Houses are getting more expensive. In 2019, a minimum wage worker hustling 40-hour workweeks couldn’t afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in a single county across the U.S.
With America in the grip of an affordable housing crisis, consumer demand rose, and so did skyrocketing house prices. But, if you’re willing to relocate to a mid-size city, there are places where homes are still affordable even in the housing bubble.
Many people want to own a home to build wealth. Some argue that every month that you pay rent, money goes down the drain into a house you’ll never own.
If you live in a pricey metro area, tiny houses often come with hefty price tags. Beyond expensive cities, undervalued housing markets exist with economic opportunities for long-term growth.
If you want a shot at homeownership during a seller’s market, check out the top 10 most affordable places to live in the U.S.
1. Toledo, Ohio
Median home listing price in 2020: $95,000
Toledo sits on the western end of Lake Erie. It is centered in a prime geographical location, within an hour’s drive to Detroit, two hours from Cleveland, and four hours from Chicago.
In the past, Toledo struggled with a tough economy. The good news is that the city is turning this around, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland reporting employment growth in the construction field in recent years.
Meanwhile, the financial sector is growing faster at 1.4% in the metropolitan area, compared to a 1.3% average across the rest of the nation.
Homebuyers in the metropolitan area can often purchase a single-family home for less than $100,000. The area is also flush with educational opportunities, with nearly three dozen universities, including the University of Toledo, Bowling Green, and other institutions of higher learning scattered within 60 miles of Toledo.
2. Memphis, Tennessee
Median home listing price in 2020: $123,000
If you’re looking for relaxed living, a lively American music heritage scene, the arts, and a tech industry primed for a new surge, consider moving to Memphis.
With a population of around 650,000, this up-and-coming city has a lot of youth and energy. However, the average age is 34 years old.
Memphis is home to about 650,000 people, and the median age is around 34. So, in addition to FedEx, the U. S. and Tennessee state governments making up the biggest employers in the region, this Mississippi Delta city might be primed for a tech surge.
Epicenter, a non-profit that fosters entrepreneurs in the area, reported that Memphis is the fastest-growing metropolitan area for black-owned businesses gaining access to venture capital.
In addition, black investors in Memphis outperform competitors on a national scale, as 16% of startup companies obtaining venture capital have a black founder, compared to a 1% national average.
With its Elvis, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll heritage, Memphis is also a diverse, invest-able city with one of the most affordable housing markets in the U.S.
3. Rochester, New York
Median home listing price in 2020: $151,000
Rochester made the 2021 Forbes Advisor list of top affordable cities to buy a home. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate analytics company, Rochester is one of those metro areas with populations of over 1 million that saw huge rewards for return on investments (ROIs) for sellers across the nation.
Since many Manhattanites are looking further afield for more affordable areas after the pandemic, it’s become a popular option for people who started their careers in the Big Apple and now crave more space for their money.
Due to this demand, some experts suggest that Rochester’s affordability percentages might dip slightly. However, with remote work becoming more popular, the University of Rochester nearby, and its associated medical center employing 32,000 people, there’s no shortage of job opportunities in education and healthcare.
4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Median home listing price in 2020: $167,000
Milwaukee is a great place to start looking for a home. It has a lively atmosphere and is a safe haven for people who want to leave expensive cities.
Situated on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is famous for its brewery roots. Breweries sprang up in the region before Milwaukee even became a city.
If you’re a trivia or beer connoisseur, you can find a home in the same area that produced some of America’s oldest beer makers, Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz. The Brewers, Milwaukee’s baseball team, continue to pay tribute to the city’s heritage.
Today, Milwaukee is famous for its popular nightlife scene and has over 30 breweries in the region. But, with plenty of recreation available on the weekends, it’s the healthcare industry that is the biggest employer in the area.
With Aurora Health Care’s 25,900 employees, 15,500 at Ascension Wisconsin, and 10,900 employees at Froedtert Health, there are almost 600,000 residents employed in Milwaukee’s top sector.
Whether you’re escaping Chicago or other unaffordable areas, Milwaukee is an attractive option with home prices that cost half as much as houses for sale in the Windy City.
5. Kansas City, Kansas
Median home listing price in 2020: $170,000
Home to the Barbecue Capital, jazz icons Charlie “Bird” Parker and Big Joe Turner, and NFL sports, Kansas City is one of those Midwest places that should make it onto every first-time home buyer’s radar.
If you’re on a budget, most home prices fall below $200,000. However, if you work in healthcare or want to relocate near excellent healthcare services, there are plenty of employment opportunities and wellness coverage. For example, the University of Kansas Hospital and the University of Kansas Medical Center have over 10,000 employees, making them the top Kansas City industries.
If you work in manufacturing or transportation, there are also important hubs for these industries in the city.
6. Ashland, Kentucky
Median home listing price in 2020: $180,000
With low crime rates, small to mid-size towns, and homes averaging under $200,000, Kentucky has a lot to offer home buyers looking for an affordable deal.
Pick up a historical tour or exercise in the central park in Ashland, enjoy the riverside mural wall in downtown Covington, appreciate folk art entertainment in Berea, or check out Paducah’s beautiful historic architecture and the National Quilt Museum if you’re into crafts.
Then, of course, there’s always bluegrass music, elegant horse farms, and the Kentucky Derby held each year in Louisville if those take your fancy.
7. Buffalo, New York
Median home listing price in 2020: $184,000
If you visited Buffalo a decade ago, you might not recognize it today. But in the last ten years, the city has changed into a center for business and entertainment that is full of new fun and energy.
Even though Buffalo has cold winters, it has great restaurants, a wide range of tasty foods, interesting museums, and is not far from Niagara Falls.
There’s nothing like beating New York traffic, either. Although the population is less than 300,000, the city once had more millionaires per capita than anywhere else. Today, you can get a single-family home for around $184,000, compared to the national average of $340,000.
8. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Median home listing price in 2020: $189,000
Ranked as No. 2 for the low cost of living and affordable housing by USA News in 2020, Oklahoma City is also known for its football, oil fields, and as the Horse Show capital of the world.
If you want big-city life with plenty of options for entertainment, Oklahoma offers western urban living at an affordable rate.
9. Baltimore, Maryland
Median home listing price in 2020: $191,000
Maryland is for you if you’re looking for a historic city with important employers like John Hopkins University and Northrop Grumman, less than an hour away from Washington, D.C., along the MARC Penn Line from Penn Station.
Easy transportation to the capital in just eight train stops means that you can reap the financial rewards of working in D.C. but keep more of your paycheck by owning a home in a more affordable location.
10. The State of Louisiana
Median home listing price in 2020: $199,541
There are a lot of opportunities for affordable small-town living in the “Pelican State.” With a coastline that borders the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana’s picturesque small towns like Berwick, Cade, or the Lawtell suburbs offer reasonable home prices, which means you have more money to put towards a beach vacation or go to the Mardi Gras celebrations.
Everyone likes extra savings to tuck away for a rainy day or put towards upgrades, education, or their next vacation.
Expanding your search to less famous but economically sound areas can enable you to buy a house while putting money back in your pocket.
Sometimes the grass is greener, just another state away.
Photo by: [Tkoch]