9 Small Towns in the U.S. With the Most Affordable Houses to Buy
Real estate experts say you don't have to sacrifice small-town charm for a reasonable place to live.
Attaining the suburban American dream feels out of reach for so many people—both first-time homebuyers who can't cobble together a down payment and current property owners unable to buy a new home even if they were to make a profitable sale. But across the country, there are some hidden gems where those in the market may be able to purchase an inexpensive home in a desirable location. We spoke to real estate and housing experts to get the scoop on nine small towns in the U.S. with the most affordable houses to buy. Read on to learn about a waterfront town in Minnesota that prioritizes healthy living, a college town in Georgia that's full of job opportunities and culture, and more.
If the fall foliage photo isn't enough to pique your interest in this small Maine town, let us add that the "median home value in Greenville is $128,400, and there are plenty of homes available for under $100,000," according to Jennifer Spinelli, founder and CEO of Watson Buys.
At the time of publication, a search on the real estate website Century 21 Moose Country also showed a number of vacant lots listed for under $100,000, some of which were over four acres.
If building your own home isn't in the cards, there are plenty of other ways to get your fill of the outdoor lifestyle in Greenville. "It's located in the heart of Maine's beautiful wilderness, so you can enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and camping," says Spinelli. The town is within the Main Highlands and is right on Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in the state.
Albert Lea, Minnesota
If you don't mind cold, snowy winters, Albert Lea, Minnesota is a wonderful place to put down roots. Known as the "land between the lakes," it's surrounded by three beautiful lakes and contains 43 parks, including Myre Big Island State Park. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the many water activities, as well as the Big Freeze, "an annual winter event featuring a blue ice plunge, chili cook-off, ice and snow activities," according to the town, which puts on an additional 41 events each year.
But it's not just the natural surroundings that make this a healthy place to live. As Carter Crowley, co-owner and licensed Realtor at CB Home Solutions, notes, Albert Lea was the first place in the U.S. to participate in the Blue Zones project, a research-based designation for well-being and life expectancy. "The city has tobacco-free worksites, special bike lanes, walking trails, etc.," says Crowley. "All these things allow the city to achieve its goal of ensuring healthier residents."
And, of course, an affordable lifestyle equates to lower stress. "The average home price is around $144,950," shares Crowley. "You can get a three-bedroom house on a lake for just $200,000. Or a four-bedroom duplex with a huge backyard for just $159,000."
Potsdam, New York
Potsdam is another town recommended by Spinelli. "With a population of 18,126 people, Potsdam is the perfect place to raise a family. The houses in this town are super affordable, with the median home value being $131,700. If you're looking for an even cheaper option, there are plenty of fixer-uppers available for under $100,000."
Potsdam is also affordable for renters. One option is The Quarry, an income-based community housed in a historic educational building that caters to "artists, innovators, entrepreneurs and similar residential tenants."
And it's not just the prices that bring people to the town near the Canadian border (it's about a two-hour drive from both Ottawa and Montreal). "A Victorian and sandstone setting is the backdrop for Potsdam's modern educational, cultural and scientific centers, medical and shopping facilities, a wide variety of restaurants, local airport and accommodations," according to the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. It's home to Clarkson University and the State University College at Potsdam.
Davenport is one of the Quad Cities, along with the fellow southeastern Iowa city Bettendorf and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in northwestern Illinois. According to an Oct. 2022 market report from Ruhl&Ruhl Realtors, the median sales price in the area was $142,000, with Davenport coming in slightly higher at $172,000.
The reason for this slight uptick could be that personal finance website The Ascent recently rated Davenport as the best Midwestern city for millennial homebuyers "based on cost of living, home prices, homeowners insurance premiums, car insurance premiums, and social equity."
Located on the Mississippi River, the town has much to entice first-time homebuyers. "You'll find plenty of diverse restaurants, pubs, unique local shops, and entertainment options that are all walkable from downtown," says Jessica Waytenick, CTA, public relations and marketing manager for Visit Quad Cities. "Home to craft breweries, nightlife, live music venues, world-class festivals, outdoor adventures, river cruises, and a casino resort, Davenport is the largest city in the family of communities of the Quad Cities."
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Elk City, Oklahoma
Elk City got quite a few votes from the experts we consulted. The Western Oklahoma town of roughly 13,000 is located "approximately 110 miles west of Oklahoma City and 150 miles east of Amarillo, Texas," according to the Chamber of Commerce. Known for its Wild West history and National Route 66 Museum, it's "drawing in new residents, not only from neighboring New Mexico and Texas but from as far away as California and Arizona," says Casey Ames, a licensed realtor with Gem State Cash Offer.
One of the selling points of Elk City is its large pieces of property. "There's usually a lot of acreages involved, especially as you go farther out," notes Kevin Huang, founder and CEO of Ambient Home. "An example is a three-bedroom home with a separate 2-car garage on 5.5 acres for only $110,000." The median home price is $144,000.
The quality of life here is also highly rated, with "great schools, large parks, museums, and a walkable downtown swarming with boutiques, coffee shops, and mom-and-pop cafes," says Ames.
Another town with cowboy history that makes it on the list is Sheridan, Wyoming. Located near the Montana border, it's about three hours east of Yellowstone National Park. "Sheridan is located in the heart of Wyoming's beautiful Big Horn Mountains, so you can enjoy plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and camping," says Spinelli. To relax, there are several breweries, three championship golf courses, and four venues for live performances.
Sheridan is home to 17,444 residents, and "the median home value is just $142,900," notes Spinelli, who adds that there are also plenty of deals under $100,000. But what really sets Sheridan, and the state as a whole, apart, is its incredibly low taxes. According to Kiplinger, Wyoming has no income tax and no estate or inheritance tax. It also has the eighth-lowest average combined state and local sales tax rate, and the 11th-lowest statewide median property tax rate.
Younger residents with children will be happy to learn that this town has the second-best high school in the state, as reported by U.S. News & World Report.
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If education is at the top of your homebuying list, you may want to consider Statesboro, Georgia. It's home to Georgia Southern University, East Georgia State College, and Ogeechee Technical College, as well as 15 public schools, three private schools, and one charter school, per the town's website.
These institutions offer many employment opportunities. According to a recent report by the University System of Georgia, in 2021, Georgia Southern University provided 3,250 on-campus jobs and another 6,363 jobs "that exist because of institution-related spending." The university also had a $1 billion annual economic impact, up more than 7 percent from 2020.
As far as culture goes, the university has an 11+ acre botanic garden, a history museum, and a performing arts center. Plus, it's just an hour northwest of historic Savannah and an hour-and-a-half south of Augusta.
If this is starting to sound appealing, you'll be happy to know that Statesboro "has an average housing value of $115,100, making it an affordable option," says Cam Dowski, founder of WeBuyHousesChicago.
Macomb, Illinois is another college town, home to Western Illinois University. Though it's only 60 miles west of Peoria and 128 miles north of St. Louis, this Midwestern town has plenty of its own employment options, including those at the university, Spoon River College, the McDonough District Hospital, and a Pella windows and doors manufacturing center.
It also has shockingly low real estate prices. "The median list price in this small town is only $56,750!" says Sal Dimiceli, Sr., owner of Lake Geneva Area Realty.
In addition, Dimiceli says, "There are multiple state parks in this small town, and a historic downtown square is ready to welcome you with several shops and restaurants." Macomb has an active Historic Preservation Commission, so you don't have to worry about its old-time charm disappearing (and you may be able to get assistance applying for certain tax breaks if you buy a historic home).
You've probably heard about young professionals from both Los Angeles and New York City relocating to Texas cities like Austin and Houston, but, naturally, that's driven up prices in recent years. A more affordable option recommended by Dimiceli is Sweetwater.
It isn't within commuting distance of any major metros, but its enormous wind turbine farm is an economic draw in its own right, as are the oil, solar power, manufacturing, and hospitality industries, as Miesha Adames, executive director of the Sweetwater Economic Development, said in a Feb. 2022 interview with Business View Magazine.
Sweetwater has a median home price of only $119,450, but the town is working diligently to expand housing options. "We are going to have a new subdivision that will provide us up to 94 homes," said Karen Hunt, Chamber of Commerce director, in the same article. "We already have a subdivision that can hold up to 25 new homes." And Sweetwater is offering a variety of incentives to developers who build new housing in the town.
Other draws to Sweetwater include the Nolan County Coliseum, "which regularly holds rodeos and horse shows," along with the "prodigious Newman park, which is a 117-acre green space with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a Frisbee golf course, outdoor fitness trails, and more," says Dimiceli. Residents also get to enjoy a few barbecue spots, several donut/kolache shops, and many Mexican restaurants.