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The Cheapest Places to Live in the U.S.

May 23, 2018

  • The median home price in the U.S. is $337,200
  • Living frugally may mean living rurally
  • Several of the nation’s cheapest housing markets are in the Midwest
1 min read

Looking to buy a house? Depending on where you live, it could be a lot more expensive than you thought.

Home prices in many American cities continue to rise. The median price of a new house in the U.S., as of the beginning of 2018, was $337,200, according to government data.

And yet, that looks downright reasonable compared to some of the country’s most expensive housing markets.

The median price for a house in San Francisco, for example, is now more than $1.6 million, according to industry data. In New York City, it’s $1.5 million.

While those markets are outliers, prices nationwide have been on a slow and steady rise for decades.

*U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2018

To illustrate, consider the median price of a new house 30 years ago, in May of 1988. At that time, the median price was $110,000, according to government data. 20 years ago, in 1998, it was $153,200. And 10 years ago (in the midst of the housing crisis), it was $229,300.

Despite the considerable rise in housing costs, millions of Americans still aspire to own homes.

In fact, 20% are willing to trade their right to vote for a 10% down payment on a house, according to an industry survey.

The true cost of buying a home

But housing prices are only one piece of the puzzle. Buying a house comes with a number of additional costs and fees that many prospective homeowners overlook or don’t account for.

These costs can include:

On top of that, it’s generally expected that a buyer will have saved up between 3.5% and 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. You’ll need some money in the bank, too, as cash reserves to make sure you can make your initial monthly payments.

America’s cheapest housing markets

The good news is that you don’t need to live in a treehouse or a shoebox to find an affordable home.

There are still places where houses sell for a relative bargain—if you know where to look.

These ten cities are home to America’s cheapest housing markets (as of January 2018), according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

LocationMedian home price
Marion, Indiana$66,750
Danville, Illinois$69,700
Pottsville, Pennsylvania$69,900
Bay City, Michigan$88,900
Weirton, West Virginia$90,000
Pine Bluff, Arkansas$94,500
Lima, Ohio$95,000
Elmira, New York$109,000
Topeka, Kansas$109,000
Cumberland, Maryland$110,000

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By Sam Becker

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