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

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The wild and red-hot housing market of 2021 sent the median home price soaring all the way to $312,728 at the start of December, according to Zillow. That means that if you have a half-million bucks to spend, you’re well above the homeowner in the middle of the pack.

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

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 on that budget. 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 not just factors like average home cost and median income, but also 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.

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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.

Ogden, Utah

Fort Wayne, Indiana

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Port St. Lucie, Florida

Raleigh, North Carolina

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Madison, Wisconsin

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North Port, Florida

Virginia Beach, Virginia

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Columbus, Ohio

Charleston, South Carolina

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Grand Rapids, Michigan

Portland, Maine

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El Paso, Texas

Lafayette, Louisiana

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Killeen, Texas

Omaha, Nebraska

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Fayetteville, Arkansas

Tampa, Florida

Lexington, Kentucky

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Melbourne, Florida

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Richmond, Virginia


Lakeland, Florida


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Des Moines, Iowa

San Antonio, Texas

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Methodology: In order to find the best cities to buy a home for under $500,000, GOBankingRates looked at the 101 most populous cities where home values in 2021 did not go above $50,000 and had a 2021 average below $500,000 according to Zillow’s 2021 data. Once these 101 cities were identified, GOBankingRates looked at the following factors: (1) median household income as sourced from the United States Census Bureau’s 2019 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 September 2021; (6) percent of population living below the poverty line sourced from the United States Census Bureau’s 2019 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 Nov. 22, 2021.