Only the cities with estimated prices that fell under $1 million for all four mansion sizes made the final ranking. Each city's actual median list price per square foot was obtained from Zillow, and those numbers are as of June 2019. Note that some of the photos below feature homes from surrounding major areas and should not be considered an example of a mansion in each ranked city. They are illustrative only.
There were a few surprises on our list, including cities in the Sun Belt. These are places where megamansions and expansive family compounds can be built for much less than what buyers would pay on the costly coasts. Most have seen a big influx of new residents over the past 20 years, so builders have been constructing massive developments and communities to keep up.
We looked for cities with the most affordable homes of 5,000-plus square feet on Realtor.com. Cities had to have had at least 50 mansion listings in August to be included. To achieve geographic diversity, we limited our list to just one city per state. To ensure a fair comparison, the final list was sorted by median price per square foot.
Because of cheap land prices and tons of space, home construction companies have been building sprawling mansions on massive lots. Canton has tons of single-family developments with affordable mansions, including this 6,000-square-foot home in a country club development listed for $765,000.
This stunning art deco mansion on the market for $535,000 was built in 1905 and designed by local architecture firm Root and Siemens. This home, which includes a pool in the basement, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since the area began to see a decline in the early to mid-20th century, some of the sprawling century-old mansions require costly renovations. For those who want the history without putting in the work, this stunning five-bedroom, built in 1896, on Millionaires Row is listed for well under a million.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including deals on affordable mansions. This former railroad town is a Houston suburb that has seen massive growth in recent years. Its population nearly doubled over the past decade as the city made a concerted effort to bring in new jobs. Big employers in the area include British oil company BP and a recently constructed Amazon distribution center.
Steel is still a major industry here, but employers have diversified. Buyers looking for historical charm can check out the Highland Park neighborhood, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Homes built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries still stand with contemporary condos thanks to its proximity to downtown. A recently renovated 1935 mansion with original pocket doors is listed for under $500,000.
The Playboy Mansion, also known as the Playboy Mansion West, is the former home of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner who lived there from 1974 until his death in 2017. Barbi Benton convinced Hefner to buy the home located in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California, near Beverly Hills. From the 1970s onward, the mansion became the location of lavish parties held by Hefner which were often attended by celebrities and socialites. It is currently owned by Daren Metropoulos, the son of billionaire investor Dean Metropoulos, and is used for corporate activities. It also serves as a location for television production, magazine photography, charitable events, and civic functions.
Hefner established the original Playboy Mansion in 1959. It was a 70-room brick and limestone residence in Chicago's Gold Coast, which had been built in 1899. Hefner had founded Playboy in Chicago in 1953. After he moved to California, his company eventually let the mansion for a nominal rent to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then donated it to the school outright. The school later sold the mansion, which was then redeveloped for luxury condominiums.
The mansion has 29 rooms including a wine cellar (with a Prohibition-era secret door), a screening room with built-in pipe organ, a game room, three zoo / aviary buildings (and related pet cemetery), a tennis/basketball court, a waterfall and a swimming pool area (including a patio and barbecue area, a grotto, a basement gym with sauna below the bathhouse). Landscaping includes a large koi pond with artificial stream, a small citrus orchard and two well-established forests of tree ferns and redwoods. The west wing (originally servant's wing) housed the editorial offices of Playboy. The main aviary building is the original greenhouse, with four guest-rooms adjoining. The master suite occupies several rooms on the second and third floors, and is the most heavily renovated area of the mansion proper, with an extensive carved-oak decor dating to the 1970s. Otherwise, the mansion proper is maintained in its original Gothic-revival furnishings for the most part. The pipe organ was extensively restored in the last decade.[when?] There is also an outdoor kitchen to serve party events. These features and others have been shown on television.
The mansion next door is a mirror image of the Playboy Mansion layout, only smaller, and was purchased by Hefner in 1996 as the home for his separated wife Kimberley Conrad and their children, Marston and Cooper. Hefner and Conrad married in 1989 and separated in 1998. In March 2009, Hefner and Conrad put the property up for sale for the asking price of $28 million. In August 2009, the property was purchased by Daren Metropoulos for $18 million.
In 2002, Hefner purchased a house across and down the street from the mansion for use by Playmates and other guests who would prefer to stay further from the busy activity of the Mansion proper. That residence was commonly referred to as the Bunny House. In April 2013, the Bunny House was listed for sale for the asking price of $11 million. In September 2017, the property was sold to an unidentified buyer for $17.25 million.
In January 2016, the Playboy Mansion was listed for sale by Playboy Enterprises, Inc. for the asking price of $200 million, subject to the condition Hefner be allowed to continue to rent the mansion for life. In August 2016, the Playboy Mansion was bought for $100 million by Daren Metropoulos, the co-owner of Hostess Brands and a principal in the investment firm C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. Metropoulos intends to renovate and restore the mansion to its original form.
In 2009, Metropoulos bought the mansion next door to the Playboy Mansion from Hefner and his ex-wife Kimberly Conrad, and ultimately now wants to join the two properties. The Playboy Mansion and the mansion next door owned by Metropoulos were both designed by American architect Arthur R. Kelly and each estate has a common boundary with the Los Angeles Country Club.
In March 2018, Daren Metropoulos, the owner of the Playboy Mansion, entered into an agreement with the City of Los Angeles which permanently protects the mansion from demolition. The agreement between Metropoulos and the City of Los Angeles, referred to between the parties as a "permanent protection covenant," is binding on all future owners. The agreement protects the mansion from demolition, but still allows Metropoulos to make modernizations and substantial renovations and repairs to the property "following a long period of deferred maintenance while under Playboy ownership."
Under the permanent protection covenant, Metropoulos has further agreed to restore the house and facade to "its original grandeur." The compromise agreement reversed a move in November 2017 by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz to seek landmark status for the mansion in the hope of protecting the architectural integrity of the estate for what he called "an excellent example of a Gothic-Tudor." If designated a historic landmark, Metropoulos would have faced a lengthy process for permitting and review for the rehabilitation of the property. The permanent protection covenant avoided a potentially drawn out and contentious legal action between the City of Los Angeles and Metropoulos for the City of Los Angeles seeking the formal designation of the mansion as a historic landmark.
In 1959, the building was acquired by Hefner. The mansion's basement, Hefner's original "grotto", had a swimming pool with a glass wall and attached bar. In addition to a game room and bowling alley, the residence contained a two-floor dormitory for Bunnies employed at the Chicago Playboy Club and discrete apartments that were occupied by several employees, including longtime Hefner aide Bobbie Arnstein.
For a period in the 1970s, Hefner divided his time between Chicago and the "Playboy Mansion West" in Los Angeles. The Chicago mansion boasted a brass plate on the door with the Latin inscription Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare ("If you don't swing, don't ring").
Although Playboy Enterprises remained headquartered in Chicago until 2012, Hefner left the city permanently for Los Angeles in 1974 following the conviction and ensuing suicide of Bobbie Arnstein, the culmination of an "investigation of drug use in Hefner's mansion" by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (and future Governor of Illinois) James R. Thompson. Derick Daniels (who served as president and chief operating officer of Playboy Enterprises from 1976 to 1982) resided in an apartment at the mansion during his tenure with the company. Eventually, the property was turned into a dormitory for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with Hefner formally deeding the building to the Art Institute in 1989. In 1993, the Chicago mansion was sold to developer Bruce Abrams and converted into seven high-price luxury condos. In 2011, one 7,874 sq ft (731.5 m2) condominium was placed for sale at an asking price of $6.7 million.
In February 2011, 123 people complained of fever and respiratory illness after attending a DomainFest Global conference event held at the Playboy Mansion. After an investigation in response to the reported illnesses of the DomainFest attendees, epidemiologists from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health disclosed their findings at a Centers for Disease Control conference the disease outbreak was traced to a hot tub in the mansion's famed grotto, where they found Legionella pneumophila, which causes Legionnaires' disease. 781b155fdc