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Midwest Dominates Most Affordable Housing Markets in USA

Category: Retirement Real Estate

May 15, 2015 — Looking for a place to retire where your housing dollar gives you the biggest bang? If so the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index, which ranks U.S. metros by housing affordability, might just have your answer. All of the top 10 most affordable markets are in the Midwest or Northeast, not such great news for retirees looking to retire in warm weather. The price of homes in these Metros ranges from a low of $75,000 (Springfield, OH) to a high of $105,000 in Sandusky, OH. Another problem with these “most affordable” Metros – none of them has inspired us enough to write them up as interesting places to retire.

Here are the top 10 most affordable housing markets (the number to the right of each Metro is the % of homes affordable for the median income there).

Sandusky, OH 96.3
Cumberland, MD-WV 96.1
Syracuse, NY 95.6
Elmira, NY 94.5
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 94.4
Kokomo, IN 94.0
Binghamton, NY 93.5
Springfield, OH 93.5
Lima, OH 93.4
Lansing-East Lansing, MI 93.3

You can see how all U.S. Markets stack up for affordability by downloading at the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index by Affordability. Note that this list changes quite a bit from quarter to quarter, we were surprised at the movement at the top of this list from late 2014.

Affordable Markets in the Sunbelt
The good news is that there are plenty of markets in the Sunbelt where most of the homes are affordable. Here is a selection of Metros where at least 83% of the homes are considered affordable for the median income in that market (ranked by most affordable):

#43 Odessa, TX

Old home in downtown Gainesville

#45 Gainesville, FL
#53 Sherman/Denison, TX
#56 Lakeland/Winter Haven, FL
#57 Tallahassee, FL
#58 Fayetteville, NC
#60 Ocala, FL
#64 Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX
#68 Yuma, AZ
#71 Birmingham/Hoover, AL
#73 Carson City, NV

More about the Housing Affordability Situation
Here is a more detailed explanation of housing affordability from a NAHB press release:

“Consumers benefited from continued low mortgage rates and some fall in the price of homes sold in the first quarter, as these conditions offer a great time to buy,” said Tom Woods, NAHB chairman and home builder from Blue Springs, Missouri.

According to the index, 66.5 percent of new and existing homes that were sold between January and March were affordable to families with a median income $65,800. This was an increase from Q4 results of 62.8 percent of homes sold that were affordable to families with a median income.

“The past two quarters have seen an improvement in affordability as mortgage rates remain low,” said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist. “Eighty-five percent of the metropolitan areas measured experienced an increase in affordability. Along with favorable home prices and pent-up demand, this broad improvement should help encourage more buyers to enter the marketplace.”

The index also revealed that the national median home price dropped from $215,000 in the fourth quarter to $210,000 in the first quarter and the average mortgage interest declined from 4.29 percent to 4.03 percent.

Syracuse, New York was at the top for the nation’s most affordable housing market for the second quarter in a row, the index says. Of all new and existing homes sold, 95.6 percent were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $68,500. Toledo, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, Akron, Ohio, and Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania were followed among the most affordable major housing markets.

California was found to be the least affordable housing market in the index.

Comments? What is your experience in the housing market – are prices in your demand going up, staying the same? Are good housing opportunities in the 55+ market tight or in great supply? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on May 15th, 2015


  1. of course, you would want to know the median income for the area. You retirement income may differ from the working folks.

    by elaine — May 16, 2015

  2. Homes may be affordable in New York but the property taxes will kill you

    by Brian vecellio — May 20, 2015

  3. I am a retired university academic. We are in Fredericksburg, VA. Worked at a major DC university. I/ we like being around young people and universities. Locally we have Mary Washington College, a state university. Our other choices are Deland, Florida and Stetson University, Travelers Rest SC next door to Furman University, Statesboro, GA and Georgia Southern University, and Dahlonega, GA ( in the southern Blue Ridge Mtns) and North Georgia College.
    We have looked at each one and all are fairly inexpensive, and within a few hours from our kids and grandkids. You will laugh when I tell you this but my wife wants to stay here because we have a Wegmans.

    by Jack — May 20, 2015

  4. This comment came in from George:

    Fort Pierce, FL is much more affordable and prettier than the other Florida towns you have listed.

    by Admin — May 20, 2015

  5. @Jack,

    “You will laugh when I tell you this but my wife wants to stay here because we have a Wegmans.”

    Not at all. The availability of good stores and restaurants is an important component of day-to-day quality of life. I wouldn’t want to live in an area that doesn’t have a Costco nearby. I value having Sprouts and Trader Joe’s nearby, too. And I wouldn’t want to live in an area where my only restaurant choices are national fast food and fern bar chains.

    by Dave Hughes — May 20, 2015

  6. This comment came in from Peggy:

    In your spare time (!!) would you look into a more thorough report on Chestertown Md? It is a small town, but with the estate tax laws changing for the state of Maryland, and because it is a college town with several support systems for seniors, seems like a better match than living by the volatile ocean in De.

    Editor’s note: Will do, thanks for the suggestion. Meanwhile, see

    by Admin — May 20, 2015

  7. And another comment came in, this one from Norma. Unfortunately we don’t have the capability to respond personally to requests, but we can post them here (and you can do the same!):

    We are looking for a 55+ community in Tennessee that has manufactured homes? We are not looking for luxury areas. There are several places like that in Fl and Tx and AZ but we want to stay closer to our home base in IL. We want to be snow birds. Can you help? All of the things I’m seeing in the article below sound like luxury homes.

    Ed. Note: Start with the Tennessee Directory (or any other state). Then use Search to look for Manufactured Homes (or any other criteria)

    by Admin — May 20, 2015

  8. Thank you Dave Hughes. I agree. I also would suggest the earlier request from Peggy. Chestertown, MD is a great town for boaters and fisherman and is a college town as well–
    I believe Washington College is nearby as is Chesapeake College in Wye, MD.

    by Jack — May 20, 2015

  9. Please tell me WHY there is such a mad rush of retirees and everyone else moving to Colorado? This year alone (2015), real estate prices in the greater Denver area have gone through the roof, and apartments have a vacancy rate of zero. That was unheard of before! Colorado has many nice things to offer, but lately it has become extremely congested, expensive, and the traffic is deplorable. (by Lisa – May 20, 2015)

    by Lisa — May 20, 2015

  10. I’ve gotta agree with at least one response. I grew up in Western NYS. The property is cheap, but taxes in NYS include high Property, high State, and County taxes which include a School Tax. NY State is Beautiful, though the winters are long and wet. The hospitals and medical care facilities are marginal. Personally, I’d look to a location that was less humid and more affordable. Now, you listed Carson City, NV on your list. That’s worth looking into. My only concern would be medical care and it’s certainly not far from California. My opinion is California’s health care facilities are some of the best in the nation. Reno isn’t that far away and there is plenty to do there. They even have Water!

    by Ken — May 20, 2015

  11. I want to know affordable places that are in warmer locations, blue states or purple states, lots of cultural arts activities good transportation and good medical and dental facilities.
    Most places are in cold to frigid climates and small towns.

    by roberta geier — May 20, 2015

  12. Dave – I get it too! I keep one location on my list because it is near the only Wegmans I found in PA. Having said that, I am living temporarily in the Carolina’s and have discovered Publix. It is pretty darn good too. It gives me hope that I will discover other new favorites if I leave my comfort zone. Still, grocery stores and other favorites, just like churches, movie theaters, location of a mall and libraries, are something that I investigate as part of my research.

    by Sharon — May 21, 2015

  13. @Lisa one possibility why seniors are moving to Colorado is the legalization of marijuana. Several seniors suffer from pain related illnesses and find relief from using marijuana.

    by LisaJ — May 21, 2015

  14. I find it unbelievable that NYS would be listed anyplace as an “affordable” place to live! I live here now and can’t wait to get out. If the houses are cheap it’s because we can’t get anymore for them because of all the HIGH taxes and expenses encountered here. The houses were reassessed! I paid high taxes on the assessment of my house for years. I argued at the assessment office that I could never get the price they had assessed it at if I sold it. Now that I want to move and sell it–of course the assessment was reduced by $20,000.00. I hope your other hints into places are more accurate because up until now I’ve been believing them. Glad folks are commenting and hopefully more accurately.

    by Nancy — May 21, 2015

  15. We live just outside of Richmond, Virginia, between Williamsburg and Charlottesville, both on the top places list. We are trying to decide if we want to retire here, or move elsewhere. We have outstanding medical care, very reasonable taxes, and most years, tolerable winters. The summers can be hot, but there is air conditioning. To make things more complicated, Wegman’s is building a store seven miles away.
    We too have included proximity to Costco and Trader Joe’s to our needs list. Publix is a very nice store, could easily deal with that.
    As to Chestertown, Md, it really has no grocery store. The nearest Trader Joe’s is over a large, often congested,and tolled bridge.
    This is another reason why it is important to investigate the things you find important in your day-to-day living before you relocate.
    Thanks to other posters for helping us through this adventure of exploration.

    by Sandie — May 21, 2015

  16. No wonder most of these places are so inexpensive, if you’ve ever visited one of them you most likely don’t want to go back–ever.

    by Denny — May 21, 2015

  17. About Colorado:
    I currently live full time in the Denver metropolitan area. I know the housing prices have really sky rocketed within the last three years, but, there are reasons why (and pot is not the answer). The Denver metro area is a fast growing place. Many companies are moving in and there are lots of high paying jobs available. The population is one of the most educated in the US. There are many universities along the Front Range (Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs). Of course, this also opens up lower paying jobs to service those that “have”. Apartments are not being built very quickly because of building contractors liability laws; therefore, all types of housing is in limited supply. Combine this with a relatively quick influx of people with higher incomes, thus, the laws of supply and demand apply.

    The Denver metro area has a climate that is moderate and we experience all four seasons. When it snows it might stay the longest for only two weeks before it melts. But, usually, the snow melts the next day or two and the streets are dry. The summers can get into the 90’s, I stay indoors when it’s that hot. Or, sometimes I drive into the mountains to cool off for the day or weekend. Its about a 40 minute drive (one hour for skiing) for me since I live on the very east side of the metro area. Those living near or in the foothills will have a much shorter drive.

    We pride ourselves on being an outdoor active type of culture. Our western outlook is “live and let live”. We welcome any and everyone, but, money still determines where and how you’ll live. We have an abundance of outdoor recreation for each of the four seasons, much is free. The ultra-rich live and play in Aspen, Vail, and Telluride. Most of us play everywhere else. There aren’t many insects and the humidity is almost non-existent. Denver and most of the state gets over 300 days of solid sunshine each year. I didn’t think this mattered, but it really affects your physical and mental well being and helps create a positive attitude on life.

    Other areas within Colorado are very affordable, of course, that is a subjective term. Even this web site has listed Grand Junction and Pueblo as two of the more affordable or least expensive cities to retire in the US.

    So, why am I still in Denver? Well, I plan to sell my house within the next seven years, or less (as selling prices continue to skyrocket) to help pad my retirement account (like the people in Calif and Northeast). I’ll be moving someplace less expensive, but, still in Colorado. Pueblo is a bargain fire sale, and looks real attractive. Plus, the living there is pretty nice. Money magazine once rated it as one of the top ten best places to live in the US. Not much in jobs though, so don’t plan on working for money there.

    In conclusion, there is no perfect place to live (too hot, too cold, too expensive, too humid, too dry, too etc.) Can’t rely on being near the kids or grandkids because the newer generations most likely will need to constantly move to stay employed. Yes, they will move away from you, often. One has to choose if planting feet or else stay mobile with the seasons.

    Anyway, I really enjoy living in Colorado. My slice of heaven is waiting. Good luck on your search and “happy trails to you”.

    by Alan — May 21, 2015

  18. Alan,
    Nice comment! I’m glad you’re so happy with your home, and seemingly, your life. Hope your next spot is just as good!

    by ella — May 22, 2015

  19. Alan, thank you for your post and clarification.

    by LisaJ — May 22, 2015

  20. A wise man once said, “There is no perfect place to live, but some places are definitely better than others!”
    Once the word got out that Boulder and the greater Denver area were definitely better than other places to live – coincidentally the same time Colorado legalized marijuana – people arrived here in droves and continue to flock here at a fast growing pace, making Colorado way more expensive, congested, and certainly not as nice as it used to be …
    a few years ago.

    by Anne — May 22, 2015

  21. Yes, California is the least affordable state to retire. But planning is everything. If you can purchase your retirement home for cash, living expenses aren’t much more than anywhere else. I did it with a “middle class” income and enjoy living there.

    by John H — May 23, 2015

  22. I love California, but left to relocate to Phoenix, Az. Day and night for me as far as real estate and other taxes are concerned, and it is close by for me to visit my daughter back there often. I find I have lots more spendable cash in Arizona, and love the weather and people that I have met. It’s all good for me.

    by loralee — May 24, 2015

  23. I’m looking for some comments on relocating to the Prescott, AZ area in retirement. I’ve been told by some here back east that water could be a future problem for AZ. Love to hear some thoughts and/or facts….Thanks in advance.

    by Marty Egan — May 25, 2015

  24. having been to both states, I prefer northern Nevada, nicer than phoenix weather wise and scenery wise, also no state income tax

    by james williams — May 25, 2015

  25. James – any particular town/city in Northern Nevada as you stated above?

    by Robert — May 26, 2015

  26. I currently live in Northern California. I am retired and am interested in relocating to Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was listed as a good retirement area several different times. I am curious about the quality of health care there since the only hospital in the City is old. I have been there twice. The housing seems to be reasonably priced and real estate property taxes are less than I am currently paying. Auto license costs are lower than California. I am not a big jewelry or clothing shopper but I do appreciate good grocery stores and the only large grocery store I see on the internet is Albertson’s. Car dealerships also seems to be missing from the area. There is a Costco in El Paso, Texas but it’s a 45 minute drive. I do not golf and wonder if I am making a good decision. I have looked at comments from other people but most opinions date back a few years. There are some negative comments and some positive comments about Las Cruces. Has there been change or notable improvement to the amenities in the area? I would greatly appreciate some up-to-date assessments.

    by Carmen Bethel — June 15, 2015

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