The Most Affordable Cities for First-Time Homeowners

Most affordable US cities

A home is a big investment—especially since the US median household income was $63,179 in 2018, and the median value of a single-family home in America is $245,000 in 2020.1

No matter where you buy, it’ll take a while to pay off your investment, but you can find a better deal in some cities and regions than others. To help you narrow your choices, we compared Zillow’s median home values across the top 100 largest cities in the US as well as between geographic regions and smaller towns.

Where you buy a home will be based on many factors besides price, but hopefully this quick comparison can help you get a better idea of where you can afford to buy your first home.

What are the most affordable cities to buy your first home?

If you’re looking for the best mix of affordability and city size (i.e., population), we narrowed it down to the 100 most populous areas and ranked those metros by median home value. We summarized the 10 most affordable large cities here—for a complete list, jump to the bottom of the page.

Top 10 most affordable large cities in the US

Affordability rankCityMedian home value*Population rank
1Scranton, PA$118,00095
2Toledo, OH$125,00086
3Dayton, OH$137,00070
4Jackson, MS$143,00092
5Wichita, KS$144,00082
6Syracuse, NY$146,00079
7Little Rock, AR$148,00076
8Tulsa, OK$151,00055
9Memphis, TN$153,00041
10Augusta, GA$153,00094
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City Median home value* Population rank
Scranton, PA $118,000 95
Toledo, OH $125,000 86
Dayton, OH $137,000 70
Jackson, MS $143,000 92
Wichita, KS $144,000 82
Syracuse, NY $146,000 79
Little Rock, AR $148,000 76
Tulsa, OK $151,000 55
Memphis, TN $153,000 41
Augusta, GA $153,000 94

Data current as of 04/15/20.
*Rounded to the nearest 100.

Fans of The Office rejoice: Scranton, Pennsylvania, is the most affordable place to buy your first home if you want to live in a sizable city.

We also looked at home prices in smaller towns (with far fewer people). If you’re a remote worker who wants to settle down somewhere cheap—or you want to get a less expensive home in a less densely populated area—these towns might be your best bet.

Most affordable US towns

The 10 most affordable towns in the US

Affordability rankCityMedian home value*Population rank
1Greenwood, MS$33,000656
2Helena, AR$33,000879
3Bennettsville, SC$44,000811
4Middlesborough, KY$53,000815
5Camden, AR$54,000793
6Blytheville, AR$55,000621
7Forrest City, AR$55,000819
8Parsons, KS$55,000880
9Selma, AL$56,000649
10Bastrop, LA$56,000823
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City Median home value* Population rank
Greenwood, MS $33,000 656
Helena, AR $33,000 879
Bennettsville, SC $44,000 811
Middlesborough, KY $53,000 815
Camden, AR $54,000 793
Blytheville, AR $55,000 621
Forrest City, AR $55,000 819
Parsons, KS $55,000 880
Selma, AL $56,000 649
Bastrop, LA $56,000 823

Data current as of 04/15/20.
*Rounded to the nearest 100.

In general, the most affordable cities are in the South and Midwest. But there are some exceptions: Greenville, Missouri, for example, has a median home value of $770,000—the ninth most expensive city, according to Zillow’s data (as of 04/15/20).

For some folks, it doesn’t quite matter where you live so long as you’re getting a good deal.

Median home value by region

  • Central South: $184,000
  • Midwest: $200,000
  • South Atlantic: $242,000
  • Northeast: $245,000
  • West: $394,500

If the South and Midwest don’t tickle your fancy, you’ll likely pay more for your first home somewhere else.

The Northeast is a mixed bag of fancy new buildings, aging urban areas, and ever-shrinking space for new residential developments. It’s still on par with the US median home value, but you’ll have to get more location-specific to find the best deals.

And the West proves to be the most expensive region to buy a home. Between ever-growing cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the tech boom in Silicon Valley, and the general desirability of the living next to the Pacific Ocean, the median home value has risen to $394,500—which is $149,500 more than the US median home value.

Are larger cities always more expensive?

You may expect to pay less in a less densely populated area, but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. For example, even though Provo, Utah, is only the 100th most populous city, it has a median home value of $367,000—$122,000 more than the median US home value.

If you crave the big-city life, take a look at some surprising median home values (both high and low) in densely populated areas. Here’s how costs in the top 10 most populous cities break down.

Home values most populated cities

Median home values in the 10 most populous cities

Population rankCity/metro areaMedian home value*
1New York, NY$479,000
2Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$718,000
3Chicago, IL$244,000
4Dallas-Fort Worth, TX$256,000
5Philadelphia, PA$254,000
6Houston, TX$221,000
7Washington, DC$461,000
8Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL$349,000
9Atlanta, GA$242,000
10Boston, MA$505,000
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City/metro area Median home value*
New York, NY $479,000
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $718,000
Chicago, IL $244,000
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX $256,000
Philadelphia, PA $254,000
Houston, TX $221,000
Washington, DC $461,000
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL $349,000
Atlanta, GA $242,000
Boston, MA $505,000

Data current as of 04/15/20.
*Rounded to the nearest 100.

You can get big-city life and a house below the US median value of $245,000 in Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, and Atlanta, GA. It’s not a massive difference, but if you’re comparing Chicago to LA or New York, it might help narrow down your decision.

Again, it all depends on what you want from your home, but by narrowing down some of your potential locations based on cost and what you can afford, you’ll be that much closer to owning your first home.

Ready to move? Check out the best interstate moving companies and our favorite moving container companies

Methodology

To get a better understanding of housing costs across America, we used the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) to determine median prices of single-family homes in 100 of the most populated metro areas across the US. We also collected the complete home value dataset from Zillow. We rounded down the median home value to the nearest 100 and divided the US into five geographic regions to get a better idea of changing price trends based on location.

Sources

  1. Zillow, “Housing Data

Cities ranked by affordability

Affordability rankCityStateMedian home value*Population rank
1ScrantonPA$118,00095
2ToledoOH$125,00086
3DaytonOH$137,00070
4El PasoTX$137,00068
5JacksonMS$143,00092
6WichitaKS$144,00082
7SyracuseNY$146,00079
8Little RockAR$148,00076
9TulsaOK$151,00055
10MemphisTN$153,00041
11AugustaGA$153,00094
12RochesterNY$157,00051
13BirminghamAL$157,00049
14Oklahoma CityOK$157,00042
15GreensboroNC$159,00073
16PittsburghPA$160,00022
17ClevelandOH$162,00029
18ColumbiaSC$162,00072
19Winston-SalemNC$163,00081
20KalamazooMI$173,000150
21BuffaloNY$173,00047
22ChattanoogaTN$175,00098
23DetroitMI$176,00012
24St. LouisMO$182,00018
25IndianapolisIN$183,00033
26LouisvilleKY$184,00043
27RoanokeVA$185,000156
28PensacolaFL$187,000110
29CincinnatiOH$190,00028
30Baton RougeLA$190,00069
31HarrisburgPA$191,00096
32KnoxvilleTN$193,00064
33GreenvilleSC$198,00065
34SavannahGA$199,000147
35OmahaNE$200,00061
36San AntonioTX$205,00026
37Kansas CityMO$206,00030
38AlbanyNY$207,00060
39New OrleansLA$207,00046
40Des MoinesIA$208,00091
41MilwaukeeWI$210,00039
42AllentownPA$213,00067
43AlbuquerqueNM$213,00059
44Grand RapidsMI$219,00052
45Daytona BeachFL$219,00090
46ColumbusOH$221,00032
47HoustonTX$221,0006
48TucsonAZ$233,00053
49BakersfieldCA$234,00063
50JacksonvilleFL$235,00040
51LancasterPA$236,000101
52TampaFL$239,00019
53CharlotteNC$240,00024
54SpringfieldMA$242,00083
55AtlantaGA$242,0009
56ChicagoIL$244,0003
57New HavenCT$245,00062
58Virginia BeachVA$247,00036
59RichmondVA$249,00045
60HartfordCT$251,00044
61Fort MyersFL$253,00084
62PhiladelphiaPA$254,0005
63Dallas-Fort WorthTX$256,0004
64OrlandoFL$264,00027
65FresnoCA$269,00056
66DurhamNC$274,000104
67CharlestonSC$276,00078
68AshevilleNC$279,000118
69SpokaneWA$282,00099
70NashvilleTN$285,00037
71SarasotaFL$285,00075
72RaleighNC$286,00048
73MadisonWI$295,00087
74Ann ArborMI$296,000148
75PhoenixAZ$297,00014
76BaltimoreMD$299,00020
77Minneapolis-St PaulMN$300,00016
78WorcesterMA$302,00057
79Las VegasNV$305,00031
80BoiseID$320,00085
81OgdenUT$322,00089
82PortlandME$325,000103
83ManchesterNH$325,000131
84ProvidenceRI$326,00038
85Colorado SpringsCO$328,00080
86BurlingtonVT$329,000201
87AnchorageAK$338,000133
88AustinTX$341,00035
89Miami-Fort LauderdaleFL$349,0008
90ProvoUT$367,000100
91StocktonCA$392,00077
92RiversideCA$393,00013
93Salt Lake CityUT$396,00050
94RenoNV$401,000117
95PortlandOR$425,00023
96Fort CollinsCO$426,000159
97SacramentoCA$442,00025
98DenverCO$457,00021
99WashingtonDC$461,0007
100New YorkNY$479,0001
101StamfordCT$484,00058
102BostonMA$505,00010
103SeattleWA$558,00015
104BoulderCO$612,000162
105VenturaCA$635,00066
106San DiegoCA$653,00017
107Los Angeles-Long Beach-AnaheimCA$718,0002
108Urban HonoluluHI$811,00054
109San FranciscoCA$1,164,00011
110San JoseCA$1,301,00034
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City State Median home value* Population rank
Scranton PA $118,000 95
Toledo OH $125,000 86
Dayton OH $137,000 70
El Paso TX $137,000 68
Jackson MS $143,000 92
Wichita KS $144,000 82
Syracuse NY $146,000 79
Little Rock AR $148,000 76
Tulsa OK $151,000 55
Memphis TN $153,000 41
Augusta GA $153,000 94
Rochester NY $157,000 51
Birmingham AL $157,000 49
Oklahoma City OK $157,000 42
Greensboro NC $159,000 73
Pittsburgh PA $160,000 22
Cleveland OH $162,000 29
Columbia SC $162,000 72
Winston-Salem NC $163,000 81
Kalamazoo MI $173,000 150
Buffalo NY $173,000 47
Chattanooga TN $175,000 98
Detroit MI $176,000 12
St. Louis MO $182,000 18
Indianapolis IN $183,000 33
Louisville KY $184,000 43
Roanoke VA $185,000 156
Pensacola FL $187,000 110
Cincinnati OH $190,000 28
Baton Rouge LA $190,000 69
Harrisburg PA $191,000 96
Knoxville TN $193,000 64
Greenville SC $198,000 65
Savannah GA $199,000 147
Omaha NE $200,000 61
San Antonio TX $205,000 26
Kansas City MO $206,000 30
Albany NY $207,000 60
New Orleans LA $207,000 46
Des Moines IA $208,000 91
Milwaukee WI $210,000 39
Allentown PA $213,000 67
Albuquerque NM $213,000 59
Grand Rapids MI $219,000 52
Daytona Beach FL $219,000 90
Columbus OH $221,000 32
Houston TX $221,000 6
Tucson AZ $233,000 53
Bakersfield CA $234,000 63
Jacksonville FL $235,000 40
Lancaster PA $236,000 101
Tampa FL $239,000 19
Charlotte NC $240,000 24
Springfield MA $242,000 83
Atlanta GA $242,000 9
Chicago IL $244,000 3
New Haven CT $245,000 62
Virginia Beach VA $247,000 36
Richmond VA $249,000 45
Hartford CT $251,000 44
Fort Myers FL $253,000 84
Philadelphia PA $254,000 5
Dallas-Fort Worth TX $256,000 4
Orlando FL $264,000 27
Fresno CA $269,000 56
Durham NC $274,000 104
Charleston SC $276,000 78
Asheville NC $279,000 118
Spokane WA $282,000 99
Nashville TN $285,000 37
Sarasota FL $285,000 75
Raleigh NC $286,000 48
Madison WI $295,000 87
Ann Arbor MI $296,000 148
Phoenix AZ $297,000 14
Baltimore MD $299,000 20
Minneapolis-St Paul MN $300,000 16
Worcester MA $302,000 57
Las Vegas NV $305,000 31
Boise ID $320,000 85
Ogden UT $322,000 89
Portland ME $325,000 103
Manchester NH $325,000 131
Providence RI $326,000 38
Colorado Springs CO $328,000 80
Burlington VT $329,000 201
Anchorage AK $338,000 133
Austin TX $341,000 35
Miami-Fort Lauderdale FL $349,000 8
Provo UT $367,000 100
Stockton CA $392,000 77
Riverside CA $393,000 13
Salt Lake City UT $396,000 50
Reno NV $401,000 117
Portland OR $425,000 23
Fort Collins CO $426,000 159
Sacramento CA $442,000 25
Denver CO $457,000 21
Washington DC $461,000 7
New York NY $479,000 1
Stamford CT $484,000 58
Boston MA $505,000 10
Seattle WA $558,000 15
Boulder CO $612,000 162
Ventura CA $635,000 66
San Diego CA $653,000 17
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim CA $718,000 2
Urban Honolulu HI $811,000 54
San Francisco CA $1,164,000 11
San Jose CA $1,301,000 34

Data current as of 04/15/20.
*Rounded to the nearest 100.

About Trevor Wheelwright

Trevor Wheelwright
Trevor has experience writing about and reviewing a multitude of subjects and products. Influenced by art and philosophy, he views everything as part of a story and an expression of our transcendent experience.