The Little Rock metro area ranks sixth in MSN Real Estate's top 10 "most-livable bargain markets list."
The housing markets were ranked by affordability and livability. Affordability was based on the ratio of median income to median home price. Livability was defined as "places where unemployment is low, commute times are mercifully short and there are enough interesting entertainment and cultural amenities to keep most people busy and satisfied."
MSN Real Estate asked the help of Bert Sperling, proprietor of Sperling's Best Places. "These places have a great quality of life even though they are affordable," Sperling told MSN. "And they haven't suffered a freefall in the marketplace like some other places have."
Here's what MSN Real Estate said about the Little Rock-North Little Rock metro area:
"Little Rock is a little like that boy your parents wanted you to marry. The midsized city of 664,000 is stable and safe, with the second most diverse economy in the nation, according to Moody's Investor Services. Unemployment is low and job growth is higher than in many other areas. And home prices here - with a median price of $134,600 - are starting to appreciate again.
"It looks nice, too, with its lovingly preserved historic buildings downtown and Big Dam Bridge, supposedly the longest bridge in the world built just for pedestrians and bicycles.
"The National Trust for Historic Preservation named it a "distinctive destination" for these reasons, and its rich history in the civil-rights movement. The University of Arkansas campus provides culture and entertainment in a Southern climate, and there are several minor league sports teams, a zoo and museums, as well as hiking in the nearby Ouachita Mountains.
"Cons: Entrenched poverty means crime is a serious problem in many neighborhoods, and metro residents have a low average life expectancy, despite the high number of physicians and medical specialists in the area."
The other metro areas listed are 1. Des Moines; 2. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.; 3. Oklahoma City; 4. Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; 5. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn./Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.; 7. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah; 8. Columbia, S.C.; 9. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas; and 10. Columbus, Ohio.