Buying a home is so many things: a rite of passage, a critical way to build equity and generational wealth, a thrill-a-minute adventure ride, and an American dream. But for many wannabe owners, it’s becoming something else, too: a struggle. Big time.
Across the U.S., soaring home prices have been further pushing the dream of homeownership out of reach for many. And as this booming real estate market shows few signs of slowing down, it’s easy for first-time buyers to feel like they’ll never escape a life of renting. (Which, let’s be honest, isn’t much better these days.) Traditional starter homes seem to have all but disappeared in many large markets.
From New York City to Nampa, ID, prices are continuing to rise to new heights, with the median list price hitting a whopping $392,000 in February. That number has grown every week since early 2020, as the inventory of available homes for sale has shriveled to historic lows. And now, mortgage interest rates are inching up.
Now that so many of the places that were dubbed “the next affordable city” are no longer so affordable for folks who don’t bring in hefty six-figure salaries, where do budget-conscious buyers go?
Fortunately, there are still some (relatively) affordable parts of the country, and the data team at Realtor.com® searched high and low to find ’em. In these markets, home prices are heading north, too, but there are still plenty of deals to be had.
Our top-line findings: If it’s cheap real estate you’re seeking, go Midwest, young man (or woman)! Unsurprisingly, there were no states west of Kansas that made our most affordable list.
The inexpensive locales that did make it onto our rankings have mostly experienced decades of population decline, resulting in more homes for sale—or even abandoned. That’s led to a larger housing inventory than throughout most of the country. So buyers can take a bit more time to decide on the right property, and there’s not as much pressure to offer more than asking price.
Most of these places have economies historically tied to manufacturing and agriculture, and they haven’t been overtaken by the tech bros with high salaries. (Not yet, anyway.) So they haven’t seen the major price inflation of popular tech hubs like Denver or Austin, TX.
“These areas generally have lower median incomes and lower costs of living, helping keep home prices lower,” says Hannah Jones, economic research analyst for Realtor.com. “These metros have also largely been spared rising housing costs from an influx of remote workers who have typically sought out mountain and beach destinations.”
To come up with this list, our data team scoured the 250 largest metros in February to find the places with the lowest median home prices. To keep it diverse, the team limited the picks to just one metro per state. (Metros include the main city and the surrounding suburbs, towns, and smaller urban areas.)
Ready to take a peek at the most affordable metros across the U.S.? Let’s do this.
1. Peoria, IL
Median list price in February: $98,000
Home prices in this city on the Illinois River have been rising—just not as astronomically as in places like Miami or Boise, ID. High taxes in the state have driven out more residents than brought them in, and business closures over the past couple of decades mean fewer jobs and way less expensive homes.
House hunters can find places starting at $30,000, including this historic four-bedroom asking $34,900. (Yes, it will need some work.) However, the vast majority of buyers are looking in the $150,000 to $200,000 range, which includes this brick three-bedroom listed for $154,900.
Still, between the Rivian Automotive plant in nearby Bloomington hiring an additional 1,000 workers this year, a wave of young Peorians who returned from Chicago, and older residents downsizing to buy winter homes in Florida (#retirementgoals), there’s been an influx of buyers.
“Last year we helped over 400 families get into homes, which is a good year,” says real estate agent Christine Schauble, who’s with Keller Williams Premier Realty.
Median list price: $104,900
Put plainly, there’s just a larger supply of housing than there is buyer demand in this college town, home to Indiana State University. That’s partly because so much of the housing stock is on the older side. Three-quarters of the homes here were built before 1960, and many require serious repairs.
Throw in a declining population (down 2.1% since 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census data), and the city has realized it needed to take action to turn things around. The See You in Terre Haute 2025 Community Plan aims to improve economic development, quality of life, and tourism in order to bring residents back and encourage students to stick around after graduation.
3. Saginaw, MI
Median list price: $112,200
Like a lot of Michigan auto towns, Saginaw has been losing population since the 1990s. Over the past decade alone, the number of residents has decreased by 4.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Layoffs at a 100-year-old General Motors plant last year have led to an unemployment rate nearly 2 percentage points higher than the national average at 5.7%. And with about a third of residents living below the poverty rate, it’s hard for people here to come up with a down payment.
But for folks who want to live in a historic river town at a reasonable cost, there are plenty of nice homes on the market, including this 1930s Mediterranean-style three-bedroom asking $225,000 and this historic three-bedroom fixer-upper, which was listed for just $26,000.
Even the coveted nearby suburbs offer some serious deals, including this $189,900 five-bedroom farmhouse near all the festivities in Frankenmuth, a destination famous for its Bavarian-style buildings and parties.
Median list price: $118,000
Youngstown has shrunk in population, but that hasn’t stopped the real estate market from going gangbusters like the rest of the country. Prices have been rising, and bidding wars are commonplace. However, what differentiates this former steel town from just about everywhere else is its combination of decent quality homes and ultra-affordable prices.
In desirable suburbs with good schools, like Canfield, OH, buyers can find nice homes for the cost of a down payment in San Francisco or New York City. That includes a historic five-bedroom home that recently dropped in price to $88,000.
These sorts of deals are drawing more folks to town, says real estate agent Al Cerritelli, who’s with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, in Poland, OH.
“It’s the cost of living and quality of life—they don’t have to deal with the craziness that they do in big cities,” he says.
Median list price: $127,400
This Quad Cities town, on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, is known for hosting many community-centered events throughout the year. They include the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Downtown Davenport Street Fest, and one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation.
When there isn’t something drawing outsiders to town, locals in this growing metro can often be spotted strolling and cycling through its numerous parks and green spaces, hanging out at craft breweries, or doing other community-centered activities.
Buyers can find nice homes for a good price like this three-bedroom midcentury modern home just blocks away from Jungle Park asking $140,000 or this $139,000 three-bedroom house on a hill in Davenport’s West End right near Fejervary Park.
6. Erie, PA
Median list price: $148,400
From middle-class suburbs to Rust Belt cities, metros across Pennsylvania are in the midst of a remote-work housing boom. Philadelphia has been scorching hot as New Yorkers and New Jerseyans move down the coast in search of cheaper homes. Even blue-collar stalwarts like Scranton, Allentown, and the capital Harrisburg have seen spiking rents and home prices.
But bargains still abound in Erie, located on the banks of its namesake Great Lake and about halfway between Cleveland and Buffalo, NY. Higher-than-average unemployment, lower wages, and a drop in population have kept home prices relatively low here.
Buyers can find serious steals, including this three-bedroom fixer-upper, erected in 1892, for under $40,000.
Median list price: $148,900
The capital of West Virginia is also home to the University of Charleston and West Virginia State University. Those institutions mean there are plenty of young people and events that cater to them. However, since many don’t stick around after graduation and older homeowners are relocating to be near family or in warmer climates, the population is on the decline.
That population loss has made it easier for first-time buyers to seek a foothold in the housing market. In the hip East End, which boasts cool cafes and record stores, buyers can pick up homes like this $139,900 three-bedroom or this $135,000 three-bedroom Craftsman.
8. Utica, NY
Median list price: $169,450
“The Office” aficionados may know Utica best as the home of one of the worst branches of a fictional paper company, Dunder Mifflin. But in reality, it’s got plenty of good things going for it. This former textile manufacturing town is home to museums, farm-to-table restaurants, and breweries, including Saranac Brewery Co., which has been brewing in Utica for more than 100 years.
It’s also ultra-affordable. Utica offers homes at half the price of Albany, about 90 minutes away, so it’s been a first-time homebuyer’s paradise for a while now.
A three-bedroom, one-bath stone house in need of some cosmetic updates was recently listed for $164,900, or about $100 a square foot.
9. Macon, GA
Median list price: $174,950
New homes were going up in the South at warp speed before the construction industry was mired by recent supply chain problems. One area that continues to see plenty of newly constructed abodes on the market is Macon, about a 90-minute drive from Atlanta.
Macon isn’t exactly flourishing, but it’s not a wasteland either. There are high-end restaurants downtown, orchestras, and museums—including one dedicated to Southern rock icons The Allman Brothers.
There are swaths of sprawling subdivisions filled with three- and four-bedroom homes with walk-in closets just waiting to be filled. This two-story home built in 2019 is listed for under $200,000.
10. Topeka, KS
Median listing price: $184,950
Though the Kansas state capital has seen a slight decrease in population over the past decade, the greater metro area has been growing thanks to its stable economy and well-paying jobs. The area is home to Fortune 500 companies like AT&T and Goodyear as well as Mars, the candy company that makes Skittles and M&M’s.
Out-of-state buyers, investors, and folks from nearby Kansas City (about 40 minutes away) are also being lured here by plentiful housing deals.
“Over the past few years, I’ve had more buyers from California and places like Colorado Springs than I’ve ever had before,” says Luke Thompson, a longtime real estate agent with Coldwell Banker American Home. “They’re surprised they can buy so much house here for the same amount of money, or less money, as what they’d get there.”
While that has led to some bidding wars, the deals are worth the fight. In hot areas on the south side of the city, this three-bedroom split-level is listed at $93,000 and this three-bedroom bungalow in the historic Kenwood neighborhood is asking $125,000.
Elena Cox contributed to this report.
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