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Buying a home for the first time, trying to upgrade to something larger or downgrade to something smaller has become complex for current homebuyers. The cost of real estate continues to escalate in some areas. Inventory can be paltry, making finding a place to buy difficult and competitive. Knowing where the best cities to buy a house are can help you find the home of your dreams and keep it affordable.
Picture this… You find the perfect home and it is in your price range. You put in an offer immediately. Unfortunately, 10 other people also put in offers. Your agent tells you that to win the house, you’re going to have to get into a bidding war. Suddenly, the home within your budget is going for $10,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 over listing price.
Even if you increase your big, you might not qualify for the loan or lose out to someone who can pay cash. Sellers don’t want the risk of waiting for first-time buyers to wade through mortgage red tape when they have an offer where they don’t have to bother with a loan underwriter.
Knowing where to look for a home can help you get the most bang for your buck and potentially increase your chances of your offer being accepted. We scoured listings, cost of living and home prices to come up with this list of best cities to buy a house.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
If you find something you like in the area you want to live, jump in and make an offer. The National Association of Realtors predicts inventory will remain tight into 2024. Higher loan rates and lack of available purchases are making people stay in their current homes rather than sell. At the same time, fewer builders are applying to make new homes.
Get pre-approved, so you have the advantage with sellers. Write a letter telling them why you love their home and how you picture living there, whether it is raising a family or having friends and family visit. The personal touch may be the deciding factor between two similar offers.
Once you feel ready to wade into the house hunting market, find an excellent real estate agent and check out these cities.
1. Athens, Georgia
First on the list has an average home price of just over $300,000, which is below the national average. Many of the top cities on our list fell in the south, but don’t worry. We tried to offer options all over the country so you can stay close to family and not have to relocate very far.
Athens is far enough from Atlanta to escape the hefty prices there, but still has plenty to offer residents. Start the state’s Antebellum trail and check out locations from the Civil War. Visit the state botanical garden. Get our art fix at the Georgia Museum of Art. You can even attend a game or two at Sanford Stadium.
Around 127,000 people live in the city, keeping it small but thriving. The town has a suburban vibe with plenty of nightlife and parks.
2. Waco, Texas
If you’re a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines, you’ve likely heard of this town. Homes are still affordable, but the town is going through a boom with lots of development on the riverfront. Around 150,000 people live in the town and the medium home price is $252,500.
Keep in mind that many homes are cheap but need a lot of upgrades. So, you might find real estate for around $100,000 but you’ll need to invest quite a bit to make it livable.
You’ll find the cost of living in Waco much lower than places such as Florida, where the median home price hits $383,000 and goes higher in beach towns. Food and other expenses are also lower in the area. You’ll find the Waco Mammoth National Monument, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and the Cameron Park Zoo.
3. Lakeland, Florida
Speaking of Florida, there are pockets of places with lower real estate prices that are still within an hour or two of beaches and other attractions. Lakeland is a retiree magnet in the winter months, as snow birds fly south and spend their time in a warmer climate. From April until the holidays, many elderly residents clear out and the city becomes much slower paced and quieter.
The median home price in Lakeland is around $314,000. You may have a challenge finding property not in a retirement community for 55 and over, but there are still plenty of residential neighborhoods.
The city boasts warm weather, regular community fairs, beautiful gardens and an art museum.
4. Sacramento, California
Although a median home price of $625,000 may sound insane when compared to half that in other areas, it’s quite reasonable for the West Coast.
It is frequently named as one of the most affordable metro locations in the area. The area is in growth, with the population increasing 2.5% over five years. However, the flux of people moving in and out means there is inventory to be had.
You’ll find museums about the Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroad and art. You’ll find safe neighborhoods, excellent weather and parks. Bear in mind that schools in California may be a bit different than in some areas and make sure you can abide by their curriculum requirements while still finding a district with excellent educational opportunities. As with any area, research everything thoroughly before making a purchase.
5. Dover, Delaware
Moving over to the East Coast, you’ll find an affordable place to live in Dover. The median home price is $307,000. We liked that there were well over 100 listings available when we looked, meaning there was plenty of inventory in a variety of price ranges and locations.
The town has a suburban sprawl feel with shopping and restaurants near most neighborhoods. The public school system is rated above average. As with anywhere, compare scores and offerings to ensure you locate the best area for your family’s needs.
The town is the capital of Delaware and has a huge park, art museum and a NASCAR race track. There isn’t much nightlife unless you count the wild animals in the refuge, but you’ll find plenty of restaurants.
Finding Your Next Home
These towns offer lower prices on homes and usually have inventory. They are growing and new people move in frequently, but people are also moving out or into different locations. If you’re looking for a city where the home prices are on the rise but still affordable, choose one of these and ask your agent what’s available.