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2012 MSN Real Estate Most Livable Bargain Markets

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9/14/2012 - 2012 MSN Real Estate Most Livable Bargain Markets
by MSN Real Estate online

2012 MSN Real Estate Most Livable Bargain Markets

 Asheville, N.C.

The Rockefellers and Vanderbilts have long enjoyed Asheville and its mild summer weather, but it's now affordable enough that much of the other 99% can enjoy it, too.

Home prices, which swelled here during the real-estate boom, have dropped, making this scenic city more affordable for all.

"Now we've got people coming back here from all over the country," says Rowena Patton, broker with locally based Patton Property Group. Many are so-called "half-backs" -- New York seniors who retreated from Miami to come halfway back to their home state.

There's a lot to keep residents here, including the beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains and one of the best collections of early 20th-century architecture in the South, thanks to the titans of industry who helped construct ornate churches, houses and other buildings here -- most notably the 175,000-square-foot Biltmore Estate.

It has a lively music and arts scene, too, with many performance halls, galleries, cultural festivals and craft fairs as well as the renovated Pack Square gallery district, which holds museums and the 500-seat Diana Wortham Theater. If the arts aren't your bag, there are plenty of local recreational attractions, such as whitewater kayaking, trails for hiking and mountain biking and a short ski season on the nearby slopes.

Most important for those looking to relocate, it's a good place to find a job. Forbes ranks it 17th this year on its Best Places for Business and Careers list, which evaluates, among other things, the job growth and educational attainment of the nation's 200 largest cities.

Retirees will find high-quality health care and new opportunities for learning at the University of North Carolina's Asheville Center for Creative Retirement. "It's somewhere where people can retire and still feel very useful," Patton says.

Cons: Mountain driving makes commuting take a bit longer; the closest major airport is two hours away; and it has a slightly higher cost of living than other comparable Southern cities its size.

  • Population: 415,954
  • Affordability ratio: 43
  • Unemployment: 7.9%
  • Job growth: 2.46%
  • Median home price: $164,500
  • Cost-of-living index: 100.5
  • Median household income: $43,237
  • Average commute time: 24 minutes
  • Commutes longer than an hour: 4%

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