What can you buy for $2,000 a month?

A mansion in some cities. A tiny studio in others.

It seems like a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment ought to provide a pretty nice place to live. But there's an astounding difference in what that will buy based on where the home is located.

In suburban Tampa and Atlanta, you can enjoy a luxurious mansion with pools and gyms, media rooms and theaters. But in San Francisco and New York, you'll get little more than a place to sleep, a tiny kitchen and bathroom. One bathroom.

We picked nine cities across the country and figured out what a buyer could get for $500,000.

We assumed that buyer would make a 20% down payment ($80,000) to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance and finance the remaining $420,000 with a 30-year fixed-rate loan that cost just a little less than 4.5% — the current average cost of such a mortgage.

Do that and the principal and interest payments work out to be right at $2,000 a month, not including property taxes and homeowner's insurance.

We made sure that the one property that levies a condo fee cost a little less than $500,000 so that the total monthly cost would still be $2,000, including the mortgage payment and fee.

Atlanta

Address: 2068 Frazier Walk, Decatur
Price: $499,900
Square feet: 4,544
Cost per square foot: $110

While this double-gabled suburban home is the second-largest in our slide show, it also boasts the second-lowest cost per square foot. Built in 2010 with an eclectic façade of brick, stone and stucco, it has three — count 'em, three — HVAC units to battle those hot southern summers. Inside you'll find a two-story foyer, sweeping staircase and den with a fireplace, built-in bookcases and entire wall of windows. The kitchen includes all of the high-end features you'd expect — stainless-steel appliances including a double oven, large island and granite counter tops. The six bedrooms and five baths include a master suite with trey ceiling, walk-in closet and luxurious en suite. Dual vanities? Check. Glass-enclosed shower? Check. Soaking tub? Check. There's also a large deck overlooking the backyard and two-car attached garage. Commute-wise, the home is about 10 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.

See more photos of this Georgia home.

Contact: Michael Smith of Chapman Hall Realtors at 404-932-4389.

Chicago

Address: 2518 N. Lawndale Ave.
Price: $495,000
Square-feet: 2,000
Cost per square foot: $257

This turn of the century home was completely gutted and remodeled in 2013 to transform it into a like-new gem in the Logan Square neighborhood. The three-bedroom, two-bath home clocks in at the middle of our list in both square foot size and price per square foot. The good news is that it includes just about everything new: electrical, plumbing and HVAC system, to start. The remodel changed the floor plan to include an open great room for the main living area, plus vaulted ceilings and skylights for the bedrooms on the top floor. The kitchen has granite counter tops, walk-in pantry, stainless-steel appliances and hardwood laminate floors. There's also a large deck off the kitchen and a two-car garage. A commuter station with trains to Chicago Union Station is just over a half mile away.

See more photos of this Illinois home.

Contact: Evelyn Fred of Jameson Sotheby's International Realty at 312-751-0300.

Los Angeles

Address: 17807 Rhoda St., Encino
Price: $499,000
Square-feet: 1,180
Cost per square foot: $424

This two-bedroom, one-bath ranch home 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles reflects Southern California's high housing costs. It comes with some nice touches, such as hardwood floors in the dining room and bedrooms, lots of white tile in the kitchen and bath, and a pedestal sink. But this is a pretty modest property, even though it has the third-highest cost per square foot in our slide show. The garage has been sound-proofed and converted into an oversize den with a high, exposed-beam ceiling and fireplace. (It could also be used as a third bedroom.) There's a carport out front and a covered patio with hot tub in the lush backyard. The home is a half-mile walk from a Trader Joe's, one block from Los Olivos Park and, for those who will be commuting, a mile from an entrance onto the Ventura Freeway.

See more photos of this California home.

Contact: Dave Ockun of Keller Williams Realty at 310-482-2512.

Milwaukee

Address: 8712 N. Spruce Rd., River Hills
Price: $499,500
Square feet: 3,940
Cost per square foot: $127

This rambling wood-and-brick suburban home 12 miles north of Milwaukee was built in 1963 and — to be honest — looks a bit dated on the outside. But inside it's a modern gem, and no small rancher either, clocking in with five bedrooms and four baths. You'll find new hardwood floors, track lighting and ceiling fans throughout. The eat-in kitchen is equipped with stainless-steel appliances and the spacious great room with a stone fireplace for those cold Wisconsin winters. The bathrooms are all updated, too, and tiled in modern motifs. The outside landscaping is impressive, including a circular driveway in the front and large backyard with patio, children's play area and garden paths. If you plan to commute, the home is less than a half mile from an entrance to I-43, which leads right into the city.

See more photos of this Wisconsin home.

Contact: Julie Bulgrin of Suzanne Powers Realty Group at 414-937-5245.

New York City

Address: 209 W 104th St #1F
Price: $439,000
Square feet: 450
Cost per square foot: $976

This Upper West Side studio apartment is the epitome of New York City real estate: small and expensive. It has the highest cost per square foot of any home on our list, and it's the smallest. For $439,000, you'll get a recently renovated alcove studio located in a 46-unit prewar building. The condo has new flooring, three closets and high ceilings, and the kitchen comes with stainless-steel appliances. Of course, the location is breathtaking, with Columbia University, Riverside Drive and the Hudson River parks just a short walk away. The building also has a live-in super, bike room and on-site laundry. If you noticed that the cost of this condo is lower than any of the other places on this list, you're right— but this condo also has HOA fees of $305 a month. Combined with your mortgage payment, the total comes to about $2,000 a month.

See more photos of this Manhattan home.

Contact: Mary Murphy Owens of Town Residential at 917-292-8982.

Phoenix

Address: 4237 N. 31st St.
Price: $499,000
Square feet: 2,478
Cost per square foot: $201

This 1950s ranch home was completely renovated and updated last year, and the results are stunning. There are four bedrooms and three baths and a kitchen to die for — stainless-steel appliances, a large island prep area, marble counter tops and subway glass backsplash. The kitchen blends into the great room with its new hardwood flooring and gas fireplace. The bathrooms are all glass and tile, and two of the bathrooms are part of master suites. Both the front and back patios are covered, too, so you can enjoy Arizona weather but not bake under Arizona sun. In the backyard are two standout features: a kidney-shaped pool and a 288-square-foot guest house (which is included in the overall square footage). In terms of size and cost per square foot, this desert residence falls right in the middle of our slide show.

See more photos of this Arizona home.

Contact: Tiffany Carlson of Realty One Group at 480-213-1105.

Portland

Address: 3737 N.E. Wasco St.
Price: $498,900
Square feet: 2,712
Cost per square foot: $184

This two-story Craftsman cottage comes with three bedrooms, two baths and also hits the middle of our list for both size and price per square foot. It's a beauty, too, with box beam ceilings, leaded-glass windows, inlaid hardwood floors and a nice-sized, fenced-in backyard with a detached garage. The home's two bathrooms have been recently renovated, and the kitchen is large enough for an eat-in space. Both the house and garage also have new roofs, plus there's a 900-square-foot basement. The location here is also a big bonus. The home is a half mile from Oregon Park and a third of a mile from a shopping district that includes a Trader Joe's, Starbucks and farmer's market. No matter how you commute, the home is in a good spot: It's a half mile from the Tri-Met light-rail station and less than a mile from an entrance to I-84.

See more photos of this Oregon home.

Contact: Francine Corriere of PDX Brokers at 503-595-8031.

San Francisco

Address: 249 Peru Ave.
Price: $495,000
Square feet: 875
Cost per square foot: $566

Brace yourself for a plunge into the most expensive real estate market in the country, where the median list price was $867,280 in March. The main selling point of this two bedroom, one bath home? Location. Location. Location. It's in the Excelsior area of San Francisco, just three-quarters of a mile from the Glen Park BART station. John McLaren Park, the city's second-largest public space, home to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater and a golf course, is a half-mile walk. As for the house itself, you won't be wowed by its curb appeal or spacious interior — it's the second-smallest residence in our slide show. But we think it provides a clean and functional place to live with new carpets, fresh paint, a sunny living room and large storage area in the basement. That's a pretty good buy for a measly half-million dollars in San Francisco.

See more photos of this California home.

Contact: Ken Kwok of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at 650-642-5548.

Tampa

Address: 11407 W. Queensway Dr.
Price: $499,000
Square feet: 6,474
Cost per square foot: $77

This four-bedroom, five-bath mansion 12 miles north of downtown Tampa is the biggest home in our slide show with the lowest cost per square foot. It was built in 2000 with an eye-catching Italian motif of columns, arches and red-tile roofs. The kitchen includes all of the luxury goods you'd expect — custom cabinets, stainless-steel appliances and granite counter tops, plus a large island and eating area. The two-story vaulted living room has a gas fireplace, built-in entertainment system and wall mural of a waterfall. Then there's the personal gym and a theater room, with projection screen and surround sound. The master bedroom on the first floor opens directly onto the backyard pool. The master bath includes both a Jacuzzi and stand-up shower, plus wine fridge and wine rack — yes, in the bathroom. The three other bedrooms have full bathrooms, too.

See more photos of this Florida home.

Contact: Mark Koert of University Realty at 813-977-0079.

5 reasons your home isn't selling

If you're having trouble selling your house, there's a good chance you might be doing something wrong. Here's how to fix your problems.

Click here to get started.



8 smart moves to boost your curb appeal

People judge the exterior of your home like they judge a book's cover. If you lack curb appeal, here are 8 smart moves to consider.

Click here to get started.