MUNCIE — Whoever said life in a college town has to be expensive has clearly never taken a look at the Muncie area.
Realtors.com named the city the least expensive college town in America when it comes to the housing market, with the median list price for a home at just under $78,000. The most expensive town on the list — Berkley, California — has a median price of nearly $850,000.
The website also attributes the power of Ball State University’s employment — 3,000 faculty and staff, to date — as another major factor in the ranking. Ball State is the area’s largest employer.
While among the lowest in the country for a city its size, Muncie’s living costs are well in line with the area’s median income, Coldwell Banker Lunsford broker Jim Kouns said.
Kouns said about half the people who want to buy a house in Muncie can afford to do so, compared to larger cities, which have affordability rates of under 10 percent. The median income in Muncie, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, is around $31,000.
“If you look at (income and home prices) side-by-side, Muncie’s actually doing really well,” he said. “It’s a good and an overall affordable place to live, and people who live here know that.”
While Kouns said the costs are good for the buying market, he noted that people selling a home tend to be in a more difficult situation. Even so, a city like Muncie seems to offer a good balance for those who want more places to go than what’s found inside the city limits.
“Money definitely goes farther in Muncie than you’d get in a big city, such as Chicago,” Kouns said. “People sometimes want the (big city) lifestyle, but they can’t afford it. Muncie’s a great place to be because Indianapolis is just down the road for (weekend excursions).”
The low housing prices are also a dose of reality for those looking to get the most out of their home’s sale value.
“You can’t live in a city Muncie’s size and with (its economy) and expect to get what you’d get in California,” he said.