Look to the boondocks for lower-cost housing

High home prices got you down? Looking for some trees, a cozy little place to call your own, and a mortgage that isn't on a swift climb to the moon? The place to go - it seems quite obvious - is the boondocks, according to the United States League of Savings Institutions (USLSI). Not only the cost of the house itself, but also the taxes, should be a lot less.

In gathering its data, the USLSI combed some 13,000 mortgage-loan transactions from coast to coast.

The median home price in large standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSA) last year, according to the bank league, was $80,000, compared with $46,500 in non-SMSAs. Non-SMSA communities are small towns and rural areas with populations under 50,000 that are not part of an SMSA. In other words, it's got to be pretty far out - from the city, that is.

Going up the scale, in small SMSAs - areas with populations of less than a quarter million - the median home price was $55,000. In medium-sized SMSAs, with populations between 250,000 and 1.5 million, the median price was $65,000.

The median tax bite, if you live in some of the smallest communities in the US, was $34 a month, with a total housing expense of $532, including mortgage payment, insurance, real estate taxes, and utilities.

In the largest cities the median figure reached $836, including an $89 -a-month tax bite, while in the mid-sized SMSAs the median housing cost was $688 . In small SMSAs it was $607.

Taken all together, home buyers nationwide last year had to fork over a median $709 a month for housing-related expenses, including $65 for taxes. In some areas, of course, taxes are far more burdensome than in other communities.

If you felt the squeeze on your budget, here's one reason: 40 percent of all home buyers spent more than one-quarter of their income on housing. In the big cities and their environs, nearly half of all home buyers spent more than the traditional 25 percent of their monthly income on housing.

In non-SMSAs - again, the big-sky country far from the city lights - fewer than 31 percent of the home buyers turned over more than one-quarter of their income on housing.

And how much money did you make last year? If you lived in a big city and your gross income was less than $41,099, you probably felt a sharp pinch on your housing budget.

In the smaller communities, however, a household income of $27,600 was enough to buy a house - and still eat.

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