How Much Money Would You Need to Buy the White House?

The White House
The White House is full of treasures. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

There are many famous residences in the world. You might have seen photo tours of Bill Gates‘ house, for example, or even visited Versailles or Paisley Park. But none, at least in the United States, are as famous as the White House. It’s America’s presidential palace. And no matter who lives there at any given time, it’s a place filled with history as the epicenter of the executive branch — unless, of course, the president is using a satellite building.
Though you can take a tour of the White House, you don’t get to see the whole thing. It’s a giant building sitting on a huge plot of land right in the heart of Washington, D.C., and its secrets run deep. Of course, the president and family live in the residence, and the rest of the building is dedicated to operating the government. As a guest, you’ll get merely a glimpse of it all.
But what if — and it’s a big “if” — you wanted to buy the place for yourself? You know, what if you could own it outright and be able to explore the entire place whenever you felt like it? Of course, it’s hard to imagine that the federal government would be listing the White House for sale anytime soon. But still, if it did how much would it take to buy it?
The short answer? A lot. A building that big, sitting on such a prime piece of real estate in America’s capital would come with a huge price tag. And on top of that, you’d need to factor in the historical value, the upkeep and maintenance required, and everything else that comes with buying a home. But first, we’ll do a quick rundown of its history — and then assign a dollar value.

The history of the White House

The White House in 1918
The White House in 1918 | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • The British burned the White House in 1814, as a part of the War of 1812.

The presidential palace at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was originally constructed between 1792 and 1800. The site was selected by George Washington, and it was designed by architect James Hoban. John Adams was the first president to move in. It was burned by the British in 1814 but reconstructed quickly after. Since then, it’s been the primary residence and workplace of every president. It’s owned by the National Park Service and is a National Heritage Site. There’s obviously a lot more to the story, but that’s a sense of the building’s history.
Next: What do you get with the White House?

The property: What you get for your money

President Barack Obama throws a ball for Bo, the family dog, in the Rose Garden
President Barack Obama throws a ball for Bo, the family dog, in the Rose Garden. | Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images
  • The White House itself is 54,900 square feet. The president and family get 20,000.

In terms of size and scale, you’re getting a whole lot for your money. It’s in a prime spot in the heart of Washington, D.C. As for specifics, the White House sits on a plot that is 18-acres in all. Add in the Ellipse just south, and it jumps to 52 acres. That’s plenty of room for a football game or Easter egg hunt. Assuming one valuation from Zillow is accurate, those 18 acres will cost you a cool $22 million per acre.
Next: What exactly is the White House worth today?

Current valuations

Donald Trump arrives at the White House.
Donald Trump arrives at the White House. | Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images
  • Per Zillow, the White House has an estimated value (as of summer 2017) of $397.7 million.

It’s hard to put an exact value on the most famous house in America. Zillow, for example, gives it a valuation of roughly $400 million. But other valuations have put the asking price at significantly lower levels, with an estimate coming in at $90 million. That, however, is just for the building and property. Add in all the extras, and the asking price jumps to $250 million.
Next: What’s on the inside and how much do the utilities and maintenance cost?

On the inside

President George W. Bush looks into the "Green Room"
President George W. Bush looks into the Green Room. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
  • The president and family live on the second and third floors. 

You’ll get a lot of square footage if you were to buy the White House, but not all of it is for living lavishly. According to author Kate Anderson Brower, who wrote the book The Residence, you’ll get “132 rooms, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators are spread across the 6 floors — plus two hidden mezzanine levels — all tucked within what appears to be a three-story building.” The private quarters, or “the residence,” has 24 rooms and 20,000 square feet on the second and third floors.
Next: One thing you’re probably wondering: How much do the utility bills cost?

How much do utilities cost?

The White House illuminated in red, white and blue lights
The White House is illuminated in red, white, and blue lights. | Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
  • President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels in 1979, but President Ronald Reagan had them taken down in 1986.

The good news? Those who live in the White House don’t have to pay the utility bill. The White House was electrified in 1891 and has been lit up ever since. The bad news, however, is we don’t really know how much it costs to pay those utility bills. Of course, the building goes through lots of electricity, water, and produces plenty of trash, but just how much? Let’s just say it’s probably more than your apartment’s power bill.
On average, monthly utilities for a 915-square-foot Washington, D.C., apartment cost $120.37. And that’s excluding internet, which the president definitely needs to tweet. So with the White House being roughly 50 times the size of that apartment, utilities likely cost thousands per month.
Next: But there are other upkeep costs to consider if you were to put in a bid.

Upkeep costs

U.S. Park Service personnel clear the streets in front of the West Wing
U.S. Park Service personnel clear the streets in front of the West Wing. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Taking care of 18 acres isn’t easy and requires a lot of manpower. As such, the grounds are taken care of by the National Park Service. There is a staff of 13 people who make sure the grounds surrounding the building are maintained in tip-top shape. And there are 12 others who work for the National Park Service: three foremen, eight gardeners, and a maintenance operator. Annual maintenance costs amount to between $750,000 and $1.6 million.
Next: The building also requires a huge number of people to keep it running.

Staff payroll

A kitchen staff member prepares the State Dining Room
A kitchen staff member prepares the State Dining Room. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • Around 350 people work in the residence, including both full- and part-time employees.

If you’re going to own a palace, you’ll need a staff to keep the place humming. No, a single butler like Bruce Wayne has won’t cut it. The place is staffed with chefs, maids, butlers, plumbers, florists — the list goes on from there. The president does pay for his or her personal expenses, including food, however. So, if you plan on moving in, expect to pay for a small army to keep the place maintained and the wine flowing.