Ten Cheapest Cities to Buy a House

George Lorimer
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Ten Cheapest Cities to Buy a House

Discount Dream Homes: Here Are America’s 10 Cheapest Housing Markets

By Meera Pal
Nov 20, 2023

Faced with a national median list price that remains historically high, precious few homes for sale, and mortgage rates hovering around 7.5%, the American dream of homeownership seems further out of reach than ever before for many first-time homebuyers.

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But they shouldn’t lose hope just yet.

In fact, there are still some affordable cities where buying a house isn’t just a pipe dream—it can be a reality. The data team at Realtor.com® crunched the numbers and found the places where you can still find a house with a yard for about $300,000, or even less.



Of course, there are reasons why some regions are so affordable for housing. Most of the metro areas that landed on our list have experienced some economic challenges that have resulted in population declines. But most have a notably low cost of living, including inexpensive real estate. They tend to be in the Midwest and South in places where there generally hasn’t been the kind of strong demand that would lead prices to soar. That changed somewhat during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of these places saw strong price growth. Still, they remain bargains compared with most of the country.

Despite some of the economic struggles for these metro areas, many have growing job markets, says Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com.

“Of the 10, seven had a below-average unemployment rate according to the latest data,” Hale says.

To come up with this list, we looked at median home list prices in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in October. To maintain geographic diversity, the team included only one metro per state. (Metros include the main city and the surrounding suburbs, towns, and smaller urban areas.)

Ready to see where your money might take you further? Let’s take a tour!

1. Toledo, OH

Toledo, OH

(iStock)

Median list price in October: $205,725

First-time homebuyers might want to set their sights on Toledo, which sits at the western tip of Lake Erie on the border of Michigan.

Long known for its glass industry and auto manufacturing (it’s where Jeeps are made), Toledo is redefining itself as a charming, urban destination that proudly recognizes its roots.

Fun fact: Toledo is now home to the largest mural in the country—a 170,000-square-foot panorama of sunflowers and indigenous women.

“We’re in the middle of the country, and we’ve avoided the major swings, ups, and downs, down like the East Coast, West Coast, and the Sun Belt areas,” says Rick Turner, a real estate agent with Key Realty in Toledo.

Buyers can find opportunities like this $154,777 historic home in Toledo’s Old West End district. It features five bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in 3,624 square feet of living space.

In recent years, Turner says, he has seen a number of investors from out of state taking advantage of Toledo’s low home prices. They typically arrive with all-cash offers in hand.

“A lot of them are coming in buying properties and totally renovating them and then putting them up for rent,” he says.

2. Scranton, PA

Scranton, PA
Scranton, PA

(iStock)

Median list price in October: $239,495

Scrappy Scranton is ready to shed its primary identity as the headquarters for the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. from “The Office.” The largest city in Northeastern Pennsylvania is becoming more and more popular for homebuyers looking for a bargain and a nice lifestyle.

Located in the Lackawanna Valley and surrounded by mountains, lakes, parks, and biking trails, the city is loved by outdoor enthusiasts thanks to the four state parks within a 30-minute radius of the town center. It’s also home to five colleges and universities.

The city began reinventing its image after the decline of the coal industry. Visitors can learn about the city’s industrious past at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum and nearby Lackawanna County Coal Mine. Today Scranton hosts arts, cultural, and culinary festivals around the year.

There are housing bargains to be had here, including this five-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom townhome that was built in 1920 and recently renovated from top to bottom, priced at $158,888.

3. Rochester, NY

High Falls In Rochester, New York, USA
Rochester, NY

(Getty Images)

Median list price in October: $249,949

Rochester—known as both “the Flour City” and “the Flower City” for its dual roles in flour and floral production—has been a popular destination recently for those looking for a lower cost of living and more affordable home prices. It’s repeatedly earned a place at the top of the Realtor.com monthly hottest markets list.

Even though the city did see a major population decline after the deindustrialization of the late 20th century, the Rochester metro area now boasts a population of more than 1 million residents. Most of the for-sale housing is single-family homes, but there are also townhomes as well as new construction.

For $149,900, buyers can nab this two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home built in 1925 located just five minutes from a private beach on Lake Ontario.

4. Detroit, MI

Detroit, MI

(Getty Images)

Median list price in October: $252,250

It’s been a decade since Detroit had the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in the country. Since then, Motor City has fought its way back to what experts are calling a “blue-collar boom.”

Detroit’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 33 years thanks to employers like the Stellantis Assembly Plant, General Motors Factory ZERO, Ford’s Michigan Central Station, and Amazon. And major investments in infrastructure, tech, renewable energy, and advanced manufacturing are contributing to a booming economy.

Over the past decade, the city focused on reinventing a 7.2-square-mile area known as the Greater Downtown, where more than 100 abandoned properties have been rehabilitated, contributing to an “urban transformation.”

“We have thousands of homes that have never been updated that are 80 and 100 years old,” says Tom Nanes, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Detroit. “There are bargains, but you really need to be a top-notch rehabber.”

Do-it-yourselfers might be interested in this four-bedroom, two-bathroom Corktown home that’s listed for $284,900. Those who aren’t as handy might prefer this three-bedroom, one-bathroom brick bungalow that is move-in ready for just $87,900

Detroit “has got great potential, great possibilities,” Nanes says.

5. St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, MO

(Getty Images)

Median list price in October: $277,000

Some blame the loss of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles in 2016 as one of the reasons residents have left the area. Who knows? What is clear is that St. Louis dipped below 300,000 in 2020 for the first time since the mid-1800s, with COVID-19 accelerating that decline.

Between 2010 and 2020, the homeownership rate also fell 10.4% in St. Louis City and 6% in St. Louis County.

Local officials have recognized the need to take action and bring back their city. The nonprofit, investor-supported group Greater St. Louis Inc. was launched in 2021, working “to create high-quality jobs, drive an economic agenda focused on long-term growth, and have the greatest collective community impact.”

Despite its challenges, the “Gateway to the West” has a lot to offer residents, from the great St. Louis Zoo to the lovely 30-acre Lafayette Park.

If you’re looking for a good neighborhood with local restaurants and bars, Webster Groves is one of the hot spots. For $238,000, buyers can grab this two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow just a quick 20 minutes from downtown.

6. McAllen, TX

McAllen, TX

(Creative Commons)

Median list price in October: $280,000

Located on the southern tip of Texas, McAllen was once a burgeoning farming community that has grown into a vibrant, multicultural city known for its mild winters, massive shopping district, and low cost of living.

McAllen also happens to be a major hub for international trade, thanks to its proximity to the Mexico border. The Anzalduas International Bridge crosses the Rio Grande just 11 miles southwest of downtown McAllen.

“McAllen has always had the draw of the border,” says Rene Galvan, owner of RGV Realty. “It grew during the era of NAFTA and the creation of the twin plant concept with the sister city of Reynosa in Mexico.”

Many Border Patrol agents and state troopers live in the area as do retirees who grew tired of cold winters up north.

For $269,900, buyers can get a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house that spans over 2,000 square feet.

7. Birmingham, AL

Birmingham, AL

(Getty Images)

Median list price in October: $294,825

Birmingham was once home to a thriving metalworking industry thanks to the natural occurrence of iron ore, coal, and limestone in the area.

Even though the metalworking industry eventually faded away, the famous red soil can still be seen and enjoyed at nearby Red Mountain Park. At 1,500 acres, it’s 40% bigger than New York’s Central Park.

But it’s the area’s affordable housing that makes it a draw for a number of major employers. They include those in automotive, life sciences, manufacturing, and insurance.

The area offers plenty of larger homes for sale at bargain prices. First-time homebuyers will find a variety of affordable homes, including this four-bedroom, two-bathroom charmer nestled into the side of Ruffner Mountain, asking for $180,000.

8. Little Rock, AR

Little Rock, AR

(Getty Images)

Median list price in October: $295,000

The capital and most populous city of the state, Little Rock was recently named among the top 10 places for young professionals by Forbes in part for its low cost of living, rent prices, and affordable housing.

Not only is the city an under-the-radar hub for technology, but it also happens to be a hot spot for outdoor recreation with golfing, hiking, cycling, and water activities available nearby.

There are many state parks a short drive from Little Rock, including Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park, and the Ozark Mountains to the north.

The majority of homes on the market are single-family houses, although buyers can choose a condo as well.

If living close to a state park is your goal, look no further than this $224,000, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home 20 minutes from Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

9. Wichita, KS

Wichita, KS

(Getty Images)

Median list price in October: $298,950

Wichita, located in South Central Kansas, is still recovering from the exodus of working families that occurred during the Great Recession, due to a shrinking economy. But since 2020, the Wichita metro area has seen its population grow again, even if slowly.

Wichita has served as home to many aircraft pioneers, including Clyde CessnaWalter Beech, and Bill Lear, earning the city the name “Air Capital of the World.” Cessna and Beechcraft are still based in Wichita, along with Learjet and Spirit Aerosystems.

For $295,000, homebuyers can buy this four-bedroom, two-bathroom home built in 1924 and located across the street from the Wichita Country Club, in historic College Hill Park.

10. Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge City Skyline and Mississippi River in Louisiana
Baton Rouge, LA

(iStock)

Median list price in October: $301,954

Home to the state capital and Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge is a fast-growing metro area that’s been called Louisiana’s “economic engine.”

Located on the Mississippi River, the city is one of the most cost-friendly, midsize cities in the country. It also happens to be home to one of the largest deep-water ports.

Filled with historic neighborhoods and a lively downtown, Baton Rouge offers zydeco, blues, and Cajun music, as well as its delicious blend of Creole, French, Spanish, and African American cuisine.

Luckily for buyers, there are still affordable homes in the historic Spanish Town neighborhood, like this four-bedroom, two-bathroom home that’s walkable to downtown Baton Rouge. Listed for $324,900, it has been beautifully restored and is eligible for the historic tax credit.


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