What life is really like in the cheapest place in the US, where the typical home costs $110,000 and the Appalachian Mountains are in your backyard

Steve Heap/ShutterstockThe Beckley metro area is full of history, nature, and affordability.

Beckley, West Virginia, is the epitome of small-town America.

The metro area takes pride in its involved community, is rich in history, has a main street, and is the cheapest place to live in the US.

Its cost of living is so low that half of all houses there are valued under $US100,000, and the majority of homeowners don’t have a mortgage. Located in southern West Virginia along the Appalachian Mountains, the metro is also a prime spot for free outdoor activities, from rock climbing and hiking to whitewater rafting.

Beckley also has a connection with nature, thanks to its mining history. The area has its own coal mine, and mining makes up part of its workforce. Home to several hospitals and colleges, including West Virginia Tech, the area is also a prime center for healthcare and education.

Here’s a look inside Beckley:


The Beckley, West Virginia, metro is home to 118,543 people.

Cucumber & Company

Source:
American Community Survey


The metro area consists of two counties: Raleigh County and Fayette County.

Malachi Jacobs/ShutterstockFayette County, West Virginia.

Raleigh County is known as the hub of southern West Virginia, home to the city of Beckley.

Google Maps

Source:
Visit Southern West Virginia


Founded in the 1800s, Beckley’s history dates back two centuries.


Like many historic places in the south, Beckley’s location played a role in the Civil War. It housed living quarters and camp areas for soldiers.

Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Source:
Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce


Part of its history is also rooted in mining. Called “The City with a Mine of Its Own,” Beckley has the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine — a real but not currently in service mine.

Source:
Visit Southern West Virginia


Jill Moorefield, events director for Beckley, told Business Insider the mine is an “important stop on the Coal Heritage Trail,” attracting around 50,000 visitors a year.


Visitors travel 1,500 feet beneath the ground on “mine cars” in a tour guided by veteran miners, she said.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tourism is just one of the areas Beckley thrives on — it’s also heavy in technology and transportation. In 2017, the area’s GDP grew 9.6%, to more than $US4.47 billion or $US37,775 per capita.

Source:American Community Survey, City of Beckley


It’s only fitting that almost 7% of the metro’s workforce works in mining, agriculture, forestry, and fishing and hunting.

picture alliance/Getty Images

Source:
American Community Survey


But educational services, healthcare, and social assistance comprises the biggest industry in the metro — 26.3% of the workforce.

Tom Werner/Getty Images

Source:
American Community Survey


The metro’s median household income is $US42,493, and the most popular jobs earn more.

Malachi Jacobs/Shutterstock

Source:
American Community Survey


The most popular occupations in Beckley are office manager, physician assistant, and family nurse practitioner, which pay between $US47,500 and $US90,000 a year.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Source:
Payscale


Just over 12% of residents earn $US100,000 or more.

Francois Nel/Getty Images

Source:
American Community Survey


Some of metro’s most popular employers include the Beckley VA Medical Center and Appalachian Regional, Healthcare, Inc.

Courtesy of Beckley VA Medical Center

Source:
Payscale


With three hospitals in the area and several clinics, Beckley is a “healthcare center for the area,” Moorefield said.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Another popular employer is West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU), which has 1,623 undergraduate students enrolled for the 2018-2019 school year.

Courtesy of WVU TechWVU Tech.

Source:Payscale, US News & World Report


WVU Tech offers nationally renowned engineering programs and STEM majors, as well as plenty of sports: volleyball, soccer, swimming, track and field, baseball, softball, and basketball, student Michelle Polverini told Business Insider.

Courtesy of WVU Tech

Source:
US News & World Report


The 170-acre rural campus hosts organised events throughout the year, like food-eating competitions, concerts, and talent shows, according to Polverini.

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“Life on campus is good even though it’s a really tiny campus and a really small town,” Polverini said.

Courtesy of WVU Tech

The metro is also home to New River Community & Technical College, the University of Charleston, Valley College, and Appalachian Bible College.

Google Maps

“The Beckley-Raleigh County area has become a center for higher education with access to a variety of colleges and universities,” Moorefield said.

Courtesy of WVU Tech

“We want to make Beckley a cool college town,” Robert Rappold, Beckley’s mayor, told Business Insider.

Courtesy of WVU Tech

Roughly half of all homes have three bedrooms and are valued under $US100,000; only 169 houses, or 0.5% of the total housing stock, are worth $US1 million.

Google Maps

Source:
American Community Survey


The metro’s median home listing price is $US110,000.

Google Maps

Source:
Zillow


In contrast, the median listing price of homes in the US is $US275,000.

Steve Nehf/Getty Images

Source:
Zillow


A little more than half of homeowners don’t have a mortgage. Those that do pay median monthly costs of $US874.

Google Maps

Source:
American Community Survey


Renting is also affordable — the median rent price in the metro area is $US798, lower than the median rent of $US950 in West Virginia.

Google Maps

Source:
Zillow


That’s half of the national median rent in the US — $US1,600.

Source:
Zillow


While half of all Beckley renters pay $US500 to $US999 in rent, 41% pay less than $US500. That leaves less than 10% paying $US1,000 or more.

Google Maps

Source:
American Community Survey


But residents don’t spend all their time at home. Arts and entertainment are important in Beckley — the Smithsonian Magazine honored Beckley as one of the top 20 small towns for cultural enrichment, Moorefield said.

The City of Beckley, West Virginia/FacebookResidents partake in a ‘Glazing Party’ at the Youth Museum in Beckley.

There’s the Theatre West Virginia and Beckley Art Center…

Google Maps

…and the Beckley Concert Association and Wildwood House Museum.


There are also a ton of festivals that bring the community together, like the Appalachian Festival and Chilli Night…

Cucumber & Company

…and the Beckley Kids Classic Festival.


Beckley also hosts an annual Veteran’s Day Parade…


…and a Christmas Parade.


Located in the Appalachian mountain range, the metro also has plenty of outdoor and recreational activities to enjoy when there’s not a local event going on.

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

“Active south West Virginia offers many free activities to involve the community in exercise and healthy living,” Moorefield said.

Aspen Photo/Shutterstock

“[Beckley] has a three-mile paved rail trail known as the McManus Trail that runs through the heart of the city for hiking and biking,” she added.


Moorefield said numerous hiking trails are being developed in the Piney Creek Gorge and Beckley Mill area.

DSBurnside/Shutterstock

There’s also the famous New River and New River Gorge Bridge in Fayette County.

Steve Heap/Shutterstock

Here, visitors can hike, bike, climb rock walls…

scnhnc052008/Shutterstock

…and go whitewater rafting.

Steve Heap/Shutterstock

Source:
Visit West Virginia


Nearby is the Midland Trail Scenic Byway, home to the Cathedral Falls. One Yelp reviewer called it “New River Gorge’s best kept secret.”

Anna Westman/Shutterstock

Source:Visit Southern West Virginia, Yelp


The Cathedral Falls drop nearly 100 feet over a series of sandstone ledges.

Malachi Jacobs/Shutterstock

Source:
Visit Southern West Virginia


There are also tons of parks. Burning Rock Outdoor Adventure Park has off-road trails, a zipline, camping, and cabins.

Harrison Shul/Getty Images

Source:
Visit Southern West Virginia


Raleigh County is also home to Winterplace Ski Resort, West Virginia’s largest snow-tubing park. It has 27 trails and nine lifts.

Alex Potemkin/Getty Images

Source:
Visit Southern West Virginia


Beckley may be southern West Virginia’s largest city, but it’s full of small-town charm.

Google Maps

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