The following is a series of 100% true statements. You can check them with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if you like.

HUD estimates the fair-market rent for a given metropolitan area, for one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments. Without considering utilities, a one-bedroom apartment in Cleveland will/should cost you around $592 per month. Two-bedroom? $750*. Three boosts you over the 1K barrier, to $1,005, and if you’re going that far, why not a four-bedroom? It’s only $1,037 per month.

Again, the following is 100% true.


According to HUD, you pay more for a one-bedroom apartment in the District of Columbia than you would pay for a four-bedroom in Cleveland.

One thousand, two hundred and thirty-nine dollars.

It only gets worse from there. A two-bedroom in DC is $1,469. Three bedrooms: $1,966. And four bedrooms is a whopping $2,470–more than twice what you’d pay for the same space in Cleveland!

Okay, but what if you want to buy instead?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) tells us that in the first quarter of 2014, the median sales price for a Cleveland-area home was $102,100. D.C.’s was $358,900. For a condo or co-op, NAR says the DC average is currently $261,700. It doesn’t record numbers for the Cleveland area. Fortunately, I have another source.

As of 6/20/14, there was a listing for a luxury condo in another Cleveland suburb that included this text. Not a word has been changed. 

Your retreat to luxury condo living with concierge services. Included in your monthly maintenance fee is an exceptional range of services: Vehicle valet parking, Attended on-site reception and/or security desk, grocery delivery from your vehicle to your suite, heat, water, sewer, pick and delivery of dry cleaning, packages and luggage, landscaping and snow removal, basic cable, copier and fax machines available 24/7, rubbish pick up at your back door daily (except Sundays), just to mention a few…This spacious unit features 9 foot ceilings, beautiful working fireplace, hardwood flooring, crown molding, elaborate cove moldings and plaster work. Foyer features two rock crystal sconces. Three bedrooms, one and one half baths, linen room. Kitchen boasts Calcutta gold marble, porcelain sink and custom leaded French window. Dining room features a Waterford crystal chandelier. This unit is located in the Main Gallery and is just minutes to The Cultural Hub of Cleveland.

How much do you suppose all this is selling for? $300,000? $500,000?

$125,000. Three bedrooms, 1.5 baths. Over 2,000 square feet. And if you can believe it, the average asking price for similar condos in its area is even lower–around $97,000. On Halloween, 2013, not a quarter of a mile away, a two-bed, two-bath, 1,500-foot condo sold for $52,000.

You find some amazing things poking around in the Trulia listings for the rival cities. If you’re looking to spend $150,000 in DC, you can get a fixer-upper of a brick rowhouse. In Cleveland, that much money can buy you an entire apartment building. DC’s $200,000 can get you a Fannie Mae reclamation project. In Cleveland, a fantastic four-bedroom home.

This entire blog post has been about the proverbial bottom line, so let’s close with one more thunderous example of same.

Of all the cost-of-living comparison wizards out there,’s version is one of the best. It uses both cost-of-living numbers and how much employers pay to determine how much money you’ll save or lose if you take a job in another city. Just plug in the names of two cities and a salary number and you’re good to go.

If you make $40,000 in Washington, D.C., and you’re curious about moving to Cleveland, according to this wizard, you will save $11,000 simply by moving. Here’s what it says:

  The cost of living in Cleveland, OH is 37.2% lower than in Washington, DC . Therefore, you would have to earn a salary of $25,113 to maintain your current standard of living.     Employers in Cleveland, OH typically pay 9.7% less than employers in Washington, DC . Therefore, if you take the same type of job in the same type of company in Cleveland, OH you are likely to earn $36,112 .


Put those two together–a gain of $14,887 and a loss of $3,888–and you get just about $11,000 more in your pocket. Just by moving to Cleveland.

Seems like a pretty good decision to me.

*True story: my own two-bedroom apartment, in an inner-ring suburb, three blocks from a dining and entertainment district, two blocks from a superb park and one block from a family-owned grocery store, costs exactly $750 a month. And it’s a ten-minute bus ride from the Red Line, Cleveland’s main public transit artery, as well as all of Cleveland’s major museums–an area known as University Circle. This kind of thing is pretty typical here.