What makes a home a great deal? It’s not just the price. It comes down to what you get for your money—livable square footage, neighborhood amenities, entertainment options, and the right community vibe for you. Find all that at an affordable price, and you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
It’s no easy feat. Today’s housing market is super competitive thanks to record-low inventory (the number homes for sale have been falling since back in February 2015). A full 41 percent of buyers have a difficult time finding a home in their desired price range, and 38 percent have issues finding the amenities they want.
What’s a buyer to do? The trick is to find a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood before prices start to skyrocket. We’ve crunched the numbers on 12 growing metros across the country—where population and interest are on the rise—to pinpoint the neighborhoods where your real estate dollar goes the furthest. And to browse more information about other bang-for-your-buck neighborhoods across the U.S., check out our bigger report on neighborhood affordability.
North Burnet in Austin, Texas
In Austin, average house price is $580K. In North Burnet, it’s $140K.
The dive bars, music venues, restaurants, boutiques—not to mention the annual SXSW festival—might give the impression that Austin is already too cool for your budget. While this may be true downtown, there are still affordable neighborhoods to be found within reach of all the unique things the city has to offer.
Take North Burnet, for example, a neighborhood directly north of the city center. Here, a home can cost hundreds of thousands (yes, you read that right) less the average home in downtown Austin. You’re also close to incredible job opportunities, as plenty of tech companies are within minutes of this neighborhood, including IBM, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Though you’ll have to drive downtown to catch a concert, you won’t feel like it’s all work and no play in North Burnet. Around the upscale mall, The Domain, you’ll find ramen bars, gastropubs, cocktail bars, and an iPic Theater.
Balboa Terrace in San Francisco, California
The average school rating is 8 in Balboa Terrance, higher than the norm.
If curb appeal ranks high on your list of must-haves, look no further than the movie set-like Balboa Terrace. The majority of its elegant homes date back to the decade of the neighborhood’s founding—the 1920s. Though home styles vary, many have Spanish tile roofs that might remind you of the glamorous, vintage estates of Beverly Hills. Exotic trees like purple leaf plum trees and blue gum eucalyptus also add to the neighborhood’s atmosphere, along with the expertly-designed front yard gardens that are a point of pride for residents.
Like other neighborhoods on San Francisco’s west side, Balboa Terrace is quiet and usually lacks tourist traffic. This allows the locals to build a true sense of community here—whether it’s volunteering at one of the top-rated schools or joining in with Friends of the Urban Forest to plant trees in the neighborhood. Of course, like everywhere else in San Francisco, you can expect to pay more for a home here than you would in many other cities. But home prices in Balboa Terrace are on par with high-rise condos on the other side of the city—and come with far, far more charm.
Druid Hills in Atlanta, Georgia
Only 22% of Druid Hills residents commute over a half hour.
You’ll feel like a millionaire when you drive around the tree-lined streets of Druid Hills, one of the most stunning in the city. While you might need a millionaire’s bank account to get one of the incredible mansions located near the sweeping Druid Hills Golf Club, there are smaller (but no less handsome) homes throughout the large neighborhood at a more affordable rate.
Education is important here—after all, the neighborhood is home to Emory University, and 74 percent of your future neighbors hold college degrees—so the schools are highly-ranked. And while that fact makes it a great place for families, it’s also appealing to those still looking for Ms. or Mr. Right, as 60 percent of residents are single. Appropriately, there are plenty of date opportunities in Druid Hills, including brunch at the trendy Rise-n-Dine diner followed by browsing the ancient artifacts at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Or, you can jump in your car and head to the restaurants of downtown Atlanta, just 20 minutes away.
Rainier View/Rainier Beach in Seattle, Washington
Rainier Beach has a very low crime rate relative to surrounding King County.
From the kayakers on Lake Union to the hikers who head outside the city to the trails of Mt. Si, the entire Seattle region is one of the best places to live for active types. But in Rainier View (and Rainier Beach, which is lumped in with this neighborhood), you don’t even need to go far to spend an afternoon immersed in nature—just go to Lakeridge Park, a 35-acre woodsy oasis complete with trails, right in your backyard. If you prefer a less rustic outdoor experience, the graceful Kubota Garden (a 20-acre Japanese garden) is the best place to spend a peaceful afternoon.
While the parks are both lovely, they’re more than just places to get in touch with nature. Both of these are lovingly maintained by members of the community, representing the level of engagement and civic pride residents have. So if you’re looking for an urban neighborhood where you can get to know your neighbors, Rainier View/Rainier Beach is just the fit. While prices have risen, you can still find fixer-uppers below the average price. And, just think: You could probably get plenty of landscaping advice from one of the park volunteers.
Barnaby Woods in Washington, D.C.
The average school rating is 8 in Barnaby Woods, higher than the norm.
Aside from the Mall and museums, there are few places in Washington, D.C. to catch your breath and recharge your batteries. The area is a magnet for ambitious professionals, which often gives neighborhoods a hectic feel. (Even yoga classes can have a competitive air.) The exception to this is Barnaby Woods. Yes, it’s out of the way—located on the city’s northwest side, Barnaby Woods borders Chevy Chase, Maryland. But this somewhat remote location makes it possible for the community to have access to the lush Rock Creek Park (without risk of it being developed for more condos), making it feel tranquil and secluded.
Homes in the neighborhood sit farther from the street, giving you the luxury of privacy. Though this is an exclusive area due to price—the median is just under $1 million—houses here are still more affordable than a brownstone in more centrally-located Washington, D.C. neighborhoods.
Jeffery Manor in Chicago, Illinois
In Chicago, the average price per square foot is $230. In Jeffery Manor, it’s $78.
First-time homeowners looking for a piece of Chicago to call their own have been heading to Jeffery Manor, a diverse neighborhood on the South Side with a strong sense of community. Here, homes are affordable and often downright adorable, especially if you happen to love mid-century modern style. (The neighborhood was established shortly after World War II.)
While you can purchase a single-family home for less than $100,000, the bargain price could reflect the “in transition” nature of the neighborhood. Schools aren’t as highly-ranked as others you’ll find in the city. However, the Jeffery Manor branch of the Chicago Public Library is beloved by residents, and crime has also declined over the years. Love nature? There’s an actual, genuine prairie in the neighborhood, the Van Vlissingen Prairie.
West Roxbury in Boston, Massachusetts
In Boston, the average price per square foot is $621. In Roxbury, it’s $394.
Whether you have kids or are thinking about making that step, go straight to West Roxbury in Boston. This suburban neighborhood has become popular with commuters who want to get away from the city—and who might have been priced out of high-end communities like Brookline (where Tom Brady happens to live).
Though it looks far on a map, West Roxbury gets you into Boston in about a half hour via one of the three commuter rail lines that stop in town. Most homes on the market have at least two bedrooms, with modest yards perfect for a game of catch. Nearly all schools are highly rated, though the educational opportunities extend well beyond the school day. That’s because West Roxbury also borders Brook Farm, a historical, 1840s farm that once hosted Nathaniel Hawthorne and is open for tours. Summer break? The neighborhood’s proximity to 95 makes summer trips to Cape Cod easy, especially since you’ll be ahead of city traffic.
Harbor City in Los Angeles, California
In Los Angeles, the average price per square foot is $615. In Harbor City, it’s $316.
Los Angeles continues to attract droves of hopeful newcomers looking for fame and fortune. So naturally, the city’s trendiest neighborhoods surpassed affordable a long time ago. Enter the lesser-known area of Harbor City. Despite the name, this neighborhood is located inland, sandwiched between Torrance and Long Beach. The character of the neighborhood is hard to define, as housing stock varies from million-dollar, multi-family properties to manufactured homes under $200,000. There’s a college here (Los Angeles Harbor College), but it’s also surrounded by the Harbor Park Golf Course. Harbor City has a little something for everybody.
Perhaps the big benefit of living here is proximity—you’ve got access to the Pacific Coast Highway, the 101 (which takes you north to Los Angeles), and the 405 (the route to LAX). In a city where the distance from your home to a highway is everything, this location works to your benefit.
Neighborhood: Wynnefield Heights
Even the most sophisticated urban dweller has at least one suburban dream: to be close to a Target. This is especially true in Philadelphia, where certain neighborhoods aren’t well laid-out, making running errands a challenge. So the fact that Wynnefield Heights has a Target right in its borders adds to the quality-of-life factor. Better yet, you’ll also have plenty of space to store your finds. Wynnefield Heights has particularly spacious housing stock, from 1,000-square-foot-plus condos to single-family homes, all for under Philadelphia’s median price.
Philadelphia is also a commuter city, so access to highways can be crucial. Wynnefield Heights is just off of 76, which takes you right to Center City (or to the outer suburbs). Culture and entertainment are practically in your backyard in this neighborhood, with the Mann Music Center and the Philadelphia Zoo roughly two miles away.
Neighborhood: South Dallas-Fair Park
Dallas has experienced a development boom. That’s led to an uptick in cool restaurants and entertainment options, but sometimes rapid, mass development results in a lack of character. Though you won’t find the level of quirk in Dallas that you will in Austin, the South Dallas-Fair Park has a more distinctive personality. Mainly, it comes from Fair Park, a complex of Art Deco structures that were mainly made for the Texas Centennial, a world’s fair, in 1936. Though these buildings are used year-round—most are museums, but there’s also an amusement park—Fair Park springs to life each September for the State Fair of Texas. Another bustling time is summer when the Dallas Summer Musicals take over Fair Park’s exquisite, 1920s Music Hall.
Though South Dallas-Fair Park is minutes away from downtown, home prices are seriously more affordable. The average listing price is a mere $68,533. Though demographics indicate that this is also a lower-income area, South Dallas-Fair Park residents take pride in their community. After all, they were the reason that Fair Park has been so well preserved through the years.
Bang-For-Your-Buck Neighborhood: Windsor
You might think it’s odd for a neighborhood’s distinguishing factor to be a big cemetery. But then again, Windsor‘s Fairmount Cemetery isn’t an ordinary resting place—it’s a 280-acre arboretum that dates back to 1890. It includes a stunning event center that’s regularly used for weddings, which underlines how un-grim its vibe truly is. The cemetery is just part of the neighborhood’s scenic appeal, along with Windsor Lake, the tree-lined High Line Canal, and the manicured lawns of its tastefully-designed condo communities.
While the area has an appropriately quiet atmosphere, Windsor is close to entertainment options ranging from beer gardens to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. There’s even a new indie “mall,” the Stanley Marketplace. Whether you want to spend a Saturday canoeing on the canal, picnicking on the lake, or bonding over brews with friends, this low-key neighborhood offers it all.
Looking for great value in your favorite neighborhood? See what’s available now on Trulia.
METHODOLOGY: Trulia identified neighborhoods across the U.S. that offer home buyers the best value for their dollar. Looking at just the 100 largest U.S. metros, we ranked neighborhoods by county along several metrics: for-sale listing price per square foot, % of residents who have a 30-minute commute or longer, school information, and reported crime.