5 Cities in New York With a Low Cost of Living

Two parents and two children enjoy a barbecue in the backyard surrounded by green trees.

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New York offers more than just expensive city life.


Important points

  • New York State has a reputation for being expensive, but that’s largely due to the cost of real estate in NYC.
  • There are affordable cities in other parts of the state including Western NY, Central NY and Southern Tier.
  • Check out cities like Buffalo and Rochester to get more bang for your buck.

Always wanted to live in the Empire State? New York has a reputation for being expensive, but according to research from The Ascent, the average single-family home for the state as a whole is $375,719. That’s 12% less than the typical home value for the US as a whole, which is $428,700. According to Zillow, New York City home prices continue to rise, averaging $778,733 as of August 31, 2022.

While NYC is buzzing with excitement and truly “the city that never sleeps” if you want to buy an affordable home and enjoy a lower-than-average cost of living, New York has other vibrant cities worth considering. You’ll find rich history and diverse industries, and the surrounding metropolitan areas often have excellent schools. And if you’re into winter sports, some of these towns won’t disappoint, as they get plenty of lake-effect snow thanks to their proximity to the Great Lakes. Conversely, summers are beautiful and often without the high heat and humidity found in much of the country. Let’s look at five affordable cities in upstate New York.

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1. Binhamton

Median home price: $164,359

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Percent of US average: 38%

Binghamton is the largest city in the Southern Tier region of New York, which lies just over the state’s southern border. It lies at the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers. The construction of the now-defunct Chenango Canal connected the city to other attractions and industries via New York State’s Erie Canal. If you choose to live in Binghamton, you will have easy access to other Southern Plains cities such as Ithaca, Elmira and Corning. Healthcare and education are the largest employment industries in the region.

2. Buffalo

Median home price: $214,151

Percent of US Average: 50%

New York’s Queen City of Buffalo is the second largest in the state and offers residents easy access to the Great Lakes and the beauty and majesty of Niagara Falls, as well as proximity to Canada to the west. Buffalo has both an NFL team (the Bills) and an NHL team (the Sabers). The area was economically hit by the loss of heavy industry in the mid-20th century, but recovered with the addition of information technology companies. So if you are in the technology sector, Buffalo could be a good fit for you and your career.

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3.Rochester

Median home price: $218,117

Percent of US average: 51%

Rochester is located west of New York, between Buffalo and Syracuse. Its importance to the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements cannot be overstated (it was once home to Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony), and the city offers a mix of historic architectural attractions. Rochester is also the headquarters of the legendary Wegmans grocery chain. Along with the University of Rochester and healthcare companies, it is one of the largest employers in the region.

4. Syracuse

Median home price: $165,667

Percent of US average: 38%

Syracuse, the largest city in central New York, is legendary for its winters, averaging 127.8 inches of snow. It is home to Syracuse University, a private college with nearly 17,000 students and a notable NCAA Division I presence in basketball and soccer. The university is one of the larger employers in the area, but Syracuse is also a bastion of the healthcare industry, and four hospitals operate in the city.

5. Utica

Median home price: $174,102

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Percent of US average: 41%

Located in the Mohawk River Valley, Utica offers beautiful countryside and a small but vibrant downtown area. Like other Rust Belt cities, Utica struggled with the decline in domestic manufacturing in the mid-20th century, but recovered with the introduction of new industries, including healthcare and higher education (see a pattern among New York cities?). His FX Matt Brewing Company, the maker of Saranac beer, is a particularly successful craft brewery, and the city is also known worldwide for its annual Boilermaker 15K Road Race.

If you have dreams of moving to the Empire State, check out these five affordable cities with low housing costs and high quality of life.

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