The 10 most affordable US cities for homebuyers

 These are the top 10 most affordable US metro areas, as determined by how many square feet a typical family could buy. 

Lesley Weidenbener/Indianapolis Business Journal/AP/File
Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. during Labor Fest.

It’s the most important question a potential homebuyer asks: What can I afford? For those house-hunting in a metro region, the answer could be disheartening, especially as prices continue to climb and Americans increasingly move to urban areas.

To help consumers, NerdWallet calculated how much house a typical family in each of the nation’s largest 100 metropolitan areas could comfortably afford. By using data on debt, median income, housing costs and home prices, we recommend how much families can spend while remaining within healthy budget parameters.

The list below shows the top 10 most affordable U.S. metro areas, as determined by how many square feet a typical family could buy. See the full rankings for all 100 metro areas here.

10 most affordable U.S. metros for homebuyers

1. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana

Affordable home value: $294,318
Number of square feet: 5,302

The Indianapolis metro area is by far the most affordable in the country, beating the No. 2 region by almost 1,640 square feet. While 5,000 square feet may seem like an unobtainable house size, our calculations found that families can afford this with an annual income of $81,500 — less than our list’s median. Indianapolis homebuyers can thank the area’s average price per square foot of $56 for their spacious abodes.

2. Memphis, Tennessee-Mississippi-Arkansas

Affordable home value: $283,998
Number of square feet: 3,663

Families in Memphis can afford more square feet than in any other metro area in Tennessee. Homebuyers here can comfortably buy homes that are 1,000-square-feet bigger than what house hunters in Nashville and Knoxville can afford. Memphis — Tennessee’s second-largest metro area — is one of only two places in our top 10 that isn’t in the Midwest. The typical family here earns $81,200 annually, which goes quite far with local housing at $78 per square foot.

3. Dayton, Ohio

Affordable home value: $260,906
Number of square feet: 3,511

The first of many Ohio areas on our list, Dayton residents can afford larger homes than all other metropolitan regions in the state, despite having a lower median annual income. Typical families here are able to afford 3,511 square feet on an annual income of $77,732. The average price per square foot is $74.  

4. Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

Affordable home value: $298,800
Number of square feet: 3,504

While Cleveland’s $85 per square foot is higher than most other Ohio metros, so is the area’s income. Families here on average earn $85,306 annually, which is above all other Ohio cities in our top 10. Although some residents may enjoy the stable and affordable housing, others could be frustrated by Cleveland’s low appreciation rate: median list prices grew just 3% last year.

5. Akron, Ohio

Affordable home value: $291,020
Number of square feet: 3,497

The fifth-largest city in Ohio, Akron is known as the hometown of NBA star LeBron James. While the annual family income here of $82,994 is close to our list’s median, the purchasing power of residents in Akron is much higher, and families here can afford about 3,500 square feet. In comparison, families in Salt Lake City — where median annual family income is only $200 less — can afford a 1,918-square-foot house.

6. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania

Affordable home value: $206,727
Number of square feet: 3,497

Youngstown may be one of the most affordable places in the country, but it’s also one of the poorest. Annual family incomes here are just $66,700, the fifth lowest of the nation’s 100 largest metros. In August 2015, Youngstown’s median list prices were $88,000, with a 0% increase over the past year, according to

7. Cincinnati, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana

Affordable home value: $304,307
Number of square feet: 3,330

Cincinnati, the biggest metro area by population in our top 10, has an average price per square foot of $91, which is Ohio’s second-highest value after Columbus. But income for Cincinnati families hasn’t kept up with this price: the median annual income here is below that of Cleveland families. Still, the area is affordable, although that may change. Cincinnati’s median list prices increased 9% while the number of home listings dropped 32% compared with a year ago, according to

8. Toledo, Ohio

Affordable home value: $257,171
Number of square feet: 3,295

Toledo, like Youngstown, suffers from low income and a high poverty rate. However, Toledo’s low home costs are accompanied by a price appreciation of 5.3% last year.Toledo’s 4.3% unemployment rate in August was below others on the list, including Cleveland and Youngstown.

9. Raleigh, North Carolina

Affordable home value: $351,588
Number of square feet: 3,163

Named as one of 2014’s best places for STEM graduates, the Raleigh metro area not only has a great job market, it also has affordable home prices. The higher family income here offsets the $111 price per square foot, the highest in our top 10.

10. Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas

Affordable home value: $313,296
Number of square feet: 3,156

With over 2 million residents, the Kansas City metro area is one of the largest regions in the Midwest — and growing. Even with the expanding population, the Kansas City area saw just a 6% increase in its listing prices last year, less than the national average of 7.4%, according to This is good news for potential homebuyers, as the median home price here was $178,000 in August, well below the national median.


All recommended home prices are from NerdWallet’s home affordability calculations.

The recommended total home value was estimated as the sum of the down payment and the maximum conventional loan with mortgage insurance. The home price was then divided by Zillow’s 2014 average of price per square foot to calculate estimated size.

To read more on the methodology, see the full list of 100 metro areas. 

This article first appeared in NerdWallet. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to The 10 most affordable US cities for homebuyers
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today