These Are the Cheapest U.S. Suburbs to Live In — But That Doesn’t Mean They’re Affordable

published Sep 2, 2021
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Once upon a time, moving to the suburbs meant sacrificing immediate proximity to city life in favor of added space and plenty of bang for your buck. But these days — especially in the aftermath of the 2020 real estate boombuying a house in one of the hottest markets while still remaining close to a major metropolitan area is an especially tall order. And it’s one that won’t necessarily save you tons of money, as evidenced by new data released by Self Financial.

The financial technology company looked at data from 25 of the most populated cities in the U.S. to determine the cheapest city suburbs on the block. By analyzing data from Zillow and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), Self Financial compared the average city costs against those of suburban towns and cities with a population of at least 10,000 and up to 25 miles from the major city.

For home pricing data, the company used Zillow stats from the first three months of this year (January to March 2021), focusing on suburbs with fewer than 250,000 residents. Rental data was sourced from, matching zip codes against each city located during the house price search to produce an average cost per city.

The results are definitely eye-opening, particularly if you haven’t been house hunting in the last 18 months. The study found that the average cost of a home in or near a major city is now over $500,000.

Life in the ‘burbs clearly doesn’t come cheap — the average cost of a home in one of the 25 largest cities is $505,750, and moving to the suburbs will only save you $410 on average ($505,340). The study also notes that these prices are eight times the 2019 national median income ($62,843).

The news isn’t all bad, however. Washington D.C. residents could save $330,586 by moving to a nearby town or city, while Bostonians could save an average of $249,993 by moving to a one-bedroom house in a nearby city or town. So there are certainly bright spots for those city dwellers who want to save some coins without straying too far from the urban areas they call home. El Paso, Texas, boasts the cheapest national average, with mean suburban property prices at $161,619.

There are also savings to be had in California. San Jose and San Diego have the biggest savings between major city and suburban living — particularly for one-bedroom homes — with the study noting that renters in San Jose can save $572 per month, and those in San Diego $313. San Francisco residents can buy a two-bedroom home outside of the major city and save an average of $300,500… but the average price for a two-bedroom is $1,337,276 within the city, and $1,036,776 in the suburbs.

Unfortunately, renting is hardly any easier on the budget. The study notes that the average cost of rent in one of the 25 largest cities in the US is $2,149 per month, while the average suburban rental costs $42 less, at $2,107 per month.

You can check out the entire study here for detailed data, including info about homes up to five bedrooms.