The 10 Most Affordable Places to Live in Minnesota

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By Michael Yessis Updated June 12, 2024
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Edited by Ashley Simon

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The 56701 zip code in Thief River Falls tops our ranking of the most affordable places to live in Minnesota.

We looked at 165 zip codes in the state, evaluating home values, rental costs, energy rates, property taxes, and five other affordability indicators. We used the data we gathered to calculate our proprietary Affordability Score for each zip code.  

Top 10 most affordable places to live in Minnesota

RankCity Affordability Score Median home valueRental costs
1Thief River Falls 🥇100$194,894$1,671
2Austin🥈99.5$172,648$777
3East Grand Forks 🥉97.8$267,474$600
4Albert Lea97.0$164,563$1,125
5Hibbing94.7$144,313$1,671
6Fairmont94.6$172,290$1,671
7Fergus Falls90.8$229,024$998
8Marshall88.9$230,452$1,671
9South Saint Paul88.3$292,971$1,202
10Saint Cloud86.8$229,222$1,209
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1. Thief River Falls

Here's why the 56701 zip code in Thief River Falls is Minnesota's most affordable place to live.

🔎 Key data about Thief River Falls

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 100 No. 1N/A
Median home value $194,894[1]No. 5 -$163,225.20
Home affordability ratio 2.7No. 4-1.2
Home value five-year change 5.2%[2]No. 3-25.1%
Home value one-year forecast -3.0%[3]No. 1200.0%
Rental costs $1,671[4]No. 64$0
Rent affordability ratio 1.82%No. 690.0%
Median household income $71,781[5]No. 118-$20,224
Property taxes $2,130[6]No. 19-$1,345
Energy costs $0.12 kWh[7]No. 1-$0.04
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Thief River Falls's 56701 zip code is the cheapest place to live in Minnesota, leading the 165 markets we evaluated. 

The median home value is $194,894, making it the 5th-cheapest housing market in the state. Forecasts project a -3.0% change in home values in the next year. Rent in the zip code averages $1,671 per month, which is the 69th cheapest amount in Minnesota.

The median property tax for homeowners in Thief River Falls is $2,130 per household, the No. 19 ranked market in Minnesota. 

Residents pay $0.12 per kWh of electricity, which ranks No. 1 among Minnesota markets.

2. Austin

The 55912 zip code is the 2nd-cheapest place to live in Minnesota.

🔎 Key data about Austin

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 99.5No. 2N/A
Median home value $172,648[8]No. 4-$185,470.80
Home affordability ratio 2.7No. 5-1.2
Home value five-year change 50.6%[9]No. 16220.3%
Home value one-year forecast -0.5%[10]No. 1632.5%
Rental costs $777[11]No. 2-$895
Rent affordability ratio 1.22%No. 3-0.6%
Median household income $63,467[12]No. 146-$28,538
Property taxes $1,486[13]No. 2-$1,989
Energy costs $0.16 kWh[14]No. 33$0.00
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Austin's 55912 zip code has a median home value of $172,648, which is the 163rd-cheapest housing market in Minnesota. You can rent for an average of $777 per month. That's the 2nd-cheapest price in the state.

The average household income in the zip code is $63,467, which ranks 146th-highest in the state. 

Homeowners in Austin pay a median property tax of $1,486 per year, making it the 2nd-most affordable market in Minnesota.

Austin ranks No. 33 among Minnesota energy markets. You'll pay $0.16 per kWh of electricity.

3. East Grand Forks

The 3rd-cheapest place to live in Minnesota is East Grand Forks's 56721 zip code.

🔎 Key data about East Grand Forks

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 97.8No. 3N/A
Median home value $267,474[15]No. 29-$90,645.13
Home affordability ratio 3.1No. 8-0.8
Home value five-year change 19.8%[16]No. 15-10.5%
Home value one-year forecast -4.2%[17]No. 1-1.2%
Rental costs $600[18]No. 1-$1,071
Rent affordability ratio 0.69%No. 1-1.1%
Median household income $86,875[19]No. 88-$5,130
Property taxes $2,727[20]No. 41-$748
Energy costs $0.15 kWh[21]No. 20$0.00
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The No. 29 cheapest housing in Minnesota is East Grand Forks's 56721 zip code, with a median home value of $267,474. Rents in the market average $600 per month, making it the 1st-most affordable rental market in the state.

The median property tax for households in East Grand Forks is $2,727, which makes it the 41st-cheapest place in Minnesota. East Grand Forks ranks No. 20 among Minnesota markets by energy costs. Residents pay $0.15 per kWh of electricity.

4. Albert Lea

The 56007 zip code in Albert Lea comes in at No. 4 on our list of the cheapest places to live in Minnesota.

🔎 Key data about Albert Lea

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 97.0No. 4N/A
Median home value $164,563[22]No. 2-$193,556.11
Home affordability ratio 2.6No. 1-1.2
Home value five-year change 44.9%[23]No. 15314.6%
Home value one-year forecast 0.0%[24]No. 1643.0%
Rental costs $1,125[25]No. 8-$546
Rent affordability ratio 1.81%No. 680.0%
Median household income $62,113[26]No. 150-$29,892
Property taxes $1,647[27]No. 4-$1,828
Energy costs $0.16 kWh[28]No. 33$0.00
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The No. 2 cheapest housing market in Minnesota is Albert Lea's 56007 zip code, where the median home value is $164,563. Renters here pay an average of $1,125 per month. 

When it comes to energy costs, Albert Lea ranks 33rd among Minnesota markets. Residents pay $0.16 per kWh of electricity.

The median property tax for households in the zip code is $1,647, which makes it the 4th-cheapest market in Minnesota.

5. Hibbing

The 55746 zip code in Hibbing ranks No. 5 among Minnesota's most affordable places to live.

🔎 Key data about Hibbing

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 94.7No. 5N/A
Median home value $144,313[29]No. 1-$213,806.35
Home affordability ratio 2.7No. 3-1.2
Home value five-year change 50.7%[30]No. 16320.4%
Home value one-year forecast -0.9%[31]No. 1542.1%
Rental costs $1,671[32]No. 64$0
Rent affordability ratio 1.82%No. 690.0%
Median household income $53,209[33]No. 159-$38,796
Property taxes $1,076[34]No. 1-$2,399
Energy costs $0.14 kWh[35]No. 8-$0.02
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Hibbing's 55746 zip code has a median home value of $144,313, the 1st-cheapest market in the state. Forecasts project a -0.9% change in home values in the next year. 

The median property tax per household in Hibbing is $1,076. It's the 1st-cheapest market by tax rate in Minnesota.

6. Fairmont

The No. 6 most affordable place to live in Minnesota is the 56031 zip code.

🔎 Key data about Fairmont

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 94.6No. 6N/A
Median home value $172,290[36]No. 3-$185,829.64
Home affordability ratio 2.9No. 6-1.0
Home value five-year change 39.7%[37]No. 1349.4%
Home value one-year forecast -3.0%[38]No. 1200.0%
Rental costs $1,671[39]No. 64$0
Rent affordability ratio 1.82%No. 690.0%
Median household income $58,647[40]No. 155-$33,358
Property taxes $1,587[41]No. 3-$1,888
Energy costs $0.15 kWh[42]No. 20$0.00
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The back half of our top 10 kicks off with Fairmont's 56031 zip code, which has the 3rd-cheapest home values in Minnesota. The median home value is $172,290. Rents average $1,671 per month, making it the 64th-most affordable rental market in the state.

Residents pay $0.15 per kWh of electricity. It's the 20th-cheapest energy market.

7. Fergus Falls

Fergus Falls's 56537 zip code is the 7th-cheapest place to live in Minnesota.

🔎 Key data about Fergus Falls

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 90.8No. 7N/A
Median home value $229,024[43]No. 13-$129,095.58
Home affordability ratio 3.8No. 78-0.1
Home value five-year change 37.0%[44]No. 1256.7%
Home value one-year forecast -0.6%[45]No. 1622.4%
Rental costs $998[46]No. 4-$674
Rent affordability ratio 1.67%No. 41-0.1%
Median household income $59,824[47]No. 153-$32,181
Property taxes $1,743[48]No. 5-$1,732
Energy costs $0.12 kWh[49]No. 1-$0.04
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You'll find the 13th-cheapest home values in Minnesota in Fergus Falls's 56537 zip code. The median value: $229,024. Renters in Fergus Falls pay an average of $998 per month.

Homeowners in Fergus Falls pay a median property tax of $1,743 per year, which is Minnesota's 5th-most affordable market.

The average household income is $59,824, which ranks 153rd-highest in the state.

8. Marshall

The 8th-cheapest place to live in Minnesota is Marshall's 56258 zip code.

🔎 Key data about Marshall

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 88.9No. 8N/A
Median home value $230,452[50]No. 15-$127,667.70
Home affordability ratio 3.5No. 35-0.4
Home value five-year change 31.4%[51]No. 861.1%
Home value one-year forecast -3.7%[52]No. 4-0.7%
Rental costs $1,671[53]No. 64$0
Rent affordability ratio 1.82%No. 690.0%
Median household income $65,903[54]No. 136-$26,102
Property taxes $2,117[55]No. 18-$1,358
Energy costs $0.14 kWh[56]No. 6-$0.02
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The 15th-cheapest housing market in Minnesota is Marshall's 56258 zip code, with a median home value of $230,452. Renters pay an average of $1,671 per month, the No. 64 rental market in the state.

The median property tax for households in Marshall is $2,117, which makes it the 18th-cheapest place in Minnesota. The average household income of $65,903 ranks 136th.

9. South Saint Paul

South Saint Paul's 55075 zip code sneaks into the top ten of Minnesota's most affordable places to live.

🔎 Key data about South Saint Paul

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 88.3No. 9N/A
Median home value $292,971[57]No. 44-$65,148.01
Home affordability ratio 3.5No. 40-0.4
Home value five-year change 32.5%[58]No. 992.2%
Home value one-year forecast -3.5%[59]No. 31-0.5%
Rental costs $1,202[60]No. 9-$470
Rent affordability ratio 1.45%No. 18-0.4%
Median household income $82,782[61]No. 95-$9,223
Property taxes $2,768[62]No. 45-$707
Energy costs $0.16 kWh[63]No. 33$0.00
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The 44th-cheapest housing market in Minnesota is South Saint Paul's 55075 zip code, where the median home value is $292,971. Renters pay an average of $1,202 per month. It's the state's 9th-cheapest rental market.

The median property tax for households within the zip code is $2,768, which makes it the 45th-cheapest property tax rate in Minnesota. 

10. Saint Cloud

The final spot on our list of the most affordable places to live in Minnesota goes to the 56303 zip code in Saint Cloud.

🔎 Key data about Saint Cloud

Data pointValueRank (out of 165 markets)Difference from median or average
Affordability Score 86.8No. 10N/A
Median home value $229,222[64]No. 14-$128,897.41
Home affordability ratio 3.6No. 42-0.3
Home value five-year change 43.8%[65]No. 14713.5%
Home value one-year forecast -1.2%[66]No. 1461.8%
Rental costs $1,209[67]No. 10-$463
Rent affordability ratio 1.88%No. 1180.1%
Median household income $64,278[68]No. 143-$27,727
Property taxes $1,806[69]No. 7-$1,669
Energy costs $0.16 kWh[70]No. 33$0.00
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The 14th-most affordable market in Minnesota is Saint Cloud's 56303 zip code. The median home value is $229,222. Rent in the market costs $1,209 per month on average, making it the 10th-most affordable rental market in Minnesota.

The median property tax for households in Saint Cloud is $1,806, which is the 7th-cheapest property tax rate in the state.

Saint Cloud ranks No. 33 among Minnesota markets by energy costs, with households paying $0.16 per kWh of electricity.

How we ranked the most affordable places in Minnesota

We evaluated 165 zip codes in Minnesota with a population over 10,000 on nine metrics. We then assigned each market an Affordability Score based on its weighted and combined rankings. 

✍️ Editor’s note: Our Affordability Score identifies the most affordable places in a state by zip code.

Often the zip code we identify will represent an entire city or portion of a city. 

Occasionally the zip code we identify will encompass an area that includes one or more small towns. In these cases, the data we’ve gathered applies to the entire zip code, not just the single town we’re using to help identify the zip code's location. 

If you’re looking to move to one of these affordable places, we recommend doing additional research to make sure the costs in the area — and the quality of life it offers — meet your specific needs.

Methodology: What is an Affordability Score?

Our proprietary Affordability Score is a score on a scale of 0 (worst in state) to 100 (best in state) that estimates the affordability of a particular zip code. It takes into account these key data points for each zip code.

  • Median home value: The median home value for each zip code comes from the Zillow Home Value Index. The lower the median home value relative to the median value in Minnesota, the higher our score on this component. We assign a weight of 23.8% to median home value.
  • Home affordability ratio. The home affordability ratio is the typical median home value divided by the median household income in the zip code, which reveals the number of years of household income needed to afford a home in that zip code. A lower ratio is better because it means more households can afford a home. The data comes from the Zillow Observed Rent Index and the U.S. Census American Community Survey. We assign a weight of 23.8% to the home affordability ratio.
  • Home value five-year change: The home value five-year change is the amount that the median home value in the zip code has risen or fallen during the last five years. Our data comes from the Zillow Home Value Index. We assign a weight of 4.8% to the home value five-year change.
  • Home value one-year forecast: The home value one-year forecast comes from Zillow Forecast data. It projects how much home values in the zip code are forecasted to change in the next year. We assign a weight of 4.8% to the home value one-year forecast.
  • Rental costs. The rental costs are the observed rents in the zip code, sourced from the Zillow Observed Rent Index. The index includes "listed rents that fall into the 40th to 60th percentile range for all homes and apartments in a given region." We assign a weight of 11.9% to rental costs. 
  • Median household income: The inflation-adjusted median household income figures for the zip code comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey. We assign a weight of 4.8% to median household income.
  • Rent affordability ratio. The rent affordability ratio is the ratio of rental costs divided by median household income, which provides the percentage of household income needed to pay a typical month’s rent in the zip code. The data comes from the Zillow Observed Rent Index and the U.S. Census American Community Survey. We assign a weight of 11.9% to the rent affordability ratio.
  • Property taxes: The property tax figures are the median real estate taxes paid in the zip code, sourced from the U.S. Census American Community Survey. The lower the property tax rate relative to the Minnesota average, the higher our score on this component. We assign a weight of 7.1% to property taxes. 
  • Energy costs: The energy costs are the costs of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of residential electricity in the zip code, sourced from the U.S. Department of Energy. The lower the cost of electricity relative to the Minnesota average, the higher our score on this component. We assign a weight of 7.1% to energy costs.  

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