Despite it all, home prices just keep skyrocketing. In the largest, most desirable U.S. cities, the number of homes worth more than $1 million has exploded, nearly doubling compared to pre-pandemic times. And, while this may be great news for those who already own a home, it’s definitely dispiriting for homebuyers. But for those looking for affordable homes, Mesa leads the nation in the number of affordable homes available.
Accordingly, the increases in prices mean that the threshold for what can be considered affordable housing is rising, as well: Although $150,000 might still mean something for homebuyers in certain parts of the country, it’s come to mean almost nothing for those wanting to get on the housing ladder in the top 50 most populous cities. Whether they’re called entry-level homes, starter homes or simply cheap houses, the properties that should be the opposite of ultra-luxury are becoming more and more scarce.
So, to gauge the current stock of homes less than $150,000 and see if this bare minimum home price can get homebuyers anything anymore, we analyzed the share of cheap homes in the 50 most expensive and desirable U.S. cities.
The results show that, in 46 of the 50 largest cities, homes under $150,000 represent less than 5% of all homes currently on the market. What’s more, homes under $100,000 are almost non-existent. Unfortunately, what used to be considered decently priced homes for first-time homebuyers are now simply vanishing.
Check out the main findings below for more insights:
• In 25 large cities, homes under $150,000 represent less than 1% of all homes currently available for sale.
• Only two cities — Mesa, AZ and Saint Petersburg, FL — have shares of affordable homes between 10% and 15%.
• Henderson, NV; Gilbert, AZ; San Francisco, CA; Irvine, CA; and Oakland, CA had zero homes priced less than $150,000 when the data was collected.
• Of the four cities where the median price is higher than $1 million, only Fremont, CA and San Jose, CA have some affordable homes for sale: 1% in Fremont and 0.3% in San Jose.
Mesa and Saint Petersburg Break the Mold; 2 Other Cities Have Shares of Affordable Homes at 5%+
Even the cities with the most significant shares of affordable homes don’t have particularly impressive numbers. Mesa, AZ and Saint Petersburg, FL may have a percentage of affordable homes higher than 10%, but they’re the outliers.
Similarly, Dallas, TX and Tampa, FL have shares of affordable homes slightly higher than 5%, but the rest of the cities with the highest shares of affordable inventory all post numbers well below 5%.
Notably, no matter how high or low their shares of homes under $150,000, the median price in all 50 cities is not strongly correlated with the share of affordable inventory. For example, although Mesa and Sacramento have similar median home prices, their share of homes under $150,000 varies drastically.
The lack of correlation between median home prices and affordable home prices in a given city — and even the lack of correlation between high stocks of luxury homes and low inventory of affordable homes — shows that there's more to the affordability debate than meets the eye. For instance, some cities have many expensive homes, but also a decent stock of more affordable homes, while others seem to have no more room for more affordable units. Zoning laws and land prices also play a major role in the affordability debate, but many other factors influence this aspect as well.
The types of homes that $150,000 can buy you in different cities also vary. Naturally, in more affordable cities and areas of the country, this money goes a long way. But in the truly expensive, most-wanted urban hubs, $150,000 means almost nothing. And, sometimes, even cities that are in the same state and separated by just a few miles can display great disparities. For example, in Mesa, AZ, $110,000 buys you a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,560-square-foot home, whereas less than 10 miles away in Gilbert, AZ, you'd need almost $285,000 to buy the cheapest two-bedroom, two-bathroom home currently on the market.
To see the full list of cities included in the analysis, their median home prices and the share of affordable homes below $150,000, scroll through the table below:
In 5 Large U.S. Cities, the Chances to Find a Starter Home Are Almost Zero
With home prices breaking new records on a near-weekly basis, it’s no wonder that the stock of luxury and ultra-luxury homes for sale is on the rise. However, this means more and more Americans are stuck renting month after frustrating month due to a lack of more affordable options.
The rise in million-dollar homes shouldn’t necessarily come at the expense of affordable homes, but it does. As million-dollar homes become the norm, affordable homes change their definition overnight: As such, the threshold for what can be considered affordable — just like the number of luxury homes — is going up.
For example, San Francisco, CA; Irvine, CA; Oakland, CA; Gilbert, AZ and Henderson, NV have zero homes for sale that cost $150,000 or less. In fact, California even has one more city in the top 10 places with the smallest share of homes under $150,000 currently on the market: In San Jose, only 0.28% of all homes for sale are in this most affordable category.
Arizona is the second state to make multiple appearances in the top 10: Here, three cities have an affordable inventory so low that it barely registers.
• To determine the 50 largest, most expensive cities in the U.S., we looked at population and median home prices in the top 100 most populous cities in the nation.
• We ranked the 100 most populous cities based on their median home prices and then looked at the number of homes below $150,000 in each of the top 50 most expensive cities.
• For the final list of active listings in each city, we examined and counted listings from Point2, Zillow, Redfin and Realtor.com. To calculate the share of affordable real estate and create the final ranking, we selected and used the source that had the biggest number of listings available, after eliminating the duplicates.
• The study was based on all active listings at the time of the analysis (during the last week of March 2022).