To compile this list, we combed through our most recent Best Places to Live issue, our annual public school rankings, and additional evaluation from Niche.com while considering factors including everything from median area income home sale/rental prices to crime rates, teachers, and walkability. So whether you’re looking to downsize for budgetary reasons or just starting out on your own, here are our top picks for the most affordable places to live in Westchester.
This quaint village within the town of Cortlandt boasts a median total household income that only surpassed $100,000 a few years ago. Rentals are on the cheap side for Westchester, averaging $1,487 in 2020. The average home sale price has risen to $417,000 — still way below most Westchester municipalities — and with average property taxes hovering just at the $10,000 SALT tax threshold, Buchanan is still a bargain for homeowners.
Public schools rank A to A+ on Niche and 20/47 in our own most recent rankings, with smaller class sizes and lower student-to-teacher ratios, while still offering a better-than-average number of Advanced Placement courses and maintaining a 93% graduation rate. These figures may change in the future, however, as uncertainty surrounds the village’s future post-Indian Point, particularly in regard to tax tax revenue and school funding.
A hamlet of Greenburgh, Hartsdale is particularly affordable with a household income below $90,000. Sale prices on homes are a bit pricier, around $624,000, with rents generally below $1,900. Crime rates well below the national average make Hartsdale an excellent choice for downsizing. Property taxes (about $20,000 annually) are on the higher end of what we consider affordable for this list, though, so renters may find it more favorable than buyers. Niche ranks local schools between B- and A+, and we tend to agree, with Woodlands and Edgemont schools ranking 26/47 and 7/47 in our own number crunching.
Niche also named Hartsdale the number two place to live for young professionals and number nine most diverse in the county.
A recent addition to this list as pandemic expats continue to move farther north of the city, this easternmost Westchester town is very much on the upswing. The average combined household income is a little higher at just shy of $160,000, but home values are still a modest (for Westchester) $625,000. Rents are also a little high at around $1,800 if you can find a place, but with 92% of residents opting to own, historic low interest rates are making a smaller mortgage payment more attractive than ever. Crime is also practically nonexistent, the lowest we measured of any Westchester town in 2020.
The John Jay/Katonah-Lewisboro Central School District is also one of the best around: A+ rated by Niche and 6/47 on our own list for modest class sizes but a solid student-teacher ratio. The district also offers 21 different AP courses (the second-highest in the county), a combined average SAT score above 1250, and a staggering 100% graduation rate in 2020.
Mount Kisco is a foodie’s dream, with beloved eateries like the various “Little”s and the Exit 4 Food Hall, but it’s also a steal for anyone looking to lower their housing expenses. The average household income is only about $82,000, so the area is very amenable to singles and young couples. Rents average around $1,596 while homes sell for an average of just $550,000. And seeing as how Mount Kisco is only about three square miles in total, everyone is just a short walk to the train station.
It also ranks number nine in the county for diversity, according to Niche, with schools ranking A- to A+. Our own rankings put the Fox Lane schools more middle-of-the-pack, with good student-teacher ratios but a lower graduation rate and higher economic disadvantages in the community, though it has shown marginal improvement from its 2019 score. Overall, it’s a great pick in our estimations for those just starting out but not yet ready to reproduce.
The Old Village section of Ossining is a perennial in our Best Places to Live features for its historic areas and increased focus on redevelopment of natural areas. It’s also insanely affordable as far as Westchester goes. Certain homes may sell for as much as $1 million, but there are so many selling on the low end (close to $325,000) that the town average is actually well under $500,000! Rents trend around $1,650 and the average household income falls just a hair over the $85,000 mark. All-in-all it’s a quiet, relaxed little town with low crime rates, perfect for singles, new couples, and retirees alike.
Niche ranks Ossining school from A to A+, though our own rankings put them a bit lower compared to the rest of Westchester, 34/47. Class sizes are a bit high, however in the past year they have increased graduation rates by 7%.
Another of our common Best Places to Live picks, homes averaged just $269,000 in 2017 and, after years of development and a massive seller’s market driven by the pandemic, still remain only about $334,000. Rents are likewise very reasonable, averaging about $1,400. Incomes are also typically below $55,000, helping to keep both those housing prices and general cost of living down. As a result, Peekskill has seen a recent boom in the influx of young artists and professionals, something the town is thrilled to foster. It also ranks number three in the county for diversity. Only about an hour train ride to Grand Central and full of amazing food, sights, and local businesses, Peekskill may very well be one of the most quickly developing areas in Westchester.
Schools don’t fair as well here, ranking between C+ and A on Niche and 38/47 in our own estimations, with larger class sizes and lower graduation rates, though the latter has increased 8% (to 78% total) since just 2019. With plenty of nightlife and easy walkability, Peekskill is more suited to young professionals and those looking to downsize than Westchesterites looking to start and raise a family.
Tiny but mighty, Tuckahoe fits plenty of diverse community events, and some dynamite eats — including one of our favorite burgers — plus two train stations into just one square mile. Real estate is definitely at a premium in such a small town, but it doesn’t come with a premium price tag: though homes sell for an average of $800,000, rentals are not nearly as steep — only about $1,500. With an average income of $78,000, renting is probably the ideal route for commuters looking to shorten their time on the Metro-North (only about 40 minutes) without fully giving up their suburban lifestyle.
We rank Tuckahoe schools 31/47 in the county for larger class sizes and modest AP offerings, but with only about 280 enrolled students, that’s not outlandish. Many Tuckahoe students are actually enrolled in Bronxville Central School District, which ranked 10/47 with twice as many students but a whopping 98% graduation rate. Altogether, Niche gives them an overall A to A+ rating.
For those totally fine with giving up their suburban lifestyle, White Plains offers a similarly short train ride to Manhattan, but also plenty of retail and business spaces all its own. While individual homes certainly still remain, they tend to be far outnumbered by more modern, often luxury apartments and condominiums, driving the average sale price of all homes up to around $800,000, with $20,000 being nearly double the maximum property tax deductible under the last administration’s tax overhaul. Rents, however, are plentiful and reliably start at as little as $1,250 per month, something you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Westchester. Even with more affluent apartments available, the average rent doesn’t typically exceed $1,800. It is a bit more expensive to live in White Plains, but with an average household income of about $84,000, it tends to balance out. Many upscale residences even include parking in their prices, which cannot be undersold.
White Plains is also the number one place in Westchester for young professionals, according to Niche, as well as the fifth most diverse. With more than 2,200 students, White Plains schools are densely populated; however they still rank B+ to A+ compared to the national average, and we place them at 35/47. This year graduation rates increased by 1%, finally breaking the 90% threshold.
Specifically Northwest Yonkers. The neighborhood commonly referred to as “Woodstock Park,” is aptly suited for the young and youngish. Average incomes fall below $62,000 in Westchester’s largest city, which keeps rents low — below $1,400 on average. Though in some parts of Yonkers this can rise as high as $5,000 a month, smaller studios often go as low as $1,100. Northwest Yonkers is hillier than its neighbors to the south and features more single homes and fewer apartments, with an average sale price of just $520,000 in 2020. We highly recommend it and its scenic views of the Hudson to outdoorsy types who don’t mind living in a more urban neighborhood, but don’t want to have to “get away” in order to get in a good hike.
Yonkers schools are almost an ecosystem unto themselves, sadly trending at the bottom of our own rankings. Class sizes are large, corresponding to the massive population and student body, but AP offerings are few and SAT scores are lucky to break 1,000 on average. Even Niche has trouble ranking all 400+ individual public schools in the city, painting a wide swath from C+ to A+. Families adamant about staying in Yonkers to save a few bucks may find those dollars going to tuition at one of the area’s popular and well-ranked private schools, like Sacred Heart.
Yonkers is the number one most diverse locale in all of Westchester and number two in New York. With a breadth of housing, nightlife and entertainment, and dining options, we highly recommend Yonkers as a great place for young commuters.
With twelve different residential neighborhoods and multiple downtown/commercial districts, Yorktown is increasingly attractive to more and more suburbanite residents. Average incomes are around $120,000 per household, with property values at about $525,000 with $16,000 in annual taxes. Rents are relatively cheap, however, at just a hair over $1,600 a month. Things are even cheaper in the hamlet of Shrub Oak, where the average household only pulls in about $112,000 and homes are typically valued well below half a million. Low crime Yorktown and plenty of quiet greenspace and parkland make the town even more attractive to buyers.
Schools are another big draw for the area. Though they’ve fallen a bit in our rankings in 2020, Shrub Oak’s Lakeland School District and Yorktown Central School District both retain A and A+ ratings at Niche, falling in the top 12% and 3% of New York schools, respectively.