America's Most and Least Affordable Cities to Buy a Home

homes in Hawaii
homes in Hawaii

By Michael B. Sauter

After years of weak housing markets, home sellers are hopeful that this spring's homebuying season will finally lift prices. In positive news, RealtyTrac reported in March that national foreclosures fell to their lowest levels in five years. Unfortunately, the number of homes that received first-time foreclosure notices also rose 7 percent in March from the previous month, the third consecutive increase this year.

Like national housing data, the cost to buy a home varies considerably across the country. Working with online real estate listing database, 24/7 Wall St. identified the housing markets with the highest and lowest prices per square foot.

In general, the cities with the lowest real estate prices per square foot were cities that have suffered from poor economic conditions for some time. Many of these cities have begun to see interest from potential homeowners and investors. Others, however, continue to flounder.

The cities with high costs per square foot, for the most part, have wealthier residents. Five of the 10 most expensive cities are also in the top 10 for median income. Five of the least expensive are in the bottom 20 for median income.

Not surprisingly, Detroit's cost per square foot of $62.45 was the lowest. San Francisco's cost per square foot of $420.99 was the highest.

A few of the markets with the lowest prices per square feet experienced large declines in home values during the recession. For the most part, however, these are former industrial centers that have been on the decline for years. They include Detroit,Toledo and Wichita.

As would be expected, the cities with the highest and lowest costs per square foot also have the highest and lowest overall median home prices, respectively. Nine of the 10 metro regions with the lowest cost per square foot are among the 15 regions with the lowest median listing price.

24/7 Wall St. relied on's February figures for the 146 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country for median listing price and median square footage to calculate the median price per square foot for each MSA. also provided the number of available listings and the number of online property searches for each MSA in February.

See also:
Homebuying: 5 Key Steps to Your 1st Real Estate Purchase

Fair Housing Group Sues U.S. Bank Over Foreclosures
NAHB Housing Market Index Shows Drop in Builder Confidence

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