Alabama City Among Metros with the Most Homes for Sale Under $100K
June 4, 2018
What does a hundred grand buy you these days? Let's see ... a stripped-down Tesla Model X. A Fabergé egg on eBay. A year of military-trained, 24/7 private security. A year and a half of tuition, room, and board at Harvard. Or perhaps a house.
News that home prices nationally are steadily rising well past the paychecks of everyday Americans has become a familiar drumbeat in the heads of many would-be buyers. Yes, homes are expensive and only getting more so. But that doesn't mean there aren't bargains to be found—if you know where to look.
The thrifty data team at realtor.com® loves a challenge—so we set out to find the metropolitan areas that boast the largest number of single-family homes listed for under $100,000 on realtor.com as of March 1. (We're talking about total volume, not highest percentage.) These unicorns exist, and in greater numbers than you might think. Your wallets can thank us now.
But what kind of abodes do you get for less than the price of a (gently used) Patek Philippe Nautilus wristwatch? In pricey cities along the coasts, buyers would consider themselves #blessed to find a closet-size condo for a few hundred thousand dollars. But in others they can pick up a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a yard out back in a suburban school district for below our $100,000 threshold. They might have to roll up their sleeves to get a deal on a fixer-upper, or perhaps take a chance in an area that's in an early stage of revival.
Look at it this way: With all of the money they're saving on the purchase price, buyers might be able to afford some sweet, Instagram-worthy renovations.
Bargain buyers might want to head first to the lower-priced Rust Belt or Midwest, where median home prices are already lower than the rest of the country. But places such as Chicago and New York City also have quite a few affordable finds—for buyers willing to venture past the city limits into the smaller, far-flung regions that comprise the metropolitan areas.
"Bargains definitely exist. But buyers should go in with their eyes open," cautions Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com®. "In some of those areas, $100,000 can buy a pretty decent home that maybe needs a little bit of updating. In others, it might be a home that needs an awful lot of work and might be in not-yet-up-and-coming neighborhoods."
So, where are these mythical havens of affordability where buyers can close on a house for under six figures?
Median home list price*: $179,950
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 2,656
Pittsburgh is the poster child for the Rust Belt comeback. After a long slump, the Steel City has emerged as a magnet for young techies and creatives, as top-tier companies such as Google, Intel, and Facebook have established offices there.
So maybe it's a bit of a surprise that many first-time buyers can still snag a two-story, three-bedroom Colonial with a yard in the $100,000 range.
“The nice thing about Pittsburgh is that there are big shifts in price, from neighborhood to neighborhood," says real estate agent Bobby West, of Coldwell Banker Pittsburgh. That means plenty of opportunities for buyers on all kinds of budgets. "There are dumps in the $80,000 range, move-in ready places at $120,000, plenty of options in between.”
Formerly working-class neighborhoods such as Millvale, Hazelwood, Southside Slopes, and Brighton Heights, accessible by public transportation, have been transformed into millennial dream towns. (Check out this newly renovated four-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Hazelwood for $82,000.) They're filled with old-school Pittsburgher neighborhood bars as well as hip restaurants and cocktail dens.
2. Detroit, MI
Median home list price: $245,050
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 2,478
When Tyson Gersh set up The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative on a vacant lot in Detroit’s North End in 2011, many of the neighborhood’s former commercial storefronts and Queen Anne–style homes were dilapidated or straight-up demolished. Back then, most of the homes were sold through auctions starting at $500.
That was before the Motown revival kicked in for real. Gersh nearly got priced out of the neighborhood that he had helped redevelop before working out a deal for a historic two-family home just last month. He’s preparing for a full rehab that he expects will cost a pretty penny. But he feels certain it'll be worth it.
Buyers can still take a pick of bargain-priced homes here. Caveat emptor: After decades of neglect, many of the homes in desirable areas listed below six figures need complete renos. And due to the backlog, finding good contractors to do the work in a timely manner is no easy feat these days.
"You can find lots of homes right now under $100,000," says Gersh, even if many are "blighted homes that are uninhabitable at the moment."
But fixing them up could be a good investment, he adds: "On my street, there are three homes that have been rehabbed in the last year, all of which were [later sold for around] $300,000."
3. Chicago, IL
Median home list price: $299,550
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 2,397
Buyers looking for a somewhat decent $100,000 home in a good school district likely won't be living within Chicago's city limits. The metro area sprawls from Kenosha, WI, past Gary, IN—and buyers in the lower price range will probably need to factor in long commutes to the city.
“You’re definitely not getting Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Uptown, or Gold Coast; no River Park, no Bucktown, no Ukrainian Village,” says real estate broker Evelyn Fred, of Baird & Warner, naming the nicer and trendier Chicago neighborhoods.
Fred recently sold a first-time buyer a four-bedroom, one-bathroom house with a huge yard, deck, and outdoor kitchen in Matteson, IL, for $85,000. The home was about a 45-minute drive or hourlong train ride from the museums, restaurants, and offices of Chicago proper.
Median home list price: $207,550
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 2,227
St. Louis is one of those Midwestern cities where buyers don't have to trade quality or location for a good price. Young buyers have been sucking up the $100,000-and-under, two-bedroom, brick bungalows in the Bevo neighborhood like frosty brews on a summer day. The area is buzzing these days, with a vibrant restaurant row and a wildly popular German pub that just opened inside a historic windmill.
“St. Louis is still superaffordable,” says Realtor® Jeannie Kennedy, of Garcia Realty St. Louis. “You can get a nice, clean, partly rehabbed house with an updated kitchen in Bevo for around $95,000.”
Similar home deals can be found in a few county suburbs (with better school districts) and other coveted, yet affordable St. Louis neighborhoods (e.g., Dutchtown, Carondelet, and even Tower Grove South). Tower Grove was once hailed as the “Best Place to Live” by local alt-weekly Riverfront Times for its diverse housing, restaurants, and bars.
While single-family homes can be found in Tower Grove South for under six figures, they'll typically need some work—though not too much, says Kennedy. For example, this brick, two-bedroom, one-bedroom fixer-upper for $55,000.
“When people are first buying a home, they aren’t looking for the Taj Mahal,” Kennedy exlains.
Median home list price: $175,050
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 1,779
Because Cleveland boasts so many affordable homes, the city has been attracting hordes of out-of-state investors seeking properties that cost way less than a down payment in New York City or California.
“Price points vary widely,” says James Wise, a real estate broker with Holton-Wise Property Group, who specializes in investment properties and flippers.
Wise believes some of the best deals are found in working-class suburbs that tend to have more renters than owner-occupiers, including Garfield Heights, South Euclid, and Euclid (soon to house an Amazon fulfillment center). There, out-of-town buyers have been bagging turnkey bungalows in the $80,000 range as well as brick homes in the $60,000s. After some light reno work, the properties can garner rents around $1,000 a month.
There's this three-bedroom, two-bathroom foreclosure for just $54,900. It comes with hardwood floors, central air, and a partly finished basement.
On the other side of the spectrum, many young professionals are still gravitating to trendier neighborhoods such as Ohio City, Gordon Square, and Tremont, where most renovated, single-family abodes cost upward of $300,000, Wise says.
Median home list price: $219,950
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 1,169
Birmingham's real estate market is in the midst of a boom, but buyers can score bargains—if they're willing to move just outside the city limits.
Buyers can still find homes for a song in some of the historic neighborhoods, but they're likely to require gut rehabs to bring them back to their early 20th-century glory. However, there are bargains to be found, including this two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow for $52,000.
Those willing to go farther afield to less desirable suburbs or rural parts of St. Clair County can find move in-ready abodes with land for less than the price of a condo in Magic City’s hottest hoods.
7. New York, NY
Median home list price: $523,740
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 1,155
Ready to get your New York City house for less than $100,000? Fuhgeddaboudit. You can’t even get a 400-square-foot condo in the forgotten borough of Staten Island for that price. So, why is NYC on this list?
The New York metro area is so darn big, encompassing parts of upper New York state, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, that it's not a surprise that some of these smaller, more remote towns would have cheaper homes for sale. (The U.S. Census defines metro areas as including a large population hub that supports a broader region.)
In the woods of Pennsylvania's Pike County, buyers who want to live near the Poconos ski resorts can take advantage of low taxes and good schools with a three-bedroom cabin for less than $100,000. Several buses pick up locals for multihour commutes to New York City. However, city workers are more likely to use the area for a getaway than a primary residence.
“We’re in a big market for second homes,” says Tom Moroney, a real estate agent with Century 21 Country Lake Homes.
Closer to the city, it's harder to find a livable $100,000 single-family home. While northern New Jersey has seen a delayed surge of foreclosures from the recession, many of these properties have been seriously neglected, requiring costly renovations that will soar well beyond the five-figure mark.
8. Memphis, TN
Median home list price: $195,050
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 1,135
Most of the homes selling for five figures in Memphis are investment properties, which folks buy to rent out. And the competition for them is fierce, as out-of-town, would-be landlords battle it out for the opportunity to lease those properties to Memphis residents burned by the housing crash and subsequent foreclosure crisis.
“Under $100,000 is going to be 90-plus% investment properties,” says Dan Butler, co-founder of CrestCore Realty Memphis. These aren't properties geared toward first-time buyers seeking out nice neighborhoods where they would want to live and raise their families.
Investors who can drop $80,000 to $100,000 will find three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes with two-car garages in large, suburban subdivisions. But these homes may need an additional $30,000 to $40,000 for kitchen and bathroom upgrades, a paint job, and other renovations. Once they're fixed up, they're likely to be rented by double-income families willing to fork over $1,200 a month.
However, most of the young, first-time buyers looking to stake their claim on a piece of land are more interested in hard-to-find homes in East Memphis’ $150,000 starting range. They're just a short drive from the action of midtown Memphis.
"Supply is low and demand is high," Butler says.
Median home list price: $249,950
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 1,087
The brick Colonials on Philadelphia’s cobblestone streets are a steal compared with nearby metros such as New York City and Washington, DC. That doesn’t mean they come cheap, though. The average starting price for a nice, single-family home in downtown Philly is about $350,000.
Those willing to go about 6 miles southwest or north of Center City can still (occasionally) find deals in up-and-coming neighborhoods such as Kensington (which has this three-bedroom, one-bedroom, newly renovated home for $99,9000) and Port Richmond. Homes with three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, and small yards, similar to the entry-level homes in prime Philly, are particularly attractive to those on a budget.
“The market has plenty of first-time home buyers educated enough to know that owning a house in that price would be cheaper than renting,” says Jeanne Whipple, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Preferred Philadelphia.
10. Atlanta, GA
Median home list price: $330,888
Number of homes listed for $100,000 or less: 1,087
Those who want to be in the center of everything should expect to pay substantially more than $100,000 for a home in Atlanta. The starting point for a single-family abode in Atlanta’s Intown market, the 4-mile radius surrounding downtown, is well out of the reach of most first-time, cash-strapped buyers.
“To be in a nice property, you’re in the half-millions,” says Ryan Sconyers, a real estate agent with Graham Seeby Group Keller Williams. However, buyers who aren't seeking a big house and backyard can still pick up a nice condo in a desirable neighborhood for around $125,000, Sconyers says.
There are still some single-family deals to be had in the south and southwest corridors of the city, in neighborhoods such as Venetian Hills and Polar Rock. Those lower-price markets have recently been dominated by flippers and investors looking to pick up dilapidated homes for $50,000 to fix up and sell for a huge profits, or rent out.
"There are old, established neighborhoods that haven't bounced back out of the recession," Sconyers says.
* Median metro home list prices are as of April 1.
Source: "Affordable Homes: Metros With the Most Houses for Sale Under $100K- Act Now!" REALTORS.com (June 4, 2018) Sara Ventiera