Most Affordable Areas to Buy a Home | Updated for 2024

Thomas Short
Military VA Loan contributor

It’s no secret that home prices have been rising across the nation. Fueled by a strong economy and a resurgent housing market, homes have been a hot commodity lately.

The only downside to this is that home buyers now have to find a way to afford homes that just ten years ago were significantly less expensive.

Any home buyers who have been following the market are probably losing hope or getting frustrated with rising costs. That makes sense, since many areas are now so expensive that they’re hardly affordable.

But it would probably surprise these home buyers to hear that more than 87% of US counties had a lower median home value than the national median.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), housing is many areas is not nearly as expensive as buyers would expect. The track data from across the nation, and according to Q3 2023 data, there are plenty of places that have affordable housing.

Check your VA home buying eligibility. Start here (Jul 15th, 2024)

Lowest median home costs in US

Just to get an idea of how affordable housing the US can actually be, let’s take a look at 2023’s lowest median home cost counties:

  1. Todd County, South Dakota: $8,588
  2. Cochran County, Texas: $50,140
  3. McDowell County, West Virginia: $50,960
  4. Cottle County, Texas: $53,690
  5. Stonewall County, Texas: $57,140

According to Redfin, the national average home price estimate in November 2023 was $387,600, which makes these home prices seem like an absolute steal. A downpayment of 20% of an average home in Todd County would run a home buyer just over $8,588 – the equivalent of a 2.2% downpayment at the national average.

What’s interesting is that these aren’t the lowest prices available – they’re averages, meaning some homes are priced even lower.

Of course, these areas aren’t considered hotbeds of growing economies, nor are they neighboring or housing major metropolitan areas.

When a county does have a major metropolitan area nearby, prices can jump quickly.

Least affordable areas for homes

The NAR compiled data for every county, meaning they know which areas have the highest estimated median cost for a home. For any home buyers following the market, the results aren’t too shocking:

  1. Santa Clara County, California: $1,583,130
  2. San Mateo County, California: $1,573,470
  3. Marin County, California: $1,454,450
  4. San Francisco County, California: $1,332,660
  5. Nantucket County, Massachusetts: $1,313,450

The Bay Area leads the nation with four of the top five most expensive counties to purchase a home. This is hardly surprising, considering the high standard of living and extreme rental rates.

While plenty of veterans would probably like to live in the San Francisco area, the cost of homes prices out most people in the nation. Also, consider this: just because home prices are high doesn’t mean it’s the best place in the nation to buy a home.

Check your VA mortgage rates. Start here (Jul 15th, 2024)

Best place to buy a home?

So, where is the best place to buy a home?

If we based it purely on affordability, you would want to pack your things and move to Todd County, South Dakota. But home buyers are smart enough to know that the cheapest possible option isn’t always the best.

Picking the best place to buy a home is difficult. Nobody who bought a Bay Area home in the 1950s expected to watch their home value skyrocket as tax-friendly laws made it cheaper for them to stay put. There are too many variables, especially looking in the long run.

Also, many veterans have jobs or families that tie them to a geographic area. While it would be nice to purchase the lowest-cost home anywhere in America, moving isn’t always a feasible option.

Perhaps the best way to find an affordable home is to look at wherever your work is and find something nearby.

Take the Seattle metropolitan area, one of the hottest housing markets in the US. Seattle, located in King County, has an estimated average home value of $867,090, according to the NAR.

Just south of Seattle is Tacoma, in Pierce County. There, the estimated average home value is $541,550.

Affordable homes are out there – veterans just need to widen their home search, particularly if they’re living in a busy city.

VA loans are an affordable option

As you expand your home search, remember that veterans are eligible for the VA loan, often considered the best mortgage product for home buyers.

Through a VA loan, veterans won’t have to make a down payment on their home, one of the biggest hurdles that home buyers – and particularly first-time home buyers – face during their search. Also, VA loans typically have the lowest mortgage rates available, keeping monthly payments low.

With a little effort and leeway, veterans would likely be surprised with just how affordable it is to buy a home near, or possibly in, their area.

Check your VA home buying eligibility. Start here (Jul 15th, 2024)