Small towns often look like storybook towns in which there are no big-city problems, everyone is pretty much the same on equal footing and there are no disparities in terms of income and wealth.


With an analysis recently published by Moody’s Investors Services indicating that the era of “unusually affordable housing” has come to an end, another separate report done by LendingTree, America’s largest online lending marketplace, indicates that small towns are experiencing the same affordability declines and problems affecting large metro cities.

According to LendingTree, “…our study indicated that people who live in towns could experience the same kinds of issues related to housing affordability and wealth inequality as city dwellers. In some cases, these issues can be even more prevalent in towns than cities.”

LendingTree went about determining America’s most expensive towns by calculating likely monthly (housing) payments and down payments for median priced home in a given micropolitan area. LendingTree’s conclusions? “The majority of the towns featured in this study are unaffordable for the median income earners living in them. Both renting and owning a home are out of reach…in 42 or 50 towns looked at for this study.”

LendingTree’s Top 10 Most Expensive Towns

  1. Vineyard Haven MA
  2. Summit Park UT
  3. Breckenridge CO
  4. Jackson WY
  5. Steamboat Springs CO
  6. Heber UT
  7. Juneau AL
  8. Hood River OR
  9. Hailey ID
  10. Easton MD

LendingTree’s conclusion that the majority of these towns are unaffordable for median income earners living in them suggests that many living in these towns do not live in them on a year-round basis. This conclusion suggests that many “residents” make the bulk of their income elsewhere in order to afford to buy homes in these towns that are simply outside the price range of average townspeople.

Since the majority of the most expensive towns, according to LendingTree, are considered resort or destination towns, many of the workers come into town “for the season,” work several jobs in order to earn as much as possible, live with 6-8 people crammed into housing units designed for 2-3 people so they can make ends meet while living close to their jobs and then move on when “the season” ends to other resort/destination towns where “the season” is just beginning.

Demand for top tier luxury homes in these most expensive towns, along with building restrictions, cause home prices to soar. So, on the one hand, there are people and/or families living in 15,000 square foot houses for two weeks a year and, on the other hand, there are 6-8 people living in 1,200 square foot units for 6-8 months a year servicing those two week/year “residents.” The result…splintering income and wealth inequalities, just as in large metros.

Thanks to HousingWire’s Alcynne Lloyd for source data.

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