The 25 Best Cities To Buy a Home for Less Than $500K

Tampa, Florida, USA downtown city skyline.
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The wild and red-hot housing market of the past couple years has continued to soar. While the median home price was $312,728 at the start of December, the housing site Zillow predicts that by the end of February 2023 the median price will be closer to $400,000. That means that if you have a half-million bucks to spend, you’re well above the homeowner in the middle of the pack.

If your budget tops out at $500,000 then you’ve still got plenty of options on where to put down roots. But that sum buys far more in some places than it does in others. Purchasing the right home in the right place is about a lot more than just the average price per square foot.

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Using data from Zillow, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sterling’s Best Places, GOBankingRates identified the 25 best cities to buy a home in that price range. To paint a complete picture of what it really means to buy a $500,000 home in different places across the country, the study examines factors like average home cost and median income, as well as crime, poverty and unemployment. It also sheds light on each city’s cost of living by looking at the cost of necessities like utilities, healthcare, transportation and groceries.

Building Wealth

With those factors and others in mind, here’s a look at the 25 best places to buy a home for less than $500,000.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

  • Combined score: 1.07143
  • 2021 average home cost: $285,315
  • Livability: 79
  • Median household income: $78,136
  • Area unemployment rate:3.1%
  • % of people below poverty line: 7.2
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): .99
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 14.86
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,956.83
  • Annual health care cost: $5,632.8
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,037.42
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,938.22
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,565.04

Aurora, Illinois

  • Combined score: 1.37995
  • 2021 average home cost: $100,592
  • Livability: 77
  • Median household income: $74,659
  • Area unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • % of people below poverty line: 10.6
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): .3.64
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 8.86
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,754.20
  • Annual health care cost: $4,959.57
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,083.16
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,555.26
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,352.18

POLL: Have You Skipped Any of These Essential Expenses Due to Rising Prices?

Woodbridge, Virginia

  • Combined score: 1.39835
  • 2021 average home cost: $352,731
  • Livability: 83
  • Median household income: $76,846
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.6%
  • % of people below poverty line: 10.7
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 2.46
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 11.08
  • Annual grocery cost: $5,337.36
  • Annual health care cost: $5,285.72
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,145.53
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,875.47
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $20,644.08

Chesapeake, Virginia

  • Combined score: 1.43997
  • 2021 average home cost: $102,866
  • Livability: 71
  • Median household income: $81,261
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.1%
  • % of people below poverty line: 7.5
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 4.13
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 17.75
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,942
  • Annual health care cost: $5,617.05
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,049.89
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,099.47
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,708.41
Building Wealth

Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Combined score: 1.54302
  • 2021 average home cost: $396,121
  • Livability: 74
  • Median household income: $69,720
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.9%
  • % of people below poverty line: 11.8
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 4.15
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 21.34
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,971.65
  • Annual health care cost: $4,824.96
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,120.58
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,464.55
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,381.75

Fort Wayne, Indiana

  • Combined score: 1.65334
  • 2021 average home cost: $313,319
  • Livability: 75
  • Median household income: $51,454
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.5%
  • % of people below poverty line: 15.5
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 4.26
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 23.18
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,516.99
  • Annual health care cost: $4,126.07
  • Annual utilities cost: $3,771.31
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,106.79
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $16,521.15

Spring, Texas

  • Combined score: 1.65600
  • 2021 average home cost: $125,009
  • Livability: 77
  • Median household income: $73,467
  • Area unemployment rate: 4.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 10.7
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 1.68
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 14.63
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,749.26
  • Annual health care cost: $4,783.55
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,029.10
  • Annual transportation cost: $6,328.98
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,890.90

Madison, Wisconsin

  • Combined score: 1.68423
  • 2021 average home cost: $468,808
  • Livability: 74
  • Median household income: $67,565
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 16.4
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 3.18
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 27.68
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,838.22
  • Annual health care cost: $4,467.75
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,469.85
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,323.46
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,926.35

Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Combined score: 1.69285
  • 2021 average home cost: $438,175
  • Livability: 78
  • Median household income: $60,063
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.1%
  • % of people below poverty line: 12.8
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 4.22
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 26.35
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,813.51
  • Annual health care cost: $6,445.37
  • Annual utilities cost: $3,837.83
  • Annual transportation cost: $3,829.64
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,926.35

Mesa, Arizona

  • Combined score: 1.72919
  • 2021 average home cost: $289,135
  • Livability: 77
  • Median household income: $61,640
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 13.3
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 3.89
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 19.31
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,803.62
  • Annual health care cost: $4,773.19
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,162.16
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,744.46
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,483.44

Irving, Texas

  • Combined score: 1.77389
  • 2021 average home cost: $417,302
  • Livability: 78
  • Median household income: $66,567
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 11.2
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 3.08
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 25.07
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,922.23
  • Annual health care cost: $4,866.38
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,166.32
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,603.37
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,558.30

Lexington, Kentucky

  • Combined score: 1.87171
  • 2021 average home cost: $174,039
  • Livability: 76
  • Median household income: $58,954
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.1%
  • % of people below poverty line: 15.8
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 3.28
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 30.46
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,843.16
  • Annual health care cost: $4,648.95
  • Annual utilities cost: $3,779.62
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,409.13
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $17,680.85

Huntsville, Alabama

  • Combined score: 1.97344
  • 2021 average home cost: $414,587
  • Livability: 79
  • Median household income: $56,758
  • Area unemployment rate: 2%
  • % of people below poverty line: 15.2
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 7.72
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 34.76
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,744.32
  • Annual health care cost: $5,441.03
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,000
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,061.43
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,246.78

Garland, Texas

  • Combined score: 2.01265
  • 2021 average home cost: $448,969
  • Livability: 74
  • Median household income: $63,192
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 12.1
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 2.83
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 24.87
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,828.33
  • Annual health care cost: $4,866.38
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,158
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,996.41
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,849.12

Bradenton, Florida

  • Combined score: 2.09058
  • 2021 average home cost: $431,287
  • Livability: 75
  • Median household income: $48,369
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 13.7
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 5.55
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 23.79
  • Annual grocery cost: $5,129.80
  • Annual health care cost: $4,793.90
  • Annual utilities cost: $3,929.31
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,039
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,892.01

Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • Combined score: 2.10199
  • 2021 average home cost: $368,422
  • Livability: 70
  • Median household income: $67,719
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.7%
  • % of people below poverty line: 11.3
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 6.05
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 34.32
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,862.93
  • Annual health care cost: $4,923.33
  • Annual utilities cost: $3,841.99
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,792.09
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,420.34

El Paso, Texas

  • Combined score: 2.15859
  • 2021 average home cost: $276,687
  • Livability: 74
  • Median household income: $48,866
  • Area unemployment rate: 4.3%
  • % of people below poverty line: 18.8
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 3.2
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 12.7
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,546.64
  • Annual health care cost: $4,488.46
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,037.42
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,630.80
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $17,703.36

Arlington, Texas

  • Combined score: 2.16037
  • 2021 average home cost: $317,122
  • Livability: 77
  • Median household income: $63,351
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 14.2
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 5.45
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 26.31
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,848.10
  • Annual health care cost: $5,145.94
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,158
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,774.69
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,926.73

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

  • Combined score: 2.16137
  • 2021 average home cost: $259,865
  • Livability: 64
  • Median household income: $47,269
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 19.2
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 1.3
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 6.5
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,704.78
  • Annual health care cost: $5,373.73
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,012.47
  • Annual transportation cost: $3,804.45
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $17,895.43

St. Petersburg, Florida 

  • Combined score: 2.16564
  • 2021 average home cost: $174,056
  • Livability: 70
  • Median household income: $60,798
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.5%
  • % of people below poverty line: 11.6
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 6.88
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 26.58
  • Annual grocery cost: $5,184.16
  • Annual health care cost: $5,249.48
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,336.79
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,948.30
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,718.73

Omaha, Nebraska

  • Combined score: 2.17079
  • 2021 average home cost: $257,176
  • Livability: 72
  • Median household income: $62,213
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.6%
  • % of people below poverty line: 12
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 6.24
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 31.37
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,773.97
  • Annual health care cost: $6745.63
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,099.79
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,116.86
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,736.25

Tampa, Florida

  • Combined score: 2.20393
  • 2021 average home cost: $142,070
  • Livability: 74
  • Median household income: $55,634
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.5%
  • % of people below poverty line: 17.5
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 5.57
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 16.34
  • Annual grocery cost: $5,194.04
  • Annual health care cost: $5,099.35
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,004.15
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,678.42
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,946.26

Greenville, South Carolina

  • Combined score: 2.23124
  • 2021 average home cost: $368,644
  • Livability: 73
  • Median household income: $58,259
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.9%
  • % of people below poverty line: 12.8
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 7.21
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 42.22
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,927.17
  • Annual health care cost: $5,249.48
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,029.10
  • Annual transportation cost: $3,839.72
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,045.47

Fort Worth, Texas

  • Combined score: 2.23646
  • 2021 average home cost: $98,221
  • Livability: 73
  • Median household income: $64,567
  • Area unemployment rate: 3.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 13.6
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 5.47
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 27.68
  • Annual grocery cost: $4,828.33
  • Annual health care cost: $5,145.94
  • Annual utilities cost: $4,178.79
  • Annual transportation cost: $5,739.42
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $19,892.48

Sarasota, Florida

  • Combined score: 2.24631
  • 2021 average home cost: $261,990
  • Livability: 71
  • Median household income: $261,990
  • Area unemployment rate: 2.4%
  • % of people below poverty line: 15.6
  • Violent crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 6.4
  • Property crime rate (per 1,000 residents): 30.07
  • Annual grocery cost: $5,263.23
  • Annual health care cost: $5,052.75
  • Annual utilities cost: $3,916.84
  • Annual transportation cost: $4,580.45
  • Total annual necessities minus housing: $18,813.27

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: In order to find the best cities to buy a home for under $500,000, GOBankingRates looked at the 100 most populous cities where home values in 2022 did not go above $500,000 and had a 2022 average below $500,000 according to Zillow’s March 2022 data. Once these 100 cities were identified, GOBankingRates looked at the following factors: (1) median household income as sourced from the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey; (2) an overall livability score out of 100 sourced from AreaVibes; (3) violent crime rate per 1,000 residents and (4) property crime rate per 1,000 residents, both sourced from Neighborhood Scout; (5) Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary data for March 2022; (6) percent of population living below the poverty line sourced from the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey; and (7) an annual cost of living expenditures estimate (groceries, healthcare, utilities, and transportation), based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey and local cost of living indices sourced from Sperling’s Best Places. All factors were then scored and combined, with the lower score being best, and then ranked to give the final placements. All data was collected on and up to date as of April 27, 2022.

About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

 

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