Research

Top 10 cities with the most accessible real estate markets

The real estate market is crazy right now, but these 10 cities might offer some opportunities

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Anyone who has house hunted over the last year — or knows someone who has — has seen the real estate market present unprecedented challenges for buyers. Inventory has been low across the country, causing prices nationwide to jump an average of 13.2% between June 2020 and 2021. 

Many buyers have had to pull out all the stops in order to get their offers chosen, including waiving inspections and appraisals while paying well over the asking price. It can be an overwhelming experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Depending on where you’re looking to buy your next home, some markets are a bit easier to enter. Which is why we decided to break down the data to find the most accessible real estate markets in the country, based on the following criteria:

  • Median sales price of single family homes (2nd quarter 2021) to gauge general affordability. (from National Association of Realtors)
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year. Many areas are experiencing a much shorter list period. (from Realtor.com)
  • Average sales to list price (as of July 2021). This shows how much over the list price homes have sold in the area. (from Redfin)
  • Change in active listings year-over-year to determine how much inventory has dropped. (from Realtor.com)

You’ll notice a mix of types of cities on our list; some of the nation’s largest cities made the cut due to changes in the types of areas some buyers want to live, especially with the opportunity for remote work.

#1: Philadelphia, PA

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Philadelphia takes the top slot for having the most accessible real estate market in the U.S. The average time a property stays on the market only dropped by three days between 2020 and 2021. That’s exceptionally low when compared to the U.S. as a whole, which experienced a 21.5-day decrease year-over-year. 

The City of Brotherly Love is also one of just four cities we analyzed that had growth in active listings, albeit by a small amount of less than 1%. And while the average buyer may need to bid higher, July data shows that the sales to list price ratio was just 100.3%, meaning the average sale was just 0.3% over the asking price. 

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $309,800
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -3
  • Average sales to list price: 100.3%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: 0.9%

#2: Louisville, KY

Louisville comes in a strong second, especially when you look at its median sales price of single family homes, which was $235,400 in 2021’s second quarter. Listings have dropped by 6% this year, but home buyers on average only paid 0.7% over list price. Those looking for a house in Louisville will have to jump on attractive listings because the median days on market dropped by almost two weeks in 2021.

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $235,400
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -12
  • Average sales to list price: 100.7%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -6%

#3: Cleveland, OH

Cleveland has the second-lower median sales price for single family homes out of all the cities we analyzed. The average home cost $204,600 in the second quarter of 2021, compared to a national median of $374,900. And number of available listings increased ever so slightly by 0.3% in 2021. However, the downside to buying a home in Cleveland is that the average sales to list price was 102.2%. So while a home could hypothetically be listed at $200,000, the average winning buyer would have bid an additional 2.2% — or $4,400.

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $204,600
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -11
  • Average sales to list price: 102.2%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: 0.3%

#4: Cincinnati, OH

Like Cleveland, Cincinnati has a much lower median sales price compared to other areas of the country, coming in at just under $255,000. And while listings have dropped in 2021, the decrease has only been by 3.2% which is much lower compared to most other cities. Finally, Cincinnati home buyers do tend to pay more than list price, but only by 1.5%.

 

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $254,300
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -13
  • Average sales to list price: 101.5%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -3.2%

#5: Chicago, IL (tied)

Chicago ties for fifth place and is one of the largest cities on our list. If you’ve been waiting for a time to enter the market in Chicago or the surrounding areas, now could be the time. The good news is that the median price of single family homes is less than $350,000 which is well below the national average. And the sales to list ratio is just over asking price, meaning you’re less likely to get outbid based on price alone. 

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $348,600
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -7
  • Average sales to list price: 100.1%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -16.8%

#5: Memphis, TN (tied)

Memphis ties Chicago, though it has a significantly lower median price point of just $251,000. Additionally, final sales prices are just a fraction above list prices, which is great news for buyers who are worried about getting approved for financing. On the downside, Memphis housing inventory has dropped dramatically over the last year, down nearly 18%. Additionally, buyers need to sprint to their showings thanks to an 11-day decrease in days on market. 

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $251,000
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -11
  • Average sales to list price: 100.8%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -17.7%

#7: New York, NY

Stories of a New York City exodus were frequent during the 2020 lockdowns, causing a major downturn in the city’s real estate market. But New York is on the rebound and some signs point to a more relaxed market for buyers compared to other parts of the country (renting is another story). Homes are, of course, much more expensive than the national median, costing on average over $564,000. But days on market actually increased between 2020 and 2021 and most purchases were right at list price. 

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $564,100
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: 5
  • Average sales to list price: 100%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -12.9%

#8: Baltimore, MD

Charm City has seen an increase in prices throughout 2021, with the median for single family homes at just under $370,000. But finding a place you love might not be as hard as you think. Active listings are down just 5.3% in 2021. And the average listing is on the market for just eight fewer days than last year. So there could be a happy ending in sight for many homebuyers in Baltimore

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $369,100
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -8
  • Average sales to list price: 101.3%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -5.3%

#9: Detroit, MI

Detroit is another city where the median sales price of $256,300 is well below the national average. But that may feel high for local buyers, especially since homes sell about 1.3% over the original list price. On top of that, active listings have decreased by more than 15% since 2020, and homes are staying on the market nearly two weeks less than last year.

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $256,300
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: -13
  • Average sales to list price: 101.3%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: -15.5%

#10: Washington, DC 

Washington, DC comes in 10th place and is the last major city to make our list of most accessible real estate markets. Housing prices are significantly above average at more than $570,000 for a single family home. But the market may not feel as frenzied compared to other areas as many city dwellers look for suburban homes with more outdoor space. Homes are staying on the market for three more days than last year, and listings are up 17%.

  • Median sales price of single family homes: $571,500
  • Change in median days on market year-over-year: 3
  • Average sales to list price: 101.7%
  • Change in active listings year-over-year: 17.1%

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Methodology

The Zebra pulled four data points to analyze the top 50 MSAs (by population) in the U.S. 

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