In recent times, home affordability has diminished in the U.S. Many potential homeowners, especially first-timers, are finding their budgets squeezed. This is primarily due to soaring mortgage rates, which have reached a peak of 7%—a rate not seen since 2002. Additionally, home prices have also surged, outpacing the rates seen in the previous year. As a result, the average monthly payment for a median-priced home has more than doubled in just three years.
However, it's not all doom and gloom for those on a budget. Believe it or not, there are still real estate markets in the U.S. where the majority of single-family homes are available for $250,000 or less. Realtor.com's diligent data team embarked on a quest to pinpoint where these affordable homes predominantly exist.
Why the $250,000 benchmark? Given the rising mortgage rates and average 20% down payment, homes at this price point would have an average monthly payment of approximately $1,358—before factoring in property taxes and insurance. This falls well within the reach of most Americans, adhering to the general guideline that annual housing costs should not exceed 30% of a household's yearly income.
Where to Find These Affordable Homes
Sorry to disappoint those with hopes for Boston, Denver, or Seattle—these cities won’t make the list. Instead, the metro areas offering budget-friendly homes are predominantly found in the Midwest and the South, reaffirming these regions as the reigning champions of housing affordability. However, prospective buyers should be cautioned: prices have been ascending even in these relatively affordable areas.
"While the housing market has witnessed a substantial drop in affordability nationwide over the past couple of years, these regions offer a significant portion of low-priced homes. Typically, markets in the Midwest come with more accessible price tags, causing a spike in demand in this region compared to others," said Hannah Jones, the Senior Economic Research Analyst at Realtor.com.
As of August, only a fraction—less than a third—of single-family homes were listed under the $250,000 mark on Realtor.com. The median listing price for such homes stood at a substantial $442,000 in that month.
The analysis conducted by Realtor.com spanned the past 12 months and considered homes with a price range of at least $50,000. This criterion was implemented to exclude distressed properties, often listed at extremely low prices but with specific contingent financial obligations not reflected in the list price. For inclusivity, only areas with a minimum of 1,000 listings over the past year were considered, and to maintain geographical diversity, only one metropolitan region per state was included.
With that groundwork laid, let’s delve into these standout locations where homebuyers might just secure an affordable haven.
Here are the top 10 cities where most homes are priced below $250,000.
- Flint, MI - With a median price of $110,000, 92.8% of listings are under $250,000. Despite its recent water crisis, the city is seeing rejuvenation efforts and massive investments.
- Youngstown, OH - At a $120,000 median price, 91.2% of listings fit the budget. A reduced population has kept the prices in check, attracting remote workers and those with hybrid work schedules.
- Rockford, IL - With a median price of $152,000, 86.5% of homes are priced below the mark. Known as the “Screw Capital of the World”, it’s also famed for housing the Rockford Peaches, the women’s baseball team featured in “A League of Their Own.”
- Syracuse, NY - With the median price at $159,900, 83.8% of homes are affordable. A significant student population, healthcare, and electronics manufacturing sectors define its economy.
- Anderson, IN - Priced at a median of $177,000, 82.8% of homes are within the budget. Positioned close to Indianapolis, it offers even more affordability.
- Florissant, MO - Homes here have a median list price of $180,000, with 81.4% priced affordably. Historically automotive-centric, it’s close to Ferguson, known for its 2014 events.
- Lawton, OK - A median price of $161,000 ensures 79.9% of homes fit the budget. Its proximity to Fort Sill and the Wichita Mountains is a highlight.
- North Little Rock, AR - With homes at a median of $155,000, 78.9% are priced under $250,000. It's recognized for its arts district and the Big Dam Bridge.
- Milwaukee, WI - At a median of $179,900, 78.2% of listings are budget-friendly. Known for its brews and annual festivals, Milwaukee's cultural pulse is unmissable.
- Jackson, MS - The state capital boasts a median price of $153,900, with 77.3% of homes being affordable. The city is a hotspot for jazz, blues, and gospel enthusiasts.
In conclusion, even in the face of dwindling home affordability, several cities in the U.S. continue to offer budget-friendly options for aspiring homeowners. Whether it’s the industrial charm of the Midwest or the cultural tapestry of the South, prospective buyers still have a range of options to explore.