As an American, owning property is a realistic expectation. Compared to other developed countries, mortgages in the US equate to a small percentage of monthly household income, so buying a house is a viable option for many.
But that’s not to say that finding an affordable home is easy. Depending on where you live, house prices and lifestyle factors can drive up the cost of owning a home, with some properties beyond the reach of the average worker.
So, where exactly in the US will you find the best value properties? And which states are considered the best places to own a home?
To find out, we analyzed average house prices and sizes in every US state to reveal which offer the best and worst value for money per square foot. Then, we looked at lifestyle factors such as crime rates and living standards, assigning each state a house buying score out of 100. We used these scores to produce a full state ranking, from best to worst.
Explore the full results of our US house buying study below.
- Key Findings
- Best and Worst States to Buy In
- House Price vs Size: Value Compared
- House Size vs Living Standards
- Affordability vs Other Countries
- Iowa (79/100 Score) ranked as the best state to buy a house, based on avg. price per square foot, standard of living, mental health ranking and crime rate – while Washington, D.C. (14/100) ranked the worst.
- The Midwest is the best region to buy in overall based on our index, with 6 of the top 10 states located in this region.
- The Western States are the worst overall for buyers, with 8 of the 10 lowest-scoring states to buy in located here.
- West Virginia offers the best house price value per square foot ($71.38), and also has the lowest average house price overall ($122,342) – while Hawaii has the most expensive ($618.46 per square foot) with and smallest houses (avg. 1,309 sq. ft).
- Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Texas have the largest houses, but averaged a standard of living score of 77.3, significantly below the national benchmark of 78.2 – showing that bigger houses don’t always mean a better quality of life.
- The US comes out ahead of other developed countries in mortgage affordability when weighed against average household income – with monthly repayments being much lower than Canada and Europe.
Where Are the Best and Worst Places to Buy a House in the US?
Property value and living standards vary widely across the US, and these factors ultimately hold sway over the cost of owning a home. So, with this in mind, where is the best place in the US to buy a house, taking into account property price, size, and living standards? Find out below.
Offering affordable property per square foot and a respectable standard of living, the Midwest dominated our top 10 list of the best places to buy a house in the US. States such as Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota also scored well for their low crime figures, driving their house buying scores well above 70/100.
Elsewhere, Connecticut and Pennsylvania proved the best places to buy on the east coast, with each offering a great standard of living and affordable property prices compared to neighboring states. Interestingly, no west coast states made the shortlist, suggesting that house buyers seeking affordability shouldn’t venture further west than the Dakotas.
Thinking of buying a property on the west coast? You may face slim pickings. States such as Oregon (23/100 Score), California (26/100), and Nevada (31/100) all appeared in the worst 10, with western regions accounting for eight of the 10 locations at the bottom of our US house buying index.
From a monetary standpoint, those hoping to buy in the DC area face some of the highest costs of any prospective homeowners in the US. Here, the average price per square foot stands at $481.79 – 123% higher than the equivalent property in Iowa.
Indeed, Washington DC performed poorly throughout our index, with high crime rates and an average standard of living driving its overall score as low as 14/100. This is a stark contrast to neighboring Pennsylvania, which scored a respectable 69/100.
And for those dreaming of packing up and moving to paradise, it’s worth acknowledging Hawaii’s appearance on our top 10 list of the worst states to buy a home in the US. The Aloha State has the highest average price per square foot of any US territory, so don’t expect a steal if you’re considering a move to the Pacific archipelago.
Interested in our full ranking? Explore our full index below to see how your state scored.
House Price vs Size: Which States Offer the Most House for Your Money?
Putting aside location and lifestyle factors, which US state offers the best house-to-money ratio? To find out, we compared the average price per square foot of properties across all 50 states. See how they stack up below.
Is affordability at the top of your house-buying wish list? Then West Virginia ought to be a part of your search. The state offers the best value house prices per square foot ($71.38) in the US, while also having the lowest average house price overall at $122,342.
Elsewhere, houses in Hawaii are the most expensive in the US per square foot ($618.46), and the smallest, at just 1,309 sq. ft on average. By contrast, the average American house size is 1,760 square feet.
Putting this in perspective based on average pricing, you could buy six houses in West Virginia (where the average price is just $122,342) for the price of just a single house in Hawaii (avg. $809,570) or California (avg. $727,370).
House Sizes and Living Standard: What’s the Link?
Our research revealed that states with the biggest house sizes had a lower-than-average standard of living, showing that these two factors are not as closely linked as some might think.
Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Texas are the states with the largest house sizes, but averaged a standard of living score of 77.3 – below the national standard of 78.2 across all states.
So, before you base your house-buying search on size and money alone, it’s certainly worth weighing up the living standards and lifestyle factors associated with individual regions.
How Affordable Are US Houses Versus Other Countries?
To understand how the US ranks for affordability when buying a house, we analyzed monthly mortgage repayments as a percentage of household income across a range of developed countries from around the world. Find out how the US compares in our chart below.
|Rank||Country||Mortgage Cost (% of Household Income)|
|2||United Arab Emirates||32.39|
|7||Republic of Ireland||44.76|
While mortgage affordability is a hot issue in the news, the US came out on top, with 28.53% of household income going towards mortgage repayments each month on average – followed closely by the UAE with 32.39%.
Mortgage repayments were much more affordable for US households in the context of total income versus many European nations – and equated to around half that of Canada and the UK.
List of Data Sources
A list of data sources used to create the index and rankings for this research can be found below:
- Avg. House Price Data – Zillow
- Avg. House Size Data – Reatlor
- Standard of Living Data (Welfare) – Federal Reserve
- Mental Health Ranking Data – Mental Health America
- Crime Rate Data – State Crime Rate Index
- Mortgage Affordability – Numbeo
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