Skip to main content

Cheapest Towns To Buy a Lake House in the U.S.

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

Key Takeaways

  • One trick to scoring an affordable lake house is to explore lesser-known lakes that aren’t close to big cities.
  • In addition to lower real estate prices, smaller lake towns often offer more privacy and charm.
  • Check out these ten picturesque lake towns with median list prices from $146,000 to $420,000.

If you’d love to buy a lake house but assume you can’t afford one, then you might want to rethink that belief. Lakeside living is affordable — you just need to know where to look. While lakefront property in some places comes with an astronomical price tag, lake towns off the beaten path are a different story.

Realtor.com analyzed 11,000+ lake towns to find the nation’s most affordable options. To compile the list, they looked at list prices from January through May. And because you’ll want to do things beyond lounging at the lake (at least sometimes), they also made sure each town had enough restaurants and entertainment options.

Here are ten charming but cheap lake towns to consider:

Ashland, WI

Located on stunning Lake Superior, Ashland has a lot going for it. There’s the lake, of course, and everything that goes with it — swimming, boating, and fishing. And then there’s the town’s healthy arts and culture scene to boot.

According to Lake-Link, Ashland’s historic business district is within walking distance of the water. You’ll find street art murals, restaurants, galleries, and local shops there. As a result, this Wisconsin gem should be on your radar.

Getty

Lake Placid, NY

The natural beauty of Lake Placid shines all year long. Get in the water in the summer, go leaf peeing in the fall, ski in the mountains in the winter, and then watch as everything starts blooming again come spring.

Lake Placid also has plenty to do when you head inside from the great outdoors. In addition to art galleries, restaurants, and fun shops, there’s the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. It stages theater, music, and dance performances throughout the year.

Shutterstock

Sulphur, OK

Sulphur, Oklahoma, challenges the “Dust Bowl” image many have of Oklahoma. That’s because the town has several water attractions — Veterans Lake, Lake of the Arbuckles, Rock Creek, and a number of mineral springs, just to name a few.

USA Today says “many people come to swim in the consistently cool water” on hot summer days. Beyond the water, entertainment options include a casino, spa, art galleries, and a variety of restaurants.

Shutterstock

Watertown, SD

They don’t call it Watertown for nothing. This South Dakota charmer sits between Pelican Lake and Lake Kampeska, so there’s a lot of waterfront to go around. And residents make the most of that fact all year long.

Local realtor Jayson Maguire tells Realtor.com, “We have four seasons here, and most people like that it switches things up from boating, to snowmobiling, ice fishing, and hunting.” And thanks to the town’s Goss Opera House, there are arts and culture events throughout the year.

Shutterstock

Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan’s full of breathtaking scenery, from Misty Fjords National Monument to Tongass National Forest. Even with so much natural beauty to choose from, Visit Ketchikan calls its “achingly blue lakes … the most beautiful jewel in our crown.”

And since it sits on the Inside Passage, Ketchikan’s also a great spot for fishing. Additionally, the town is a thriving hub for Native arts. The source says several museums and totem parks “showcase both ancient and more contemporary works.”

Shutterstock

Spirit Lake, IA

This charming town is located in the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes region, which is home to seven beautiful lakes. Those lakes include Big Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji. So, swimming, boating, and fishing are all readily available.

You’ll also find plenty to do here on land. For example, tee off at one of the area’s golf courses, explore local history at the museum, and shop at the farmers’ market. There’s also an amusement park nearby to keep kids and grandkids entertained.

Shutterstock

Winsted, CT

If you’d love a lake home in New England, then consider Winsted, Connecticut. It’s a quaint spot by Highland Lake. Since it’s also near a couple of state parks, LakeLubbers says Winsted is a great choice for those who love camping and hiking.

Besides nature, Winsted has an old-fashioned Main Street with a lot of charm. In addition to restaurants, antique stores, and other local boutiques, Friends of Main Street Winsted says the area hosts a farmers’ market, concert series, and other community events.

Shutterstock

Lake Ariel, PA

Let’s head to the Poconos for this next one. It turns out that you don’t have to break the bank to buy in the desirable region. Lake Ariel is an affordable option. And as LakeLubbers explains, it’s been a private lake ever since residents bought it in the ’60s.

As a result, Lake Ariel is a peaceful spot with more privacy than some alternatives. Realtor.com suggests looking into a gated community called the Hideout. That’s because it has options in the $300,000 range and offers access to additional private lakes.

Shutterstock

Cheboygan, MI

Located on Lake Huron, Cheboygan is also close to several smaller lakes, including Burt Lake, Mullett Lake, and Black Lake. So, residents have several options when they want to get out on the water to enjoy lakeside living.

Additionally, Cheboygan is full of small-town charm. For instance, Pure Michigan says locals head to Main Street to check out the bookstore, ice cream shop, restaurants, and other boutiques. It’s a Midwest charmer as a result.

Shutterstock

Sandusky, OH

In 2019, USA Today named Sandusky the best coastal small town. And it’s easy to see why. The picturesque town sits on the shores of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes of North America. So, it’s a beautiful spot for lakeside living.

Plus, Sandusky is about an hour away from both Cleveland and Toledo. That means residents have easy access to two metropolitan areas. So, it could be a wonderful fit if you don’t want to give up bigger city amenities.

Shutterstock

Katie Ormsby

Contributor

Explore

How to Start Flipping Houses (And Actually Make Money) Flipping Houses Home Ownership

How to Start Flipping Houses (And Actually Make Money)

House-flipping is often portrayed as a foolproof path to quick riches. While this inaccuracy can create unrealistic expectations, flipping houses can definitely be profitable if you do it right. And that’s the trick: the people most successful at flipping houses are generally the most experienced. That said, they all started somewhere. There’s nothing like completing […]

Read More about How to Start Flipping Houses (And Actually Make Money)

6 minute read

How Your Rental History Might Finally Help You Qualify For a Mortgage Young couple moving into their first house Home Ownership

How Your Rental History Might Finally Help You Qualify For a Mortgage

Even if you previously had a mortgage application rejected, you may want to try again. Fannie Mae recently announced changes to their underwriting process. The new calculations will include your history of rental payments. That’s great news for anyone that’s been a reliable tenant for years while saving for a house. This new process should […]

Read More about How Your Rental History Might Finally Help You Qualify For a Mortgage

3 minute read

How To Redecorate Your House On a Budget young couple redecorating a house Home Ownership

How To Redecorate Your House On a Budget

I’m not sure if it’s because everyone has been stuck inside due to the pandemic or just a coincidence. Whatever the reason, it seems like everyone I know has recently been updating their homes. Whether it’s a minor or major redecoration, all this time indoors has spawned a bunch of amateur interior designers. If you’ve […]

Read More about How To Redecorate Your House On a Budget

7 minute read

Should You Buy A House In This Market? 11 Things To Consider Family buying a new house Home Ownership

Should You Buy A House In This Market? 11 Things To Consider

With record low interest rates and a once in a lifetime (hopefully!) pandemic forcing so many to stay home, the past year was the perfect time to become a homeowner for the first time. Or just to move into a new house. Now though, home prices are sky high and the market is red hot […]

Read More about Should You Buy A House In This Market? 11 Things To Consider

9 minute read

Steps Every Millennial Needs To Take Towards Buying a House Steps For Buying A House Home Ownership

Steps Every Millennial Needs To Take Towards Buying a House

Wages are low. Real estate prices are exploding. The economy remains stale (and unemployment is up) in the wake of a major global pandemic. For many millennials, the dream of owning their own home seems to be quickly fleeting. No matter what you do, it might seem like you’re never getting any closer to being […]

Read More about Steps Every Millennial Needs To Take Towards Buying a House

7 minute read

Can You Afford that House? The 30% Rule, Explained Home Ownership

Can You Afford that House? The 30% Rule, Explained

When shopping around for a home, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is how much house you can afford. Understanding whether or not you can afford a specific mortgage payment — and the rest of the costs that come with home ownership — is a necessary part of the process. Make sure […]

Read More about Can You Afford that House? The 30% Rule, Explained

8 minute read

14 Worst Home Buying Mistakes | Rookie Mistakes in Home Buying Home Ownership

14 Worst Home Buying Mistakes | Rookie Mistakes in Home Buying

It’s a well-known joke that basically every real estate agent will always tell you that now is a great time to buy a house. Apparently there’s literally never a bad time. However, with mortgage rates currently at truly historic lows, those realtors may be right. If you’re ready to take the plunge, we’re here to […]

Read More about 14 Worst Home Buying Mistakes | Rookie Mistakes in Home Buying

10 minute read

What To Do If Your House Hasn’t Sold in a Year House with For Sale Sign Home Ownership

What To Do If Your House Hasn’t Sold in a Year

We keep hearing that the housing market is going gangbusters in this pandemic. However, knowing that things are generally really good is cold comfort if you’ve been waiting around for your house to sell. Believe it or not, some people wait over a year for that shiny red “SOLD” sign to go up on their […]

Read More about What To Do If Your House Hasn’t Sold in a Year

5 minute read

See all in Home Ownership