These 20 ‘desired’ US counties are still affordable, study finds

(NEXSTAR) — With the way real estate has gone in recent years, it can feel like it’s priceless all over the US. But according to a recent analysis by MoneyGeek, that’s not quite the case.

Yes, it is true that more and more cities are becoming unaffordable for potential home buyers. But there are still some parts of the country where house prices are within the reach of the average family.

MoneyGeek compiled a list of 20 growing counties where the cost of owning a home was not excessive for the area’s average income. To qualify for the list, the estimated monthly cost of home ownership — including mortgage, property taxes, insurance, etc. — had to be less than 50% of monthly median income. That means the average county resident who buys the mid-priced home would spend between 34% and 49% of their income on housing costs.

Where do you get away with that in this economy? One region in particular dominates the list: 13 of the 20 counties identified were in the Southeast, the study found.

MoneyGeek’s list of 20 most affordable and desirable counties is below:

District Metro area nearby Average income Median house price
1 Clayton County, Georgia Greater Atlanta $30,502 $185,811
2 Cumberland County, Pennsylvania Greater Harrisburg $40,909 $257,744
3 Lexington County, South Carolina Colombia $36,899 $206,726
4 Madison County, Alabama Huntsville $38,327 $263,726
5 Marion County, Florida Ocalá $30,606 $218,548
6 Hidalgo County, Texas McAllen $22,506 $112,030
7 Oklahoma County, Oklahoma Oklahoma City $35,151 $200,321
8 Benton County, Arkansas Greater Fayetteville $37,496 $270,864
9 Florida Escambia County Greater Pensacola $30,751 $228,537
10 Tulsa County, Oklahoma Tulsa $34,896 $205,364
11 Spartanburg County, South Carolina Spartanburg $32,398 $205,940
12 St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana Greater New Orleans $37,211 $271,488
13 Pasco County, Florida Greater Tampa $34,974 $261,644
14 Lubbock County, Texas Lubbock $29,179 $186,302
15 Forsyth County, North Carolina Winston-Salem $31,769 $215,172
16 Douglas County, Nebraskac Great Omaha $39,918 $231,908
17 Greenville County, South Carolina Greater Greenville $35,725 $268,888
18 Richland County, South Carolina Colombia $30,753 $215,917
19 Webb County, Texas Laredo $27,185 $163,199
20 Knox County, Tennessee Knoxville $34,383 $270,117
MoneyGeek’s ranking of affordable US counties that are also desirable places to live in that area.

MoneyGeek still deemed these counties “desirable” because their populations are growing faster than the national average and their home values ​​are still rising. The analysis also excluded particularly small or sparsely populated counties — all of those included have populations in excess of 250,000, making them fairly large urban areas.

However, these 20 provinces are the exception. Many major metropolitan areas have become unaffordable for the average buyer.

What drives skyrocketing house prices? It’s complex, MoneyGeek analysts said. “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated labor shortages and supply chain delays, leading to slower housing construction. As a result, house prices skyrocketed, leading to higher mortgage payments and higher home insurance costs on newly purchased homes.”

The increase in remote working has also led to more people seeking large homes in smaller towns, pushing up house prices in places that weren’t as popular before the pandemic.

There are signs that things are slowing down compared to the past few years. Higher lending rates have slowed down the housing market, forcing potential home buyers to the sidelines. Mortgage applications are down 20% from last year and refinancing is down 80%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Those trends are expected to continue with more rate hikes by the Fed, which are almost certain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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