The Best Metros and Towns for First-Time Homeowners

Joe Roberts
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on January 25, 2021
3 min read
Metros with affordable homes

Few financial decisions are as big a deal as buying your first home. While real estate is typically a smart investment since houses tend to appreciate long-term,1 it can take years or even decades of paying your mortgage before you reap any financial benefits.

For that reason, it’s wise to buy a home you like in a location you can afford instead of holding out for the ideal home in your favorite city. Your dream house will still be there after you’ve built up some home equity.

To help you find the most affordable cities for first-time homebuyers, we looked at home prices in the US’s biggest cities and metro areas and some smaller metro areas. Keep reading to find out which cities you could afford a mortgage in.


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What are the most affordable big cities or metro areas to buy your first home in?

For most people, buying a house somewhere like New York or San Francisco isn’t realistic. Don’t despair, though. You can still get the big-city experience without living in an apartment your whole life.

Below, we’ve listed 10 cities and metro areas that best balance affordable houses with large populations.

10 large cities and metro areas with the most affordable homes

Affordability rank
Metro area
Median home value
Population rank

1

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metro Area, TX

$87,100

855,176

2

Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metro Area, FL

$224,800

737,468

3

Lakeland-Winter Haven Metro Area, FL

$150,800

686,218

4

Boise City, ID

$239,900

710,743

5

Baton Rouge, LA

$181,700

854,318

6

Greenville-Anderson Metro Area, SC

$163,400

895,942

7

Ogden-Clearfield Metro Area, UT

$255,500

662,875

8

Columbia, SC

$154,400

824,278

9

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville Metro Area, FL

$196,400

585,507

10

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach Metro Area, FL

$184,200

646,288

Data as of 1/22/2021.

Good news for beach-lovers: while a few cities all over the country made our top 10, Florida came in with the strongest showing of affordable housing areas by far. Four of the ten most affordable metros for first-time homebuyers are in Florida.

If you’re not seeing your favorite big city in our top 10, you can see where it ranks by skipping ahead to our list of the 100 most affordable big cities and metro areas.

10 small metro areas with the most affordable homes

Affordability rank
City
Median home value
Population rank

1

Sebring-Avon Park Metro Area, FL

$108,100

103,437

2

Beckley Metro Area, WV

$101,800

118,828

3

Pine Bluff Metro Area, AR

$83,300

90,865

4

Gadsden Metro Area, AL

$113,700

102,748

5

Bay City Metro Area, MI

$102,000

104,104

6

Anniston-Oxford Metro Area, AL

$118,000

114,618

7

Parkersburg-Vienna Metro Area, WV

$122,300

90,758

8

Hot Springs Metro Area, AR

$139,900

98,555

9

Danville Metro Area, IL

$79,900

77,563

10

Weirton-Steubenville Metro Area, WV-OH

$93,000

118,213

Data current as of 1/22/2021.

As you can see, our list of small metro areas with affordable homes is almost entirely made up of cities in southern states. This means that if you want an affordable home in an area with a population of about 100,000 people, the South is a great place to start your search.


Are larger cities or metro areas always more expensive?

Housing prices are all about supply and demand, so areas with larger populations, especially those that are growing faster, typically have higher home values. Of course, there are notable exceptions to this rule.

For example, the median home value in Texas’s McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metro Area is $87,100, and the area’s population is 855,176. While this population is roughly eight times higher than any city in our small metro areas list, the area’s median home value is lower than all but two of them.

So, does the rule that bigger populations equal higher home values tend to hold true? Let’s look at home values in some of the biggest metro areas to find out.

10 metro areas with the priciest median home values

City/metro area
Median home value
Population

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara Metro Area, CA

$968,800

1,987,846

San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley Metro Area, CA

$840,600

4,701,332

Urban Honolulu Metro Area, HI

$678,200

984,821

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim Metro Area, CA

$613,400

13,249,614

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura Metro Area, CA

$588,400

847,263

San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad Metro Area, CA

$563,700

3,316,073

New York-Newark-Jersey City Metro Area, NY-NJ-PA

$450,900

19,294,236

Boston-Cambridge-Newton Metro Area, MA-NH

$437,500

4,832,346

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metro Area, WA

$436,100

3,871,323

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk Metro Area, CT

$428,500

943,926

Data current as of 01/22/2021.

This data clearly shows that home prices in huge metro areas are much higher than those in less populous cities. However, it also illustrates that there isn’t always a one-to-one correlation between population density and housing prices.

Just look at the median home value in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara Metro Area. It’s the highest home value on our list, and its median home price is over $100,000 higher than the next highest. However, the area’s population isn’t even in the top five. Additionally, some of the US’s biggest cities (like Chicago) didn’t even make our list of the 10 cities and metro areas with the priciest homes.

This is because population density isn’t the only determiner of home value. Other factors like location, a city’s economic health, and a home’s age also contribute to its value.


Conclusion

If you’re looking for an affordable home, stay away from cities and metro areas with immense populations. If you can afford a more expensive home, though, some densely populated areas are more affordable than others, and you might be able to score a relatively cheap mortgage in a big city.


Methodology

To get our rankings, we evaluated metro areas based on the following factors:

  • Median home value 2
  • Percentage of homes built in or since the year 20003
  • Percentage of occupied homes4
  • Median gross rent as a percentage of household income5
  • Median monthly housing costs6

We pulled this data from US Census Bureau sources. Cities and metro areas were not ranked for other factors like job opportunities or economic growth.

Sources

  1. Investopedia, “The Truth About Real Estate Prices.” Updated August 30, 2020. Accessed January 11, 2021.
  2. United States Census Bureau, “Median Value.” Accessed January 12, 2021.
  3. United States Census Bureau, “Year Structure Built.” Accessed January 12, 2021.
  4. United States Census Bureau, “Selected Housing Characteristics.” Accessed January 12, 2021.
  5. United States Census Bureau, “Median Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income in the Past 12 Months.” Accessed January 12, 2021.
  6. United States Census Bureau, “Median Monthly Housing Costs.” Accessed January 12, 2021.

Home affordability in the US’s 100 largest cities and metro areas

Rank
City
Median Home Value
Population
Percentage of homes built in or since 2000
Percentage of occupied homes

1

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX Metro Area

$87,100

855,176

40%

68%

2

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL Metro Area

$224,800

737,468

37%

72.3%

3

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL Metro Area

$150,800

686,218

30%

68.9%

4

Boise City, ID Metro Area

$239,900

710,743

35%

69.7%

5

Baton Rouge, LA Metro Area

$181,700

854,318

29%

69%

6

Greenville-Anderson, SC Metro Area

$163,400

895,942

25%

68.5%

7

Ogden-Clearfield, UT Metro Area

$255,500

662,875

29%

75.8%

8

Columbia, SC Metro Area

$154,400

824,278

28%

67.9%

9

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL Metro Area

$196,400

585,507

22%

74.3%

10

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL Metro Area

$184,200

646,288

25%

71.2%

11

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC Metro Area

$146,100

599,616

25%

67.1%

12

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Metro Area

$182,400

680,439

27%

69.7%

13

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL Metro Area

$246,400

803,709

27%

74%

14

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metro Area

$200,000

2,545,560

33%

65.7%

15

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR Metro Area

$154,600

737,015

28%

64.1%

16

Knoxville, TN Metro Area

$171,300

853,337

22%

68.7%

17

Raleigh-Cary, NC Metro Area

$249,800

1,332,311

39%

65.7%

18

El Paso, TX Metro Area

$121,300

840,477

28%

61.2%

19

Jackson, MS Metro Area

$145,600

597,727

22%

67.3%

20

Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metro Area

$165,200

1,085,330

22%

68.9%

21

Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI Metro Area

$172,900

1,062,392

17%

72.8%

22

Provo-Orem, UT Metro Area

$303,300

616,791

40%

67.9%

23

Chattanooga, TN-GA Metro Area

$163,100

556,209

21%

67.1%

24

Winston-Salem, NC Metro Area

$152,400

666,216

20%

66.8%

25

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX Metro Area

$171,000

2,468,193

32%

62.6%

26

Charleston-North Charleston, SC Metro Area

$236,700

774,508

33%

66.2%

27

Jacksonville, FL Metro Area

$204,700

1,503,574

31%

64.5%

28

Oklahoma City, OK Metro Area

$157,600

1,382,841

24%

63.8%

29

Tulsa, OK Metro Area

$150,500

990,544

21%

64.8%

30

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN Metro Area

$240,800

1,871,903

30%

65.6%

31

Albuquerque, NM Metro Area

$192,800

912,108

22%

67%

32

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN Metro Area

$163,100

2,029,472

22%

65.2%

33

Greensboro-High Point, NC Metro Area

$149,200

762,063

21%

62.6%

34

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area

$193,900

6,884,138

34%

60.4%

35

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN Metro Area

$169,500

1,257,088

18%

67.1%

36

Wichita, KS Metro Area

$139,000

637,690

17%

65%

37

Tucson, AZ Metro Area

$184,100

1,027,207

23%

63.2%

38

Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ Metro Area

$250,000

4,761,603

32%

63.4%

39

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA Metro Area

$217,000

5,862,424

31%

63.3%

40

St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area

$172,700

2,805,190

15%

68.9%

41

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA Metro Area

$171,000

931,779

21%

65.5%

42

Pittsburgh, PA Metro Area

$154,000

2,331,447

9%

69.6%

43

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metro Area

$221,600

2,508,970

33%

60.9%

44

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Metro Area

$226,100

626,695

29%

61.7%

45

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN Metro Area

$168,900

2,201,741

16%

66.4%

46

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area

$193,500

3,097,859

22%

64.9%

47

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA Metro Area

$183,400

571,013

15%

67.6%

48

Akron, OH Metro Area

$150,000

703,845

12%

66.6%

49

Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area

$183,300

2,124,518

19%

65.1%

50

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre, PA Metro Area

$139,400

555,642

8%

67%

51

Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX Metro Area

$281,500

2,114,441

42%

58.2%

52

Syracuse, NY Metro Area

$137,200

652,416

9%

67.6%

53

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI Metro Area

$170,000

4,317,848

11%

69%

54

Toledo, OH Metro Area

$130,900

644,137

11%

63.3%

55

Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metro Area

$152,200

1,339,623

20%

59.8%

56

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area

$215,700

7,320,663

30%

59.5%

57

Rochester, NY Metro Area

$144,400

1,072,877

10%

67.1%

58

Columbus, OH Metro Area

$184,800

2,077,761

20%

61.5%

59

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area

$257,000

3,573,609

19%

70%

60

Dayton-Kettering, OH Metro Area

$135,000

803,543

10%

63.2%

61

Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area

$298,600

1,201,043

24%

67.8%

62

Cleveland-Elyria, OH Metro Area

$151,600

2,056,898

9%

64.9%

63

Richmond, VA Metro Area

$237,500

1,269,530

21%

65.6%

64

Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY Metro Area

$148,500

1,130,175

7%

65.7%

65

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV Metro Area

$262,700

2,182,004

37%

53.8%

66

Colorado Springs, CO Metro Area

$275,700

723,498

26%

64.7%

67

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ Metro Area

$213,800

837,610

15%

68.8%

68

New Orleans-Metairie, LA Metro Area

$197,800

1,267,777

16%

62.3%

69

Bakersfield, CA Metro Area

$213,900

887,641

22%

58.3%

70

Madison, WI Metro Area

$248,400

653,725

23%

61.1%

71

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY Metro Area

$213,600

880,736

13%

63.9%

72

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metro Area

$245,100

1,761,729

19%

61.7%

73

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area

$239,600

9,508,605

14%

64.5%

74

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area

$250,700

6,079,130

11%

67.3%

75

Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI Metro Area

$213,900

1,575,223

11%

60.1%

76

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metro Area

$341,300

4,560,470

25%

63.3%

77

Worcester, MA-CT Metro Area

$269,600

941,338

11%

65.6%

78

Springfield, MA Metro Area

$228,100

699,480

7%

63.2%

79

Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY Metro Area

$276,500

673,839

14%

67.7%

80

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metro Area

$298,500

2,796,733

14%

66.5%

81

Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT Metro Area

$249,200

1,207,677

9%

66.3%

82

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area

$380,900

2,892,066

24%

63.9%

83

Fresno, CA Metro Area

$255,000

984,521

20%

53.3%

84

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metro Area

$368,800

2,445,761

21%

62.4%

85

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area

$280,400

6,090,660

17%

59.3%

86

Stockton, CA Metro Area

$342,100

742,603

23%

56.6%

87

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metro Area

$276,900

1,618,268

8%

61.4%

88

New Haven-Milford, CT Metro Area

$248,600

857,513

7%

61.8%

89

Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, CA Metro Area

$387,500

2,315,980

21%

60.3%

90

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area

$436,100

3,871,323

23%

60.1%

91

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area

$424,000

6,196,585

21%

63.6%

92

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT Metro Area

$428,500

943,926

11%

67.1%

93

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area

$437,500

4,832,346

12%

61.7%

94

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA Metro Area

$588,400

847,263

13%

63.2%

95

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area

$450,900

19,294,236

10%

51.3%

96

San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area

$563,700

3,316,073

16%

53.3%

97

Urban Honolulu, HI Metro Area

$678,200

984,821

15%

56.2%

98

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area

$613,400

13,249,614

9%

48.6%

99

San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA Metro Area

$840,600

4,701,332

11%

54.7%

100

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area

$968,800

1,987,846

15%

56.6%

Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.