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Waterfront Living On A Budget: The 10 Most Affordable Lake Towns In 2024

Realtor July 7, 2024


Waterfront Living On A Budget: The 10 Most Affordable Lake Towns In 2024

There’s no better time to be near a lake than right now. During these dog days of summer, when the sun rises early and the days stretch long, the peace that comes with a waterfront view is undeniable.

For some, the proximity to a lake is not something that should be saved just for summer vacation or weekend retreats. It’s a year-round lifestyle that offers relaxation and recreation.

Homes near lakes across the U.S. can command about a 20%–30% price premium, according to listing data. But there are still pockets where lakeside living is affordable.

Realtor.com® has unearthed some of the cheapest lake town real estate in the nation, where buyers can find serene lake life without breaking the bank.

To find these locations, the Realtor.com data team looked at all home listings from the past year within a 10-minute walk (a half-mile) from any lake recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey, with an area larger than 320 acres. To make the cut, more than half of a city’s listings had to be within that half-mile range.

The towns included in the analysis had an average home price of less than $450,000. (The median home list price is now about $442,000.) We included cities with at least 50 listings over the past year, but no more than 10,000 (to exclude especially large cities), and we made sure there were at least 30 listings within the half-mile range. Finally, we ranked the towns by their median list price and did some sleuthing to make sure they felt like true “lake towns.”

The towns also blend natural beauty with local charm, nestled in affordable regions like the Upper Midwest and the Deep South—perfect for lake house shoppers on a budget.

Let’s explore the most affordable lakeside real estate for 2024.

1. Rogers City, MI
Lake Huron
Population: 2,866
Median list price: $142,500


Rogers City is the only place on this list that has been featured for affordable lake town living before. Even with some small price increases, it's one of the most inexpensive housing markets that typifies the lakeside lifestyle.

Located in the northern end of Michigan, about 45 minutes from Cheboygan, the entire town of Rogers City is practically walking distance to the shore of the great Lake Huron, and residents can enjoy the lakefront from Seagull Point Park or Lakeside Park.

The town hosts summer salmon fishing tournaments, including the Fat Hogs Fishing Frenzy and the Rogers City Salmon Tournament.

2. Lockport, LA
Lake Fields
Population: 2,761
Median list price: $145,500


Lockport, in Southeastern Louisiana, is surrounded by wetlands and bayous, and fishing is a core piece of the town's economy.

For nature lovers, Bayou Side Park and the Lockport Elevated Boardwalk offer scenic views and trails.

Lockport is also known for its food scene and annual festivals, including The Lockport Food Festival “La Fete Du Monde” in April.

3. Fox Lake, IL
Fox Lake
Population: 10,849
Median list price: $159,500


The town of Fox Lake, a little more than an hour's drive north from Chicago, sits amid a handful of lakes, including its namesake Fox Lake, along with Nippersink Lake, Grass Lake, and Pistakee Lake. These are all part of Illinois’ Chain O’Lakes, the state’s largest inland lake system.

Fox Lake is known for lake activities, and tourism helps drive the town’s economy.

The proximity to Chicago makes it a popular summer home location for the Windy City's residents, where they can enjoy boating, waterskiing, and fishing. The town even boasts rumors that one of the most infamous Chicagoans, Al Capone, hid out in the town's historic Mineola Hotel, adding a touch of historic intrigue.

4. Albert Lea, MN
Multiple Lakes
Population: 18,434
Median list price: $177,450

Albert Lea, about 90 minutes south of Minneapolis, is called the “City of Lakes,” with multiple lakes, including Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake.

Josh Harmdierks of Unique Realty in Albert Lea says the town's character is defined by the lake.

“People just love having a lake right in the center of town," he says. "I always tell people if they get lost in Albert Lea, just find the lake, and they’ll get right back.”

And that's not to mention the fishing.

"Albert Lea Lake was, at one time, one of the top walleye lakes in Minnesota," he says. "The governor even came down four or five years ago when they did the fishing opener on Albert Lea Lake.”

Prize longhorn steer at the Zapata County Fair in Zapata, Texas

5. Zapata, TX
Falcon Lake
Population: 5,110
Median list price: $178,000


Our southernmost affordable lake town is Zapata, a small town in southern Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, about an hour south of Laredo.

Falcon Lake is known for its excellent bass fishing, attracting numerous fishing events and “winter Texans” from November to April. Still, Zapata can get extremely hot in the summer, making the lake a popular spot for locals to cool off.

6. Mentor-On-The-Lake, OH
Lake Erie
Population: 7,152
Median list price: $199,500


About a half-hour northeast of Cleveland, along the shoreline of Lake Erie, you'll find Mentor-On-The-Lake with its well-maintained parks, walking trails, and stunning lake views.

Mentor-On-The-Lake was originally part of Mentor Township, but it became an incorporated city in 1971—and went with an obvious variation on the name.

With a relatively small population, Mentor-On-The-Lake maintains a small-town feel, but with easy access to the larger Cleveland metro.

7. Peshtigo, WI
Peshtigo Flowage 1086
Population: 3,414
Median list price: $199,500


For history buffs, Peshtigo, located in the northeastern part of the state, is most well-known for the devastating 1871 Peshtigo Fire, one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history.

Now nicknamed “The City Rebuilt From Ashes,” Peshtigo offers the lake life for less. The Peshtigo Flowage is well-known for fishing and boating.

The town is also surrounded by forests and parks, making it an ideal location for nature enthusiasts.

8. Bull Shoals, AR
Bull Shoals Lake
Population: 1,790
Median list price: $199,900


Bull Shoals, in northern Arkansas, is known for its massive dam, the fifth-largest concrete dam in the United States, which was finished in 1951 and created Bull Shoals Lake. This small lake town in the Ozark Mountains is also known for an abundance of water recreation.

The local economy is driven by tourism, with visitors coming to the area for boating, fishing, camping, and scenic hiking trails.

9. Forsyth, MO
Lake Taneycomo
Population: 2,731
Median list price: $209,950


Forsyth, nestled near Branson, is another Ozark Mountain oasis of affordability, with inexpensive real estate near the picturesque Lake Taneycomo.

Lake Taneycomo is known for trout fishing, which attracts residents and visitors alike. The town’s proximity to Branson means residents have access to larger-city amenities while still enjoying the tranquility of lakeside living.

Caroga Lake, NY

10. Caroga Lake, NY
Caroga Lake
Population: 577
Median list price: $210,000


Caroga Lake, in the southern Adirondacks, offers a lake setting that typifies a summer getaway, from lakeside camping to swimming and canoeing. But for those who want to make it a full-time lifestyle, the homes here are still affordable.

The town is also home to the Caroga Lake Music Festival, which brings world-class musicians to the area for performances throughout the summer.

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