Three Cheers For College Football Towns

NEW YORK ( -- Many Americans love living in university towns, especially ones with big-time college football teams. One of the surprising attractions of these places is that they can be very affordable.

In 62% of the major college football towns a typical 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home in a good neighborhood costs less than $250,000, according to the latest Coldwell Banker College Home Price Comparison Index, released on Thursday.

Nearly the entire top 10 most affordable college football towns lie in the Great Plains states or the industrial Midwest.

 "College markets have long-been one of the real estate industry best-kept secrets," said Jim Gillespie, Coldwell Banker's CEO. "These vibrant cities are not only for students; many empty nesters and families are attracted to the health care systems, culture and overall quality of life that college towns offer."

People often buy homes in college football towns for their kids who are going to school there, according to Gillespie. They keep them four or five years and sell after he kids graduate. Some parents hold on to the homes, if they get to like the town.

And while home prices are generally quite reasonable in these college towns, prices have held up rather well during the market turndown.

For example, in Akron, Ohio, home of the University of Akron Zips and the most affordable of the football towns in the Coldwell Banker index, the typical house used as a benchmark costs $121,885, down only about 10% over the past two years.

That contrasts with national home prices as reported by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which has recorded an average price drop of about 26% over the past 24 months through August.

After Akron, the second most affordable town is Muncie, Indiana, where Ball State plays in the Mid-American West conference. A home costs $144,996 there, up slightly from two years ago.

The third most affordable football Mecca is Fort Worth, home of Texas Christian University. A home near the school goes for $148,625, down 3% compared with $153,450 two years ago.

The least affordable of the college football towns tend to be or nudge up close to big cities. A good example of that is Palo Alto, Calif., home of the Stanford Cardinals. The benchmark home in the town, which is just a long forward pass from San Jose, costs $1,489,726, down 14% over the past two years.

The second most expensive market is Los Angeles, the second biggest U.S. city and home of both UCLA and perennial powerhouse USC. The typical home goes for $1,347,125. That's up from $1,090,884 two years ago.

Boston College features the third most expensive real estate market. A benchmark home there costs $1,337,578, a 3% drop what it cost two years earlier.

There seems to be little positive correlation between home prices in college towns and the success of their football teams. University of Florida, which is in Gainesville, is ranked first in the nation, as of Nov. 1. But it is the 87th most affordable town among the 120 that Coldwell Banker ranked.

The second ranked Texas Longhorns are in Austin, where a similar house sells for $226,642, the 59th most affordable market. Third ranked is the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, where the home would cost $206,267, making it the 41st most affordable college football market.

The most affordable conference, at an average of $182,322, is the MidAmerican, which has a concentration of small Rust-Belt cities. Cities of the Pac 10 schools have the highest priced homes. These include Tucson (Arizona Wildcats), Berkeley (University of California) and Seattle (University of Washington).

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