A $50,000 House - But At What Cost?

By Katie Adams | August 31, 2009 AAA
A $50,000 House - But At What Cost?

Can you still get a house for $50,000? The answer may surprise you. While, the average U.S. home price is $181,000 and for more than $130,000 less than that, you can become a homeowner. However, for that rock bottom price tag you may have to sacrifice a few things on your homebuying wish list such as size, location, age and amenities. Let's look at your options listed through Trulia.com:

A Work In Progress
3 bed/2 ½ bath single-family home in Grove Park
Location: Atlanta, GA
Price: $50,000

To make this your new home you're going to have to either finish it yourself or hire a contractor to finish the work since it's only partially complete. It requires drywall work, electrical exterior painting, countertops, appliances, driveway and more. You may be able to realize a great profit if you can price the work right and you like the location; however it's going to take some major additional cash to make it livable. (Follow this step-by-step guide to make your homeownership dreams a reality. Read Top Tips For First-Time Home Buyers.)

Not The Best Area
3 bed/2 bath 1,512 sq ft. single-family home
Location: Beaverton, OR
Price: $48,500

This property is a manufactured home in very good, move-in condition and boasts a new roof along with well-rated local schools. Its location (bordered by a major highway and freeway) may be a turnoff for some potential buyers. In addition there are disproportionately more neighborhood homes for sale that are either in foreclosure or are already bank-owned than in nearby areas which may mean that it's a less attractive area for buyers or that prices haven't dropped as much as necessary.

It can also indicate that you may be moving into an area that has a glut of vacant homes because former owners have had to move out.

History In the Making
2 bed/1 bath 897 sq. ft. condo in Hyde Park
Location: Boston, MA

Price: $50,000

The upside is that, as a short sale, the property is well under the local median sales price of more than $262,000, and it's located near public transportation for an easy commute into the city; the downside is that it will require a cash infusion to make some much-needed improvements, especially considering that the property is nearly 100 years old. (Don't let a slow real estate market drag you down - steer clear of these pitfalls. Check out 5 Mistakes Real Estate Investors Should Avoid.)

Capital Expenses
3 bed/2 bath 1,372 sq. ft. townhome
Location: Centreville, VA
Price: $46,684

This house could be the deal of your dreams if you're looking for affordable living within reasonable driving distance to the nation's capital. While the property doesn't offer a fenced yard or lawn to speak of, it is located in a thriving downtown suburb with a lower than average crime rate and high number of college-educated homeowners and young families.

The cost of living in this area is relatively high so this property may help you afford to reach your goal of homeownership in this area. Similarly-sized REO townhomes are listing for at least five to seven times as much!

Love It Or Lease It
2 bed/1.5 bath 1,040 sq. ft. townhome off Military Highway
Location: Dallas, TX
Price: $50,000

This property is on a pretty tree-lined street in the Riverview Estates/Bruton Terrace neighborhood in Dallas, just outside the city. The downside is that it's currently leased to a tenant for 12 months; if you can buy and hold until the lease is up and then either move in or rent it again it might be a deal worth considering. Find out what factors you should weigh when searching for income-producing real estate. Check out Top 10 Features Of A Profitable Rental Property.)

Price-wise the property is a steal at 34% lower than comparable homes in the area and 54% lower than the average price for homes in the same zip code. Also, the local crime rate is well above national averages - three times higher overall (for all types of reported crime) and six times higher than the national average for robbery. Safety might rule this sale out. (

Needs Some TLC
2 bed/1 bath 1,006 sq. ft. duplex in Old North Milwaukee
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Price: $45,000

This short sale two-family property is located in a nice neighborhood with wide, tree-lined streets but also comes with a long list of needed repairs. If you're intending to move in or use it as an investment property you'll need to drop money on kitchen and bath remodeling, extensive roof and gutter repair, and drywalling work due to old roof leaks.

However if you've got the cash (or elbow grease and skill) you'll get a gem in the rough - the home was built in 1928, has original hardwood throughout and sits on two acres. The home price is 24% lower than the local average list price and 63% lower than the average home price for properties in the same zip code. Depending on the renovation expense it might not seem like enough of a bargain to seal the deal!

Priced To Move
3 bed/1 bath 1,528 sq. ft. single-family home in Autumnwood
Location: Mobile, AL
Price: $49,500

This brick, ranch-style home is an REO property that is selling for nearly $40,000 less than the last time it was sold - 22 months ago it sold for $85,400. The home was built in 1959 and features wood floors, a fenced backyard, newly-painted rooms and newly-tiled kitchen, and attractively landscaped front lawn. (Don't let buying a home bust your budget. Make sure the house you choose is worth the price you pay. Read 10 Tips For Getting A Fair Price On A Home.)

The home is priced to sell - comparable properties in the neighborhood are selling for $30,000 more. And while the area is predominantly made up of families the local crime rate is twice the national average overall and nearly four times higher for certain types of crime including robbery and property crime. Get to know the neighborhood well before you rush to make an offer.

Foreclosed Opportunity
4 bed/1 bath 2,340 sq. ft. in Granite School District
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Price: $50,000

This property has just entered the foreclosure process, meaning that the person holding the mortgage has defaulted on the loan.

The property has been on the market for nearly four months (before the homeowner defaulted on the loan) so that may indicate it's either in poor condition or not a great buy for the location even if it is priced at 72% lower than the average list price for homes in the same zip code. (Sometimes it's better to cut your losses, but foreclosures and short selling can have devastating impacts on your credit score. Read Short Sales And Foreclosures: When It's Time To Move On.)

The Bottom Line
If your homebuying budget is tight you may be able to find a "gem in the rough" while the housing market is still depressed. But you'll need to lower your expectations, do a little legwork (and perhaps a little heavy lifting) to make it the home of your dreams. (To learn more about the homebuying process, be sure to read our Buying A Home tutorial.)

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