Building Blocks: The 10 Cheapest Cities in America To Buy a Newly Constructed Home
Buyers have always paid dearly for the privilege of buying a newly built home. From custom countertops to increased energy efficiency, to that oh, so seductive new-home smell, the benefits aren’t tough to discern. Younger buyers these days largely favor new builds, which is pushing prices even higher—at a time when builders are already struggling to keep up with demand.
The median price of a newly built home hit $423,300 in January, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s about a 20% premium compared with an existing home during the same time period. Besides the post-pandemic difficulties in obtaining supplies and labor across the U.S., part of the reason is a continuing hangover from the Great Recession. Home construction ground to a halt, leading to today’s housing shortages—and steeper prices.
That’s why the Realtor.com® team wanted to take a look at where buyers can find newly constructed homes for the least amount of money. The good news: There are still pockets of lower-cost, new construction tucked away across the country, particularly in the Sun Belt and Midwest. These are places where there’s more available land, cheaper labor, and fewer regulations that could delay projects.
“The ability to find reasonably priced land without too much regulation is the key to more affordable home prices, says Ali Wolf, chief economist for Zonda, a housing research firm.
And as people are taking advantage of flexible work situations—or just signing up for the Great Resignation—more are moving to affordable areas where their money goes further. Builders are also putting up homes in these places to meet demand.
“There’s been a clear shift in location preferences,” says Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research at the National Association of Home Builders. “A segment of buyers have decided they want to move to the suburbs or outer areas, and builders are responding.”
To find the best places to buy a brand-new home, we looked at the median sales price of newly constructed homes in more than 500 metro areas in December, according to the latest data available from Realtor.com. Each metro had at least 50 new-home sales to be included, and we looked at all types of properties, from single-family homes to condos and townhomes. (Metros include the main city and the surrounding suburbs, towns, and smaller urban areas.)
We limited our picks to one per state for geographic diversity.
Median sale price of a newly built home in December: $270,000
This affordable beach town, about two hours southeast of Raleigh, has long attracted second-home buyers. It’s also home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, so there are lots of people moving in and out of the area every few years, keeping builders busy.
Compared with other large cities, land prices in Jacksonville are relatively low and land availability is high. Builders here broke ground on more than 100 single-family homes in January, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The cost of living is cheaper than most parts of the U.S.,” says Ronda Scott, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hometown.
With so much new construction happening, buyers have plenty of new homes to choose from.
New builds are continuing to come on the market throughout Onslow County, including a community of nearly 300 apartments and 20 townhouses set to break ground soon. A three-bed, 2.5-bath townhome with a garage is going for $225,000.
Median sale price of a newly built home: $288,268
Greenville is one of the few metros that have bucked the national trend of having too few homes for sale. That’s largely because of a building boom that’s reshaped the city in the past few years.
Located along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville has had booming employment for a while now, drawing young adults and transplanted families coming for new jobs. It’s also become a major destination for retirees thanks to its low taxes. Things escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people from other states realized how far their money could go here.
There’s lots to do in this artsy, little city with award-winning restaurants, a theater, a minor league sports team, and even a food hall made of shipping containers downtown.
A two-bedroom starter home close to downtown was just listed for under $250,000.
Median sale price of a newly built home: $290,000
Oklahoma City’s swaths of flat, cheap land make it easier for builders to put up homes quickly and cheaply. That’s great news for folks looking to buy in this oil town.
The city’s population grew a whopping 17% over the past decade, according to the latest census data. More than 100,000 people moved here in the past 10 years, making it the sixth fastest-growing city out of the country’s 25 largest cities.
New developments have gone up in suburbs such as Edmond and Yukon, where buyers can find brand-new, nice-sized single-family homes, including this three-bedroom, two-bathroom build recently listed for $277,225.
4. Odessa, TX
Median sale price of a newly built home: $295,528
Similar to Oklahoma City, this West Texas oil region also offers acres upon acres of inexpensive land for sale, and homebuilders are loving the deals. They’ve been scooping up parcels left and right, breaking ground on 116 projects at the start of this year, according to the census data—82 of which were single-family homes.
Home prices have generally been on the lower side in Odessa compared with the rest of the country and even the state. Because its economy is so tied to the oil and gas industry, people tend to move in and out depending on the strength of the market. This turnover means there is tons of inventory compared with other parts of the country.
Median sale price of a newly built home: $325,785
There are plenty of new tract homes outside Cincinnati for those looking for the suburban dream. That includes Union, KY, a less than 30-minute drive from the Queen City, where you can snag a four-bedroom home for under $300,000.
But there’s also been a building boom in the city’s inner limits after the local government began incentivizing new construction a few years ago. A three-bedroom single-family home in the Evanston neighborhood is on the market for $350,000.
Still, new builds here can get expensive quickly depending on upgrades and custom finishes, says Amanda Gibbs, a real estate agent with eXp Realty in Cincinnati.
“By the time you come in and change things, prices just start going up and up and up,” Gibbs says. When all’s said and done, buyers she works with usually end up paying around $500,000.
Median sale price of a newly built home: $331,700
In case you haven’t heard, everyone’s hot for Florida these days and Jacksonville is moving up on the must-have list.
Located in northern Florida along the East Coast, Jacksonville became an increasingly popular market since the start of the pandemic. A slew of remote workers searching for more affordable housing and a beach lifestyle have settled here recently.
“Jacksonville was more of an under-the-radar market just a few years ago, allowing builders to get access to developable land at a more reasonable price than some other top Florida markets,” Zonda’s Wolf says.
The city’s newly gained popularity means that prices, while low compared with the rest of the state or the country, are still higher than they were just a couple of years ago. Still, buyers can find new homes well under the national median. A three-bedroom new build close to a wildlife area was just listed for under $300,000.
Median sale price of a newly built home: $338,813
With its mild climate and low home prices, New Mexico’s largest city has long been a popular place for those on a budget. Just an hour away from scenic Santa Fe, Albuquerque has a significantly lower cost of living. That’s part of the reason it has attracted so many retirees from the East Coast.
Buyers can snag three- to five-bedroom houses in master-planned developments in the northern suburbs of the city. For those willing to splurge, this four-bedroom home in Rio Rancho is available at $387,990.
8. Detroit, MI
Median sale price of a newly built home: $348,730
While many still associate Detroit with urban blight, the city’s revitalized downtown has had new condos popping up over the past couple of years. Plenty are being snapped up by the employees of big-time tech companies such as Google and Microsoft, which have been expanding their presence in the Motor City.
These highly paid workers have also spilled over into the Rivertown-Warehouse District, which has seen its own transformation. The former commercial district is now filled with new builds. A one-bedroom converted loft within walking distance of trendy cocktail bars and food trucks is on the market for $249,000.
9. Chicago, IL
Median sale price of a newly built home: $359,500
The Chicago skyline has been growing, with high-rises popping up all over the city. That includes the Printer’s Row neighborhood, a walkable community near downtown, where a 41-story, 440-unit residential tower is set to open next year.
While some luxury units can go for well into the millions, a one-bedroom condo at a building on the Chicago River is listed for $390,000—plus monthly homeowners association fees.
10. Tucson, AZ
Median sale price of a newly built home: $369,950
About two hours southeast of Phoenix, Tucson has long been an affordable alternative to the state capital.
New homes are springing up all over the place, including more than 100 set to break ground in the Star Valley neighborhood. A three-bedroom, energy-efficient home that will be ready in July is currently listed for under $320,000.
While that may seem reasonable to people on the coasts, some longtime residents have become priced out.
“New homes in Tucson still look affordable on a national basis, but remember prices have gone up considerably since the start of the pandemic,” Zonda’s Wolf says. “That’s putting pressure on local buyers.”