PRICED TO MOVE
Home prices have gone through the roof over the past few years, especially in the big cities along the coasts. The cost of buying a home in the United States has risen for 60 straight months, jumping 7.7 percent from last year to a median price of $228,400 in February, the National Association of Realtors reported last month. But beyond the major urban markets, buyers can still find houses for well below $100,000, according to figures from Zillow, the online real estate database. Hot spots for bargain hunters include small towns in Texas, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee that boast scenic surroundings and friendly neighbors.
Median home value: $67,300
This little town of just over 9,000 people can be found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on Potato Creek. There are numerous parks and places to hike in this rural community, which is also within 60 miles of the state's three largest cities, Atlanta, Macon, and Columbus.
Median home value: $60,200
This little town of 11,147 is located in South Texas, about 50 miles north of South Padre Island and Brownsville, which is on the Mexican border. Its official motto couldn't be friendlier: "The City With a Smile."
Median home value: $62,400
If you like bird-watching, Connersville is the place to be. This town of just over 13,000 hosts the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary, many outdoor activities along the White River, and employment opportunities at 50 industrial firms. It is also centrally located to Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Dayton, Ohio.
UNION CITY, TENNESSEE
Median home value: $66,900
There is a lot to do in this West Tennessee town of more than 10,600. There are shops, restaurants, and an active theater company in Union City's revitalized downtown. If nature's more your thing, check out the bird habitat on Lake Isom.
Median home value: $70,800
"Leafy" might be one way to describe this small western Illinois city of more than 31,600. The city has been named a Tree City USA for 17 straight years by the Arbor Day Foundation for effective urban forest management.
Median home value: $71,300
For fans of the blues, Clarksdale is an appealing place to live. This Mississippi Delta town of just over 17,000 hosts blues festivals throughout the year. There's also a vibrant dining scene, including a restaurant co-owned by Morgan Freeman.
Median home value: $72,100
Bradford is a town for people who enjoy the outdoors. Nestled inside the Allegheny National Forest, this town of 8,552 offers "unhurried simplicity, affordable living, and a friendly atmosphere."
Median home value: $73,600
Home to Vincennes University, this city of 18,032 is rich in history, with roots that go back to 1732, when the French founded a trading post here. Vincennes has a number of buildings that date to the early 1800s, unusual for the Midwest.
Median home value: $73,900
Borger bills itself as the "Gateway to the Texas Plains." This town of nearly 13,000 in the Texas Panhandle also boasts 24 parks, two golf courses, and "some of the friendliest people you will never meet."
Median home value: $74,300
Located along the Schuylkill River roughly 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, this town of 14,324 is described as a "quaint, family-oriented community." The seat of Schuylkill County, Pottsville has a busy downtown, with businesses like Yuengling Brewery, Jerry's Classic Cars and Collectibles, and Sovereign Majestic Theater drawing 100,000 visitors a year.
Median home value: $75,000
This community of nearly 19,000 is located in farm country in west central Illinois. Home to Western Illinois State University, it offers the attractions of a "wonderfully rural farmers market" with the charm of a university town.
PINE BLUFF, ARKANSAS
Median home value: $75,200
This city of 45,332 in central Arkansas got its picturesque name when it was founded in the 1800s by a settler and his wife on a bluff with tall pines overlooking the Arkansas River. Among the things to see downtown are 13 murals that highlight local history and attractions.
Median home value: $75,600
This industrial city of nearly 50,000 gets its name from the Saginaw River, which runs through the city center. The gateway to vacation and recreation hot spots in scenic northern Michigan, Saginaw's downtown needs work, although there is an entertainment district in the "Old Town."
Median home value: $75,800
There are more than 15 parks in this southern Ohio town of 20,326, including Mound Park, home to historic Indian mounds. Laid out between the Scioto and Ohio Rivers, Portsmouth offers "endless outdoor recreation" and bills itself as the place "Where Southern Hospitality Begins."
Median home value: $76,200
One of the big attractions in this college town of 11,322 is the Tennessee Soybean Festival, held each year on Labor Day Weekend. The town is also home to the University of Tennessee at Martin, which means plenty of sports and cultural events.
Median home value: $76,200
This little town of 4,534 is in the northwest corner of the state, roughly 40 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and about 90 miles from Atlanta. The town's website boasts that Summerville residents "exhibit warmth, friendliness, and helpfulness to their neighbors and visitors."
BIG STONE GAP, VIRGINIA
Median home value: $76,400
A town of 5,457 tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Big Stone Gap is the setting for the popular novel and movie by the same name, about an aging spinster who discovers a family secret that changes her world. It is also home to 10 parks and the annual Gathering in the Gap Music Festival.
TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA
Median home value: $76,500
There is a lot to do in this city of 60,956 on the Illinois border. In addition to the Indiana Track and Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame, Terre Haute is also home to museums on Native Americans, pioneer life, and old-time railroads.
OIL CITY, PENNSYLVANIA
Median home value: $76,600
Oil City gets its name from its history in the late 1800s as a major center for oil drilling. Today the oil wells are gone, but this town of 10,227 commemorates its past with the annual Oil Heritage Festival.
Median home value: $76,900
This city of more than 180,000 boasts that its semi-tropical climate "is one of the most delightful in the nation." With an average year-round temperature of 74 degrees and the Gulf of Mexico just minutes away, Brownsville's boosters may have a point.
Median home value: $78,600
This town of nearly 10,000 is tucked away in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky by the Cumberland Gap, the famous passage through the mountains that countless settlers trekked through in the 1700s. There are miles of hiking trails, a cave, and a museum at nearby Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
Median home value: $79,000
The Boy Scouts' annual Pinewood Derby tournament, held at the local mall, was one of the top news stories last month in this town of 16,389, located on the Forked Deer River, roughly 80 miles northeast of Memphis. The town is the regional medical, employment, retail, and cultural hub for 300,000 residents in Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.
Median home value: $79,200
Muncie was the focus of the famous Middletown study in the 1920s and 1930s by sociologists who studied it as an example of the typical mid-American town. Muncie, a city of 70,211, is No. 46 on Forbes' list of the "Best Small Places for Businesses and Careers."