The 10 Best Housing Markets if You Don’t Want to Be House Poor

Tired of spending most of your paycheck on housing? A move to one of these 10 cities could free up your budget.
Updated April 11, 2024
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From coast to coast, housing values sit near record highs. A Black Knight survey found that it takes about 40.6% of a typical household's income to make a mortgage payment.

If you are tired of seeing more than one-third of your income go into your house payment, we have news that might reduce some financial stress. Zillow put together a list of 10 cities where the average mortgage-to-income ratio is less than 28%.

You don’t have to resign yourself to the house-poor lifestyle — instead, check out any of the cities Zillow says have some of the most affordable housing markets in the country. 

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St. Louis, Missouri

rudi1976/Adobe City of St. Louis skyline

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 27%

St. Louis is home to the famous Gateway Arch, and those looking for affordable living will feel welcome here.

Not only are homes in St. Louis priced reasonably, but you can also save money on entertainment. You will find a bevy of free attractions, ranging from the Saint Louis Art Museum to the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.

Indianapolis, Indiana

espiegle/Adobe Skyline of Indianapolis Indiana

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 27%

Indianapolis is the 15th biggest city in the U.S. But even though Indy has a bigger population than San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, D.C., the city’s home prices are more affordable.

While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a major draw for racing fans, Indiana’s capital has something fun and affordable for everyone. 

This includes the biggest children’s museum in the world, the downtown area’s fantastic foodie culture, and miles of well-maintained urban trails.

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Little Rock, Arkansas

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe aerial photo Little Rock Arkansas

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 27%

Little Rock is low in housing costs and rich in history. Little Rock Central High School — where the Little Rock Nine challenged segregation — is both a functioning high school and a national historic site. Admission is free, as is participation in daily educational tours.

The city’s namesake “little rock” sits in one of the city’s parks, where you can also see how it compares to a proverbial “big rock.”

And if you visit the Quapaw Quarter, you’ll see architecture built between 1890 and 1930, with some of it designed in a pre-Civil War style.

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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

LindaPhotography/Adobe long street of historical part of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 26%

Several Pennsylvania cities made it onto Zillow’s most affordable housing lists, including the state’s capital.

Use the cash saved on your mortgage payments to visit the National Civil War Museum or scout one of the country’s oldest farmer’s markets — Broad Street Market, which has been running since 1863.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Steven/Adobe Pittsburgh's Historic North Side

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 25%

Pittsburgh is big enough to host three major sports teams (the Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers) but small enough to ensure its residents enjoy an affordable lifestyle.

Pittsburgh’s city government goes out of its way to amp up the fantastic free events. On the government website, you can find a lengthy list of completely free activities, from a visit to the Allegheny Observatory’s high-powered telescope to the city’s free opera concerts.

Jackson, Mississippi

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Jackson Mississippi skyline

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 24%

Like a number of cities on Zillow’s list, Jackson is a state capital — in this case, of Mississippi.

Jackson is also home to great jazz, soul, and blues music. Along with hosting Malaco Records, Jackson has many historic music sites, most of them marked by the Mississippi Blues Commission.

If you’re passionate about music, you’ll definitely want to see if you can hit every stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Akron, Ohio

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Akron Ohio USA town skyline

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 24%

Akron is one of three Ohio cities that earned a place on Zillow’s top 10 list.

With the money you save spending less than one-quarter of your paycheck on your mortgage, you can enjoy all the trails at the nearby Boston Mills/Brandywine ski resorts starting at $41 a day.

Toledo, Ohio

Michael Shake/Adobe Toledo Ohio city skyline

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 24%

If your mental image of Ohio is one of rolling cornfields and sweeping flatlands, Toledo won’t live up to your expectations. With more than 200,000 people, it’s the biggest of the three Ohio cities on Zillow’s list.

Toledo sits alongside Lake Erie and the Maumee River, so the city has a solid water-based travel system and plenty of picturesque parks. Whether you love a kid-friendly botanical garden or an urban green space with ample room for concerts, Toledo can deliver.

Youngstown, Ohio

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Youngstown Ohio USA town skyline

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 23%

Want Toledo’s attractive houses, riverside parks, and affordable houses without Toledo’s larger population? Youngstown has a population closer to 60,000.

Along with its low mortgage-to-income ratio, Youngstown offers free attractions such as its 60-acre Toledo Botanical Garden and historic sites like settler-era Lanterman’s Mill.

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Scranton, Pennsylvania

sjwphotography/Adobe Scranton PA

Homeowner income spent on a mortgage: 22%

On average, Scranton homeowners spend only around one-fifth of their income on their mortgage payments, which makes it the best city for homeowners who don’t want to be house poor.

Wondering what you could do with all that extra room in your budget? Scranton offers plenty of options.

Its thriving downtown and small, tight-knit neighborhoods have something for everyone, including free monthly art strolls and self-guided walking tours heavy on references to the beloved TV show “The Office.”

If you’re a history or tech buff, Scranton’s old trolley station-turned-museum and Steamtown National Historic Site (home to old steam trains) should give you hours of budget-friendly fun.

Bottom line

Vasyl/Adobe family moving in new house

If you’re sick of putting one-third of your paycheck toward the mortgage, you don’t have to put your home on the market and start living the van life.

Instead, check out any of these 10 affordable housing markets to find your dream home at a great price. Moving to one of these locations might save you enough cash that you can retire earlier than you expected.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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