As home prices tick up — they rose nearly 20% in 2021 alone, and experts predict they will continue to go higher in 2022 — many buyers are wondering: Is there any way I can afford a home? We have two pieces of good news on that front: 1) Though mortgage rate are rising and some pros predict they may soon hit 5%, they, on average, are not there yet (see the lowest mortgage rates you can qualify for here), and 2) not all cool housing markets have sky-high prices. Here are five places where you can buy a great home for $150,000 below.
For a mix of arts and outdoors: Wichita Falls, Texas
Home prices in Texas spiked 23.3% in the last year, making many cities unaffordable if you’re working with a $150,000 budget. Not Wichita Falls, however, which was an oil boomtown in the early 20th century. Named after a historic waterfall that was washed away by a flood in the 19th century — and replaced by a 54-foot-long manmade cascade in 1989 — the city is about halfway between Dallas-Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. Wichita Falls has plenty of local attractions, including the River Bend Nature Center, which houses a butterfly conservatory; and more than 40 parks. There’s also the Kemp Center for the Arts, which showcases symphony and ballet performances, as well as art exhibitions. The town has two live theater troupes — Backdoor Theatre and the Wichita Theatre Performing Arts Center — and a ballet school, the Wichita Falls Ballet Theatre. For less than $150,000, you can buy a newly renovated 3-bedroom, 1200-square-foot home in the city. Along with excellent tex-mex, the city also offers quality steaks from nearby cattle farms at restaurants like McBride’s Steak House. One of the main downsides is that Wichita Falls is hot in the summer; temperatures in the city climbed above 100 degrees for 100 days in 2011, a Texas state record.
Median home value: $147,892
Cost of living: 25.5% lower than the U.S. average
Sources: Median home values from Zillow; cost of living from Sperling’s Best Places; population from the Census Bureau
For plenty of cultural options: Rockford, Illinois
Located an almost equal distance from both Chicago and Milwaukee — driving to Chicago takes about 90 minutes on a good traffic day — Rockford has plenty to offer by way of culture. Along with the Rockford Art Museum, which features modern and contemporary art, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History, which has an quality paleontology collection, there’s also the nearby Pettit Memorial Chapel and Laurent House, two structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The city also has myriad outdoor spaces, including the Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, which features an 11,000-square-feet of plant exhibition area. The city has a good culinary scene, offering gourmet burgers at 15th and Chris, and the Norwegian, a pub that offers Scandinavian food and live music. For less than $150,000, you can purchase a 3-bedroom ranch with a finished basement, or a newly renovated single- family home near the Kishwaukee River. One big downside is relatively high crime rates and long, cold winters. See the lowest mortgage rates you can qualify for here.
Median home value: $128,516
Cost of living: 24.7% lower than the U.S. average
For a quality culinary scene downtown: Syracuse, New York
Ranked the second-best place to live in New York (after Albany) by U.S. News and World Report, Syracuse is a thriving small city in the Finger Lakes region, just south of Lake Ontario. Along with housing Syracuse University, Syracuse also is home to the Everson Museum of Art, which was designed by legendary architect I.M. Pei. For families, there is the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, which is home to more than 900 species of animals. Syracuse is also home to the original — and legendary — Dinosaur BBQ, as well as Eden, a restaurant that serves food sourced from local farms and lakes, which are abundant in the region. You can buy a 1941 three-bedroom house with hardwood flooring or a really lovely one-bedroom condo downtown for less than $150,000. Just make sure you’re ready for snow. The city averages over 120 inches of snow every year, and is generally considered to be one of the snowiest cities in the United States.
Median home value: $153,474
Cost of living: 21.0% lower than the U.S. average
For family-friendly options: Topeka, Kansas
Topeka prides itself for being friendly to families. Attractions in the city, which is the capital of Kansas, include the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center, a hands-on children’s museum, as well as the Heartland Motorsports Park, which offers Friday night drag racing for amateurs, along with many other events. Just sixty miles west of the much larger Kansas City, Topeka offers a small-town feel with big-city amenities at affordable prices— as well as some great BBQ at restaurants including Lonnie Q’S BBQ, and the Blind Tiger, which also serves award-winning house-made beer. A three-bedroom house in a family-friendly neighborhood with a good school district costs about $150,000. Get ready for some very humid summers though.
Median home value: $155,262
Cost of living: 21.0% lower than the U.S. average
For a thriving nightlife: Little Rock, Arkansas
The capital of Arkansas, Little Rock is the home of many cultural institutions including the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and William J. Clinton Library & Museum, which was built in honor of the 42nd President. It’s also flush with natural beauty. Situated on the Arkansas River, the city is also located in the foothills of the Ouachitas, which means that you’ll have plenty to do as a resident if you love hiking and fishing. Spend your weekends eating in the city’s River Market district, which has a variety of food vendors offering cuisines from around the world, or enjoying live music with a beverage at South on Main, which features southern food and music. Real estate prices have increased in Little Rock in recent years, but you can still find deals in the southwest part of the city, where housing prices average $101,053. For example, on this newly constructed three-bedroom home, which costs a clean $150,000. In exchange for affordable housing and easy Southern living, you’ll have to deal with high rates of property crime.
Median home value: $186,031
Cost of living: 17.5% lower than the U.S. average
Looking to buy a home? You can see the lowest mortgage rates you can qualify for here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly called Syracuse University, the University of Syracuse, and stated that it had medical school. The story has been corrected.