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Best Affordable 'Burbs

Potential homebuyers are enjoying low loan rates (mortgage rates dipped below 5 percent again, according to finance company Freddie Mac). But affordability isn't just about cheap money, it's about low prices -- hopefully for a home not in the middle of nowhere.

Hence today's Bloomberg BusinessWeek "Best Affordable Suburbs in America 2010" list. To make the cut, a 'burb had to be within 25 miles of the most populous city in the state, have a relatively high median household income, and outmuscle its competitors in terms of racial diversity, crime rates, and good weather. On the cost side, data provider OnBoard Informatics calculated each 'burb's living expenses, which includes home prices, taxes, and transportation costs.

The most affordable suburb on the list is Berkley, Mich., an Oakland County city of 14,416 near Detroit -- and boasts a median family income of $83,470 and a median home price of $103,799.

Highest median home price on the list was $495,000 in La Palma, Calif., an Orange County suburb of Los Angeles which has a median family income of $95,853. (That doesn't sound like a great affordability ratio of income to home price to me either; seems even despite the foreclosure crisis, large swaths of California aren't cheap.)

In a tour of other states hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, we have Summerlin South in Clark County, Nev., near Las Vegas; Cave Creek in Maricopa County, Ariz., near Phoenix, and Fruit Cove in St. John's County, Fla., near Jacksonville. (Fun fact: Jacksonville is technically a larger city than Miami because of the way bean-counters figure city areas versus metro areas.)

In terms of big states, in New York, the winner is Rockland County's Pearl River (with a median family income of $115,954 and a median home price of $385,000). In New Jersey, it's Clark in Union County (where my grandma used to live; ratio of median home price to income 4:1), and in Illinois, it's Mokena in Will County near Chicago, where the median home price is just 2.5 times the median family income.

The best big-state deal may be Texas, though, where you can move to Harris County's Deer Park, near Houston -- and the median family income is $89,348, and the average home price is $131,709. Now that's affordable.

Still looking for your state? Click for the full Bloomberg BusinessWeek "Best Affordable Suburbs 2010" list.

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