One billion dollars—that’s how much “Grand Theft Auto 5”, 2013’s biggest video game release (by far) raked in during its first three days on sale. That’s enough to buy 31 Wayne Manors, nine White Houses, or 3,186 average priced homes. So it’s kind of a big deal. Not just in terms of video games but, well, anything.
I’ve been playing the game pretty much every day since its September release, and the fact that it lets you purchase real estate—in addition to the fact that I’m always sort of thinking about real estate—got me pondering how much the houses its characters call home would cost in real life. Since the game’s setting, the fictional city of Los Santos, is inspired by Los Angeles, CA, I thought this could also be a unique chance to do a semi-fictional evaluation involving a video game.
Since “Grand Theft Auto 5” also has three main characters, it also meant I’d get to evaluate three homes in one post on the Movoto Real Estate Blog. Yeah, no pressure.
But that’s what I did, and what I found was that fictional crime really does seem to pay—in the case of two of the three characters, at least. All three are bank robbers (and criminals in general) and all but one have some pretty sweet digs:
- Michael De Santa’s home would be worth $18,174,379 in real life
- Franklin Clinton’s would be worth $7,921,568
- Trevor Phillips’ trailer would cost $6,695 (including land)
Those prices only tell part of the story. For the rest, you’ll have to keep reading. I’ll give you a hint, though: It involves getting chased down by gun-wielding guys in SUVs for trying to get into my own house. Oh, and a helicopter.
How I Did It (Without Breaking the Law)
Even though I had to evaluate three properties in this piece rather than the usual one, the same process I use for putting a price tag on a single property still applied (with a couple of extra steps for Trevor’s safe house). Those three puzzle pieces are:
- Size in square feet
- Where it would be located in the real world
- Comparable real world properties in that location
For Trevor’s trailer home, I needed to price the trailer and land separately, but more on that when I get to it. For now, let’s take a look at all three of the above components for each character, starting with Michael.
Michael De Santa: Witness Protection Has Perks
Michael has it made—well, at least as far as housing goes. While his family life might be a trainwreck, there are probably plenty of people out there who would put up with family drama to live in his palatial pad in Los Santos’ upscale Rockford Hills neighborhood.
I had much bigger, deadlier problems on my hands than Michael’s turbulent home life. That came in the form of a goon squad with orders to neutralize me if I so much as set foot in Los Santos.
So, I had to get creative. I tracked down a helicopter and hovered above Michael’s house snapping photos. Using Michael’s car parked in the driveway, I was able to determine a scale. His car is based on an Audi A6, so I used the length of the real automobile to measure the house. Then, based on my now photographic memory of the interior from playing so much, I figured out how much of that was actually living space. The final measurement: 13,741 square feet.
Like I said earlier, Michael’s house is in Rockford Hills, which is based on Beverly Hills, CA. So my next step was to price similarly sized luxury homes in the real city and average out their per-square-foot cost. That came to $1,319 per square foot. Multiplying that by the square footage, I got $18,124,379. But I wasn’t done.
You see, Michael’s house has two particularly nice amenities I had to figure into the price: a large swimming pool and a tennis court. After searching online for some estimates of how much these cost to install and the value they add, I ended up adding $20,000 for the pool and $30,000 for the tennis court. That’s a total property value of $18,174,379.
Franklin Clinton: From Hood Life to the Good Life
For a thief, Franklin’s a pretty nice guy and everyone seems to like him. So much, in fact, that the guy who coordinates the bank heists for your crew in the game gives him a luxurious pad in Vinewood Hills. Not bad for someone who starts the game living with his aunt in a virtual version of South Central L.A.
Fortunately, coming up with the size of Franklin’s place was 100 percent less life threatening than Michael’s. I just had to drive of the winding, tight roads of Vinewood Hills and take a tour of his modern architecture abode.
Using the average width of male shoulders (18.25 inches), I measured both floors of the two-story house, its outdoor living area, deck, and garage. Even the area where his pooch, Chop, has a little house of his own. While smaller than Michael’s safe house, Franklin’s is certainly nothing to balk at; it’s a formidable 6,859 square feet in total. Plus, it has one heck of a view.
Looking at comparable properties of a similar size in the real-world equivalent of Vinewood Hills—that would be the Hollywood Hills neighborhood—I found that homes there currently average about $1,152 per square foot. That makes Franklin’s house, at 6,859 square feet, worth $7,901,568—before I factored in his hot tub and gorgeous infinity pool. Adding $20,000 for the pair, I ended up with a sticker price of $7,921,568 for the property. Chop’s house, on the other hand, costs about $250 at Home Depot.
Trevor Phillips: I Wouldn’t Even Rent to This Guy
Trevor’s house (a trailer home, actually) is in a place called Desert Shores, a few minutes north of Los Santos in in-game driving time. It’s not the sort of place I’d like to visit, even in a video game. But I braved the streets of this dumpy desert “town” for you, the readers. That’s where I spent as little time as possible surveying his “home,” which consists of an old trailer on a sand lot.
Again using my trusty 18.25 inch male shoulder width scale, I measured the trailer at 570 square feet without trying to touch any of the dirty laundry or filth inside. I also measured the lot for good measure, since I figured my chances of finding a trailer like his for sale in the actual location—with land included—might be slim. It ended up being 5,917 square feet.
Turns out I was right. The real Sandy Shores, a town about 40 minutes southeast of my hometown of Palm Springs, CA called Desert Shores, CA, only has a couple of mobile homes with land for sale and they’re far too nice to compare to Trevors. So, instead, I tracked down a lot for sale in Desert Shores priced at $0.54 per square foot. That’s $3,195 for those without a calculator handy.
Next, I headed to eBay of all places and priced some comparable—yet still nicer than Trevor’s—trailer homes for sale. I got an average of about $4,000 for one, but that’s still giving his hunk of junk too much credit, so I knocked it down to $3,500. That, combined with the land’s cost, gave me a total of $6,695.
Grand Theft Real Estate
So, all told, the safe houses belonging to the “GTA 5” crew amount to $26,102,642 in property value. You could buy them 38 times over with that $1 billion the game made in real life. That makes me wonder what the houses the people who made the game must be like. Hey, I think I just came up with a future story idea—keep your eyes peeled.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is a national online real estate brokerage. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes, CBS News, and The New York Times.