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.

By Jen A. Miller
Interest.com Contributing Editor