Given that the median sales price for an existing home was $346,900 in 2021 — a 17% increase from the prior year — it may feel like there is no place to buy an affordable home in the United States. (On the plus side, mortgage rates, though they have ticked up, are still near historic lows — you can see the lowest mortgage rates you might qualify for here). But a new analysis by Realtor.com, which looked at housing data from February of 2022 in the 250 largest metros nationwide, found that there are plenty of cities with median home prices under $200,000, and in some cases under $100,000.
So what gives? Elena Cox, a data journalist for Realtor.com, says there are usually two reasons why housing prices have remained low in a city — either there isn’t much demand, or the average pay for jobs in the area is low, making it hard for residents to save for down payments. That said, that doesn’t mean these spots don’t each have something special about them: Here are the ten cheapest cities to buy a home, according to Realtor.com’s list, and what life is like in each of them.
If you love dining by the water: Peoria, IL
Median home price: $98,000
Located in central Illinois, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago, Peoria offers a riverfront district with outdoor event spaces, restaurants, a walking trail, museums, and theaters. The city is also home to the Wildlife Prairie Park, an 1800-acre zoological park that is home to 60 species formerly native to the area, including bison, wolves and bobcats. It’s no wonder that people from around the country started buying up properties in the city in the summer of 2021, the Washington Post reports. That said, the unemployment rate in the town is elevated.
If you love historic sites: Terre Haute, IN
Median home price: $104,900
Just east of the Illinois border, this city is on high ground next to the Wabash River. Formerly a hub for farmers, millers, and pork processors in the 19th century, Terre Haute experienced an economic decline in the 20th century as industries left for cheaper locations. The city, however, has many cultural relics from its heyday, including the Swope Art Museum, which was founded by jeweler and a Civil War veteran; Collett Park, which was established in 1883, and features a pavilion inspired by ancient Roman architecture; and the Indiana Theatre, which was built in 1922 to house silent movie and vaudeville performances, and is still in operation as an event space today.
If you love hiking: Saginaw, MI
Median home price: $112,200
Used as a fur-trading post at the beginning of the 19th century, Saginaw, which is located less than 20 miles from Lake Huron, later became a hub for auto manufacturing and lumber production, as well as the site of salt, coal and petroleum deposits. By the end of the 20th century, most of the industry had left the city, but there are plenty of relics left from more prosperous times, including the Castle Museum, which was originally built in the late 19th century to house a post office. The city is surrounded by natural preserves including the Price Nature Center, which features 186-acres of trails, as well as grills and a playground.
If you want to affordably start a small business: Youngstown, OH
Median home price: $118,000
Youngstown offers cultural attractions, including the Fellows Riverside Garden, which features twelve acres of manicured grounds, as well as the Butler Institute of American Art, which was built by the American industrialist Joseph G. Butler, Jr., and houses 22,000 works of art. The city is located just a few miles west of the Pennsylvania border, and recent efforts to revitalize Youngstown have included establishing a pedestrian-oriented plaza downtown, and opening the Youngstown Business Incubator, which focuses on digital, women and minority-owned businesses, and is housed in a former department store.
If you want a thriving downtown: Davenport, IA
Median home price: $127,400
Anointed the most livable city in the United States by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2007, Davenport is located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Proudly declaring itself a progressive community on its website, Davenport has invested in revitalizing its historic downtown in the 21st century. The city repaired the Modern Woodmen Park, which houses a minor league baseball team, and built the Skybridge, a 50-foot high pedestrian bridge that connects LeClaire Park to the trails and parks on the waterfront. Another relatively recent addition to the city is the Figge Art Museum’s glass building, which was designed by renowned British architect David Chipperfield.
If you want a place that’s LGBTQ+ friendly: Erie, PA
Median home price: $148,400
Pennsylvania’s primary access point to the Great Lakes, Erie is famously known as the site of the Battle of Lake Erie, which was the turning point for the United States in the War of 1812. Located within 100 miles of Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Erie was the center of the Rust Belt, and declined during the 1970s as manufacturing left the area. There’s plenty left to enjoy in the city, including the Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre peninsula that curves into Lake Erie, and offers sunbathing, boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking in the summer months. Today, Erie is known for its breweries and its openness to the LGBTQ+ community.
If you love the outdoors: Charleston, WV
Median home price: $148,900
The capital city of West Virginia, Charleston is located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers in the Allegheny Mountains. Boasting plenty of natural beauty, Charleston, a major site of salt production in the 19th century, has a minor league baseball team, the West Virginia State Museum, and a riverfront park that houses live music every Friday during the summer. The city is surrounded by forest and hiking trails, including the Kanawha State Forest, which is popular with birders.
If you love local theater: Utica, NY:
Median home price: $169,450
Part of the Mohawk Valley, Utica is situated near the Erie Canal and was a major center for textile production in the 19th century. After a long period of decline due to the flight of manufacturing industries in the region, Utica’s population declined. In the 21st century, it has seen a revitalization. In 2021, the city was awarded $10 million dollars by New York state for projects including a mixed-use arts space and an update to the Stanley Theater, which hosts local performances of shows including Waitress and South Pacific. The city also houses the Utica Zoo, which has 200 animals representing 99 species, and the Saranac Brewing Company, a family-owned business in operation for over 130 years.
If you love music: Macon, GA
Median home price: $174,950
Don’t be fooled by the strip malls and chain stores that ring this city. The interior of Macon consists of rolling green hills, horse farms, pecan groves, and a historic business district that received $19.6 million in investments in 2017 for revitalization efforts. Famously known as the birthplace of both Otis Redding, the city boasts live music venues and Fresh Produce Records, a great record store.
If you love car racing: Topeka, KS
Median home price: $184,950
Topeka has one of the most variable climates in the United States, boasting humid, hot summers, and cold, snowy winters. Attractions include the Heartland Motorsports Park, which features various auto races, and the Evel Knievel Museum memorializing the famous daredevil.