The 10 Most Affordable Suburbs in America

As we covered in our report last month on the Best Suburbs in America, there are a lot of reasons people choose to move from larger cities into surrounding metro areas—or avoid large metros altogether. Those include crime, noise, and overcrowding, but another major factor is price. Not only can home prices be significantly higher in the big city, but so can the cost of everything from groceries to property taxes. That's why for this report we're focusing on the most affordable suburbs in the country to move to.

Based on our criteria and data from a survey of 139 unique suburban cities, the Movoto Real Estate Blog concluded that Oklahoma City's neighboring Midwest City, OK is the most affordable suburb in America. The full top 10 includes:

1. Midwest City, OK

2. Moore, OK

3. Cimarron Hills, CO

4. Pearland, TX

5. Greenwood, IN

6. Clarksville, IN

7. Universal City, TX

8. Schertz, TX

9. Fishers, IN

10. Cibolo, TX

These suburbs all offer a unique combination of low cost of living, affordable homes, and other aspects that make them good choices for those looking to enjoy suburban living without spending a fortune doing it. We'll dig deeper into the specific criteria we used in making this report, and how each of these 10 cities fared across them, below.

How We Made This Report
In order to produce our ranking of the 10 most affordable suburbs in America, we first determined criteria that could be used to measure overall affordability. We decided on seven:

  • Cost of living above/below national average
  • Cost of food above/below national average
  • Cost of utilities above/below national average
  • Housing affordability (ratio of median household income to median home price)
  • Property tax rate percentage above/below national average
  • State income tax rate percentage above/below national average
  • Sales tax rate percentage above/below national average

We surveyed 139 suburbs in total, which comprise the largest suburbs of the 50 largest cities in the country. Once we had acquired our data from the U.S. Census, we gave each suburb a rating of one to 139 in our individual criteria, with one being the best possible score. Then, we averaged the individual criteria scores to arrive at an overall one to 139 score. This score determined our overall ranking.

Once we had an overall ranking, the following cities emerged as the 10 best. Here are some specific details on why they fared so well:

1. Midwest City, OK
Located about eight miles east from the center of Oklahoma City, OK, Midwest City has the lowest overall cost of living of any suburb we surveyed at 18 points below the national average. The cost of food and utilities in this suburb are also considerably lower than average, at eight and 15 points below, respectively.

Midwest City also has the best home affordability in our top 10, with a median home price to median household income ratio of 1.73 to one. The median price for a home in the city is $76,600 while the median household income there is $44,396. Property taxes are 24 percent below the national average, while sales and state income tax are 56 and 17 percent above average, respectively.

2. Moore, OK
Our second-most affordable suburb is also in Oklahoma—and also located just outside Oklahoma City. At 14 percent below the national average, Moore's overall cost of living is not quite as low as Midwest City's, but food and utilities there are obviously just about the same given their proximity.

Home affordability is slightly lower in Moore, at a median home price to median household income ratio of 1.97 to one. Homes there have a median cost of $106,100 compared to the median household income of $53,976. Property tax at 8.5 percent below the national average and sales tax at 60 percent above are slightly higher than in our top-ranked suburb, but state income tax—as they're in the same state—is the same at 5.5 percent, or 17 percent above the national average.

3. Cimarron Hills, CO
This suburb of Colorado Springs, CO is the westmost suburb in our top 10. The cost of living there is six points below the national average, while food and utilities are seven and 10 percent below, respectively.

In terms of housing affordability, the home price to income ratio in Cimarron Hills is 2.65 to one, with the median home price at $146,900 and the median household income at $55,406. Property taxes in the area are 53 percent below the national average, while sales tax—at 48 percent above the national average—is lower than in our top two suburbs. State income tax in the area is 4.63 percent, which is about 1.5 percent below the U.S. average.

4. Pearland, TX
The first of four Texas towns to make our top 10, Pearland is the only suburb of Houston, TX of the bunch. Its cost of food is the lowest in the top 10 suburbs at 18 points lower than the national average, while its utility costs are nine points below and overall cost of living is at six points less than average.

At $168,100, the median home price in Pearland is the highest in our top 10, and paired with a median income of $75,945—second-highest of the 10—results in a home price to income affordability ratio of 2.21 to one. There's no state income tax in Texas, so that is a plus in the town's favor, whereas its property tax is 38 percent above the national average and its sales tax is 65 percent above.

5. Greenwood, IN
As the first of two Indianapolis, IN suburbs in our top 10, Greenwood is only slightly closer to the capital of Indiana than Fishers, a town we'll be looking at a little further down. Greenwood also has a lower overall cost of living at six points below the national average, and lower utility costs at five points below average. Its cost of utilities, at seven points below average is slightly higher than Fishers by one point.

Greenwood's median home price to income level of 2.87 to one gives the suburb the least affordable housing in our top 10. Homes there have a median price of $147,600 while the median household income is $51,482. Property tax in Greenwood is eight points below the national average, while sales tax is 20 percent above, and state income tax is six percent below.

6. Clarksville, IN
While Clarksville may be in Indiana, it's actually considered a suburb of Louisville, KY given its proximity to that city of less than five miles—just on the other side of the Ohio River. The cost of living in Clarksville is better than in Greenwood or Fishers, at 12 points lower than the national average. Food costs are 11 points lower, while utility costs are actually five points higher than the U.S. average—the only above-average utility cost in our top 10.

Despite having the second-lowest median home price in our top 10—$83,700—the housing cost to income ratio in Clarksville is still 2.18 to one due to the town's median household income of $38,339, the lowest of the 10 most affordable suburbs. State income tax in the town is the second-highest of our top 10 cities at 15 percent above the national average, while sales tax is 20 percent above and property tax is eight percent below.

7. Universal City, TX
When it comes to the three suburbs of San Antonio, TX in our top 10, Universal City is the most affordable. Cost of living, food, and utilities are at 10, 15, and nine percent below the national averages, respectively.

The smallest town in our top 10 at 14,849 residents, it has a ratio of home price to income of 2.27 to one. The median home price is $129,000 and the median household income is $56,812. Universal City's property tax is the highest in our top 10 at 72 percent above the national average. Sales tax is tired for the highest at 65 percent above average; Texas has no state income tax.

8. Schertz, TX
Another San Antonio suburb, Schertz is about twice the size of Universal City, but is actually more affordable in terms of food and utility costs. Those are 16 and 11 percent below the national average, respectively, while the overall cost of living is four percent below.

Homes in Schertz have a median price of $161,000, which when compared to the median household income of $65,650 creates a housing cost to income ratio of 2.45 to one. As with Universal City, there's no state income tax; sales tax and property tax are at 65 percent and 41 percent above the national average, respectively.

9. Fishers, IN
As we mentioned earlier, Fishers is a suburb of Indianapolis, and as you can tell by its ranking in out top 10, it's considerably less affordable than Greenwood. In fact, it has the only above-average overall cost of living out of the 10 most affordable suburbs at seven points higher than the national average. Food and utility costs, on the other hand, are below average to the tune of eight and four points lower, respectively.

There's a two to one housing price to income affordability ratio in Fishers, with the median home price at $168,000 and the median household income at $83,950—the highest in our top 10. Property tax is six percent above the national average, while sales tax is 20 percent higher and state income taxes are 94 percent more.

10. Cibolo, TX
The final suburb to make our top 10, Cibolo is the third located within proximity of San Antonio. It also has the highest overall cost of living of the three, at three points below the national average. Its cost of food is considerably better, however, at 16 points below average, while its utility costs are 11 points below.

Homes prices in Cibolo have a median value of $167,100 while the median household income is $70,183, for an affordability ratio of 2.38 to one. Property tax is 41 percent above the national average, while sales tax is 65 percent above. Since this is a town in Texas, there's no state income tax.

Overall
It's worth noting that while we didn't factor livability into our calculations for this ranking, those looking to relocate to any of these suburbs can an anticipate them being above average in terms of safety, amenities, education, and other important factors. Of course, their affordability is always open to change given fluctuations in the housing market and the economy as a whole, but for now these suburbs are just about as affordable as one can expect.

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  • Report this Comment On December 08, 2013, at 3:28 PM, Daebakgirl wrote:

    I would not recommend Pearland, Texas. My parents lived in La Canada Flintridge, CA, for over 15 years. On average, their property taxes were $4000 per year. However, when they decided to semi retire, they moved to a new subdivision called Shadow Creek Ranch, located in the city of Pearland, They purchased a 4100 sq. foot home with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, bonus room, catwalk, etc., for only $309,000 (a steal considering what their California home sold for). In any case, the property taxes in the area were a shockingly $12,000 per year (my incompetent relative of an agent did not confirm the property taxes as I had suggested and my dad was too trusting of her to initially heed my advice), the utilities were excessive and the food prices too. They eventually sold the house and moved further north to Tomball, TX. They have a much better home, purchased for $205,000 and property taxes are much lower ($3200). So check those property taxes and utility costs in Texas.

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