10 Most Affordable Cities Based on Cost Per Square Foot of Homes

By Jacqueline DeMarco · July 17, 2023 · 5 minute read

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10 Most Affordable Cities Based on Cost Per Square Foot of Homes

It’s no secret that a super-hot housing market and inflation have made it hard to afford daily life in many places across America. It’s also delaying the dream of homeownership for many people.

If, however, you are free to move, you might consider putting down roots where houses are more affordable and where homeownership is potentially easier to achieve. To help you consider your options, here is a list of 10 cities where the cost per square foot of housing is lowest.

The average price in the U.S. per square foot at the time of this survey was $169, and the median home price was $397,000. Take a look at these budget-friendly options, and see if you might want to make one of them your home base.

1. Memphis, Tennessee

Average Home Listing Price: $242,500

Average Price Per Square Foot: $92

Memphis ranked as the most affordable place to live based on the cost per square foot of homes in a recent study using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Realtor.com. Known as the birthplace of the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and soul (not to mention where Elvis Presley lived at Graceland), Memphis is a city that is great for low-cost housing as well as music.

2. Cleveland, Ohio

Average Home Price: $183,750

Average Price Per Square Foot: $103

With the average home in Cleveland costing less than half of the national average, this Ohio city is clearly a bargain for aspiring homeowners. In addition to its parks, river frontage, and setting next to a Great Lake, it has a burgeoning foodie scene and world-class art museums.

3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Average Home Price: $210,000

Average Price Per Square Foot: $134

In the past, Pittsburgh lost some of its younger residents to metro areas with a stronger job market, but today’s affordable housing market and job growth are attracting younger residents again. There are multiple universities in the area, such as the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University, that also attract a vibrant and youthful population.

Recommended: Cost of Living by State Comparison (2023)

4. Indianapolis, Indiana

Average Home Price: $276,250

Average Price Per Square Foot: $134

Indianapolis has a lively downtown area that is quite walkable and full of fun things to do, yet it also offers big-city amenities. Those looking for a more suburban feel can enjoy outer neighborhoods that still feature plenty of shopping and entertainment venues without all the hustle and bustle of being in downtown Indianapolis.

5. Buffalo, New York

Average Home Price: $217,450

Average Price Per Square Foot: $139

Buffalo is currently experiencing a sort of renaissance thanks to a rapidly developing waterfront and being home to one of the nation’s most advanced medical corridors.

Local government support has led to an increasing number of local businesses, which means there are likely some pretty good job opportunities to be found for career builders in Buffalo.

💡 Quick Tip: Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

6. Birmingham, AL

Average Home Price: $272,450

Average Price Per Square Foot: $144

Birmingham has plenty to recommend it, from great sports teams to root for to its craft brewery scene. Affordability is a major factor. Housing costs are less than the national median in this area. What’s more, residents tend to spend less on food, healthcare, and other typical expenses than those who are located in other areas of the country.

7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Average Home Price: $282,124

Average Price Per Square Foot: $149

Oklahoma City has affordable homes, healthcare, transportation, and other basic living expenses. In addition, it has a vibrant arts scene and plenty of parks with all kinds of activities available.

Recommended: Local Housing Market Trends

8. Detroit, Michigan

Average Home Price: $217,450

Average Price Per Square Foot: $152

Detroit is a city in the midst of a turn-around. On the one hand, there are many fixer-upper and abandoned houses waiting to be rehabbed, but, on the other, the cost of living has been rising. If you want to jump into the affordable housing market and make Detroit your home, you’ll be rewarded with music festivals and the gigantic Belle Isle Park.

9. St. Louis, Missouri

Average Home Price: $245,000

Average Price Per Square Foot: $152

This historic metro area houses almost 3 million people (known as St. Louisans) and is known for being a tight-knit community that is very family-friendly. Hometown loyalty is strong in St. Louis and many residents choose to come back after heading off to college or paying to move somewhere else for a while.

💡 Quick Tip: If you refinance your mortgage and shorten your loan term, you could save a substantial amount in interest over the lifetime of the loan.

10. Louisville, Kentucky

Average Home Price: $252,500

Average Price Per Square Foot: $152

Families will love spending their weekends in Louisville, thanks to having easy access to the Louisville Zoo, Kentucky Science Center, and the Louisville Slugger Museum. Day by day this city is becoming more diverse! Residents are moving in from around the world and the city is supportive of the LGBTQ community.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi Mortgage Loan,
with as little as 3% down*.

Financing a Home

Even the most affordable homes can cost a pretty penny, which is where applying for a mortgage comes in.

Consumers may compare mortgage loan rates and terms from commercial banks, mortgage companies, and certain financial institutions. Typically, certain requirements relating to credit scores and income level help determine if a consumer will receive a mortgage and what their rates and terms are.

When preparing to get a mortgage, it can be helpful to consider multiple lenders, comparing loan terms to get an idea of what might work for an applicant’s financial situation.

Asking lenders for a preapproval or prequalification letter can help mortgage applicants better understand what type of mortgage terms they may be offered.

The Takeaway

It’s possible to find an affordable place to live, where homes cost as little as possible per square foot, and your daily budget may therefore be easier to wrangle. If you are willing to relocate and perhaps move to an up-and-coming town, you may find that your dreams of homeownership can come true sooner rather than later.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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