As part of a state-by-state series, consumer advocacy site NerdWallet has analyzed the federal data and found the best places for homeownership in Arkansas – and Mena made the list, ranking in the top 20.
“Arkansas’ best places for homeownership are spread all across the state, showing that conditions are right for homebuying in nearly every corner of Arkansas,” said Maggie Clark, analyst with NerdWallet. “With moderate home values and low mortgage and utility costs, potential homebuyers should take notice of these communities.”
Arkansas is seeing growth in population and jobs, which is reflected in the local housing market. Compared with March last year, home sales were up 6% this year, according to the Arkansas Realtors Association.
In 2012, 76,948 people moved into the state, and 64,967 moved out. Meanwhile, economic circumstances are improving, if only slightly, for its residents. Personal income increased 2.2% between 2012 and 2013, to $36,086 a year, while unemployment decreased 0.9% from April 2013 to April 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
NerdWallet crunched the numbers for all 62 Arkansas communities with more than 5,000 residents to find the best cities for homeownership in the state. Here’s what the best cities had in common:
▪ Home values were less than $200,000 in all but two places, making Arkansas an affordable place to live
▪ Homeowners in half the places spent less than 25% of their income on monthly homeowner costs, which include mortgage and utility bills
▪ 18 of the 20 cities gained population between 2010 and 2012
To help Arkansas residents become homeowners, the Arkansas Development Finance Authority provides homebuyer programs, including “HomeToOwn,” which offers low-interest loans to low- and moderate-income residents and a Down Payment Assistance Program for lower-income homebuyers. Plus, USDA Rural Housing Programs make home loans available to homebuyers in rural areas.
Our analysis of the best places for homeownership in Arkansas answers three main questions:
1. Are homes available? We looked at the area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.
2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher. Are you thinking about buying a home? Learn more about current mortgage rates and mortgage refinancing options in our mortgage guide, as well as whether it’s best to rent or buy.
3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.
The Top 20 Cities/Towns making the list are:
- Bella Vista
- Hot Springs Village
- White Hall
- Van Buren
- Siloam Springs