The pandemic-driven shift to remote work allowed millions of Americans to move wherever they wanted, but before long, soaring inflation put a damper on many of those dreams. So what’s left for people who are ready to raise the stakes but have been priced out new location of choice?
GOBankingRates spoke to real estate professionals and other cost of living experts in different locations across the country, from big cities to small towns and everything in between. The following is a list of places where inflation remains a step behind the cost of living if you are looking for a place to live well on the cheap.
Johnson City – and Tennessee, in general
According to the latest census, Tennessee has seen its population explode in recent years as people flock to the state for low prices and good weather.
“Tennessee, even with the sudden influx of people, still has an excellent cost of living,” said Erik Wright, owner of NewHorizon Home Buyers. “The median house is still only $231,600. Additionally, Tennessee has seen the strongest six-digit job growth, indicating a large pool of disposable income, which can help grow businesses that pursue revenue growth.
One place in the Volunteer State stands out as a particularly ripe affair.
“Despite rising inflation, Johnson City is one of the places where you’ll have to pay about half the cost of living compared to Houston,” said Erick Nilsson, a housing professional and founder of Rentola. “Even doctor visits in the state are 60% less expensive than in other states. The region’s cost of living score is 65 points out of 75.”
Alabama – especially the Auburn area
If you cross the southern border of Tennessee, you will enter one of the best states to live on a budget.
“One of the most affordable states in America is Alabama,” said George Beatty, founder of Problem Property Buddies. “Even when it comes to rising inflation, the state can prove to be a cheap stay for families. For example, let’s say your home is about 2,000 square feet and has four bedrooms and two bathrooms on a decent-sized lot in the city of Auburn. You can expect to pay about 33% of what you would pay for a similar home in California. Alabama’s cost of living score is 68 out of 75, which is considered an excellent score for affordable living. Additionally, the average home price in Auburn is around $310,000. That’s $60,000 less than the average home price across the country.
If you’re looking for a high quality of life on a budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to get more for less than what you’ll find in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“The metro population in Fayetteville is about 85,000, which isn’t that crowded considering the city’s real estate market,” said Kurt Walker, CEO of Cream City Home Buyers. “The median home price in Fayetteville is around $200,000, which is significantly lower than the average price in the United States. The average annual salary is around $47,600. It is one of the cheapest places to live in the United States, which makes the standard of living for the locals quite high.
Cedar Park, Texas
If the Austin lifestyle is what you crave, but without the Austin price tags, consider a nearby gem.
“Cedar Park, Texas offers an affordable standard of living due to its proximity to Austin,” said Ahern Tille, founder and supervising attorney of Bankruptcy Law Center.
“With an average family income of $80,954, the approximate cost of living adds up to a decent average of $58,497. According to the cost of living index, it ranks at 92.8 with a number of job opportunities in the fields of engineering and architecture. It is safe and secure for families with a number of outdoor activities and entertainment options, including restaurants and public parks.
Pottstown – and small towns in Pennsylvania as a whole
Deborah Ann Spence, real estate broker and owner of Fierce real estaterecommends bargain hunting in small town America, like his hometown of Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
“It’s a small town about 45 miles from downtown Philadelphia and on the corner of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania,” Spence said. “You can buy a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home for $150,000 or a two-unit duplex for $150,000. Home prices have not experienced inflation and the seller’s market in our small and beautiful community, as in outside communities such as Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.
Mid-size cities like Buffalo, New York
If something like Pottstown is too small, there’s a lot of middle ground between that and major US metros.
“There are many mid-sized cities in America that are still affordable despite rising inflation,” said Dr Tenpao Lee, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Niagara University. “For example, Buffalo, NY, where the median sale price of a home was $196,000 in December 2021. Overall, if we include other factors to consider, such as family income, property taxes, cost of living, natural environment and public education systems, Buffalo certainly offers greater value to young professionals looking to raise their families.
Cities with an attractive cost of living can be much smaller than Buffalo – and much warmer.
“Savannah, Georgia is a city where the cost of living has held up pretty well against inflation,” said Cristina Ortega, owner of Ms. Property Solutions. “The city’s overall cost of living is an astonishing 13.3% lower than the national average. Even though Savannah’s health care is more than 10% better than the US average, it’s offset by the relatively lower costs of utilities, groceries, and transportation. Plus, his housing costs are 36% lower than what the average American pays.
The suburbs of Chicago
According to Bill Samuel, full-time residential real estate developer and founder of Development of the blue scalethere are many Chicago suburbs that offer excellent schools and a very low cost of living.
“For example, Tinley Park, Illinois is only a 30 minute drive from downtown Chicago, has tons of local restaurants, access to public transportation, and has a median value of $283,000,” Samuel said. “The national average home value is $320,000, 13% lower than the national average.”
Greenville, South Carolina
Coming back to the South, a small town stands out as being particularly affordable, despite its high standard of living.
“Greenville, SC has withstood the economic damage caused by the COVID pandemic better than many other American communities,” said Reid Hogan of HouseCashin. “From November 2020 to November 2021, the unemployment rate in Greenville was cut nearly in half. Greenville’s economy is supported by a wide range of employers. More than 40 Fortune 500 companies are present there, as well as more than 225 international companies. Even with the impacts of inflation, the overall cost of living in Greenville is 12% lower than the national average. The median price of a home in Greenville is $234,600, which is more than 2.25 times lower than the median price of other desirable markets such as Austin and Denver.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
When many people think of the Midwest, they think of nice lifestyles and a low cost of living — and in at least one Indiana city, they’d be right.
“The Fort Wayne metro area offers an enviable combination of affordability and amenities,” said Olivia Tan, Florida-based personal finance coach and co-founder of CocoFax. “Not only is this northeastern Indiana city home to a collection of pleasant and quiet neighborhoods, but it also has a thriving arts scene with festivals and events year-round. As is generally the case, affordable housing is the primary driver of the metro area’s relatively low cost of living. Residents spend 34% less on housing costs — including mortgages, rents and related expenses — than the average American pays to keep a roof over their head. Groceries and utilities are also significantly cheaper compared to national averages, helping to secure Fort Wayne’s place among the cheapest US cities in which to live.
Finally, one medium-sized city in Ohio stands out as having weathered the inflationary storm better than the state’s larger and more famous urban centers.
“I’ve found Dayton to be, so far, an affordable place to live,” said Steven J. Spence, real estate investor and author of “Pure Money: What the Institutions and the Elite Don’t Want You to Know.” “Like most places in the United States, home prices have risen as well as rents, but the Dayton area has reached levels well below national average prices. The reason the Dayton area has remained affordable is that many home prices recovered at a slower pace compared to the rest of the country after the 2008 financial crisis.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 11 places where the cost of living is still low, despite inflation