Proximity to ski resorts, golf courses, lakes, and real estate that’s a third of the national median draws people to this quaint New York town.

<p>Courtesy of Experience Cortland</p>

Courtesy of Experience Cortland

With the average home value reaching $436,800 in the first quarter of this year — a whopping 33 percent increase since 2020 — and record-high mortgage rates, buying a house has become more challenging. However, there are still pockets of affordable real estate markets in the country that offer budget-friendly options, various urban amenities, and proximity to vacation-style recreation.

One such place is Cortland, New York, which recently named the most affordable small town in America. The website points out that homes here cost around one-third of the national median at about $159,250. But there’s much more to love about this quaint town in central New York.

Known as the “southern gateway to the Finger Lakes region” — a popular vacation area in upstate New York with 11 lakes — Cortland is home to about 18,000 residents and covers four square miles. The town, which dates back to the 19th century, sits on the banks of the Tioughnioga River in a predominantly rural county, surrounded by several state forests.

“The town is just big enough where you can have your privacy but small enough that you still know your neighbors. We have a lot of land and nice little neighborhoods here, but there are tons of leisure activities and community events that residents can enjoy year-round,” Dana Decker, owner and broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Heritage Realty and a Cortland native, told Travel + Leisure.

<p>Courtesy of Experience Courtland</p>

Courtesy of Experience Courtland

The town has a year-round program of cultural events and recurring festivals, such as its summer Cortland Main Street Music Series and The Great Cortland Pumpkinfest. The latter is a weekend-long fall event that has been taking place for 26 years.

However, Cortland’s main draw with nature and sports enthusiasts is its location. The town is a 15-minute drive to central New York’s largest ski resort: Greek Peak Mountain Resort. It has 55 ski trails, a beginner’s slope, eight lifts, and a Nordic Center for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing.

Two more ski areas — Labrador Mountain, known for its top-notch night skiing facilities, and Song Mountain Resort, which boasts 250 acres — are both within 15 miles of Cortland.

On a sunny day, Cortland County residents can practice their swing at one of five 18-hole golf courses while adrenaline-seekers can try mountain biking and zip lining at the town’s Outdoor Adventure Center. Of course, with so many lakes and rivers nearby, the town also offers excellent fishing and water sports opportunities. Oenophiles can also explore the country’s first wine trail, which runs along the banks of Cayuga Lake.

Decker noted that Cortland is currently undergoing a downtown revitalization project that is expected to be completed in 2024.

<p>Matt Baldelli. </p>

The town is also home to the 191-acre SUNY Cortland campus, where about 6,300 students pursue undergraduate degrees.

“Cortland is a bedroom community for Ithaca, Syracuse, and Binghamton, so residents might work in one of those cities, yet prefer to live in Cortland, so they can get away from work while still having an easy commute,” he added.

The affordable real estate in the area has attracted many potential buyers, and Decker explained that the town’s Westend neighborhood is a particularly sought-after area. A budget of $200,000 goes a long way in Cortland and gives you plenty of options in terms of location and home style.

“You can expect to see old quaint farmhouses as well as single-family homes in the actual city of Cortland,” Decker said. “Our offerings range from farmhouses with some acreage to your typical, turn-of-the-century and mid-century Cape Cods and two-story homes. There’s a wide variety of options for everyone.”

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