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By TODAY real estate expert

Explainer: What home buyers can get for $500,000

  • Image: Idaho home

    Each week, TODAY real estate expert Barbara Corcoran looks around the U.S. to see what homebuyers can get for their money. This week she covers about as much ground as possible — from Maine to Hawaii — in search of truly unique properties you can get for $500,000 or less.

  • Lakewood, Wash. $439,000

    Image: Washington home

    3 bedrooms, 2 baths

    Lakewood is just south of Tacoma, Wash. This home is on lake Steilacoom, a Jet Ski, water ski, and fishing lake. Every Christmas Santa arrives here on a Jet Ski and there’s a spectacular fireworks display every Fourth of July. The home was custom built by the current owners in 1958 on a unique 115-foot wide lot. Every inch of this home is impeccable, inside and out. The living room has exposed brick, an old fashioned cast iron stove and shuttered doors to the backyard. There’s a sunny dining area next to the kitchen, which has updated appliances. The covered living room and dining room out back have a built in grill and huge fireplace to take full advantage of the waterfront setting.

    View the listing.

  • Naples, Maine, $459,900

    Image: Maine home

    3 bedrooms, 2 baths

    Naples is a four-season resort area in the heart of Maine’s lake region. It has an annual blues festival, boating, fishing — including ice fishing! — skiing and golf. This octagonal home has an open floor plan set around a massive stone fireplace. There are exposed beams and plenty of windows in every room. The kitchen is bright white with room enough for a big farmer’s table. The lower level is remodeled with an extra bedroom and bathroom for overnight guests. There’s a wraparound porch and deck overlooking Sebago Lake. The tiered lot is fully landscaped and has steps leading straight to the lake and your own private dock and mooring.

    View the listing.

  • Priest River, Idaho, $499,900

    Image: Idaho home

    3 bedrooms, 3 baths

    Priest River is seven miles east of Washington and 75 miles south of Canada where two pristine rivers converge. This craftsman-style home sits on 108 feet of Priest River waterfront. It’s open and light with incredible views and radiant heat floors. The living room has a cathedral ceiling, hickory wood floors and a gas stone fireplace. The kitchen has granite counters, custom cabinets and a breakfast island. There are paved walkways and the terraced beach has a fire pit and plenty of room for toys.

    View the listing.

  • Bigfork, Mont., $474,000

    Image: Montana home

    1 bedroom, 1 bath

    Parts of "A River Runs Through It" were filmed in Bigfork. It sits at 2,900 feet in the spectacular mountains of northwestern Montana. This rustic cabin is on more than an acre with 128 feet of Swan river frontage. It was completely remodeled in 2009 but retains all its old charm. It has an open floor plan, wood floors, exposed beams and two sunny lofts. The open kitchen has a window overlooking the river. The living room has a cast iron stove and cozy built-in daybed. There's a big deck overlooking the sparkling river and unobstructed views to miles and miles of state-owned land on the other side.

    View the listing.

  • Pahoa, Hawaii, $499,000

    Image: Hawaii home

    1 bedroom, 1 bath

    Pahoa was once a sugar town and a crossroad on the old rail line. The main street still has western-style storefronts and wood boardwalks. This home is surrounded by natural wonders: lava flows, thermal tide pools, steam vents, papaya groves and dense tropical foliage. The hexagonal cedar design takes full advantage of the 180 degree views. The open kitchen is literally the heart of this home! There’s a wraparound lanai for watching the ocean by day and stars by night. You can walk from your door to the black sand beach below and swim with dolphins! Property taxes here are just $557 a year!!!

    View the listing.

Video: What’s out there? Homes under $500,000

  1. Closed captioning of: What’s out there? Homes under $500,000

    >>> this morning on "today's real estate" homes for sales for $500,000 or less. if you dream of living near a lake or ocean, today, barbara corcoran will show you all those out there. good to see you.

    >> all under $500,000. not easily done on the water.

    >> our first house is in naples, maine. we have a three bedroom home priced at $459,900.

    >> naples is a four-season resort area deep in lakes region . it's a tiered lot that's fully landscaped. that house is perfect. it has steps leading straight down to the lake with your own private dock and mooring. it's an octagonal house . do you know what it is?

    >> eight sides.

    >> does that make it hard to sell?

    >> no, but hard to furnish. it's a hard house to furnish but they have done a good job. it has an open floor plan with the open fireplace. a big kitchen with exposed beams. all the windows front on the lake. it's a lovely place to hang out. big enough for a farmhouse table and chairs. it's a tiered lot lush down to the lake's edge.

    >> now we'll head to a river's edge. this is priest river , idaho. got a nice town south of canada priced at $499,900.

    >> i don't think you mentioned it's east of washington state . it has two pristine rivers that meet there. this is a craftsman-style home that looks like a suburban house on the outside, but it's not. there is 108 feet of waterfront with a natural stone and sand beach . i have never seen a riverfront home. i'm surprised all the enjoyable room you have out back on the river. the house is open, light with incredible views from every window. the living room has a cathedral ceiling , hickory wood floors and a gas fireplace. it's an odd view but you can see how big it is. there is a big kitchen that's desperate for color and needs friendly bar stools . i think the thing on top will fall down and kill you. not my idea of a friendly kitchen. but it's big and easy to change those details.

    >> i saw that coming.

    >> you did? okay. there is a paved walkway out back that i think makes the house special. it makes you feel like you have your own little wonderland and a fire pit and lots of room for toys. that's a winter shot. picture it in the summer.

    >> now another river. the big fork river in momontana -- i should say the swan river in big fork, montana.

    >> the house is high up. 2900 feet in the air in the spectacular mountains of montana. there are scenes here that make you think of the movie "a river runs through it" because it was filmed here. it's a rustic cabin, totally renovated. on over an acre of land with 128-square-foot frontage in the back of the house which makes it worth more money. there is an open floor plan , open kitchen, master bedroom . if you are not going to sleep in the master bedroom you have to climb a ladder to get to the loft above. there is a big deck out back. that's a view of the beautiful water. be aware there is no houses on the other side. it's a natural park . you can't build there.

    >> the finale is in hawaii. $499,900.

    >> this was a sweet heart of a house . it was a sugar town , a crossroads to the railroad. it has papaya groves, lava flows . that hole fills up with beautiful water during the day and it leaks out at night. it's a five-sided house and takes advantage of the views around it. it has a beautiful kitchen, wrap around lanai. way up on a cliff. you will see it in a minute. the kitchen is smack in the middle and supports the sides of the house . hard to work in, but i would forgive it. look at that. that's right over the ocean. if you walk down your own private walkway, you have a beautiful black sand beach . it's $499,000 in hawaii. what's wrong with living there?

    >> barbara, thank you so much. want to know more about the homes you saw? go

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