Stretch Your Money

This is where you'll find the most affordable homes in Dallas-Fort Worth

This is where you'll find the most affordable homes in DFW

Grand Prairie Main Street Fest
Priced out of Dallas-Fort Worth? Try Grand Prairie. Photo courtesy of Grand Prairie Main Street

Feeling a pinch when you pay the mortgage on your Dallas-Fort Worth home? It's not your imagination — Zillow recently calculated that a house payment in DFW takes a 12.6 percent chunk out of residents' income.

Surprisingly, that's less than the 16.1 percent you'll fork over in Lewisville, DFW's most cost-burdened city. But even in this expensive market you can still find pockets of affordability, if you're willing to put up with a few predictable trade-offs, such as fewer amenities and longer commutes.

Zillow determined that the metro-level mortgage burden for the United States as a whole is 14.6 percent, which makes DFW's 12.6 percent and its famous "low cost of living" even sweeter. But if you're looking to be even gentler on your bank account, consider driving a few miles out to Grand Prairie, which emerges as the local pocket with the smallest mortgage burden, at only 10.6 percent.

A good portion of the study focuses on the seemingly out-of-control West Coast markets, where mortgage payments can eat up as much as 75 percent of a homeowner's paycheck (our condolences, Palo Alto). But it all illustrates how hot spots within popular housing markets have caused runaway housing costs that place significant burdens on the people who live and work there, even as the cities next door remain more affordable.

"The Bay Area and other expensive West Coast markets get a lot of attention for being unaffordable, but even they have some areas where the share of income spent on housing is relatively low," says Zillow chief economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Of course, buyers have to be willing to make some trade-offs to live in more affordable cities within the metro. Some cities in the most in-demand housing markets across the country have such a high housing burden that they are simply not feasible for buyers with lower incomes. If income growth doesn't keep pace with home value growth, especially as mortgage rates rise, inequality will persist."

The other Texas cities in the study all fall below the national mortgage burden, except for Austin proper and its costly 20.3 percent. That's pretty close to Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim's affordable Lancaster (18.5 percent), which is only a "short" 70 miles from pricey (66.1 percent) Santa Monica. Trade-offs, remember?