Exploring Expat Life: Average Housing Costs in Top Destinations Worldwide

Cid Titulaer

April 2, 2024

Exploring Expat Life: Average Housing Costs in Top Destinations Worldwide

Cid Titulaer

April 2, 2024

Exploring Expat Life: Average Housing Costs in Top Destinations Worldwide

Cid Titulaer

April 2, 2024

For many, the adventure of becoming an expat is overshadowed by the uncertainty of costs, particularly housing expenses. This guide is for those dreaming of the expat life, whether you’re digital nomads, professionals, or retirees, as we unravel the average housing costs in some top expat destinations across the globe. Within this guide we’ll be looking at destinations in Europe, Asia, The Americas and The Middle East.

The expat dream: choosing your new destination

Selecting a new home as an expat is an important decision, with countless factors to consider. From weather and culture to language and career prospects, each element plays a significant role in your international move. However, one of the most critical aspects, often attributed to the biggest share of expenses, is housing in affordable countries. Before packing your bags, you need to understand what you can afford and where your money will go the furthest.

Research framework

Before getting into the numbers, formulate a research framework. It should address:

  • Personal living standards and optional housing amenities

  • Legalities and practicalities of renting or buying property as a foreigner

  • Your financial position, including understanding the currency exchange rate

  • Long-term goals and their compatibility with the destination

Average housing costs in top expat destinations

Understanding the cost of living, and particularly housing, will give you a sense of the financial commitment necessary in your prospective expat destination. Here, we'll peek at the housing landscape in some of the most favored expat locations, where we’ll explore the average housing price for buying..


European countries are a top choice for expats with its mix of history, culture, and modern comforts. From Madrid and London to the Nordic tranquility, the continent offers diverse living experiences. Housing costs vary widely across regions, whether it's the Mediterranean charm of Spain or the urban efficiency of Germany and the Netherlands. Understanding expenses is key for your European expat journey.

Portugal: Lisbon and Porto

Known for their Mediterranean climate, rich history, and welcoming cultures, Lisbon and Porto have become magnets for expats seeking a European lifestyle without a hefty price tag. In the capital city, Lisbon, the cost of property typically varies between $320 and $540 per square feet, depending on the neighborhood and property features. In the Porto metropolitan area, average house prices range from $160 to $320 per square feet.

Spain: Barcelona and Madrid

Spain offers different opportunities for expats, with coastal spots attracting more retirees and cities appealing to young professionals. In Madrid, the average price for a house per square feet is $385, a bit more than Barcelona's average of $380. This difference highlights the slight variations in the property markets of these major Spanish cities.

Germany: Berlin and Munich

Germany’s strong economy and high living standards attract expats seeking stability. However, cities like Berlin and Munich have different prices. Buying property in Berlin costs about $560 per square feet for older properties in early 2023. New buildings are pricier, around $870 per square feet. In Munich, prices range from $800 to $1,200 per square feet. Location is a key factor in these price differences.

Netherlands: Amsterdam and Rotterdam

The Netherlands' vibrant capital, with the combination of cultural richness, liberal ethos, and stunning canal-side views attract a diverse expat community. However, this popularity comes with a price tag, especially in the housing market. The average cost for purchasing property in Amsterdam hovers around $600 to $900 per square feet, with central areas and properties with views of the canals reaching the higher end of this spectrum. Rotterdam, 35 miles south of Amsterdam is quite a bit cheaper with average prices being around $400 per square feet, whilst the city doesn't offer the same canal views, it can still be beautiful. 

Great Britain: London and Manchester

Great Britain, known for its historical landmarks, and opportunities in industries like finance and technology, is a popular destination among expats. London is among the world's most expensive cities to live in, with house prices ranging from $900 to $1,300 per square feet. Prime locations command even higher prices. On the other hand, Manchester offers a more affordable option, with property prices averaging $200 to $500 per square feet.


Asia presents a compelling blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity, offering expats an intriguing range of living experiences. From major cities to serene countryside villages, this continent's diverse housing market caters to a variety of lifestyles and budgets, making it a favored destination for many due to its affordable cost and some of the most affordable countries.

Indonesia: Bali

Bali, an island paradise in Indonesia, has long been a coveted destination for expats drawn by its pristine beaches, rich culture, and relaxed lifestyle. The cost of living is relatively low compared to Western standards, making it an attractive option for digital nomads and retirees. The average price per square feet in Bali is $96, but it can significantly decrease or increase depending on the location and proximity to cities like Ubud and Canggu.

Thailand: Bangkok and Chiang Mai

Thailand’s charm lies in its affordable yet high-quality lifestyle. Bangkok, the bustling capital, offers a range of living experiences from vibrant city living to peaceful suburban retreats, here you pay between $100 and $400 per square feet. Chiang Mai, a favorite for digital nomads, is even more thrifty, with averages quite a lot lower with between $30 and $170 per square feet.

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi

Vietnam's rapid development, along with its strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia, has positioned it as an appealing destination for expats looking for new opportunities in a culturally rich and diverse environment. Ho Chi Minh City, the country's economic center and Hanoi, its political capital, average a per square feet price of between $90 and $400.


Singapore, a small but amazing country, known for its stunning skyline, vibrant multiculturalism, and delicious street food that tantalizes the taste buds of locals and tourists alike, however because of its size, the country only has a limited amount of space and thus this drives up the pricing, with the average price per square feet in Singapore being around $1,290.

The Americas

The Americas, encompassing a vast area from the chilly regions of Canada to the tropical paradises in Latin America, offer a myriad of opportunities for expats. This section explores the diverse living costs and lifestyles across notable cities in North, Central, and South America, catering to varied preferences and needs.

Mexico: Mexico City and Playa Del Carmen

Mexico’s rich culture and diverse landscape draw in expats from across the globe. In Mexico City, you'll be set back between $220 and $320 per square feet, while the coastal Playa Del Carmen offers a similar deal with beachside living.

Colombia: Bogotá and Medellín

Colombia, in the heart of South-America stands out for its affordable urban living and natural beauty, and this affordability also shines through in the average house prices in the country. Within Bogota and Medellin the prices per square feet are between $1,200 and $400. Digital nomads who enjoy living an adventurous lifestyle will find Colombia to be a perfect destination. 

United States: New York and San Francisco

For the more adventurous, the allure of the American dream still beckons. However, cities like New York and San Francisco demand a premium for their iconic status. With the average price per square feet in both cities going well over $1,000, but if you are willing to take the risk of investing in property in the United States of America, it might pay off in the future. 

The Middle East

The Middle East, a region steeped in history and culture, offers expats a unique blend of traditional lifestyles and rapidly modernizing cities. From the bustling markets of Dubai to the ancient ruins in Jordan, this region provides a fascinating contrast of living experiences for those looking to relocate.

United Arab Emirates: Dubai and Abu Dhabi

The UAE, a regional business hub, is intriguing for its tax-free incomes and luxurious expat lifestyle. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, accommodation costs are reflective of this wealth, with the average price per square feet being $500 and the limit for this number is as big as one can dream.

Factors beyond the rent cheque

When evaluating housing costs, it's essential to look beyond the monthly rent. Consideration of utilities, home size, amenities, and location are equally crucial. Additionally, some destinations may need hefty deposits or agency fees, which can impact your initial relocation budget. Making informed, comprehensive financial decisions is the key to a successful and sustainable expat life.

Utilities and amenities

Utilities such as electricity, water, and internet may or may not be inclusive in your rent. Be sure to include these monthly costs in your budget. Similarly, assess your need for amenities like gyms, pools, and laundry service, as those could escalate your costs. Also don't forget about low cost things like food costs, clothing, etc..

Legal and financial obligations

Understanding local rental laws can protect you from any legal hurdles. Furthermore, some countries may require renters to have a local bank account or a significant deposit, such as three months' rent upfront, which needs to be factored into your financial planning.

Expat community and resources

Expats often prefer areas with established expat communities, as they can offer support, ease of transition, and shared resources to negotiate favorable living arrangements. Joining local forums, speaking to groups from your home country, and leveraging your networking skills will help you tap into these.

Long-term covers

Especially for those intending to stay overseas for an extended period, having a long-term financial strategy is essential. This may include setting up local health insurance, contributing to a pension plan, or even thinking about your future property investments.

Health insurance

Navigating health insurance as an expat is vital for peace of mind and financial security. In many countries, comprehensive private health insurance is a legal residency requirement. Expats should research their host country's healthcare systems, understand their insurance, and consider extra protection as needed. Comparing plans that cover their healthcare costs and seeking advice can ensure sufficient coverage for you and your family.

The essence of home is priceless

While this guide provides a snapshot of average housing costs, the true value of home for an expat is in the experiences and memories created. Your new nest should support the lifestyle you envisage, allowing you to thrive in your international adventure. A bit of meticulous planning coupled with flexibility can help turn your expat dreams into a rewarding reality.

In the end, it’s the balance of affordable living costs and comfort that will define your expat experience. Take the time to explore your options, connect with the local community, and, most importantly, keep an open mind. Your new home awaits, with unique opportunities and a lifetime of tales to tell, so start exploring your new country!


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