Some low-cost, out-of-state burgs where you get more bang for your housing buck

The first thing they teach you in Buying an Affordable Home school is, “Leave California.” If you slept through that lesson, it might not have dawned on you that the Golden State ranks high, second only to Hawaii, as an expensive place to live.

The median value of a single-family home in Long Beach has topped $617,000, and that’s a cool million cheaper than San Francisco, where the figure is a bit over $1.6 million.

So, let’s go ahead and cross SF off our shopping list, but even buying within the cozy borders of Long Beach a median-priced home is way more than the $60,000 a median wage earner makes. It’s recommended that a person should be earning $161,0000 to buy a $617,000 home.

So, the math doesn’t offer a compelling reason for a struggling worker to hang around, especially when Long Beach’s median income is only a couple hundred dollars above the national median. So, if all you want is a house and don’t much care where it is, you can do a lot better by packing your stuff and heading for an inexpensive town to stake your household claim.

I looked at the five states with the cheapest housing costs, and then looked for each state’s city with the lowest cost of living to get a feel of what’s out there on the other side of Searchlight, Nevada.

Here are some places you might consider as you beat tracks out of the state you insist on referring to as Cali.

Aberdeen, Mississippi

Located on the bank of the mighty Tombigbee River, you know this town as the birthplace of Guy Bush (“the Mississippi Mudcat”), the pitcher who won 176 games and gave up Babe Ruth’s last two career home runs. It’s a small but charming town full of antebellum architecture, which you’re going to skip in order to save a ton of dough by purchasing this little jewel with the bucolic address of 20015 Box Road. It’s a small house but, set on a 5-acre lot, there’s plenty of room to grow. For $37,500, about the price of a Ford F-150 pickup, you get two bedrooms and one bath in this 1,090-square-foot, two-story home in a town of about 5,200 people.

Can you swing $37,500? That’s the listing price for this two-bedroom, one-bath house on five acres in Aberdeen, Mississippi. Listing photo.


St, Ann, Missouri

This suburb of St. Louis started out in the 1940s as a housing project for families of workers employed in nearby defense plants. It was one of the few defense housing projects in the country to develop into a permanent town. St. Ann’s genesis is reflected in its architecture: workmanlike, no-frills architecture. These people used to build warplanes, they didn’t have time for cupolas or widow’s walks. This charming bungalow (as the listing agent calls it) is a two-bedroom, one-bath home squeezed into 934 square-feet. It also has a partially finished basement and is set on a .31-acre lot. Added value: It’s adjacent to the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The world’s your oyster. Buy it today for $65,000.

This 934-square-foot home with a partially finished basement in the St. Louis suburb of St. Ann is for sale at $65,000. Listing photo.


Roanoke, Alabama

Where the skies are blue and the governor’s true. Roanoke lies on an old cotton field once worked by slaves. There’s about 6,000 people calling this rural town home and you can buy houses here all day for under $100,000, but let’s go nuts and go big. For $143,900 you get this big, 2,426-square-foot Southern mansionette. The two-story house has two bedrooms and one bath on each floor, a big yard and a large kitchen with a butler door leading to the dining room. It’s got a nice little gazebo out back where you can spend evenings sippin’ whiskey and swattin’ skeeters with Skynryd on the boombox.

This stately 2,426-square-foot home in Roanoke, Alabama has four bedrooms, two baths and hardwood floors. It’s listed at $143,000. Listing photo.


Blanchard, Oklahoma

Once again, I’m going to be spending your cash like a sailor, but, look, if you’re going to be stuck in this seriously country town, home to Bonnie Campbell, who scored a Hall-of-Fame double by marrying Buck Owens and later Merle Haggard, you might as well have some personal luxury. For $189,000 you get a four-bedroom, two-bath house on 2.5 acres of flat, near-lifeless central Oklahoma land in a town that’s part of a rapidly growing area of northern McClain and Grady counties known as the “Tri-City Area” along with with Newcastle and Tuttle. It’s a  brand-new home with farm-style trappings like sliding barn doors inside.

This brand-new farmhouse style home on the plains of Oklahoma sits on 2.5 acres. It’s listed at $189,500. Listing photo.


Gillette, Wyoming

I’ll be honest with you. You’re going to get some snow in Gillette, Wyoming, chiefly because of its location, which is Wyoming. Gillette boasts that it’s the “Energy Capital of the Nation,” because the state of Wyoming provides nearly 35% of the nation’s coal. Like that’s a good reason to live there. Still, if you can make enough on a coal miner’s salary, you can live large for $225,000 in this sprawling five-bedroom, two-bath 2,052-square-foot dropped onto five acres on Coal Dust Road (this doesn’t seem like the place to start up your solar-energy business). The house sports a solid metal roof and has a wood-burning fireplace in its second living room. Your main feature is the property’s mammoth barn/shop/toy box.

This large compound in Gillette, Wyoming in cold, coal country, is listed at $225,000. Listing photo.


Finally, if you refuse to leave the great state of California, you might want to strap your sofa to your car’s roof and motor up to Taft, in Kern County, where your housing dollar still has some buying power. I found a nice two-bedroom, one-bath pad with a generous 10,430-square-foot lot. You can get it for $65,000, cash only. If the Bay Area ever makes it out to Taft, you’ll be sitting pretty.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.