Price change from peak: -0.9%
Tim Eller got a triple benefit last month when he closed on his first home in Rochester, N.Y. He relocated there from the much more expensive Washington D.C area, prices have held very stable in the upstate New York city and the interest rate on his loan is very affordable.
The median house price in Rochester was just $106,000 during the three months ended September, 2008, according to Zillow.com. That's off less than 1% from the peak of the market, which was recorded three months earlier.
Eller, who's getting married later this year, paid $150,000 for a three-bed, two-and-a-half bath, 1,400-square-foot colonial in a nice suburb. The mechanical engineer financed the purchase with a 6.25% FHA loan that required only 3% down. He bought for the long haul; he's not expecting outsized appreciation on his investment.
"Rochester did not see the artificial run-up in housing prices," he said. "An investment in housing here seems to equate to a 3% to 5% annual return."
The low cost of housing enables people to purchase homes when they're still young and not yet earning the big bucks they will be later in their careers. They don't get overburdened with mortgage payments to pay for homeownership. Eller's mortgage comes to less than $900 a month. That leaves a lot of money in the budget to spend on fun things. - L.C.