One positive to the housing market downturn was reduced prices throughout the country and while values look to be ticking upward, there are still areas where buyers can get good deals on quality homes. In general, Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic cities have the strongest buyers' markets, where homes for sale stay on the market longer, price cuts occur more frequently, and homes are sold for less than their listing price, according to Zillow.com's January 2013 buyer/seller index. Here are Zillow's top 10 picks for places with good deals on homes.
\#10: Charlotte, North Carolina
With its southern charm and diversity of neighborhoods that range from historic, suburb Dilworth to bohemian chic NoDa, Charlotte offers living options to suit everyone from stay-at-home moms to musicians. The city's cost of living is about 6.6 percent lower than the U.S. average, and the median home is valued at $137,600 (as of December 2012), down more than 11 percent over the past five years. Zillow forecasts that home values in Charlotte will tick up only a tiny bit this year, so prospective buyers need not make any hasty decisions.
\#9: Columbus, Ohio
This city boasts friendly residents and great values: The cost of living is more than 13 percent below the U.S. average and real estate prices are low. The median home in Columbus is valued at $126,200, down nearly 12 percent over the past five years. Home values are expected to tick up about one percent through 2013.
\#8: St. Louis, Missouri
Famous for the Gateway Arch, the tallest man-made monument in the United States, St. Louis offers abundant cuisine, live entertainment, and plenty of shopping. The cost of living is about 13.9 percent lower than the U.S. average, and the median home is valued at $126,200, down nearly 16% over the past five years and projected to fall further through 2013.
\#7: Baltimore, Maryland
Bustling Baltimore, the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic U.S., is sometimes known as a "city of neighborhoods" -- from quiet and close-knit Medfield to historic Baltimore Highlands, you can choose from a wide range of communities. This city's cost of living is about 9.7 percent lower than the rest of the country and home values have fallen nearly 20 percent in the past five years to $222,000. But the time to buy may be now, as they're projected to jump about 1.4 percent during 2013, according to Zillow.
\#6: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, once known as a hub of the steel industry, has gotten beyond its hard-knock roots to become something of a cultural hub (the symphony orchestra is top-notch, and there are a number of world-class restaurants). Better yet: It's affordable -- the cost of living is nearly 12% below average -- and homes are downright cheap with the median home valued at $112,000 (down more than 7% over the past five years). These deals likely won't last: Zillow predicts home values will rise 1.4 percent this year.
\#5: New York, New York
You've probably long written off The Big Apple as an unaffordable place to live, and in many ways, it is -- the cost of living is a whopping 68.9 percent higher than the U.S. average. But right now, you might be able to snag some excellent real estate deals, as home values have fallen more than 19% over the past five years to $345,700 and are expected to remain at roughly that rate this year, according to Zillow. Just don't expect to get into a place in Manhattan for that; for more affordable options, consider Brooklyn or Queens.
\#4: Cincinnati, Ohio
Known for its friendly residents, decent job market and low cost of living, Cincinnati has plenty to offer young families. Plus, home values in the area are low at just under $122,000, down more than 14% over the past five years and expected to remain at roughly that level throughout the year, according to Zillow.
\#3: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Historic Philly -- home to the Liberty Bell -- is relatively affordable compared to other northeastern cities (the cost of living here is just 1% above average for the U.S., compared to nearly 70% for New York City). It also has an attractive real estate market with homes valued at $187,000, down more than 17% in the past five years. However, home prices are expected to climb nearly 1% this year.
\#2: Cleveland, Ohio
From history-filled, family-friendly Broadway Slavic Village to beach-accessible, arts-centered Detroit Shoreway, Cleveland – also known as the Rock 'n' Roll Capital of the World – flourishes with diversity and personality. Another perk: The cost of living is about 16.1 percent lower than other cities in the country. Homes here are affordable -- the median home is valued at $111,000 -- having dropped more than 14 percent over the past five years. If you're thinking about buying, you may want to act soon, as Zillow predicts home values will rise nearly 1% in 2013.
\#1: Chicago, Illinois
Famous for its soaring skyscrapers, Chicago offers 77 neighborhoods that feature distinct architectural styles, including the classic bungalows of South Shore and the charming brick cottages that line Lincoln Park, Old Town and Wicker Park. The cost of living in Chi-town could be a concern, however, since it is about 5.1 percent higher than the rest of the United States. But real estate deals abound: Home values have dropped 33% over the past five years to $161,600 and are expected to fall further.
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