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5 lakeside towns where you can buy a home for $250K or less

Dreaming of #lakelife? Here are some spots home buyers may want to consider.

Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

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Though they have ticked up slightly, mortgage interest rates remain near historic lows. That said, housing prices have been on a major upswing in many markets. So we went on a hunt for cool lakeside towns where the median house was still less than $250,000.

If you crave warm weather: Leesburg, Florida

Lakeside in Leesburg.

Photo by Visit Lake

Located in metropolitan Orlando, Leesburg is a thriving city nestled between two lakes in Florida’s Lake County, which contains a total of 250 named lakes and 1,735 other bodies of water. Waterfront property in Leesburg is still affordable, and houses set back from the lake can be snatched up for as little as $50,000. When you’re not out on the water, fishing for largemouth bass and catfish, or observing the area’s multitude of alligators, enjoy local festivals including Bikefest, the Leesburg Art Fuse Festival and Black Heritage Festival. Leesburg might not be the place for you if you love swimming in lakes — remember: alligators — but the Atlantic Ocean is a mere 50 miles away, and the area certainly offers a plethora of pools. 

Median home value: $236,429
Population: 23,671
Cost of living:11% lower than the U.S. average

Sources: Median home values from Zillow; cost of living from Sperling’s Best Places; population from the Census Bureau

If you want to be on one of the Great Lakes: Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky as seen from Lake Erie.

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Named one of the best coastal small towns in America by USA Today in 2020, Sandusky, Ohio, has a revitalized downtown that includes the Jackson Street Pier, which has a large staging area for concerts, and the Marketplace at Cooke, a former department store that now includes shops, restaurants and an ax-throwing bar. There’s even an emerging wine region nearby. The thriving town, which also hosts an indoor water park and the famed Cedar Point amusement park, is located on the southern shore of Lake Erie halfway between Cleveland and Toledo. Splurge a bit on a house or apartment right on the lake, or spend less on a home downtown. Sandusky is a wonderful place to spend time with kids, kayaking on the lake or visiting one of the area’s amusement parks, but, due to a lack of industry in the area, roughly 20% of residents live below the poverty line.

Median home value: $91,108
Population: 24,564
Cost of living: 31.2% lower than the U.S. average

If you love birding: Guntersville, Alabama

A view over Lake Guntersville in Alabama.

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Nestled in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway, a vast path that roughly 40% of North America’s ducks and geese follow every year, Guntersville is located on the largest lake in Alabama, Lake Guntersville. If you have a passion for birding — or hunting birds — this quaint little place will give you access to over 900 miles of shoreline for tracking migrations. When you’re not looking up at the sky, enjoy the serene, blue-green waters, or hike through one of the area’s natural forests, which include bat caves. Fish for large-mouth bass in the winter, or just enjoy the serenity of your porch while you watch bald eagles, waterfowl, red-breasted mergansers, lesser scaup, gadwalls or ruddy ducks. If you hate the heat, use the house in the winter; summers in Huntsville can be unbearably humid.

Median home value: $213,519
Population: 8,685
Cost of living: 14.9% lower than the U.S. average

If you want plenty to do: Branson, Missouri

Table Rock Lake is a natural feature of Branson.

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There’s no shortage of things to do in Branson, Mo., home to the West 76 Country Boulevard, a highway lined with restaurants, shows and attractions including Dolly Parton’s Stampede; a dinner theater that features horse shows and live musical productions; and Wonderworks, an upside down house that contains over 100 hands-on exhibitions. Located in the Ozark Mountains, Branson has plenty of natural beauty due to its proximity to three lakes: Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals. Spend the summer months on Moonshine Beach or hiking in the Table Rock Lakeshore Trail, and then hunker down in front of a warming fire when the snow starts accumulating in winter. The city has plenty to offer, but crime here is elevated. 

Median home value: $213,021
Population: 11,630
Cost of living: 19.0% lower than the U.S. average

If you want to be in wilderness: Millinocket, Maine

The 200,000-plus-acre Baxter State Park.

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The gateway to the north country of Maine, which is a wild, largely uninhabited tract of land dominated by dense forests, clear lakes and towering mountains, Millinocket is about 60 miles north of Bangor. The town is a great place to settle if you really want to get away from it all. Spend your days hunting, fishing, hiking and boating on nearby Quakish Lake or Dolby Pond. If you’re adventurous, go for hikes in Baxter State Park, or try rock climbing at Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in the state, located just 25 miles northwest of town. For intellectual stimulation, visit Bangor and its art galleries, shops and restaurants. But get ready for winter. The average snowfall for the northern interior of Maine is 90 to 110 inches a year, which means that, unless you have snowshoes or cross-country skis, you’re likely not going to be spending much time outside.

Median home value: $95,660
Population: 4,287
Cost of living: 25.5% lower than the U.S. average

Also see: 6 beautiful lakeside towns where you can buy a home for $300K or less