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Character: Olivia Pope from Scandal
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Crisis-management PR guru
Salary: According to Salary.com, a top-tier crisis-communication expert makes at least $200,000/year. Since Olivia?s clients include governors, senators, CEOs and, oh yeah, the POTUS, we bet she?s getting top dollar.
Pad: An oversized 1 BR rental with a separate dining room, hardwood floors and original detailing
Verdict: She can swing it. A luxe pre-war 1 BR in the heart of D.C. would likely run you around $3,000/month. With her cushy salary, Liv can afford to spend about $5,000/month on rent and utilities (which leaves some room for her to-die-for wardrobe).
Characters: Phil and Claire Dunphy from Modern Family
Location: Cheviot Hills, California
Occupations: Real estate agent and stay-at-home mom (with a burgeoning career working for her father's closet company)
Salary: Commission-based real estate agent salaries are notoriously fickle. But since Phil works in the high-earning L.A. area, we’re willing to believe he brings home about $100,000/year.
Pad: Craftsman 3 BR single-family home
Verdict: They’re living beyond their means. We found a similar house for $1.1 million, and while it’s possible the Dunphys bought theirs when home prices were lower, they’re probably still shelling out at least $4,500/month, or half their income, on mortgage payments. (Experts recommend no more than 28 percent.)
Character: Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation
Location: Pawnee, Indiana
Occupation: Deputy Parks Director
Salary: About $70,000/year
Pad: 4 BR, 2 BA bungalow, described by Leslie as a “scary nightmare hoarder nest”
Verdict: She can swing it. Though Pawnee is, sadly, fictional, a similar house in Bloomington, Indiana, goes for $319,900. Given Leslie’s obsessive tendencies, we’re pretty sure she saved enough for the roughly $60,000 down payment.
*Note: Yes, we know that Leslie recently moved into a new house with her new husband, Ben. We’re just still pining for her single-lady days.
Characters: Francis and Claire Underwood from House of Cards
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupations: Vice president (formerly House Majority Whip) and nonprofit executive for Clean Water Solutions
Salary: Francis: $227,300/year (that’s how much Biden makes); Claire: $175,000/year
Pad: 3 BR, 2.5 BA townhouse
Verdict: They can swing it. We found a nearly identical 3 BR, 2.5 BA single-family brownstone in Dupont Circle for just shy of $2 million. With two comfy salaries and all those years of professional experience, it’s totally plausible that they could afford such a sweet place.
Name: Emily Thorne (Amanda Clarke) from Revenge
Location: Southampton, New York
Occupation: Philanthropist and socialite
Salary: Hefty inheritance from her deceased father
Pad: 3 BR oceanfront “cottage”
Verdict: She can swing it--sort of. We found a comparable Hamptons beach cottage for a mere $13.4 million, but price actually isn’t the issue here. What we’re wondering is how Emily paid for that big, fancy mansion. After all, you can’t get a home loan if you don’t have credit or financial history. And you can’t have credit or financial history if you’ve recently swapped names and identities with another person.
Name: Jessica Day from New Girl
Location: Los Angeles, California
Occupation: Public-school teacher
Pad: A spacious, shared 4 BR industrial loft in the downtown Arts District.
Verdict: Teacher’s living beyond her means. We found a comparable 3 BR L.A. loft that rents for $5,500/month--meaning each person’s share comes to $1,833. Jess should spend no more than $1,250/month to have enough leftover for savings and vintage dress purchases, but the real mystery is how her bartender boyfriend manages to pay his share.
Name: Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy
Location: Seattle, Washington
Occupation: General surgeon, Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital
Pad: 4 BR, 2.5 BA house in the heart of Seattle
Verdict: She can more than swing it. Meredith inherited her $1.3 million home from her maternal grandmother, so with her doctor’s salary and lack of rent or mortgage payments, she has some serious play money to spare.
*Note: Again, we know, we know: Meredith sold her house to her doctor pal after deciding to move in with her husband, Derek (after 9 long seasons of relationship drama).
Character: Peggy Olson from Mad Men
Location: New York City
Occupation: Copy chief, Sterling Cooper & Partners
Salary: Around $19,000/year ($134,000 in today’s terms)
Pad: A rat-infested 1 BR on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which in the turbulent 1960s, was still a neighborhood in transition
Verdict: She can swing it. We don’t know how much Peggy paid for her apartment, but we do know she looked at a larger place (in a ritzier neighborhood) for $28,000--meaning she probably ended up spending somewhere in the $20,000 range. Bonus: It's such a good investment (it would be worth at least $600,000 today.)
Character: Rayna Jaymes from Nashville
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Occupation: Country music superstar
Salary: If Faith Hill’s net worth is $80 million, we have to imagine that Rayna’s is somewhere way north of that.
Pad: Big ol’ Tennessee mansion
Verdict: She can swing it. Did we mention her father is a multimillionaire and the former mayor of Nashville? Yeah, we think she can probably afford her $19.5 million home.
Character: Queen Cersei from Game of Thrones
Location: King's Landing, Westeros
Occupation: Queen Regent, Light of the West and Protector of the Realm
Salary: Old family money (plus some extra funds via cunning and treachery)
Pad: Red Keep, a massive seaside castle
Verdict: She can swing it. Cersei has royal lineage, powerful connections and no aversion to cheating. We do, however, think it’s time to invest in some better lighting.
Would Olivia Pope really rendezvous with the president on a D.C. jogging trail? Do you buy Don Draper?s sudden redemption at the end of Season 6? In what universe does Sofia Vergara marry Al Bundy?
These are all great questions. But the one we find ourselves asking most often is ?Can these TV characters actually afford their fabulous TV homes??
To bring you some answers, we hit the books: We figured out each character?s likely income (based on figures from Salary.com) and likely home costs (based on prices in similar markets), and then used rent and mortgage calculators to deduce how much each character can realistically afford to spend.
The verdict? Some folks are right on. And some are living way beyond their means. (We?re looking at you, New Girl.)
Check out the slideshow to see who?s paying what--and if they?re making smart real estate decisions.
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