The American city is back in a big way, as more prospective homeowners are looking to buy in a cool, funky (but clean!) close-in neighborhood with plenty of coffee shops and non-freeway transit options that are close (but not too close!). This is great for all kinds of reasons, but has also had the unfortunate effect of driving up prices in popular coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, putting the ability to purchase a home out of the reach of many. While there are folks—millions of them, in fact—who are willing to give up the dream of homeownership in exchange for the ability to one day tell their grandchildren they once paid $3,000 a month for an outer borough studio apartment and were grateful they got such a good deal, there is another option: strike out for a so-called "second tier" city.
These are the smaller conurbations that marry many of the benefits of mega-city living (culture, good coffee, craft beers) with affordable housing and decent job markets, and are becoming ever more popular destinations for Millennials and Gen X-ers who maybe, kinda, want to finally sort of settle down. With those new urban pioneers in mind, here are some homes in second tier cities that are totally affordable.
Probably the most high-profile of second tier cities is Portland, Oregon, which has ridden "Portlandia" and its famous streetcars into the public consciousness in a big way. While the Pearl District and other downtown neighborhoods are well on their way to pricing out budget-conscious buyers, across the river there are still deals to be had. This new home in the booming Vancouver/Williams corridor goes for $389,000, which is about a third of what you might pay on the other side of the Willamette River.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is currently enjoying its moment in the sun, as an online cottage industry has grown up around exploring the city's popularity among Millennials and/or refugees from Brooklyn. It's not hard to see the attraction of the Steel City: a compact, walkable urban core, scenic beauty (yep!), and affordable housing. This recently remodeled townhome in the hipster haven of the Lawrenceville district dates from 1910, and is asking $299,000 for three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a small but serviceable backyard.
Before the recession, Des Moines, Iowa was hardly a place that anyone would have considered "hot" on almost any level, but post-bust this lovely little city has consistently ranked near the top of "best places to live" listicles. This condo in downtown's historic Liberty Building is connected to the city's Skywalk systems, and features city views, hardwood floors, and complimentary Netflix. The price is enough to make a would-be homeowner in a coastal city weep: the two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit is listed at $279,500.
Another seemingly unlikely hotspot is Omaha, Nebraska, but a closer look reveals a rock solid local economy—Fortune 500 companies flourish cheek by jowl with Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett—and a newly revitalized downtown district. Urban living in the "Gateway to the West" is also incredibly affordable: this condo in the First National Bank Building (which dates from 1916) is going for $194,999, and includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and expansive city views.
Kentucky's biggest city is perhaps still best known as the home of the Louisville slugger baseball bat and a popular horse race, but a strong bio-medical sector, blossoming indie music scene, and a revitalized downtown are the draws for would be urban homeowners. Located in a converted Bacon's Department Store warehouse a pop-fly away from Louisville Slugger park, this modern two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo is asking $349,000.
· All On the Market posts [Curbed National]