Shutterstock

Where are the affordable homes? Scranton tops the list 

Zillow looked at home values and median household incomes to come up with the 10 most affordable markets in the country.

October 26, 2022
3 minutes

Key points:

  • The top 10 markets were all in the eastern U.S., with cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania dominating the list.
  • These areas could get a second look from remote workers if affordability remains challenging.

With higher interest rates and high prices making homes unaffordable for many would-be homeowners, buyers trying to make the numbers work might want to look at Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Cities in those two states dominated Zillow's list of most affordable places to buy a home in the current real estate market. The company looked at data from 100 major U.S. markets and ranked areas based on the percentage of income needed to pay the typical monthly mortgage payment. Housing costs above 30% of the household income represent a "housing cost burden." Monthly payments on a typical U.S. home, including taxes and insurance, now consume about 38% of a household's income, according to Zillow.   

A graphic shows the most and least affordable markets in the U.S., according to Zillow data.
Zillow

For buyers seeking a relatively affordable option, these are the top 10 markets to consider:

  • Scranton, Pennsylvania (monthly mortgage payment requires 22% of median household income)

  • Youngstown, Ohio (23%)

  • Toledo, Ohio (24%)

  • Akron, Ohio (24%)

  • Jackson, Mississippi (24%)

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (25%) 

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (26%) 

  • Little Rock, Arkansas (27%) 

  • Indianapolis, Indiana (27%) 

  • St. Louis, Missouri (27%)

Scranton topped the list by having a typical home value of just over $181,000 and monthly payments of around $1,232.

Generally speaking, the areas on this list are those with the lowest priced homes, not higher income levels. Home prices are lower in these markets due to a combination of weaker demand (flat or falling population numbers) and an abundant supply of homes, said Zillow Senior Economist Jeff Tucker in an email.

Of the areas that made the list, Tucker said Little Rock and Indianapolis are examples that buck the trend by having strong population growth yet still-affordable homes. Those two areas could continue to see some price growth in this current market, while the others may remain "somewhat subdued" because of higher interest rates hurting affordability.

Could these areas successfully promote themselves as ideal destinations for remote workers looking for more affordable options? Tucker said it's possible, but they still have other factors working against them. 

"Winter weather is a major downside for most of them — recent migration trends have shown an overwhelming tendency for Americans to move toward the Sun Belt in search of warmer weather and particularly milder, sunnier winters," Tucker said. "Still, we are only just beginning to see the effects of remote work on people's housing choices, and it could be that the run-up in housing prices in the Sun Belt begins to cause remote workers to reconsider snowier regions like the Midwest."

Those areas with home values under $200,000 could get a second look because affordability is expected to be an issue for quite some time, according to an analysis done by Zillow Senior Economist Nicole Bachaud.

"The outlook on inventory suggests that the market will be tight for years to come as demand for housing stays strong," Bachaud said in the report. "While prices are falling modestly now as the market rebalances, long-term prices are still going to appreciate, and with high mortgage rates looking to stick around, future affordability is threatened."

The least affordable housing markets, according to Zillow's data, are on the West Coast in notoriously pricey metros. San Francisco topped the list, with a typical home requiring 83% of that area's median household income. Los Angeles was next at 73%, followed by Honolulu at 65%. In 12 of the largest 100 markets, a mortgage payment takes more than half of a household's median income.

Get the latest real estate news delivered to your inbox.