People in town mutter darkly about what they feel they need to do to buy a house is move out to the desert communities, but those properties, while a bit more affordable, are still expensive, especially when you wake up in the morning and discover you’re in the desert again.

The property website Realtor.com has compiled a list of the 10 U.S cities where houses are a lot more affordable, with scores of homes under $100,000, and particularly nice ones in the $250,000 range. Of the cities listed, the closest town to the Pacific Ocean is Topeka, Kansas.

If you’re looking for an easily affordable house, you might find yourself needing to bolt out of California—something many readers seem to be particularly happy to consider. Here are the top five cities Realtor.com recommends:

Peoria, Illinois: You can spend $1 million on a house in Peoria, but it’s going to be a lot of house and you don’t have much to choose from. There’s just one listed currently, a five-bed, six-bath, 7,664-square-foot house on 3.5 acres with views of the Illinois River. It would go for several million dollars in Long Beach if you could find a place to put it.

But we were talking about the least-expensive places, and Realtor.com puts Peoria at the top of the list with a median list price of $98,000, although our cousin who’s a professor at Peoria’s Bradley University tells me that that figure has recently skyrocketed by 18% this year to $150,000.

Which is still on the low side for Long Beachers, where $150,000 will cover the rent for about six years.

You can buy perfectly fine houses all day long in Peoria for under $140,000, and many for under $100,000.

Consider this recently remodeled home with an attached apartment. It looks like it was based on a child’s drawing of  house, minus curly smoke rising from the chimney. It could use some scrubbing, but it’s listed at an incredible $69,900, making your monthly payment $369 after closing costs of $16,700 and change. And look! The apartment, according to the listing, should rent for $550. You’re making money while just sitting around playing solitaire. You want to live like a king, live in the apartment and rent the main house for $875, profit!

You can begin making money as soon as you pay the closing costs on this $69,900 house and apartment in Peoria, Illinois. Realtor.com photo.

Terre Haute, Indiana: Hop in the car to travel 178 miles to the next state, where Terre Haute is the No. 2 town on the Realtor.com list of inexpensive cities for home buyers.

In inexpensive towns, you can not only get an inexpensive home. You can get a mansion for under a million dollars. Sell your rather common Long Beach home for a tad over the median list price of $745,000 and move to Terre Haute (ignore the steady exodus of locals driving out of town as you’re driving in), and plunk it all on a five-bed, five-bath, 8,762 square-foot home on 3.4 acres with four fireplaces, tennis court, pool, pool house, putting green, a basement theater room and eight heated garage bays. Be sure to tell everyone you’re from California. They’ll love and admire you for it.

This Terre Haute, Indiana house is yours for $130,000. Realtor.com photo.

But, again, we’re looking for inexpensive and there are several Terre Haute houses for under $100,000 and even a smattering under $50,000, but let’s not go too low. Can you swing $130,000? That’s enough for this sort of eccentrically designed, but not uncharming, four-bedroom, three-bath home with 2,774 square feet of living space on a 6,000-square-foot lot. It was built in 1900, making it older than most Long Beach homes, but it’s not age, it’s experience. You can’t teach this house anything. Oh, and I call the bedroom in the tower.

Saginaw, Michigan: You’re not going to stand there and tell me you wouldn’t be happy in this three-bed, one-bath home (aside from the snow, the mosquitos and the summers). The house is as close to MId-Century Modern as you’re going to find in Saginaw at just a tiny fraction of what you’d pay for a Cliff May in Long Beach. This one’s listed at just $104,500. Saginaw, a once-fairly booming auto town, now has an unemployment rate nearly 2 percentage points higher than the national average at 5.7%, according to Realtor.com, and with about a third of residents living below the poverty rate, it’s hard for people here to come up with a down payment. There’s plenty of inventory and you can choose from dozens at $100,000 or much lower.

This Saginaw, Michigan take on the Mid Century Modern style is on the market for just $104,500. Realtor.com photo.

This one, though, checks off many Mid-Modern boxes. It was built in 1955, it has vaulted, exposed-beam living room ceiling along with a wood-burning fireplace, it makes ample use of glass in the front of the house and its kitchen and bathroom are totally stock in keeping with the mid-century decor: mint green for the kitchen with wood cabinets, and pink for the bathroom, also with wooden cabinetry. The 1,274-square-foot home sits on a quarter-acre and includes a screened-in porch off porch next to the garage.

Youngstown, Ohio: Like many other once-glorious manufacturing towns in the Rust Belt that have fallen over the last couple of decades, Youngstown has been dropping in population with one of the results being a surplus of extremely affordable housing. That said, the town has been experiencing a bit of a real estate boom recently, as it catches up with the boom in most of the country. Prices have been rising, and bidding wars are commonplace, according to Realtor.com, though it’s nowhere near as savage as it’s been in California. The median listing price is $118,000, which means, as you would surmise, that there are plenty under $100,000.

Snap up this two-story Colonial in Youngstown, Ohio for less than $150,000. Realtor.com photo.

But let’s go big with this market and pony up $149,000 for this fairly amazing two-story Colonial, with three bedrooms and two baths in 1,824 square feet on a third of an acre. The 1931 home has a spacious living room with a large bay window bracketed between built-in shelves and cabinets. It’s set in a historic location in the Mill Creek Park area and a short walk to Newport Lake and numerous creeks and hiking/walking trails. It’s so idyllic-sounding that I’m slowly talking myself into buying it.

Davenport, Iowa: Ah, Davenport, the heart of the Heartland. The median list price in this town that’s one-fourth of the Quad Cities (you can learn the other three later) is $127,400 and we’re now getting out of the territory where you’ll find many homes below $100,000. It’s a fairly vibrant town, at least by Iowa standards, hosting many community-centered events throughout the year, including the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Downtown Davenport Street Fest, and one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation.

This $165,000 Davenport, Iowa home near the Mississippi features a sprawling front deck. Realtor.com photo.

Let’s go up to $165,000 and put it on this three-bedroom, one-bath home with a totally remodeled kitchen and bathroom and a huge and welcoming front deck for relaxing,  people-watching, enjoying coffee or a cocktail and whatever excitement you can see in Davenport. It’s a couple of blocks shy of the flood zone from the nearby creek, which the locals call the Mississippi River.

‘East End’ homes are rising to the million-dollar mark


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