Buying Houses in Monopoly: Rules You Need to Know

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Buying houses is one of the most important things you can do in Monopoly.

Owning properties – even if you own all the colors – is only enough to earn you small rent payments. It’s when you start adding houses, and eventually hotels, that the game will begin to reach its climax and players will start to declare themselves bankrupt.

But, there are a lot of rules around buying houses, and it can be a little complicated.

Monopoly houses and hotels

Don’t worry though, this guide will answer some of the most common questions about house buying rules, and make sure you know exactly how to buy houses and the best time to do it.

Need a little help with selling houses? Read that guide here.

Monopoly House Buying Rules

How do you buy houses in Monopoly?

When you own all of the properties in a Monopoly color group, you can buy houses. You have to build equally – this means you can’t build a second house on a property unless you have a house on all the other properties.

The cost of buying a house varies, but to buy a house you just need to pay the value (determined by the color group) to the bank. You can buy as many as you want in one turn, as long as you spread them evenly on a color group.

The only time this differs is when you reach the last house in the game. There aren’t enough houses to place four on every property, so if only one is left in the bank, it must be auctioned between the players, using the normal auctioning rules.

When can you build houses in Monopoly?

You can begin to build houses as soon as you own all of the properties in a color set. They cannot be mortgaged – if any are, you’ll need to unmortgage them before buying a house. Then, you can buy houses during your turn, or in between other players’ turns.

There’s a great strategy you can use when planning when to buy houses. If you have a cluster of opponents around six to nine spaces from your color set, you should aim to spend as much as you can reasonably afford to upgrade. 

That’s because there’s a high likelihood that one of the players will roll to land on one of those properties. So, even if it’s not your turn, you can load up your properties with houses ready to maximize the rent you’ll collect when they roll!

Just be careful – while you can use this tactic when it isn’t your turn, don’t leave yourself short of cash for your own turn, especially if you’re approaching high-value properties owned by your opponents.

You can only sell houses for half their value, so if you buy them but then need to sell them to raise cash to pay rent, you’re losing money.

buying houses in Monopoly

Can you only buy houses on your turn?

You can buy houses on your turn, or in between other players’ turns. You can’t just announce that you’re buying houses whenever you feel like it – you need to wait until a player finishes their roll and takes any action for the space they land on. 

If the next player rolls before you ask to buy a house, you’re too late and you’ll have to wait until the end of their turn – so make sure you’re paying attention!

Can you buy houses after you roll?

If you want to buy houses during your own turn, there are some actions you need to take first. You must first roll the dice, move your token, and carry out any action on the space you landed on. Only then can you buy houses.

So, you might need to buy or auction property, pay rent, draw a card, or go to jail before you buy houses. It actually makes more sense to do it this way. It would be bad if you spent your money on houses just before you rolled and discovered that you needed the cash for something else.

Do you have to land on your property to buy a house?

In Monopoly, you don’t have to land on your property to buy houses. You can buy them regardless of where your token is on the board, provided you own all the properties in the color set that you’re buying them for.

That’s what makes house buying so tactical – you can wait until you know you have the funds and players are likely to land on one of your properties before you upgrade. You don’t need to have your token in the perfect place.

Do you have to own all the properties to buy a house?

You must own all the properties in a color set to start placing houses on those properties, and none of them can be mortgaged. If you have mortgaged properties as part of a set, you need to unmortgage them before buying houses.

This is where trading becomes so important. The likelihood of landing on all of the properties in a set before someone else does is minimal. And even if the other players put the properties to auction, they will likely outbid you to prevent you from getting a full set.

But, by trading cleverly, you can secure a monopoly on a color set and leave yourself free to start building.

How much do houses cost to buy in Monopoly?

In Monopoly, each house cost between $50 and $200, depending on the color set:

  • Brown – $50
  • Light Blue – $50
  • Pink – $100
  • Orange – $100
  • Red – $150
  • Yellow – $150
  • Green – $200
  • Dark Blue – $200

The easy way to remember how much houses cost in Monopoly is to know that on the first side of the board they cost $50 each, then they go up in increments of $50.

The price of houses plays a big part in judging which Monopoly spaces are the best. While the more valuable properties will earn you the biggest rent, they also cost the most to upgrade.

New York Avenue house prices and rents

Placing four houses on all three Green properties would cost you $2400 in houses alone, and $3320 when you include the cost of buying the properties.

To upgrade the Oranges with four houses on each, that’s a total house cost of $1200, or $1760 including the properties.

And yet, the rent for four houses on the Orange New York Avenue earns you $800, while on the Green Pennsylvania Avenue it’s $1200.

Is it really worth that extra $1560 to upgrade the Greens, just to get an extra $400 in rent? I would say no.

How many houses can you buy at a time in Monopoly?

You can buy as many houses at a time as you can afford in Monopoly, as long as you spread them evenly. Remember that you don’t need to land on the property that you’re building on.

buying lots of houses at once

Do you have to buy houses evenly in Monopoly?

You have to spread houses evenly on a single color set, but you don’t have to spread them evenly across different color sets. So, if you owned all the Reds and Yellows, you could have four houses on the Reds and only one on the Yellows.

What you can’t do is own all the Reds and then place four houses on Illinois Avenue but only two each on Kentucky Avenue and Indiana Avenue.

If you want to buy eight houses, you’d need to place three on one property, three on another, and two on the last property. You then couldn’t add a fourth until you’d added the third house to the one with two.

even building of houses in Monopoly

Can you buy houses in jail?

In Monopoly, you can still buy and sell houses, hotels, and properties while you are in jail. The only punishment for being in jail is that you can’t move around the board and collect your $200 for passing Go. 

Later in the game, when your opponents have a lot of high-value property, jail can be a good place to be to avoid paying rent, especially if your opponents have stacked the Greens and Dark Blues with houses and hotels.

Suddenly that ‘Go to Jail’ space becomes something to aim for.

Suggested read: Monopoly Jail Rules Explained

buying houses in jail

Monopoly Hotel Buying Rules

Hotels are the pinnacle of upgrading a property in Monopoly. They earn you the most rent and can be seriously damaging to the cash reserves of your opponents. Even New York Avenue, the last of the Orange spaces, has a four-figure rent with a hotel.

How to Buy Hotels In Monopoly

You can buy a hotel on any property that has four houses. You don’t need to upgrade a whole color set to hotels at once – as long as all properties have four houses, you can buy one hotel at a time.

The process for buying hotels is very similar to buying houses. You can do it at the end of your turn or in between other players’ turns.

Can you build hotels without houses?

In order to build a hotel, you first need four houses on the property. There may be some versions of Monopoly where this is different, but in the standard rules, you always need those four houses on all of the properties in the set.

One example where it is different is in Monopoly: Longest Game Ever. In this game, there are three of each property on the board and you only need four houses total across those properties. So, if you have two houses on Boardwalk, one on Boardwalk 2 and one on Boardwalk 3, you can upgrade to a hotel.

How much do you pay for hotels in Monopoly?

In Monopoly, a hotel costs the same as a house. So a hotel on the first side of the board is $50, then $100 for the Pinks and Oranges, $150 for Reds and Yellows, and $200 for Greens and Dark Blues.

Therefore, it’s technically possible to buy hotels on your second turn, but only on the Light Blues. You’d need three players, and all of you would have to land on a different Light Blue, with you winning the two you didn’t land on in an auction.

Assuming you bought the properties at their value, that’d cost $320. 12 houses would then cost $600, and three hotels another $150, for a total of $1070.

Of course, you’d then be risking traveling around the board with just $430 until you landed on Go.

However, in the perfect scenario, if an opponent had landed on Connecticut Avenue, auctioned it, and you won it and upgraded, and then that player rolled a 3 on their second turn, they would have to pay you $600 in rent on just their second turn. Ouch!

hotels on Light Blue properties

The Bottom Line

When you understand all of the Monopoly rules around buying houses, it’s not as complicated as it may first seem. As long as you own all of the properties in a set, and you build houses evenly, then you can pretty much buy them almost at any time.

Just be careful not to overstretch yourself with houses. If you end up leaving yourself short of cash, and you roll badly, you could have to sell them off for a much lower value.

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