One discount house for here, please.
August 24, 2017 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Where in the US can I buy a house for 100k? Even better, where can I do this and meet a few key criteria along the way?

Currently, I live in Oakland, CA which is my favorite place ever. I love the diversity, weather, arts/culture, infinite world cuisines, density, public me, it's paradise. It's also ungodly expensive. Despite making more money than ever, I can't cut it here (and to be clear, the majority of my life I've earned 20-30k; I'm firmly low-income). It's not just housing, it's the cost of....everything.
So. Where in America is dirt cheap housing? Let's say I have 100k to spend on a house. I don't need more than 600sq ft, but I want a house over a condo because I've wanted a garden my entire life. I've been thinking - I'm a homebody, why am I struggling so hard to be in the "perfect" place? I love city life SO much and would prefer not to live in the middle of nowhere, but, hey, I'm growing increasingly flexible and cavalier about where I end up. I also own a car, so if I need to give up use of public transit, so be it. Here are the base things I need:
Weather: Hot is fine. Extreme cold is not. It can dust snow a couple times at a maximum.
Independent stores: I want a charming cafe where I sip on a soy latte and read a book. Endless chain strip malls make me sad.
Fresh food: I love to cook. I want a range of grocery stores; cultural markets would be a huge plus.
Politics: Not insanely conservative. Ok to be openly queer. No need for a blue bastion, but cannot be wild trump territory.
Jobs: I'm an admin right now. I'll find something somewhere. I don't have a specific industry I need. But it should be possible to find a job, and not a totally broken local economy.
That's it. I've done Find Your Spot and such, but I'm really looking for concrete recommendations where starter home prices sit at 100k. Please assume I've factored ongoing taxes, insurance, and home maintenance into my calculations, and plunking down 100k won't leave me penniless. I know it seems odd, like, if I have 100k to spend on a house why am I struggling to make ends meet? I'm trying not to ever touch this lump sum for anything other than a home purchase or retirement. I obsessively track every penny I spend, and my day-to-day expenses need to squeeze into my meager earnings. I'm not cutting it, despite a diet of rice and beans and worn out shoes. So, Metafilter, where are the super cheap houses in a place I might like to call home??
posted by missmary6 to Home & Garden (51 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Some OK neighborhoods/suburbs of Cleveland, although I'm assuming that the school district doesn't matter to you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:09 PM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh! Yes - no kids and no plans for them.
posted by missmary6 at 1:10 PM on August 24, 2017

Welcome to Cincinnati!

Weather: Hot in the summer, cold in the winter but we only usually get a dusting of snow, if that. We had, I think, one snow last year? Just a couple of inches. We have had winters where we get a foot or two but it's really not the usual. We get ice, though. The city is pretty good about getting the roads brined before the ice cometh.

Independent stores: OMG, SO MANY!

Fresh food: Good grocery stores and Findlay Market, plus other neighborhood farmer's markets.

Politics: The further out from the city you get, the crazier it is. So don't live in, like, West Chester or Batavia. But Northside, Norwood, Oakley, College Hill, city proper, and lots of other places (MeMail if you want more) are perfectly accepting and welcoming of openly queer folk. Especially Northside.

Jobs: We're pretty okay right now! Lots of job openings get posted daily (I subscribe to all the lists because while I have a job I love, you just never know), including from our arts organization that complies them all (Artswave).

Feel free to MeMail me if you want more information. I love this city. It took me years to say that but man, we have come a long way and I won't be leaving. Ever.
posted by cooker girl at 1:11 PM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Chattanooga, TN and Louisville, KY are both lovely little urban sanctuaries in the middle of red states. Housing's cheap in both places at the moment, though Chattanooga prices are rising rapidly.
posted by xylothek at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Columbus, OH has gotten slightly more expensive lately; looking at Zillow most houses in your price range would be in (what are generally considered to be) less desirable neighborhoods.

But large queer community; city itself is generally liberal; great food scene; more diversity than you probably think there is (there's a large African diaspora community there, particularly from Somalia); there's definitely a winter, but there's less snow than Cleveland or other places adjacent to the Great Lakes. Public transit there is OK, but is gradually improving. Economy is humming along just fine thanks to OSU/state government/some corporate HQs in the area (Nationwide, L Brands, etc.).

But really, any decent sized city in the midwest will do, depending on how strict your cap on winter/snow is.
posted by damayanti at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2017

I've known a few people who have moved to Memphis for this very reason. I'm not sure it really ticks all your boxes, but it's worth checking out. Nashville fits your criteria a bit better (and I know several folks who have moved there too) but is a touch more expensive; house for $100k would be difficult to find there, but not impossible from the looks of it.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:14 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

With the exception of the cold/snow, I would recommend Springfield, Massachusetts.

The job market here is very strong; we have two hospitals, and a Fortune 100 insurance company just to name a few businesses, and a MGM Casino will be opening downtown in the Fall of 2018.

I'm not sure what is available in the real estate market, but we live in one of the better neighborhoods (Sixteen Acres) and our 1100 sq ft house is currently valued at around $160K, so you should certainly be able to find a 600 sq ft for $100K.

We are centrally located so that everything that you have on your list, if it's not within the city limits, is just a short drive away.

Good luck in your search!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 1:15 PM on August 24, 2017


Cute house in College Hill!
posted by cooker girl at 1:15 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lots of starter houses in the suburbs here in Memphis for around $100k. Some parts of the city proper are cheaper than that, but they are cheaper for reasons.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:38 PM on August 24, 2017

Another vote for Memphis. The Midtown area, specifically. Fits almost all your criteria, and we're friendly!
posted by raisingsand at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2017

I grew up in Memphis and left five years ago because I found it far too conservative, the local government deeply dysfunctional, and the job market abysmal. I wouldn't personally recommend moving there to anyone I liked. But that was five years ago, so possibly a lot has changed.
posted by woodvine at 2:10 PM on August 24, 2017

Is Austin super pricey? Because it's awesome.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:12 PM on August 24, 2017

Currently in Austin, and yes. Suuuuuuuuuper pricey, and has no signs of slowing. However, it really does match your other criteria to a tee! The average house in Austin proper is ~$300k+, but sometimes you can find lower- even much lower, but everyone else and their sister is looking for the same. Do you think you could manage renting a house?
posted by Krazor at 2:20 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

How about Huntsville AL? It's a tech center of the southeast, and getting more and more going on culturally.

Or if you start to change your mind about your personal sweat:snow ratio, consider Kalamazoo MI.
posted by aimedwander at 2:28 PM on August 24, 2017

I'd suggest New Orleans. My sister lived there for 7 years and loved it. However, there are "bad" parts of the city so do some research first. Maybe someone that's actually lived there can speak more to it?

Also, if you can stand the snow, Buffalo NY is pretty cool for a small city.

Seconding Cleveland/Cincy as well. Lots of good friends have moved from NYC (where I live) to Ohio with great success.
posted by teabag at 2:33 PM on August 24, 2017

There are places in Minneapolis suburbs in this price range. I'd go for Robbinsdale, a very diverse suburb with its own little downtown strip that's maybe 10 miles from actual downtown Minneapolis. You could get a fixer upper for $100K, or a very nice place for $175K. It has tree-lined streets, parks, libraries, decent schools, and a relatively low crime rate. I live in central Minneapolis but I actually kind of wish I had bought out there, it's equally nice and 1/3rd the price. Minneapolis is the 5th-wealthiest metro area in the country (so there are plenty of high-paying jobs), and still has extremely affordable housing if you know where to look.
posted by miyabo at 2:51 PM on August 24, 2017

We bought our house here in Lincoln, NE for $86,000. Houses in the 100,000 price range are definitely around, although I think the market has been good enough that some of them may have now crept up a bit in price. A friend bought hers for $115,000. Many of them are older houses (mine was built in 1915) and so have a variety of lots, shapes, sizes, additions, etc.

My salary here at the university is low enough for us to qualify to go through a program called Neighborworks, which gave us 20,000 to use for a downpayment, renovations on the property, and other home buying expenses. We also got classes on the process of buying a home and maintaining it. There are Neighborworks programs in other cities as well, so wherever you end up, you may want to keep your eyes open for them.

Anyway, Lincoln fits a lot of your criteria. We get cold in the winter but the snow doesn't tend to stack up quite as much as it does further north. But it's more than just a dusting. We have lots of fun little coffee shops and bookstores and artsy boutiques and places to eat, although not as much as a larger city would. We're a university town and a blue area in an otherwise red state. There is definitely an active LGBTQ community. Living is quieter, but I like my routine and we got a dog and I grew zinnias in my garden which is the first time I've ever grown anything on my own. There are definitely things I miss about the east coast but the tradeoffs have been worth it for us.
posted by PussKillian at 2:52 PM on August 24, 2017

Albuquerque, NM has a range of sub-$100k listings (Zillow link), but some hits are not stand-alone homes. Similar to other comments, $100,000 means you're in a small home in possibly a less maintained, possibly rougher neighborhood (I don't live in ABQ, but there are MeFites who do who can better describe the neighborhoods).

- Big "little" city -- less than 600,000 people in the city proper, up to more than 900,000 in the larger metro area
- Walkable and bus-able parts of town, especially if you're on the east side of the river, which is generally where the older, smaller homes are
- Weather: highs peak into the 100s in the summer, but usually not unbearable; lots of swamp coolers instead of air conditioners in ABQ, but some sort of "conditioned" air is likely necessary for some period in the summer months. Winters are mild, with a bit of snow that doesn't stick, but you still probably want a snow shovel for those few days with snow.
- Independent stores: check!
- Fresh food: range of grocery stores - check; cultural markets - check
- Politics: Blue state, most blue in the cities; liberal, despite the Republican governor and mayor in Albuquerque (House and Senate are back in Dem control, much to the annoyance of the Governor)
- Jobs: though we're heavily oil and gas dependent, Albuquerque is big enough to have options and be more resilient than other parts of the state.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on August 24, 2017

Peoria! It does snow, but less every year. Awesome gardening climate, and just about everything south of War Memorial Drive (i.e., built before 1950) has nice garden space. You can get a LOT bigger than 600 square feet if you want to at $100,000, but there are lots of choices in that range in cute older neighborhoods with a lot of character.

There are a number of customer-oriented farms nearby (organic and otherwise) who sell direct or by CSA subscription; there are chefs who moves down from Chicago for 5 years to hone their "farm-to-table" game before paying high Chicago rents so there's surprisingly good restaurant choices. You have Thai, generic Asian, German, Mexican, and Afro-Carribean groceries, as well as an absolutely infinite quantity of Lebanese markets. (I heard more African food is coming, and a major US African food grocery provider just opened a fish processing plant in town.)

Lots of Democrats in the city (mix of union stalwarts, young professionals, and minority voters); the county leans more Republican but in the city you'll have lots of Democrats and progressives. There's okay public transit (bus), depending on where you work (if you ended up at Caterpillar or the hospitals, which are huge employers, you could take public transit from most any of the older neighborhoods without too much hassle; if you ended up at a call center or the school district (also large), you'd probably need a car. You'd probably want to keep your car to take advantage of the shopping and cultural events in the city, which are kinda spread out into several clusters around the city, not all of which are convenient to transit).

Lots of independent stores and cafes in downtown areas, and suddenly it is awash in young people in their 20s affiliated with the University who are opening fair trade coffee shops and arts spaces in disused churches and independent book stores and studio spaces and stuff. Really exploded in the last few years.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:59 PM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

posted by goggie at 3:02 PM on August 24, 2017

Durham, North Carolina! (Although housing prices are getting high for the close-to-downtown neighborhoods here.) Winston-Salem, NC and Greensboro NC seem to me like they are on the upswing of turning into the type of place you are looking for, and housing prices are probably cheap there still.
posted by aka burlap at 3:06 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Cleveland, absolutely Cleveland.
posted by rossination at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

How small of a town are you open to? A friend of mine with similar preferences moved to Bloomington, IN (population 84,000) and loves it. I think it gets slightly more snow than you like--a couple of inches a few times per winter--but it isn't ever terribly cold. It's liberal (one of four consistently blue counties in Indiana), queer friendly, and has a good assortment of local/independent restaurants, cafes, and stores. There is public transportation, but it's also really bikeable. There are some big box stores on the outskirts of town, but I found the town and surrounding area pretty charming when I visited. An added bonus is that it is home to a large university (Indiana University) and I bet it would be easy to find an admin-type job there. The presence of the University also means that there's a reasonably good art/culture scene and a relatively cosmopolitan population. Zillow shows plenty of homes at or under $100k in the town and surrounding area.

If Bloomington doesn't work for you, and you're open to smaller towns, maybe look at college towns generally? I bet there are other similar places all over the country.
posted by cimton at 3:12 PM on August 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

New Orleans could work, especially if you're open to living in a suburb or farther out from the bulk of the city. More strip malls out there, but there are good restaurants and shops and things in Metairie if you look, and you'll be a 20 minute drive from the city itself.

There are cheap houses closer in, if you're willing to live in a poor neighborhood- "dangerous" is very subjective and often code for "poor black people". Crime is high, but violent crime is not rampant in the sense that you're in danger walking down the street. It's more about how comfortable you are living in a poor neighborhood and potentially being a first-wave gentrifier.

You may also find cheap houses that are cheap because they're falling apart.
posted by MadamM at 3:22 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi, you sound like me. Are you open to rainy, gloomy places (e.g. towns in Oregon or Washington)?
posted by pinochiette at 3:30 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with Peoria or take a look at Champaign Urbana.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:59 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently plugged Philly in a recent thread about where to move, and I'm going to do the same for you. Philly and Oakland actually seem to me somewhat comparable in terms of diversity, ethnic restaurants, arts, cafes, independent stores, urban density, and public transit (although, alas, not climate). I think there are few places in the country where you could find urban life comparable to what you have now but on the cheap, and Philly is definitely among them. You can get a house for 100k in Philly, although obviously not in the trendier neighborhoods. If you want to MeMail me, I can give you some suggestions for neighborhoods to look at: it depends a little bit on what exactly you want to prioritize. Without knowing anything about you specifically, I'd say to look at South Philly - look south of Washington Avenue, east of Broad. It's traditionally working-class Italian, although it's pretty diverse now, and I believe it's among the safer options for cheaper homes. I'm not so familiar with your price range, and many homes will be significantly beyond your budget, but I know there are things. Last year, I saw a house on Earp Street (a short sale, I think) that was maybe 900 ft2 (2 beds, one bath, small yard) that needed (a lot of) cosmetic updating and I believe it went for $140k or less. It was within walking distance of the South Philly grocery store, and close to the Broad Street Line subway and lots of local parks and eateries. I'm sure there are other things like that. The cosmetic updating you could do yourself - tear out puke green 1970s rugs, sand and polish hardwood floor underneath, remove old faux-wood panelling, retile the bathroom, etc.
posted by ClaireBear at 3:59 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here's a smol house for sale in my neighborhood in Columbia, SC. It is a five minute walk from two coffee shops and a hipster barbecue/bar place and more stuff is on the way. There are others that are bigger and cheaper that are a little bit further away from town (like, a half mile further).

We don't have a huge range of stores - there are Asian and Hispanic markets. There are Whole Foodses, Lowes, Fresh Market, Earthfare, and a really bustling downtown market on Saturdays.

This town is an island of blue in a very red state. Plenty of folks are out, and the main neighborhood church is the cool kind of church (although there are also 700 million other churches in town because this is SC). There are no Trump signs in my neighborhood, one Resist flag, although the suburbs of my city are very different. People in the suburbs probably think of downtown as a scary and lawless no man's land for the most part. [Narrator voice: it is not.]

It will dust snow once a year and be gone when the sun comes, although it's not exactly temperate - January and February can be a bit gray and cold, although you'll get to wear a t-shirt at least once a week. July and August are oppressive and steamy.

Lots of other beautiful places in the thread, just wanted to throw it out there :)

Oh! On preview, our schools are poor after elementary, if that matters. Neighborhoods with nice schools demand much higher prices.
posted by ftm at 4:15 PM on August 24, 2017

Someone upthread suggested Minneapolis / surrounding suburbs. While it's a wonderful city in many ways, it's cold as hell in the winter, and snowy. Definitely not a city with just a few dustings of snow every winter. Good luck to the OP!
posted by sucre at 4:37 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

A lot of good suggestions so far. Honestly, pretty much anywhere that's not a major coastal city should work (except maybe Austin and Chicago). My friend bought a house in Columbus a couple years ago for $68k. It's probably a little higher now, but still under $100k. Not a scary neighborhood, and on the bus line to both downtown and some interesting, trendier neighborhoods. Buffalo is generally rated the most affordable big city in the country. I know there are houses for $150k in pretty nice neighborhoods, so $100k shouldn't be a problem.

Rule of thumb: if you tell someone "hey, I'm thinking of moving to ____", and their response is "ugh, why would anyone ever want to live there?", you'll probably be able to find a house there in your price range, as long as you're not too picky. If their response is "oh yeah, that's such a cool city!", it means it's out of your range.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:01 PM on August 24, 2017 [7 favorites]

Richmond VA meets this. Some of these houses are in decent neighborhoods, some not
posted by john m at 5:04 PM on August 24, 2017

Winston-Salem, NC and Greensboro NC seem to me like they are on the upswing of turning into the type of place you are looking for, and housing prices are probably cheap there still.

We fail the weather test - we get more than a dusting about once a year (I know you know this in Durham, but for the OP) - but otherwise, we're cheap, we're queer friendly, we have a ton of culture, local coffeeshops etc out your ears (along with plenty of chain), etc etc. I love Greensboro. Previously. You can spend a lot on housing here, but there's also a lot of cheap and nice too. :)
posted by joycehealy at 5:13 PM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

St Charles Missouri. Here is one listing. There are many more.
posted by AugustWest at 5:23 PM on August 24, 2017

Salt Lake City is another blue oasis and surprisingly queer friendly. The quality of life is great especially if you like being outdoors and while it snows often in the winter, it remains extremely sunny throughout the winter months and because it's a desert the cold doesn't bother. There are a variety of organic and specialty markets and lots of cultural events.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Lawrence, Kansas, is a blue island in a red state. If you could go up to $130,000, you'd have a lot more options, but there are houses for $100,000. Because it's a college town , it hits your cultural buttons. I would think you could get a job at the university.
posted by FencingGal at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

How handy are you? You can for sure get sub-$100k homes in Pittsburgh but many of them will be a little tired and need some TLC. Lots of "grandma lived here for 50 years and just moved into assisted living" houses.

How cold it gets in winter and how much snow we get varies pretty wildly. Once every few years we'll get a winter that is honestly pretty fucking cold. Snowpacalypse happens every five years or so. But we also get winters that trend milder with just a bit of snow every now and again. We're too far south for Buffalo-style lake effect snow, and too far west for the Noreasters that you hear about clobbering Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Most big winter storms seem to go over top of us or to the east of us.

Other than the weather, Pittsburgh hits all your other buttons.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:46 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm only seeing condos in Salt Lake City in your price range.
posted by aniola at 7:30 PM on August 24, 2017

Tucson, AZ is another blue city in a red state. Like many western cities it has a high level of sprawl, and the reaches can be strip-mall country. But closer to the University of Arizona and the downtown area, it has an artsy, relaxed desert character, an abundance of charming cafes where you can read books, and yes--despite the climate--fresh food including a variety of local vegetables and meats. And of course it's not cold.

I've never really looked much outside the rental market, but I suspect that a smaller house can be found for $100k without too much trouble, especially outside of the fancier neighborhoods.
posted by egregious theorem at 8:07 PM on August 24, 2017

I'd advise against SLC. I think that there's a larger conservative contingent there than in a lot of the cities mentioned. Maybe it's changed since I was there, but you'd still see some advertisements (e.g., for housing) hint that they wanted Mormons only. Also, lots of snow.

My pick is Albuquerque; I really like the diversity there. The downtown / Old Town area can be walkable and nice. I'm not seeing a ton of options under 100 (but I'm not seeing a ton in general, actually), and maybe if you keep an eye out, you'll find a good one. I was also going to mention Tucson, but the walkable, hip part of town is much smaller than in ABQ.

If you find a place that you like that's a bit above $100k, would you consider renting a bedroom out to pay off a small mortgage?
posted by slidell at 8:59 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another vote here for Memphis - I was recently just looking (as in yesterday) at houses in East Memphis (kinda suburby, but roughly 10 minutes away from the arts district I currently live in) that ranged from 80-130k. The cheaper options did not have totally redone kitchens where the others do. The area I live in has 3 pro live theaters, live music venues, an old growth forest, a huge park with a zoo, 20+ restaurants, a fresh market, a movie theater, 2 excellent universities and a very good art college, an art museum, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. (You're not going to find a house out here for under 150k bit some areas that are in 100k region are not far away.) It is, however, pretty necessary to have a car. There's public transport but it isn't terribly reliable. It is a blue spot in a red sea, too - the further out you get from the city, the more conservative it gets.

The Memphis of 5 years ago is not the Memphis of today. Hell, we barely had bike lanes 5 years ago. There's an awful lot of them now. This city is going under a lot of positive change very quickly.
posted by mrg at 9:21 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

St. Louis seems to tick your boxes. I like it here. Nobody who doesn't live here would ever think of it, but once you're here, you realize it's pretty good.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't have a specific suggestion (I am a Northeast person myself and prefer snow) but you might want to consider a duplex or triplex (either a condo in a duplex or one that you own and rent out the rest). It can be a good way to get lower square footage, some of the benefits of condo ownership (i.e. shared expenses) *and* a garden (although of course in a lot of places multifamily housing is not in as pleasant neighborhoods as single-family, but that goes for smaller houses as well to a certain extent).
posted by mskyle at 6:32 AM on August 25, 2017

Some eastern suburbs of Atlanta - Tucker, Clarkston, Stone Mountain - might fit the bill. I'm not sure if you could find houses that small, but if they exist the price per square foot is probably right (and if you had to get a somewhat bigger house you could probably rent out a room).

Public transit is sparse to nonexistent though, and not really walkable. A car is essential.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:44 AM on August 25, 2017

Oh! I just saw Philly mentioned above. I love Oakland, and Philly is my new favorite city, better than Albuquerque (my recommendation above).

You might also watch Fresno and Stockton. Both of those cities are changing for the better and have nice historic residential districts between a downtown area and a hip walkable area with good restaurants (between downtown and the Tower District and the Miracle Mile, respectively). Merced and Turlock also have nice walkable areas, but I have the sense that the politics in those counties are just enough more conservative that being out there might not be as comfortable (this is from word of mouth, so I'm not certain about that).
posted by slidell at 2:29 PM on August 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

College towns in the midwest will meet basically all your criteria (with adjusting for your weather desires). You can see that in many of the responses above. Lawrence, KS; Lincoln, NE; Champaign-Urbana, IL; and Bloomington, IN are all home to large midwestern colleges. The college serves as a stable job base that attracts diverse liberal people while needing to stay affordable and offer some kind of public transportation for the large number of college students.

I'd add Columbia, MO and Edwardsville, IL to your list.
posted by John Frum at 4:19 AM on August 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

You may want to check out San Antonio, Texas. Southtown might fit your criteria.
posted by ethical_caligula at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would caution you that Champaign-Urbana is not as inexpensive as it was 5 or 10 years ago. As the state's finances have floundered and they've cut state funding for students, the University has accepted more and more full-freight overseas students, who tend to have wealthy parents. A portion of those students' parents buy a house in Chambana (either for their kid to live in, or for them to live in when they visit their kid; in either case they figure they can sell it easily or rent it easily -- true! -- and it'll be an income-generating asset), which has driven up prices and reduced the average number of people per house (houses that used to be rentals with five students and a local slumlord landlord may now be owned by overseas parents and host a student and their BFF and that's it). There's not a ton available in Chambana under $100k these days, and a lot of that is foreclosures.

This is the case in some other flagship state college towns that have turned to overseas admissions to make up state funding shortfalls.

I think Chambana is a great place to live! I just also know you won't find nearly as many options under $100k there as you will in Peoria or Springfield or Bloomington-Normal, even though the job market is quite comparable. Real estate prices have just escalated very rapidly in the last 10 years.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:37 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

You should take a long look at the major cities in Texas (well, Austin's the big expensive outlier there but you could still take a look as it's also the most fun). Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston are all blue to purple and they fit many of your check boxes.

Cons: The state government is not super queer friendly right now but the cities generally are (all of the cities have Democrats in charge), density is not a thing (anywhere), the weather is hot but humid (except Dallas). The only one with hurricane issues is Houston.

Pros: the economy's doing pretty ok even in an oil and gas downturn (jobs are plentiful), each of the cities has at least some transit (not as nice as the Bay Area but few cities are), good food and options for groceries (sincerely great restaurant scenes), lots of arts and culture (especially in Houston and Dallas), plenty of diversity (Houston's more diverse than NYC by some measures), and you can buy homes for much cheaper than in California (including $100,000 for not too far from city centers).
posted by librarylis at 10:41 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi y'all. It's been a year since I asked this question. When I posted this, I was barely considering leaving Oakland, CA. It was an outlandish, impossible idea, but one that had appeared rather suddenly and demanded to be considered, if only for a moment. Your answers, this cavalcade of places I knew nothing about, had never considered or, honestly, given any thought to, turned me upside-down. I googled, I watched youtube videos of dash cam footage, I looked up event calendars, real estate listings, voting tallies, weather averages. I made a huge spreadsheet with all kinds of wacky data, and color coded it all. Friends would ask my current fixation. "Peoria?" I'd say, having gotten almost no sleep, "Wait, Dallas!"

In October, I spent a long weekend in Cincinnati. It didn't quite win the spreadsheet algorithm, but there was something magnetic about it. On the plane, I told myself I could 100% chalk this up as going bananas, and pretend it never happened. It poured dogs and cats and hamsters the entire weekend and I fell in love. I quit my job, gave notice at my apartment, and packed up my entire life. I drove across the country over New Year's and have been riotously happy here ever since. I absolutely, completely, utterly love Cincinnati, Ohio. I have a great job; I'm buying a house(!), and the low-cost of living has afforded me access to so many hobbies, activities, and opportunities.

In addition to cooker girl's Cincinnati welcome, I've marked the wonderful answer by kevinbelt as best, too. Every time someone would sniff "you're moving where? What could possibly be in Cincinnati?" I felt I had been given armor against that exact response. However, what surprised me the most is that if someone had any connection to Cincinnati at all, they responded with outright enthusiasm. "Oh WOW, my brother lives there and it's the BEST." "I used to party with this group of Cincinnati architects and they were the wildest. Cincinnati is the place." (true quote)

Because of this AskMe, I'm the happiest I've ever been. Thank you, everyone, for your answers.
posted by missmary6 at 7:01 PM on August 11, 2018 [13 favorites]

Congratulations and thank you for that wonderful update!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:45 AM on August 12, 2018

Try the chili! I promise it's really good.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:17 PM on August 12, 2018

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