When it comes to the American Dream, owning a home is key.
Yet rising home prices, stagnant wages and increasing debt loads in many households have all put a stranglehold on homebuying in this country — making it nearly unattainable, with a few exceptions.
Considering that many families spend more than 100 percent of their income on monthly expenses alone, personal finance site GoBankingRates identified 20 U.S. cities where you can still purchase a house with a monthly mortgage payment of $1,000 or less. (Click to enlarge the map below.)
The ranking is based on median home prices from Zillow's most recent data. Monthly mortgage payments were calculated assuming a 20 percent down payment and the current average mortgage rate for the state (all roughly around 4.3 percent).
But finding such an affordable place to live often comes with a catch.
All of the cities on the list benefit from low housing costs, in part because of slow economic growth and low wages, said Alex Solonin, a data researcher at GoBankingRates.
Other cities, like New York and San Francisco, have high living expenses, but they also have higher wages and more jobs, Solonin said.
In San Francisco, the cost of living is 80 percent higher than the national average but the median salary is also much greater: $85,844, according to PayScale.
Still, owning a home in San Francisco can really break the bank. In fact, the average mortgage repayment in San Francisco eats up around 61.5 percent of the city's median household income, according to separate data by Finder.com on mortgage-to-income ratios, a common measure of housing affordability.
In Cleveland, the mortgage-to-income ratio is a mere 8.5 percent.
If you're figuring out how much home you can afford, one rule of thumb is to make sure you don't spend more than 28 percent of your gross income on housing in any given month.