The median home sale price in the United States in 2020 was $365,000, which was $30,000 more than it was the previous year. Buying a house for well over a quarter of a million dollars is not affordable for many Americans. Yet, for those on a tight budget, in many parts of the country, most homes sell for far less.
While the COVID-19 pandemic had devastating economic consequences in the United States, grinding entire industries to a halt, the real estate sector did not suffer. Existing-home sales in 2020 hit their highest level in nearly a decade and a half.
Using median home sale prices provided by ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate and property data company, 24/7 Wall St. identified the least expensive Zip code in America. Zip codes were ranked based on median sales price of condos and single-family homes in 2020. Only Zip codes with at least 1,000 single-family homes and condos and where at least 500 of housing units were sold in 2020 were considered. Due to a lack of sufficient data, no postal codes in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Dakota, or Vermont were considered.
In the search for the least expensive Zip code, estimated market value was determined by ATTOM’s automated valuation model. Supplemental data on median household income, the share of households that are at least 50 years old and unemployment are five-year estimates by Zip code for 2015 to 2019 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Many of the Zip codes on the finalist list were in Midwestern Rust Belt cities that have suffered for decades from the decline of American manufacturing. These places tend to have long-term population decline, high unemployment and low incomes, each of which can result in lower than average real estate prices.
Despite the low incomes in many of the postal codes on this finalist list, housing is still relatively affordable. In each of the 50 Zip codes that 24/7 Wall St considered, the ratio of home sale prices to incomes is more favorable than the comparable national ratio.
The least expensive Zip code in America is 21223. Here are the details:
- Location: Baltimore, Maryland
- Metro area: Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland
- Median home sales price: $26,000
- Median household income: $28,549
- Homes that are at least 50 years old: 86.1%
This Zip code is located just west of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. Of the 556 homes that were bought and sold in the area in 2020, most went for $26,000 or less. That is below the local median household income of $28,549. For context, the median home sale price nationwide is 4.2 times higher than the national median household income of $62,843.
Home values are often an indication of what area residents can afford, and serious financial hardship is relatively common in the area. About 37% of residents live below the poverty line, and one in every five households earns $10,000 or less a year. Nationwide, 13.4% of the population live below the poverty line, and 6% of households earn less than $10,000 annually.
Both incomes and home values are also affected by the local job market to some degree. Over the past five years, 15.3% of area workers were unemployed, nearly three times the comparable 5.3% national jobless rate.
Click here to see all the least expensive Zip codes in America.
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