Salaries, home prices in the best places to live in the US

Most Affordable Cities to Live in 2021

Salaries, home prices in the best places to live in the US

Looking to move to a new city in 2021? With budget-friendly housing, good job opportunities, low costs of living, and great amenities, these 11 affordable U.S. cities are worth considering!

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Dallas, TX
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Memphis, TN
  • Nashville, TN
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Omaha, NE
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tampa, FL

Buffalo, NY

  • Population: 258,989
  • Home Price: $72,600 median purchase price; $710 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $33,119
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
  • Cost of living: 17% below the national average

Buffalo is one of the most affordable cities in America! The Nickel City has a low cost of living, affordable housing options, and a growing job market with top employers M&T Bank, Kaleida Health, and Delaware North.

Buffalo also has a diverse food scene, popular attractions the Buffalo Zoo and Buffalo Museum of Science, and is only a 30-minute drive away from breathtaking views of Niagara Falls.

Charlotte, NC

Photo via @codylhughes

  • Population: 808,834
  • Home Price: $178,000 median purchase price; $966 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $55,599
  • Unemployment Rate: 6.1%
  • Cost of Living: 1% above the national average

If you’re looking for warm weather, affordability, and Southern hospitality, take a look at Charlotte! As one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, the Queen City has a booming job market and is a hot spot for the financial industry, with Fortune 500 companies Bank of America headquartered in the area. Residents can also find tons of shopping, dining, and nightlife in Uptown Charlotte and check out incredible attractions Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, The Charlotte Museum of History, and Taste of Charlotte.

Dallas, TX

  • Population: 1,278,433
  • Home Price: $142,600 median purchase price; $888 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $45,215
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
  • Cost of Living: 1% below the national average

Want to live in an affordable big city? Dallas has everything you desire! Big D is one of the best places for business and careers, is home to major employers AT&T and Southwest Airlines, and offers budget-friendly homes and rent prices below the national average. But that’s not all you’ll find in this enormous Texas metro! There are so many fun things to do, including visiting the Dallas World Aquarium and Dallas Zoo, exploring the Dallas Museum of Art, and catching a Dallas Cowboys (NFL) game!

Des Moines, IA

Photo via @jim_hamann

  • Population: 212,859
  • Home Price: $119,800 median purchase price; $775 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $48,088
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
  • Cost of living: 13% below the national average

Looking for a great place to live in the Midwest? Consider Des Moines! Not only is the capital city of Iowa an affordable place to live, but the whole state of Iowa is among the most affordable states to live in! Here, you’ll find a low cost of living, reasonable home prices, and higher education opportunities at Drake University and Grand View University. In addition, Des Moines is home to the Iowa State Fair, one of the largest state fairs in the U.S., and the Downtown Farmers Market, one of the best farmers markets in America!

Kansas City, MO

Photo via @sneadimus

  • Population: 471,767
  • Home Price: $135,900 median purchase price; $826 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $47,489
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
  • Cost of living: 6% below the national average

Kansas City is a fast-growing city in the Midwest that’s been recognized as one of the best places to live in the U.S., thanks to its low cost of living, affordable housing, and booming job market.

Plus, with pro sports events featuring the Kansas City Royals (MLB) and Kansas City Chiefs (NFL), a well-known craft beer scene, tons of nightlife within the Power & Light District, and some of the best barbecue in America, you’ll never run things to do in KCMO!

Memphis, TN

  • Population: 655,857
  • Home Price: $93,700 median purchase price; $842 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $36,975
  • Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
  • Cost of living: 21% below the national average

Searching for an affordable place to live in the U.S.

that also offers excellent culture? Memphis is a great option! The second largest city in Tennessee has a median housing price more than $50,000 below the state’s average and job opportunities with large employers FedEx, AutoZone, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Memphis is also known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, so music enthusiasts can tour Elvis’ Graceland or see where soul music started at Stax Museum of American Soul Music!

Nashville, TN

Photo via @stuartdeming

  • Population: 643,771
  • Home Price: $174,600 median purchase price; $902 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $49,891
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
  • Cost of Living: 5% below the national average

The largest city in Tennessee, Nashville is best known for its music roots, as it’s the home of the annual Country Music Awards and legendary Grand Ole Opry music venue.

But what you may not know about Music City is that it’s actually one of the best places to live in America! Not only does Nashville offer a better value than similarly-sized cities because of its low unemployment rate, no state income tax, and low cost of living, but it also has great employment opportunities with top companies Nissan North America, HCA Healthcare, and iHeartMedia.

Oklahoma City, OK

  • Population: 620,015
  • Home Price: $142,700 median purchase price; $793 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $50,070
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
  • Cost of living: 12% below the national average

Oklahoma City is a top place to move to in 2021! OKC is ranked as one of the best places to live, thanks to its strong job market, budget-friendly housing, and low cost of living.

The city is a major destination for those working in the manufacturing and energy industries, as Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Devon Energy are among the area’s top employers.

Additionally, OKC residents can check out attractions Scissortail Park, Will Rogers Gardens, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma.

Omaha, NE

Photo via @nukeyhov

  • Population: 443,073
  • Home Price: $139,800 median purchase price; $819 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $50,827
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.8%
  • Cost of living: 10% below the national average

Thinking about calling Omaha home? Nebraska’s largest city is one of the best places to live in the Midwest! Business is booming with Fortune 500 companies Union Pacific, Kiewit, Mutual of Omaha, and Berkshire Hathaway headquartered in the area, and there are plenty of education opportunities with Creighton University, University of Nebraska Omaha, and University of Nebraska Medical Center. Not to mention, Omaha has tons of activities for people of all ages, including the world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium!

San Antonio, TX

  • Population: 1,439,358
  • Home Price: $121,100 median purchase price; $882 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $48,183
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.5%
  • Cost of living: 12% below the national average

A big population doesn’t have to mean a big price tag—at least not with this Texas city! San Antonio has a low cost of living and low property taxes, which make it an ideal spot to settle down and buy a home.

Though it’s particularly known for its strong military sector, River City also offers jobs in the aerospace, manufacturing, technology, and financial sectors.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in San Antonio, the San Antonio River Walk, The Alamo, Historic Market Square, and San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo are among local favorites!

Tampa, FL

  • Population: 361,477
  • Home Price: $172,100 median purchase price; $983 median monthly rent
  • Median Household Income: $45,874
  • Unemployment Rate: 6.2%
  • Cost of Living: 3% below the national average

Situated on the Gulf Coast, Tampa has lots to offer with its beautiful tropical weather, easy access to beaches, and affordable cost of living.

Home prices are relatively low, and there’s no state income tax, which makes this Florida city a budget-friendly option. Plus, Tampa is ranked as one of the best cities for veterans and retired military, as the city is close to MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa.

Residents will also love the Tampa Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa, which has a variety of restaurants, bars, shops, public art, and more!


Moving to one of these affordable U.S. cities? Extra Space Storage has convenient self storage locations across the U.S., so we can help with your transition. Find a storage unit near you!

City statistics from AreaVibes


Where You Live Matters: 10 Cities With Affordable Housing And High Wages

Salaries, home prices in the best places to live in the US

What do many 30-year old millionaires, 35-year old retirees and the residents of Rochester, Minn. have in common?

When it came time to decide where to live, they chose wisely.

On the road to wealth, where you live can have a profound effect on how quickly you’re able to save.

We all know that housing prices differ — sometimes dramatically — among geographic regions and even individual cities. And so do wages.

A three-bedroom home that sells for $250,000 in many parts of the Midwest might easily cost $1,000,000 in San Francisco or New York City. But are San Franciscans really earning four times their Missourian counterparts? On average, no. For urban Coasties, that’s a problem. For everyone else, however, it’s an opportunity.

It would be common sense to think that wages and housing prices are always directly correlated. But that’s not always the case. Here, we’ve found 10 U.S. cities with affordable housing. They have:

  • higher-than-average median wages and
  • lower-than-average housing prices
  • What’s average?
  • 1. Gilbert, AZ
  • 2. Brandon, Fl
  • 3. Meridian, ID
  • 4. Aurora, IL
  • 5. West Des Moines, IA
  • 6. Rochester, MN
  • 7. Rio Rancho, NM
  • 8. Amherst, NY
  • 9. Edmond, OK
  • 10. Allen, TX

What’s average?

The median household income in the U.S. was $51,759 (in 2012) and the median home value was $258,300 (in 2012), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That means it would take five years of median income to purchase the median home.

But that’s not true everywhere. There are places where you can earn more than average and still buy an average home for well under the national average of five years of income. Spending less on housing means more wealth building, more retirement savings, and a higher lifestyle with more disposable income. Sounds fabulous to me!

Compare these cities with affordable housing with the nations most expensive places to buy a house, relative to income.

  • In Brooklyn, NY, you’ll need almost 12 years the median income of $45,230 to purchase the median home at $537,500.
  • Or Honolulu, where you need to work for 10.5 years at the median income of $62,048 to purchase the median home at $651,239.
  • Even in San Francisco, where the median income is high –$73,021 — you still have to work for 10 years to earn the $727,600 price of the median home.

10 cities where you can actually afford your home

Obviously, we know you might not be able to just up and move across the country. What we hope, however, is that these cities might inspire you to reflect on what’s ly your largest monthly expense — your home — and what percentage of your take home pay you’re devoting to mortgage payments.

1. Gilbert, AZ

  • Median Household Income: $79,916
  • Median Home Value: $209,300
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.6

Once the Hay Capital Of The World, Gilbert, AZ has made a rapid transformation from an agricultural community to a young, affluent town.

Located about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix, it has a desert climate which means summer highs in the 100s, winter highs in the 70s, and very low rainfall. In 2008, CNN Money ranked Gilbert as one of the best places to live in the United States.

The city itself, the local school district, and two medical facilities are the top four employers in Gilbert.

The top ten employers are rounded by with a large local grocery store, Go Daddy, Walmart, a neighboring school district, a construction company, and Dillards.

2. Brandon, Fl

  • Median Household Income: $53,235
  • Median Home Value: $131,700
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.5

Just 13 miles east of Tampa, Brandon residents often commute for both work and play.

Of the top ten employers in Tampa six are in the healthcare field, Publix grocery store, Verizon, Walmart, and Citibank. If you think that you can’t live near the beach and still get affordable housing Brandon proves you wrong.

Tampa’s beautiful beaches let the 103,000 Brandon residents enjoy their humid subtropical climate, which means summers with highs in the low 90s, warm winters with highs in the mid 70s, and abundant rainfall. But don’t let the high rainfall numbers fool you, Florida isn’t called the sunshine state for nothing.

You may also think that Florida is filled with nothing but retirees, but that’s not true. The median age in Brandon is a mere 34 years old.

3. Meridian, ID

  • Median Household Income: $64,596
  • Median Home Value: $178,100
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.8

Eleven miles west of Boise, sits Meridian, ID and its 75,000 residents.

The climate is semi-arid which means four distinct climates but low rain and snowfall. Located in Meridian are several major employers including Blue Cross of Idaho and the headquarters of the Idaho State Police, which trains 100% of the state police. The candle company Scentsy also has it’s headquarters in Meridian.

Fifteen minutes away in Boise are the headquarters of quite a few more large employers, including Albertsons, WinCo Foods, a software company Clearwater Analytics, several lumber companies, and many others.

The technology and high-tech industries are also growing in Boise with businesses such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft among others. But don’t think everyone just sits around peeling potatoes when they aren’t working. Boise is a regional hub for music and theater.

It also supports an outdoor lifestyle with it’s extensive urban trail system and local ski resort.

4. Aurora, IL

Median Household Income: $58,675

Median Home Value: $164,800

Years of income to purchase home: 2.8

Made famous by the movie Wayne’s World, Aurora, IL is located about an hour west of Chicago. It has warm summers with highs in the mid 80s and cold winters with highs in the 30s and about 30 inches of snow per year.

It’s number one employer is Catepillar, followed by three medical centers, three school districts, the city of Aurora, a casino, and MetLife.

This is one of the larger cities on this list with a population of about 200,000.

5. West Des Moines, IA

  • Median Household Income: $67,999
  • Median Home Value: $188,002
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.8

As you might expect, West Des Moines, IA sits about 10 minutes west of Des Moines.

With a population of just under 60,000, West Des Moines has warm summers with highs in the mid 80s, cold winters with highs in the mid 30s, and plenty of rain. What you might not expect is West Des Moines houses quite a few headquarters of large companies, especially those in financial services.

Farm Bureau Financial Services, GuideOne Insurance, American Equity, and Sammons Financial Group are all headquartered there. Other headquarters include Hy-Vee, Kum & Go, Windsor Windows and Doors, and Iowa Foundation For Medical Care. Wells Fargo has it’s mortgage and card services divisions in West Des Moines.

Aviva, an insurance company, is also a top employer as well as L Financial Group, Metlife, and Target.

A quick drive over to Des Moines and you will find even more companies in the financial industry. Principal Financial Group, EMC Insurance Group, Fidelity & Guarantee Life, and Allied Insurance are all headquartered in Des Moines.

 Non-financial companies love Iowa too. Top employers also include Mercy Medical Center, UnityPoint Health, UPS, Bridgestone, and Wellmark Blue Cross And Blue Shield.

In 2010, Forbes listed Des Moines as the number one best place for business and careers.

6. Rochester, MN

  • Median Household Income: $61,741
  • Median Home Value: $160,300
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.6

When people think of Rochester they think of the Mayo Clinic which employs over 30,000 people downtown. The mayo clinic also brings over 2 million people to the city each year for treatment, which makes the Mayo clinic the basis of the local economy.

But Rochester’s 106,000 residents do have other employment options. IBM is the city’s second largest employer followed by the local school district, local government, Walmart, HyVee, a hotel company, and Charter Communications.

Summers are warm with highs in the low 80s and winters are cold and snowy with highs in the mid 20s and 50 inches of snow on average.

Rochester has won several awards for being a great place to live, including several mentions on Money Magazine’s list of “Best Places To Live”.

7. Rio Rancho, NM

  • Median Household Income: $60,512
  • Median Home Value: $169,200
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.8

Rio Rancho, NM lies just north of Albuquerque and has 87,500 residents.

It’s arid climate means average highs reaching into the mid 90s in the summer and 50’s in the winter. The largest semiconductor fabrication plant in the world sits in Rio Rancho and is owned by Intel, the area’s largest employer.

Other employers include, Rio Rancho public schools, Hewlett-Packard, Presbyterian Health services, Sprint, Bank of America, Stream Global, Alliance Data, U.S. Cotton, and Walmart. The University of New Mexico also calls Rio Rancho home.

8. Amherst, NY

  • Median Household Income: $72,585
  • Median Home Value: $167,869
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.3

Listed in CNN’s top 100 places to live, Amherst, NY is located 20 mins northeast of Buffalo.

The average high temperature in the summer is in the low 80’s, the average high in the winter is in the low 30’s with lots of snow…over 80 inches per year on average.

Four colleges have campuses in Amherst including, University of Buffalo, Daemen College, Erie Community College, and Bryant Stratton.

  Four of the top 10 employers in nearby Buffalo are governments, the top 10 list is completed by Kaleida Health, HSBC bank, Catholic Health System, Employer Services Corporation, M&T Bank, and the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

9. Edmond, OK

  • Median Household Income: $70,199
  • Median Home Value: $197,700
  • Years of income to purchase home: 2.8

Edmond, OK is located approximately 23 minutes north of Oklahoma City. Average high temps in the summer reach the low 90s and winter highs are in the mid 40s. The top three employers are local school district, University of Central Oklahoma, and the city government.

The top 10 list is rounded out with a mortgage lender, two manufactures, two healthcare companies, a wholesale distributor, and Cox Communications.

Edmond was named as one of the most uniquely American cities largely due to it’s 10 day Libertyfest event which includes the state’s largest parade, rodeo, beauty pageant, fireworks, and kite festival.

10. Allen, TX

  • Median Household Income: $107,064
  • Median Home Value: $199,600
  • Years of income to purchase home: 1.9

Texas is hotbed for high wages and affordable homes, and Allen is no exception.

This Dallas suburb has average highs in the summer in the mid 90s and winter average highs in the mid 50s, sometimes you might even see a little snow.

Allen has the highest median household income on the list and it’s top employers are the local school district, two large retail complexes, a golf course, Experian, the city, Frontier Communications, a hospital, Jack Henry and Associates which is an information technology service which supports the financial industry, and PFSweb which is an ecommerce business. Allen was named the second best place in the U.S. for young families to live by and the 13th best place to live by Money Magazine.

So there you have it. A list of quite a few great cities where you can make a good living and still affordable homes. Whether you want beaches or mountains, sun or snow, you can find what you are looking for without working for a lifetime to afford your own home.

Read more: 


10 Most Affordable Cities To Buy A Home

Salaries, home prices in the best places to live in the US

One of the main reasons people buy a home is to build wealth. The common line is: “Why pay someone else’s mortgage and contribute to their equity (via rent) when you can spend the same amount of money or less and reap the rewards?”

But, if you’re in a pricey area, that wealth can quickly get eaten up by a mortgage that resembles a tapeworm—constantly sucking up funds as your bank account shrinks. This is what’s bluntly referred to as being “house poor.”

If you live in an expensive metro, you can eschew the tiny house with a huge price tag and move to greener—and cheaper—pastures. After all, cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean worse.

Read more on home affordability:

Forbes Advisor looked at 100 metro areas with a population of at least 100,000 to identify the top 10 most affordable cities for homebuyers. We looked at several factors to gauge affordability, including the median income of that city, average home costs and median real estate taxes.

“When I saw the list, I smiled. It’s a perfect example of undervalued markets,” says George Ratiu, senior economist with “These are not boom-and-bust cities, they have long-term economic growth potential.”

1. Detroit, Michigan

The Motor City tops the list of most affordable places to buy a home. Despite the median salary being among the lowest of the affordable cities on this list, so are home prices. In fact, median earners in Detroit will spend just about 6% of their monthly income on mortgage payments, which is extremely low.

Although Detroit has suffered major blows over the years—a failing car industry, racism-fueled out-migration to the suburbs and blighted neighborhoods caused by the Great Recession—Detroit has been on the upswing for the last few years.

Major companies General Motors, Ally Financial and Quicken Loans are headquartered in Detroit. Big tech also has a presence there, including Microsoft, Google and LinkedIn. And most recently, Apple announced it would partner with Michigan State University and open its first North American developer academy in Detroit.

“Detroit and the surrounding areas have always been an amazing place to live, work and play.

Belle Isle Park was designed by the same group that designed Central Park in New York City,” says Randolph Barker, president of the Detroit Association of Realtors.

“Our food offerings are diverse and reflect the blended culture of the city. Some of the best things I have ever eaten can be found in Mexicantown, Greektown, Midtown, Corktown and Downtown.”

2. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland is not only an affordable city, but it’s a young one, too; the median age is around 36, which is just under the national median. What makes Cleveland special is its liveliness. Situated on Lake Erie, people there enjoy water sports and boat parties.

For nature lovers, there’s an extensive network of nature preserves that surround the city and encompass the Lake Erie beaches. The Cleveland Metroparks system boasts more than 300 miles of walking, bicycle and horse trails, plus picnic areas, nature centers, golf courses and fishing areas.

It’s not just fun and games, however, as the economy in Cleveland is solid and growing. A new public-private partnership between the state of Ohio, three hospitals and two universities, known as the Cleveland Innovation District, is projected to create 20,000 jobs in the next decade.

“Cleveland was not as impacted by the recession caused by the pandemic as the rest of the country,” says Dena Cipriano, senior manager, communications and media relations at the Greater Cleveland Partnership. “The Cleveland metro has a lower unemployment rate than the country as a whole. And we have the second highest growth in the inflow of technology workers of any major metro area during the pandemic.”

3. Toledo, Ohio

Geographically, Toledo is in a prime location. Located on the Western end of Lake Erie, it’s a one-hour drive to Detroit, a two-hour drive to Cleveland and about four hours to Chicago.

Although Toledo has struggled with a depressed economy since the 1980s, in recent years the rust belt city has made strides toward a better future.

According to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Toledo saw the most employment growth in construction (6.4% between March 2018 and 2019). Additionally, employment in the financial activities sector also saw positive momentum, as it “grew faster in the metro area (at 1.4%) than it did in Ohio (0.6%) and in the United States (1.3%),” according to the report.

Home to Bowling Green University and the University of Toledo, there are almost three dozen universities and higher learning institutions situated within 60 miles of Toledo, which is an impressive concentration of potentially high-skilled workers.

Toledo’s largest employers include Owens Corning, the Toledo Clinic and HCR Manor Care.

4. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is home to about 650,000 people, and the median age is around 34. In fact, this Mississippi Delta city might be primed for a tech surge.

Anthony Young, capital executive in residence at Epicenter, a non-profit designed to support entrepreneurship in the greater Memphis area, recently told the publication AfroTech that Memphis is outpacing other metropolitan cities in terms of Black-owned businesses accessing venture capital. In the Memphis area, some 16% “of early-stage companies accessing VC have a Black founder (it’s about 1% nationwide), and 13% of invested startup capital has gone to companies with a Black founder.”

“Memphis is investable. Memphis outperforms our national peers in capital investments, specifically as we dig into the percentage of Black-led companies gaining access to capital and the fund’s percentage of dollars invested into Black tech startups,” Young says.

Along with a growing tech scene, FedEx, the Tennessee state government and the U.S. government make up the three largest employers in the region. Memphis also saw a 9.88% increase in per capita income from 2018 to 2019, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

And let’s not forget Memphis’ artistic roots, which rival any city. It’s practically synonymous with music—blues, rock n’ roll and Elvis (this is where Graceland is located). It’s no wonder Memphis has been called “the cradle of American music.”

5. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore is home to high-profile employers, including John Hopkins University and Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers. The government is also a big player in Baltimore’s economy, with more than 18% of workers employed by the federal (145,695), state (99,127) or local (245,253) government.

It’s also in a great location, conveniently located less than an hour from Washington, D.C. Using the MARC Penn line from Penn Station, Baltimore residents are able to work in the much more expensive D.C. without paying high D.C. home prices—in just about eight train stops.

One Redditor had this to say about commuting between Baltimore and D.C.:

“I’ve been commuting from Baltimore to D.C. (Dupont Circle, oddly enough) for 8+ years. Pros: You get to live in Baltimore, it’s cheaper than living in D.C., it can be relaxing when working properly. Cons: Huge time suck, but if you get your schedule downright it can be worth it. I would say, give it a try for a few months and see if you can cope.”

6. Rochester, New York

Rochester made our list of most affordable cities—but it could be poised to become slightly less affordable in the future. According to a recent report by real estate analytics firm ATTOM Data Solutions, Rochester was among the metro areas (with a population of at least 1 million in 2020) that saw the biggest leaps in return on investment (ROI) for sellers in the country, up by 49.9%.

It’s also been on the radar of many housing experts as people leave Manhattan for more space and lower housing costs.

“Rochester made our list of top housing markets from 2019,” Ratiu of says. “You see a lot of spillover from New York City. A lot of people move to New York to start careers in their mid-20s, 10 years later they’re struggling to find affordable housing, so they move to places Rochester.”

The University of Rochester and its medical center, with 32,000 employees, is the city’s largest employer.

7. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Located on the western side of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is probably best known for its beer-making heritage. In fact, Milwaukee was home to breweries before it actually became a city. Some of the oldest American beer makers come from Milwaukee, including Schlitz, Pabst and Miller. Even the city’s baseball team—the Brewers—pays tribute to its roots.

Milwaukee still has a lively beer scene (there are more than 30 breweries in the area), but these days it’s health care that dominates the economy. With nearly 600,000 residents, the top three employers in Milwaukee are all in the health sector: Aurora Health Care (25,900 employees), Ascension Wisconsin (15,500) and Froedtert Health (10,900).

Milwaukee has become an attractive destination for people fleeing more expensive metro areas, including Chicago, according to data from Apartment List. Just over 90 miles north of the Windy City, Milwaukee median home listing prices are almost half as much as Chicago, which was $370,000 in 2020.

8. Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery Alabama offers the lowest median annual real estate taxes on this list, totaling about $512 per year. Not only is it a great place for low taxes, but Montgomery also offers promising career opportunities.

Montgomery may fly under the radar, says Ratiu, but that might be a mistake. “Broadly speaking, Alabama has a tremendous aerospace industry.”

Montgomery is home to the who’s who of aerospace companies, including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, the U.S. Department of Defense, Leidos, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

In fact, Lockheed Martin broke ground on a 225,000-square-foot facility in 2019. The last time the leading aerospace company invested in the area, in 2014, it delivered on its promise of bringing 224 full-time jobs in over five years.

The automotive industry is another big sector in Montgomery, with Hyundai expecting to add 200 jobs in 2021.

“What’s happening in Montgomery is emblematic of what’s happened in the last 15 years, smaller markets are poised for growth,” Ratiu says. “It is a place where a young family can earn a living, buy a home and build wealth.”

9. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo has gone through a major transformation over the last decade, with new restaurants, entertainment, activities and events popping up year after year. This confluence of businesses and community activities has infused the city (known for its harsh winters) with lots of fun and energy, says Amber Wesser, real estate broker at Hunt Real Estate in Buffalo.

“For many years, people would think of New York and think of New York City, that just is not us,” Wesser says. “From a home sale price or rental price, we are drastically more affordable. Not to mention, we have the best food, of all sorts…but I may be biased.”

The largest city in upstate New York, Buffalo is about seven hours northwest of Manhattan, but, Wesser says, it’s nothing the Big Apple. Buffalo’s population is under 300,000 and, although it was once home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else on Earth, today Buffalo is an affordable alternative to big city living.

According to data from, Buffalo’s median listing price for a single-family home in 2020 was just $184,000—considerably lower than the national median of around $340,000.

10. Kansas City, Kansas

Some of the most affordable areas for first-time homebuyers are in the Midwest, and Kansas City is definitely an example of that. With median listing prices below $200,000, this could be a great area for buyers on a budget.

And if you happen to be in the healthcare field, even better. Health care is the top industry in Kansas City (not to be confused with Kansas City, Missouri).

The University of Kansas Hospital and the University of Kansas Medical Center employ more than 10,000 people combined.

Because of the location and amount of space, manufacturing and transportation also are major industries here.

Affordable Cities Honorable Mentions

  1. Des Moines, Iowa
  2. Fayetteville, North Carolina
  3. Laredo, Texas
  4. Fort Wayne, Indiana
  5. St. Louis, Missouri
  6. Fort Worth, Texas
  7. Indianapolis, Indiana
  8. Jacksonville, Florida
  9. Wichita, Kansas
  10. Columbus, Ohio

Mid-size Metros Might Not Come With Glitz, But They Do Offer A Shot At Homeownership

Ratiu says that while many people focus on the bright stars, New York or Washington, D.C., mid-sized cities are naively overlooked when it comes to getting both affordability and a strong economy.

Instead of forking over half (or more) of your paycheck on rent, people interested in homeownership can buy a house and have cash left over for retirement savings, the kids’ college funds or even just basic health insurance.

For some, that extra cash might help cross off some of those frame-worthy goals from their wish lists. (We see you, Bora Bora.) You can get all of this by moving to an area that simply costs less.

Of course, moving is not an inexpensive endeavor. And not everyone has the luxury to uproot their lives and plant themselves in a new place. But, as work-from-home flexibilities become more common, moving has become a more viable option.


Forbes Advisor compared 100 cities with a population of 100,000 or more and weighed typical household expenses and home prices against median income to come up with the most affordable cities.

Factors we took into consideration:

  • Median income in 2020. Source: Census Bureau
  • Monthly mortgage payments ( median listing price in 2020, using a 3% fixed interest rate, not including other fees). Source:
  • Monthly food costs. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Monthly utilities. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Median real estate taxes. Source: Tax Foundation
  • Average state income tax. Source: Tax Foundation


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