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MoneyGeek Analysis:

20 Growing US Counties Where Homeownership Is Still Affordable

Last Updated: 9/23/2022
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The rising cost of real estate has challenged many homebuyers in recent years. A 2021 survey found that about half of Americans (49%) considered the affordability of housing in their communities a major problem. In many places, homeownership is now unaffordable for locals and newcomers alike.

Fortunately, this isn’t true everywhere. MoneyGeek analyzed price appreciation since 2019 and homeownership costs as a percentage of median income to find 20 growing U.S. counties where housing is still affordable.

Key Findings:
  • Clayton County, Georgia, and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, top our list for growing communities with affordable housing. Located in the Greater Atlanta metro area, Clayton County home prices have appreciated 83.1% in the past three years; during the same period, Cumberland County homes in the Greater Harrisburg metro area appreciated 53.4%.
  • More than half — 13 out of 20 — of the affordable and desirable places on our list are in the Southeastern U.S. Those counties pop up more in South Carolina than in any other state.
  • Home prices as a percentage of income were lowest in Lexington County, South Carolina — in the Columbia metro area — at 34% of income. Hidalgo County, Texas, and Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, tied for the next two lowest at 38%.
  • Most of the cities on this list are ‌in tertiary real estate markets. Some of these smaller metro areas — like Hidalgo, Lubbock and Webb County in Texas — have median home prices that fall under $200,000. That’s 53% less than the median price of houses sold in the U.S. in Q1 2022.
  • None of the median home prices on our list exceeded $272,000, which is 37% less than the national median home price of $428,700.

Growing US Counties Where Housing Is Still Affordable

Best Places for Homebuyers in the US Badge

To find our list of affordable, growing counties, MoneyGeek narrowed down counties with populations larger than 250,000 that experienced population growth above the national average. The analysis ranked these counties using two primary factors: home price appreciation since 2019 and homeownership costs as a percentage of median income.

View our breakdown of the top five counties on our list — as well as our complete ranking of the best 20 counties for homebuyers in the U.S — below.

Top 5 Growing Counties in the US Where Housing Is Still Affordable

You can find our top five most affordable real estate markets in the U.S. below, along with some key factors affecting their affordability.

1

Clayton County, Georgia

This suburban area of Atlanta boasts low costs of living and a small-town vibe while still having many of the same amenities as a major city.

2

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

Increased housing inventory and employment opportunities are fueling diverse population growth in this greater Harrisburg metro area county; currently, Cumberland County is the fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania.

3

Lexington County, South Carolina

Migration and increased economic opportunity make this suburb of Columbia, South Carolina, affordable for families and young professionals.

4

Madison County, Alabama

This county is home to Huntsville, Alabama, which was ranked as the best place to live in 2022 by U.S. News. With homes that start at a lower price threshold, low costs of living and growing job opportunities, it’s no wonder that people are flocking to this Northern Alabama county.

5

Marion County, Florida

Strong commercial and residential growth and increased house construction contribute to the affordability and attractiveness of this county in the Ocala metro area.

20 Growing US Counties Where Housing Is Still Affordable


  • 1. Clayton County, Georgia
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Atlanta
    Clayton County, Georgia

    • 83.1%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $185,811Median Home Price
    • 41%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $30,502Median Income

  • 2. Cumberland County, Pennsylvania
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Harrisburg
    Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

    • 53.4%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $257,744Median Home Price
    • 44%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $40,909Median Income

  • 3. Lexington County, South Carolina
    Nearby Metro Area:Columbia
    Lexington County, South Carolina

    • 34.4%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $206,726Median Home Price
    • 34%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $36,899Median Income

  • 4. Madison County, Alabama
    Nearby Metro Area:Huntsville
    Madison County, Alabama

    • 42.3%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $263,726Median Home Price
    • 42%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $38,327Median Income

  • 5. Marion County, Florida
    Nearby Metro Area:Ocala
    Marion County, Florida

    • 50.0%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $218,548Median Home Price
    • 47%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $30,606Median Income

  • 6. Hidalgo County, Texas
    Nearby Metro Area:McAllen
    Hidalgo County, Texas

    • 34.3%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $112,030Median Home Price
    • 38%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $22,506Median Income

  • 7. Oklahoma County, Oklahoma
    Nearby Metro Area:Oklahoma City
    Oklahoma County, Oklahoma

    • 30.0%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $200,321Median Home Price
    • 38%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $35,151Median Income

  • 8. Benton County, Arkansas
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Fayetteville
    Benton County, Arkansas

    • 41.0%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $270,864Median Home Price
    • 46%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $37,496Median Income

  • 9. Escambia County, Florida
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Pensacola
    Escambia County, Florida

    • 42.4%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $228,537Median Home Price
    • 47%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $30,751Median Income

  • 10. Tulsa County, Oklahoma
    Nearby Metro Area:Tulsa
    Tulsa County, Oklahoma

    • 29.3%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $205,364Median Home Price
    • 40%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $34,896Median Income

  • 11. Spartanburg County, South Carolina
    Nearby Metro Area:Spartanburg
    Spartanburg County, South Carolina

    • 28.5%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $205,940Median Home Price
    • 40%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $32,398Median Income

  • 12. St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater New Orleans
    St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana

    • 38.6%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $271,488Median Home Price
    • 47%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $37,211Median Income

  • 13. Pasco County, Florida
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Tampa
    Pasco County, Florida

    • 40.1%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $261,644Median Home Price
    • 49%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $34,974Median Income

  • 14. Lubbock County, Texas
    Nearby Metro Area:Lubbock
    Lubbock County, Texas

    • 37.3%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $186,302Median Home Price
    • 47%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $29,179Median Income

  • 15. Forsyth County, North Carolina
    Nearby Metro Area:Winston-Salem
    Forsyth County, North Carolina

    • 32.2%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $215,172Median Home Price
    • 45%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $31,769Median Income

  • 16. Douglas County, Nebraska
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Omaha
    Douglas County, Nebraska

    • 29.9%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $231,908Median Home Price
    • 44%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $39,918Median Income

  • 17. Greenville County, South Carolina
    Nearby Metro Area:Greater Greenville
    Greenville County, South Carolina

    • 31.8%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $268,888Median Home Price
    • 47%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $35,725Median Income

  • 18. Richland County, South Carolina
    Nearby Metro Area:Columbia
    Richland County, South Carolina

    • 25.3%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $215,917Median Home Price
    • 45%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $30,753Median Income

  • 19. Webb County, Texas
    Nearby Metro Area:Laredo
    Webb County, Texas

    • 26.0%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $163,199Median Home Price
    • 47%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $27,185Median Income

  • 20. Knox County, Tennessee
    Nearby Metro Area:Knoxville
    Knox County, Tennessee

    • 27.8%Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
    • $270,117Median Home Price
    • 49%Home Costs as % of Income
    • $34,383Median Income

Why Housing Is Affordable in Some Growing Areas but Not Others

In recent years, finding affordable real estate has become nearly impossible in many U.S. communities. The reasons for this shift in the housing market are complex. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated labor shortages and supply chain delays, which led to slower residential home construction. As a result, home prices skyrocketed, leading to higher mortgage payments and home insurance costs on newly purchased properties. Other factors contributing to high home prices and housing demands include increasing rates of remote work — driving people to move to larger homes — and historically low mortgage rates.

However, there is some good news amidst these challenges: home prices aren’t rising at the same rate everywhere. In many cases, housing affordability is influenced by an area’s cost of living. Tertiary markets hold a great deal of promise in that they may be growing in population and opportunity while still having relatively low costs of living. Tertiary markets usually have a population of less than 1 million and aren't as well known as secondary and primary markets. These places can be hidden gems in a trying housing market like what homebuyers are facing in 2022.

Expert Advice: How to Find an Affordable Place to Live

If you plan to buy a home in 2022, these four experts have advice and insights to help you understand the nuances of obtaining affordable housing.

  1. What makes some areas more affordable than others?
  2. What are your recommendations for homeseekers looking for affordable housing?
  3. What defines affordability in the housing market?
Tabitha Mazzara
Tabitha Mazzara

Director of Operations at Mortgage Lender, MBANC

Tomas Satas
Tomas Satas

Founder & CEO, Windy City HomeBuyer

Jamil Damji
Jamil Damji

Real Estate Investor & Wholesale Expert, Co-Star of the A&E Series, "Triple Digit Flip"

Frank Golley
Frank Golley

Real Estate Broker, Founder of Golley Houses

Methodology

MoneyGeek analyzed historical home prices, fair market rents and median mortgage payments from the National Association of Realtors, local property tax rates from SmartAsset and population growth and median earnings from the U.S. Census by county to find counties in the U.S. that are growing but still have affordable housing.

Counties identified as recently unaffordable in the list above met the following criteria:

  • Populations larger than 250,000
  • Population growth greater than the average population growth in the country
  • A 2019 ratio of income-to-mortgage expenses that was less than 60%
  • House price appreciation since 2019 that was greater than 25%
  • Monthly homeownership costs less than 50% of the median income in the county

To order the list of places, we combined the following factors into a score:

  • Price appreciation since 2019: double weight
  • Homeownership costs as % of median income

Full Data Set

The data points presented are defined as follows:

  • Nearby Metro Area: The metropolitan statistical area where each county is located.
  • Median Income: The median income in the county.
  • Median Home Price: The median home price in the county.
  • Monthly Homeownership Cost: The median monthly homeownership cost in the county.
  • Home Costs as % of Income: Housing costs in the county divided by the median income in the county, multiplied by 100.
  • Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years: House price appreciation in the county from 2019 to 2021.
  • Own/Rent Ratio: The number of people who own homes divided by the number of people who rent in the county.
Rank
County
Nearby Metro Area
Median Income
Median Home Price
Monthly Homeownership Cost
Home Costs as % of Income
Home Price Appreciation in the Last 3 Years
Own/Rent Ratio

1

Clayton County, Georgia

Greater Atlanta

$30,502

$185,811

$1,031

41%

83.1%

0.8

2

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

Greater Harrisburg

$40,909

$257,744

$1,488

44%

53.4%

1.4

3

Lexington County, South Carolina

Columbia

$36,899

$206,726

$1,061

34%

34.4%

1.1

4

Madison County, Alabama

Huntsville

$38,327

$263,726

$1,332

42%

42.3%

1.5

5

Marion County, Florida

Ocala

$30,606

$218,548

$1,193

47%

50.0%

1.2

6

Hidalgo County, Texas

McAllen

$22,506

$112,030

$714

38%

34.3%

0.9

7

Oklahoma County, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City

$35,151

$200,321

$1,112

38%

30.0%

1.2

8

Benton County, Arkansas

Greater Fayetteville

$37,496

$270,864

$1,433

46%

41.0%

1.7

9

Escambia County, Florida

Greater Pensacola

$30,751

$228,537

$1,217

47%

42.4%

1.2

10

Tulsa County, Oklahoma

Tulsa

$34,896

$205,364

$1,152

40%

29.3%

1.2

11

Spartanburg County, South Carolina

Spartanburg

$32,398

$205,940

$1,070

40%

28.5%

1.2

12

St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana

Greater New Orleans

$37,211

$271,488

$1,450

47%

38.6%

1.3

13

Pasco County, Florida

Greater Tampa

$34,974

$261,644

$1,417

49%

40.1%

1.1

14

Lubbock County, Texas

Lubbock

$29,179

$186,302

$1,146

47%

37.3%

1.2

15

Forsyth County, North Carolina

Winston-Salem

$31,769

$215,172

$1,180

45%

32.2%

1.5

16

Douglas County, Nebraska

Greater Omaha

$39,918

$231,908

$1,477

44%

29.9%

1.5

17

Greenville County, South Carolina

Greater Greenville

$35,725

$268,888

$1,410

47%

31.8%

1.4

18

Richland County, South Carolina

Columbia

$30,753

$215,917

$1,150

45%

25.3%

1.2

19

Webb County, Texas

Laredo

$27,185

$163,199

$1,060

47%

26.0%

1.1

20

Knox County, Tennessee

Knoxville

$34,383

$270,117

$1,411

49%

27.8%

1.4

About the Author


expert-profile

As a longtime writer and editor with a master's degree in journalism, Erin has written about a variety of topics over the years including lifestyle, business, entertainment and government, but she has spent the last few years focused on various money topics like banking, insurance and budgeting for AAA Living Magazine, Wells Fargo and BB&T. She loves creating content that inspires financial empowerment.


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