15 of the Cheapest Places to Buy a House in the U.S.
The secret to snagging a home in your price range? Purchase one in the right location. These American cities rank high on affordability.
The average home price in the U.S. hit a new record in late 2022, and interest rates are higher than they’ve been in decades. It’s tougher than ever for hopeful buyers to land the home of their dreams—or any house, for that matter. The seller’s market continues unabated in many metropolitan areas, and as remote and hybrid workers move further from urban centers, prices have even been driven up in exurbs and rural communities. While these “Zoom towns” face challenges as remote workers head back into the office, home prices remain elevated.
With housing prices so high and supply so low, some banks and builders are offering incentives for first-time home buyers. “They’re helping with down payments and helping with lowering people’s interest rates so that payments can be affordable. Some banks are also offering grants to those looking to purchase a home,” says Dhiraj Edwards, a mortgage consultant for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
Another way to keep down costs is to buy in a city where housing prices are already low. These 15 cities are among the least expensive places to buy a house in the U.S. This list takes into account the local cost of living and home prices, and incorporates data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Association of Realtors, and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC).
15. Joplin, Missouri
Median home price: $188,300
Median household income: $46,849
Cost of living index: 74.6
Coming in at number 15 on our list of the most affordable places in the U.S. to buy a house, Joplin, Missouri, in the southwest corner of the state, has a cost of living that is 17 percent lower than the national average. Basic necessities like groceries and clothing are around 13 percent lower. Revitalized after the devastating 2011 tornado, the city offers newcomers a steadily increasing population (52,518 as of 2022) and a vibrant arts scene. Of course, there’s also the scenic backdrop of the Ozarks and the nostalgic vibe of Route 66, which winds through downtown.
14. Anniston-Oxford, Alabama
Median home price: $180,000
Median household income: $39,928
Cost of living index: 78.9
With a population of 116,000, the Anniston-Oxford metropolitan area in northeast Alabama is number 14 on our list of the least expensive places to buy a home in the U.S. Anniston, the gateway to the Talladega National Forest, is a great jumping-off point for hiking and biking adventures. The city itself has attractions like the Berman Museum of World History, the Anniston Museum and Gardens, and Cheaha State Park, providing residents with rich cultural and natural experiences. Among the drawbacks: The area has long been plagued with high crime.
13. Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Illinois
Median home price: $179,800
Median household income: $55,659
Cost of living index: 75.7
The Davenport-Moline-Rock Island metropolitan area straddles the Iowa-Illinois border and is known for its affordability. Also referred to as the Quad Cities, the region stretches across 2,270 square miles and has a population of just over 378,000. Each of the cities is situated along the Mississippi River and has a distinct personality, lively waterfront areas, and a thriving music and arts scene.
12. Toledo, Ohio
Median home price: $177,200
Median household income: $41,671
Cost of living index: 77.4
Toledo, Ohio, comes in 12th on our list of the most affordable places in the U.S. to buy a house. Toledo was once a manufacturing hub and was known as the Glass City in recognition of its innovative role in the glass industry. Manufacturing still accounts for as much as one-fifth of the city’s economic base. The city is home to the world-class Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Zoo, and the Valentine Theatre, which presents touring companies as well as performances by the Toledo Symphony and Toledo Opera.
11. Rockford, Illinois
Median home price: $176,300
Median household income: $47,002
Cost of living index: 79.0
Yet another former industrial city, Rockford, Illinois was famed for furniture manufacturing as well as machinery and tool factories. Its nickname, the Forest City, comes from the dense woods and abundant timber of northern Illinois. Today, in a nod to its expansive public parklands and attractions like the Anderson Japanese Gardens and Klehm Arboretum, the city is repositioning itself as the City of Gardens. Rockford’s population of just under 146,000 and sits on 56 square miles. Housing expenses are about 31 percent lower than the national average, and utilities are about 5 percent lower.
10. Charleston, West Virginia
Median home price: $173,500
Median household income: $54,101
Cost of living index: 81.3
Charleston, West Virginia, one of two state capitals on this list, comes in at number 10. This affordable city where the cost of living is 18.7 percent lower than the national average is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, at the confluence of the Kanawha and Elk rivers. With roughly 47,000 residents spread across 32 square miles, it’s a city with a surprisingly suburban feeling. More than 70 percent of residents own their own home, and the housing market offers a range of reasonably priced options. Charleston has, however, been steadily losing population since the 1960s, and the crime rate is notably high. Selling points, aside from affordability, include the city’s natural setting, the 4.5-mile riverwalk, a vibrant year-round farmers market, and various cultural institutions.
9. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa
Median home price: $171,500
Median household income: $49,430 (Waterloo), $66,838 (Cedar Falls)
Cost of living index: 75.7
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area, commonly referred to as the Cedar Valley, covers three counties in northern Iowa. Both Waterloo and Cedar Falls had industrial roots, and both experienced the agricultural woes and Rust Belt decline of the 1980s. Over the past decade, Cedar Falls has revived its historic downtown, and the city recently embarked on a project that will enhance the recreational use of the Cedar River. Waterloo, too, is investing in its downtown, and the region is trying to attract diverse industries. The area’s 168,000 residents enjoy George Wyth State Park and its activities, including hiking, swimming, and fishing; Phelps Youth Pavilion, the region’s children’s museum; and a vibrant downtown scene.
8. Erie, Pennsylvania
Median home price: $169,000
Median household income: $40,201
Cost of living index: 80.8
On the banks of Lake Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, Erie offers prospective homeowners a cost of living that’s 19 percent below the national average as well as rising, but still affordable, home prices. Another Rust Belt casualty, its population has been steadily declining since the 1970s and today hovers around 93,000. The city continues to be an important shipping port on the St. Lawrence Seaway and manufacturing, especially plastics manufacturing, still accounts for almost 20 percent of its economy. Those unafraid of Erie’s harsh winters will be rewarded with lake vistas, beautiful scenery and outdoor activities at Presque Isle State Park, a historic downtown, and Waldameer Park & Water World, one of the oldest amusement parks in the country.
7. Springfield, Illinois
Median home price: $162,600
Median household income: $57,596
Cost of living index: 78.4
At number seven on our list of the most affordable cities to purchase a house in the U.S., Springfield, the capital of Illinois, has a cost of living that’s 21.6 percent lower than the national average. After peaking in 2010, the city’s population has settled at 112,000, spread out over 60 square miles. Residents note that Springfield offers the cultural advantages of a big city—a rich arts scene, theaters, and bars and restaurants—with the feel of a small town. Not surprisingly, the state of Illinois is the city’s primary employer, but healthcare and tourism are also strong. History runs deep here: Abraham Lincoln lived in Springfield for almost 20 years, and it’s where Barack Obama spent his early career in politics.
6. Binghamton, New York
Median home price: $160,000
Median household income: $39,012
Cost of living index: 80.7
Surrounded by rolling hills, this small town in Upstate New York has a population of only 47,000 and sits on just 11 square miles of land. The cost of living in Binghamton is 19.3 percent lower than the national average and 50.6 percent lower than the average for New York. Thanks largely to the presence of highly rated Binghamton University, there are plenty of dining, cultural, and entertainment options. Highlights include the Roberson Museum and Science Center and the spiedie, a local specialty—marinated, skewered meat served on Italian bread.
5. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania
Median home price: $157,300
Median household income: $54,506
Cost of living index: 75.8
The cost of living in the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman metropolitan area is about 24 percent lower than the national average, and the region consistently ranks as one of the most affordable places to buy a house in the U.S. Part of the Mahoning Valley, the metropolitan area was a bustling center of steel production until the industry’s decline in the 1970s. While the population, now a little more than 535,000, has been falling for decades, the cities in the region are trying to embrace their smaller size, revive their commercial districts, and revitalize the waterfronts. Popular destinations in the area include Mill Creek Park and the Butler Institute of American Art, the nation’s first museum devoted exclusively to American art.
4. Peoria, Illinois
Median home price: $156,600
Median household income: $58,426
Cost of living index: 75.6
Set in central Illinois on the Illinois River, Peoria has a cost of living that’s 24.4 percent lower than the U.S. average, making it a budget-friendly destination for aspiring homeowners. Only 109,000 people live across the 50 square miles that make up the city, which contains more than 9,000 acres of parkland. Peoria recently achieved TikTok fame, driven by a new resident who has been promoting the city’s low home prices, quality of life, and acceptance of diversity. Cultural attractions include the Peoria Riverfront Museum, a multidisciplinary celebration of art, science, history, and achievement; the Caterpillar Visitors Center; and the scenic Grand View Drive along the Illinois River.
3. Cumberland, Maryland
Median home price: $145,400
Median household income: $43,699
Cost of living index: 73.2
The Cumberland metropolitan area encompasses dozens of cities and towns along the Potomac River in Maryland and West Virginia. Cumberland itself, which is located in Allegany County, Maryland, has a cost of living that’s 26.8 percent lower than the national average and 52.7 percent lower than in Maryland overall. With a decreasing population (currently about 18,500) and a high poverty rate, the area presents challenges for new residents. Yet it also has charms beyond cheap housing, such as its setting in the central Appalachians, historical sites, and lots of fodder for railroad and canal enthusiasts.
2. Elmira, New York
Median home price: $144,500
Median household income: $84,916
Cost of living index: 77.8
Located near the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York, Elmira has a population of just over 26,000. The city’s cost of living is 22 percent lower than the U.S. average and 56 percent lower than the overall for New York. Despite high rates of unemployment and poverty, the area has much to offer. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the charming though dated downtown; nearby hiking, biking, golfing, and water sports; Harris Hill Soaring (Elmira is billed as the Soaring Capital of the World); and a wealth of sites related to Mark Twain, who spent his summers in the town.
1. Decatur, Illinois
Median home price: $133,400
Median household income: $45,111
Cost of living index: 72.9
The least expensive place to buy a house in the U.S., Decatur, Illinois, has a total population of 68,000 and covers nearly 42 square miles. Decatur has been ranked one of the 50 safest cities in Illinois, although the crime rate is higher than in most of the U.S. The primary industries are agricultural production and processing—Decatur is the North American headquarters of Archer Daniels Midland—and manufacturing. Like many cities on this list, Decatur is striving to attract tech businesses and diversify the local economy. As its position on this list indicates, living is cheap in Decatur, with basic expenses running about 27.1 percent less than the U.S. average. Among the city’s popular attractions are the Scovill Zoo, Rock Springs Conservation Area, and Lake Decatur, which is actually a vast man-made reservoir.