population: 18,585,594
Median Home Price: $526,214
Median Annual Salary: $53,803
Nearly 4 million people call Los Angeles proper home, although you’ll find more than 18.5 million residents in the metro area. While Los Angeles has a downtown, the metro area spreads far and wide, with plenty of areas that offer a more suburban feel than other major cities. Outside the downtown area, you’re less likely to see many high-rise office or apartment buildings.
Learn more about the Los Angeles metro area.1. New York City
1. New York City
City Population: 8,398,748
Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 90
Metro Area Population: 21,139,370
Median Home Price: $386,862
Median Annual Salary: $63,079
The biggest city in the U.S. is an obvious one: the Big Apple. New York City is home to more than 8 million people, but the metro area that includes boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, plus suburban areas like Westchester, New York, and parts of New Jersey, has a population of over 21 million. For people looking for urban options within the larger metro area, New York offers many choices not just in the city itself, but in parts of Long Island and New Jersey.
Learn more about the New York City metro area.The biggest cities in the U.S. by population are:
The biggest cities in the U.S. by population are:
- New York City.
- Los Angeles.
- San Antonio.
- San Diego.
- San Jose, California.
- Austin, Texas.
- Jacksonville, Florida.
- Fort Worth, Texas.
- Columbus, Ohio.
- San Francisco.
- Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Washington, D.C.
- El Paso, Texas.
- Nashville, Tennessee.
- Portland Oregon.
Larson has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Real Deal and other top-tier outlets for her industry insights and expertise. Recognized among her peers for her eye for design, she has bought, renovated and sold apartments and homes in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Nantucket, providing her an acute insight into the needs of buyers and sellers alike.
Lisa holds a Master's degree in History and was a member of the Division I cross-country and track teams at the University of California, Berkeley. Larson also remains actively involved with various charitable foundations, neighborhood associations and at both of her children's schools, and serves as a director on the board of the USA Track & Field Association.