Most large U.S. cities have spiked in home prices to the extent that they've priced out the entry-level buyer in 2014, but some markets are more welcoming for the buyer who wants to buy new without sticker shock. Where can prospective buyers who want new homes with a reasonable price tag and monthly mortgage go? BUILDER has a few ideas.
To find the five best cities for the next-to-broke buyer, only markets in which the city itself has a population of 500,000 or more are considered. From there, each city is filtered by median new home closing price under $250,000, a first mortgage rate below 4 percent for new homes, and a median new home price per square foot below $125, all using Metrostudy Analytics data for the first two quarters of 2014. Also highlighted is the average monthly rent in the market versus the calculated total monthly mortgage payment to examine the possibility more renters will soon turn to buying in the market. Estimated mortgage rates are based on the market average interest rate, median closing price for a 30-year fixed mortgage with 10 percent down payment, and the national average monthly taxes. Here are five cities where builders might want to consider catering to the buyers who are all about affordability.
El Paso, Texas
With the lowest median closing price for new homes in 2014 of the five cities at just $168,600 and a median price per square foot at $63, El Paso is a city market ideal for the buyer on the hunt for a new home with a limited budget. The average first mortgage rate in El Paso is 3.16 percent. According to CNN Money’s mortgage calculator that puts a total monthly payment at around $1,034. With an average rent in El Paso just a few hundred dollars less—$756 for a two bedroom in the first quarter—purchasing a new home is worth considering. In the first half of 2014, regional builder Carefree Homes dominated in the affordable market with 132 new homes closed.
New homes closed in Tucson in the first and second-quarter at a median closing price of $239,800. While this price point might be a bit daunting to the next-to-broke buyer, new home average interest rates on a first mortgage are just 3.45 percent. A mortgage costs approximately $1,347 total per month using the median price and average interest rate. While rents in the Tucson market are significantly lower than a projected mortgage payment, it is still less than double average rent, which peaked at an average $771 per month in the first quarter for a two bedroom. Known for often building homes without painful prices, D.R. Horton led the market in the first two quarters with 180 closings.
The new home median closing price in the first two quarters in Memphis was $220,600 with a median price per square foot at just $77. Not only can a new home in this southern market be found for less than $250,000, but space doesn't come at a premium. With average first mortgage interest rates on a new home at 3.51 percent, a total monthly mortgage payment is estimated at $1,276. If the next-to-broke buyer finds a big new home in Memphis with two or more bedrooms, they will pay approximately $400 more per month to buy than to rent based on average rents in the market for the first two quarters, which peaked at $836 in the second-quarter for three or more bedrooms. Regency Homebuilders led in first- and second-quarter closings in the Memphis market by selling 109 new homes.
The median new home closing price was $231,100 in Columbus for the first two quarters, but the median price per square foot held under $100 at $98. Based on an average first mortgage interest rate for new homes in the market 3.52 percent, new-home buyers will pay approximately $1,320 total per month on a mortgage. As with other cities ideal for entry-level buyer, this puts an average mortgage rate not far above average monthly rent, which peaked at $938 for a two bedroom in the first quarter. Dominion closed the top number of new homes in the market with 298 sales in the first and second quarter, but M/I Homes was not far behind with 267 closings.
San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
Rounding out the top five cities for the next-to-broke buyer is another Texas market. The median new home closing price in the San Antonio-New Braunfels market was $230,400 in the first two quarters with a median price per square foot at $112. In a market where the average rent for a two bedroom in San Antonio peaked at $1,096 in the first-quarter, an estimated total monthly mortgage payment at $1,318 for a new home is a pretty good deal. The Pulte-Del Webb-Centex powerhouse closed the most new homes in the first two quarters at a market total of 400 homes.