Homes: What can you buy for under $30,000?

Photo courtesy of Zillow

Don't run away when you see a $25,000 price tag on a house. But proceed with caution.

The explosive growth in home prices we've seen over the past two years is slowing down, and there's still a backlog of cheap properties on the market. But unlike the heyday of the housing crisis -- when decent homes were selling for a fraction of what they were worth -- the quality of today's cheapest homes is a little more of what you'd expect for the price of a down payment on most other homes. If the price on a listing seems too good to be true, there are probably a few hidden (sometimes even obvious) problems prospective buyers should consider.

For example, in Atlanta, $27,500 will get you a six-bedroom duplex -- but there are chunks of the walls missing. You could buy a three-bedroom ranch house in Chicago, if you're comfortable with the high crime rates on the South Side. A two-bedroom home with indoor pool and Jacuzzi access can be yours in Phoenix for $25,900, but you'd have to pay an extra $425-per-month fee to the mobile home park and be 55 or older.

When buying a home for under $30,000, research is key. Consider the location and its potential for growth. Is this an area that's poised for growth? How much work is necessary to improve the property? Does it need a facelift or an overhaul? For this kind of price, it's worth spending a bit more on a lawyer who can make sure the property is up to code and cleared of any tax liens. You should also invest in a good home inspector that will really put the property to the test. Even at $25,000, some homes just aren't worth it.

Here's what you can buy for under $30,000 in 10 places in the U.S.

"What can you buy" is a series that looks at what type of house and amenities you can get at particular price points in various locations across the U.S. Be sure to check out a few of the other posts in the series: What can you buy for around $300,000?, What can you buy for $40,000?, What can you buy for around $100,000?

Houston

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You can buy this two-bedroom, one-bathroom, traditional house in the Smallwood Terrace subdivision of Houston for $26,500, if you pay in cash. Its missing floor tiles, patchy paint job and dated fixtures could be the reason the property's price is less than 10 percent of the city's $272,000 median home value.

It also features the original hardwood floors from 1947 when the home was built, a front porch, off-street parking and a backyard.

Atlanta

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This relatively large $27,500 Fannie Mae foreclosure in the Grove Park area of Atlanta has six bedrooms and four bathrooms. It's a duplex that the listing recommends as an investment opportunity for "handy" buyers in need of a "renovation project." In other words, people unwilling to rebuild huge chunks of torn up wall space need not apply.

Grove Park's crime rate could also be an issue for would-be landlords. The area has an estimated 50 percent more violent crimes than the Atlanta average, and 263 percent more than the rest of Georgia, according to Area Vibes, a site that culls government data on neighborhoods.

The duplex has two off-street parking spaces and sits on a 7,405-square-foot lot.

Philadelphia

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In the Cobbs Creek section of Philadelphia, you'll find this three-bedroom, one-bathroom, two-story condo listed for $25,900. The condo has a fenced yard, full basement, "spacious living room" and street parking. The property, which was built in 1944, is in need of some interior and exterior updates. But the main problem, as with many other inexpensive homes in cities across the country, is location.

Philadelphia's violent crime rate is 232 percent higher than the Pennsylvania average, according to Area Vibes, and the rate in Cobbs Creek is 6 percent higher than that. The local housing market is feeling the weight of these safety concerns, with a median home value of just $63,100.

Chicago

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For $25,000, you can buy this three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house in the Roseland area of Chicago. The median home value for the neighborhood is around $125,455, according to City-Data. While the property does require "medium renovations" like "some kitchen and bathroom work," its price is probably also a reflection of the notoriously high crime rate on the city's South Side.

The home features a porch, hardwood floors (which also appear to need some repairs), a large walk-in closet and a partially finished basement.

Pineville, West Virginia

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This two-bedroom, one-bathroom mobile home in Pineville, West Virginia, went on the market in July for $25,000. Pineville, a town about 140 miles southeast of Huntington, is about as small as they come with a population of just 654 people. If you're interested in life off-the-grid, the property appears to be in good condition and the inexpensive purchase price -- which is about a quarter of the median home value in the state -- will also get you an acre of land.

It has a laundry room, both carpets and hardwood flooring, an outdoor storage shed and a deck.

Jacksonville, Florida

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Near the Urban Core area of Jacksonville, Florida, $27,000 will buy you this three-bedroom, one-bathroom, bright blue fixer-upper. The city currently has a seller's market and a rising median home value of $122,400, according to Zillow, but those factors pale in comparison to the property's obvious problems.

While the listing puts rose-colored glasses on the fact that it "may need some renovations," its photos of pulled-up flooring, dingy walls, missing windows, rusty appliances and a precarious front porch tell a different story.

The home features a detached garage, shingled siding, a backyard area and a fireplace.

Phoenix

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You can buy this two-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home in North Phoenix for $25,900 -- if you're 55 or older, that is. It's currently part of the Paradise Shadows Mobile Home Park community, where older adults pay an extra $425 per month to rent a space and gain access to recreational amenities -- like an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, putting green and shuffleboard court -- and an "active social club."

The property appears to be in relatively good condition, with almost charmingly dated fixtures and décor that reflect the late 1970s when it was first built. It features a car port, outdoor storage shed, laundry room and eat-in kitchen.

Memphis, Tennessee

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In the Berclair-Highland Heights neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee, you can buy this three-bedroom, one-bathroom house for $25,000. While the area boasts a low cost of living and median home value -- just $42,000 according to Zillow -- it has very high crime rates. According to Movoto, the Berclair-Highland Heights crime index is 21 percent higher than the average of Memphis.

This listing doesn't pull any punches -- the home is a mess. The new owner would need to "paint, re-finish hardwood floors," install central air and "repair/replace broken/busted sheetrock."

Columbus, Ohio

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This three-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-story home is currently on the market in the Schumacher Place section of Columbus, Ohio, for exactly $25,000. The neighborhood is adjacent to the trendy German Village, a historic area with a large variety of dining options.

While the listing says this house has been "well maintained," photos of stained and broken cabinets, dirty carpeting and rusty basement fixtures suggest it needs some serious TLC. Its price has gone down since it was listed in March for $32,000. The median home value in the neighborhood is $206,300, according to Zillow.

The property, which was built in 1922, features an unfinished basement, a fenced backyard, two off-street parking spaces, a year-old roof and a fireplace.

Topeka, Kansas

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For $26,900, you can buy this four-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the Ward Meade area of Topeka, Kansas, just northwest of downtown. Ward Meade's architectural history -- including its series of transplanted 19th century buildings called Old Prairie Town -- is a draw for both tourists and locals.

This home last sold in 1995 for $39,900, and since then the owner, a local real estate agent, has reduced the price two times: Once in August when it went on the market for $29,900, and again when it was relisted in September. According to Zillow, it's about 70 percent less expensive than the median home price in the area.

It has a fireplace, detached garage, partial basement, a backyard and hardwood floors.