Finding an affordable home in one of America’s top cities these days can feel like a stressful mishmash of scavenger hunt, Tinder date, and lost footage from “The Hunger Games.” Translation: The odds aren’t quite stacked in your favor. Home prices have been rising at a breakneck pace in these postrecession years, and even with the beginnings of an apparent housing slowdown—leading to more properties hitting the market and the rate of price acceleration tapering off—the costs of nice homes in nice places remain high, high, high.
But hold on, budget buyers—there’s still hope! And that’s where we come in. Our crack team of data wizards analyzed the 300 largest metropolitan areas* to find the ones with the most home listings on realtor.com® in September below the magic $200,000 benchmark. Why $200,000? Because it’s still well under the national median price tag of $293,000—yet gives bargain hunters way more options than the list of metros with the most homes under $100,000 we took on earlier this year. (Hey, we dig round numbers.)
Still, there’s no question that well-priced and -appointed middle-class abodes are getting tougher to find, especially in America’s top cities. Only 30.4% of all of the homes listed on realtor.com were under that affordable $200,000 mark in September. That’s down from more than half of listings—53.4%—at the bottom of the housing market in 2012, and 34.9% just a year ago.
So what can buyers get for their 200 grand? If they’re looking in San Francisco, it will get them nothing. Zilch! But those searching on the East Coast and Midwest can find quite a few choices, including homes in areas with walkable neighborhoods, with room for kids and/or fur babies, all for a reasonable price. They might just need to be flexible about where those areas are located.
“It’s common to find more affordable homes farther away from the city center,” says Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com. “Surprisingly, even in areas you would expect to be superexpensive, there are properties that are priced really low.”
So where are these magical places where the working men and women of the world can own at least four walls and the roof above their heads?
Metros with the most homes under $200K
1. Chicago, IL
Median list price: $285,000 Number of listings under $200,000: 15,416
Even with all the Michelin-starred restaurants, world-class cultural attractions, and mysterious Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago has long been known for having a large stock of affordable real estate.
Buyers in the Windy City can find nicely sized, one-bedroom condos, located in the heart of Chicago just blocks away from Michigan Avenue and Grant Park for under $200,000, says local real estate broker Nick Libert of Exit Realty.
For those who would prefer a house with a yard and a fence out front, there are plenty of homes to choose from on the city’s South Side. The area has a bad reputation for crime, but it encompasses a lot of neighborhoods, which run the gamut from seriously disadvantaged to seriously bougie. The University of Chicago is on the South Side, and Barack Obama’s Chicago home is there.
In Gage Park, buyers are picking up bungalows with yards for less than $200,000. There are also plenty of two- and three-bedroom brick homes in neighborhoods that stretch along the South Side’s Western Avenue Corridor. The area has become popular with working-class buyers on the prowl for some space. They can snag 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot abodes and still be close to Midway Airport and within a 20-minute drive from downtown.
“It’s a favorite for cops and teachers that need to stay within the city limits,” says Libert.
2. Miami, FL
Median list price: $385,050 Number of listings under $200,000: 9,169
Compared with other international hubs like New York City and Los Angeles, South Florida offers some solid real estate deals for those dreaming of living on the water. There are caveats, however. About 91.4% of the listings under $200,000 are condos, so most, if not all, of them require maintenance fees. And the Miami metro area encompasses more than 6,000 square miles, stretching from the northern reaches of Palm Beach County nearly to the Florida Keys. So many of these listings aren’t in Miami proper.
But of those that are, buyers can score a sweet studio in a cute, midcentury building on prime Ocean Drive, right in Miami Beach for just under $200,000. It’s even in the tony South of Fifth (SoFi) neighborhood. They just have to be able to cram all of their worldly possessions into 400 square feet. It’s time to purge, my friends.
Farther north in places like Fort Lauderdale, it’s possible to find condos on the waterfront for the same price point as well as some single-family homes in older neighborhoods a bit farther away from the prime walkable destinations.
“It’s a hodgepodge,” says Fort Lauderdale–based real estate broker James Shin of US Global. “You can have a million-dollar home right next to a $200,000 house.”
Median list price: $264,000 Number of listings under $200,000: 8,575
Philadelphia’s relatively low home prices have long been a draw for folks from across the Northeast. And the City of Brotherly Love offers quite a few options for buyers who don’t want to spend the bulk of their income on a mortgage payment the way others do two hours away in New York. More than 28% of the metro’s listings clock in under $200,000.
“Philadelphia County is sprawling,” says Britt McLaughlin, a Realtor, who’s with Philly Home Girls. “It varies so much and changes quickly.”
Those who want to live near all the action of the historic city center can get condos around both Rittenhouse and Logan Squares for less than $200,000, as long as they’re cool with a 500-square-foot studio.
Meanwhile, a large swath of millennial buyers seeking more space or new construction have been looking for homes about 20 minutes from downtown in trendy neighborhoods such as Point Breeze, Brewerytown, Kensington, and Fishtown.
4. Atlanta, GA
Median list price: $315,050 Number of listings under $200,000: 8,469
Sub-$200k three-bedroom home outside Atlanta
Atlanta’s real estate market has gone gangbusters over the past several years, and the entry-level segment shows no sign of slowing down. Regular buyers and investors are competing for properties in the next up-and-coming, still-affordable hoods that are following the Beltline. The former railway corridor that circles the city is in the midst of being transformed into a multiple-use trail and public space, reminiscent of Manhattan’s High Line.
“It’s the big driver of where people want to move,” says Realtor Ryan Sconyers of the Graham Seeby Group.
While home prices in the eastern corridor, where the loop has already been paved, have already gone through the roof, the west end market is currently heating up. But single-family homes south of Interstate Highway 20 in the western corridor can be scooped up for under $200,000.
But buyers had better be quick. In western neighborhoods, like Adair Park, they were getting 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath homes in the low $100,000 range last year. But these days a comparable fixer-upper clocks in at around $175,000.
Median list price: $529,050 Number of listings under $200,000: 7,684
Three-bedroom home listed under $200K in Pike County.
The only property going for under $200,000 in New York City’s pricey Manhattan are parking spots, says real estate broker Grant Braswell of Compass. And no, he’s not kidding.
Aside from a handful of co-ops and condos reserved for lower-income buyers, “affordable” and “New York City” simply don’t go together.
So why’s the Big Apple on our list? That’s because New York City’s metro area, defined as places within commuting distance to the city center, encompasses Long Island and upstate New York as well as parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
Now, there are a small number of co-ops and condos for sale under the $200,000 mark in the less desirable parts of upper Manhattan, the Bronx, and the outer regions of Brooklyn and Queens. But for the most part, buyers have to look well beyond the city’s borders to find anything other than a shoebox.
Even in Bergen County, across the Hudson River in New Jersey, it’s hard to find a single-family home larger than 1,000 square feet for less than $200,000.
“You can find some studios and apartments,” says Realtor Karen Haruthunian, who’s with Special Properties Real Estate Services–Franklin Lakes. “But under $200,000 is low.”
For the real deals, you’ll have to go a couple of hours out of the city to places like the Hudson Valley in upstate New York or Pennsylvania’s Pike County, home of the Poconos.
6. Detroit, MI
Median list price: $226,300 Number of listings under $200,000: 6,564
Home in Dearborn, MI
Unlike New York, Detroit’s not exactly a surprise addition to our list. The former auto hub has shed thousands of jobs over the years as plants and factories downsized, relocated, and closed. And without much demand from new buyers, homes could be had for a song.
But while the median list price in Detroit is pretty darn low, less than a third of the metro area’s listings come in at under $200,000. In the city, you can get a 4,000-square-foot, multifamily home for $59,000—if you’re OK with ripping the boards off the windows and gutting the entire place.
Meanwhile, many of the more affordably priced condos and co-ops near downtown have skyscraper-high homeowners association fees, says real estate pro Nancy Bashi of Coldwell Banker Preferred.
“I just showed one $209,000 co-op: The HOA was $1,100 a month,” Bashi says.
“The suburbs have a lot of nice homes for under $200,000,” Bashi says.
Median list price: $204,950 Number of listings under $200,000: 6,384
St. Louise sub-$200K home
While St. Louis has plenty of chic, old-money neighborhoods filled with pricey mansions, the city also offers plenty of options far cheaper than bringing home a classic Bentley.
Small, single-family homes can be found at the $200,000 price point in charming suburbs with great schools like Kirkwood and Webster Groves—places with a strong track record of price appreciation, says Realtor Britani Hoemekeb with Coldwell Banker Premier Group.
However, many younger buyers who are more into nightlife than schools prefer the historic homes found in charming, long-established neighborhoods like Southampton and Soulard, the oldest neighborhood in the city. Dotted with trendy restaurants and fun bars, the neighborhoods offer renovated row homes with exposed brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows for as low as $160,000.
8. Houston, TX
Median list price: $310,050 Number of listings under $200,000: 5,142
Home in Cypress, TX
Now, let’s get this out of the way: Houston is huge. But you already knew everything is bigger in Texas. What you might not know is that, due to lax zoning laws and affordably priced land and labor, homes are going up all over the place here.
There are plenty of affordable, nice condos in hip, downtown-adjacent parts of Houston. However the bulk of listings under $200,000 are single-family homes, many of which are located about 20 miles outside of downtown.
Houston-area real estate agent Greg Nino, who’s with Re/Max Compass, points to suburbs on the west side of the city, such as Cypress and Katy, for budget-conscious shoppers. Both offer buyers a chance to get into a three- or four-bedroom home, built in the mid-2000s or in the ’70s or ’80s, set on large parcels of land for under $220,000.
“You’re very likely to get something very reasonable to live in” for an affordable price, says Nino.
Median list price: $175,050 Number of listings under $200,000: 5,021
Home in Middleburg Heights
Looking for a remodeled house with a front porch that’s walking distance to hip restaurants and bars without signing over your firstborn? Lakewood, OH, has you covered. The suburb is about a 15-minute drive from downtown Cleveland, but it offers the nightlife and historic charm many young buyers want at a wallet-happy price. Large Colonial-style homes with old-school woodwork and lawns outside often pop up for less than $200,000.
That charming town isn’t the only part of Cleveland that offers buyers with limited means a chance to get into the real estate market. For $160,000 to $200,000, there are plenty of options for families seeking a four- or five-bedroom home in areas like Middleburg Heights, North Olmsted, and North Royalton. Those are ideal suburbs for buyers who prefer a large yard with space for the kids to run around and are less concerned with walkability.
“It’s straight-up suburban living—Mom, Dad, 2.3 kids, and a dog in the yard with a 30-minute commute,” says real estate broker James Wise of Holton-Wise Real Estate. “There’s a ton of great stuff in that price point.”
10. Myrtle Beach, SC
Median list price: $244,900 Number of listings under $200,000: 3,639
Three-bedroom home in Conway, SC
Retirees are swarming Myrtle Beach and its 60-mile stretch of continuous beach like sandflies on sunbathers. It’s the second fastest-growing metro in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the low price points are a big part of the attraction.
More than half of Myrtle Beach’s 3,639 listings under $200,000 are condos and townhomes.
About 20 miles inland, in Conway, you can get a brand-new three-bedroom, two-bath house for around $175,000. Just 15 minutes south of the city, beach lovers can find three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes with patios and backyards in Surfside Beach in the $190,000 to $200,000 price range.
“These are golf cart–distance to the beach,” says real estate broker Radha Herring of the Watermark Real Estate Group. “I know people who live in Surfside and never drive their car.”
* A metropolitan statistical area is a designation that includes the urban core of a city and surrounding smaller towns and cities. We limited our list to just one metro per state to add some geographic diversity.
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Source: Housing Trends Feed