The lighter side of real estate

These Are America’s 10 Best Mid-Sized Cities For Home Buyers

Want to live big without living in the biggest city? These are the 10 best mid-sized cities for home buyers like you to check out.

Laura Allan

112 articles, 1 comments

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There are a lot of decisions that go into buying a home, and one of the biggest is where you’re actually going to do it. Maybe you’ve decided that the huge sprawling metropolis lifestyle isn’t for you, but you don’t want the small town vibe either. This means you’re looking at mid-sized cities, something the Movoto Real Estate Blog knows a thing or two about.

We believe there are some common factors that everyone should look at when considering the location of their future home. Based on those, we’ve compiled a list of the mid-sized cities where the market conditions are best right now for home buyers. They are:

1. Clarksville, TN
2. Cape Coral, FL
3. Port St. Lucie, FL
4. Fayetteville, NC
5. McAllen, TX
6. Mobile, AL
7. Naperville, IL
8. Frisco, TX
9. Salem, OR (tie)
9. Peoria, AZ (tie)

Now, you may be wondering what these mystery factors are for determining such a list. Well, wonder no more. We’ll look more in depth at each city in just a moment, but first let’s fill you in on what data we looked at while compiling this ranking.

How We Did It

To start, we made a list of 100 mid-sized cities throughout the U.S., with populations ranging from 126,000 to 211,000. From there, we collected what we deemed important data in six different criteria. These criteria were meant to reflect real estate fundamentals of supply and demand as well quality of life issues that might affect property values. We looked at:

Total Homes for Sale Per Capita
The housing market with more homes up for sale will generally have less competition for people in search of a new abode. Basically, more houses to go around means a better selection and less stress for the buyer.

Median Days on Market
When houses are up for sale for months and months, home buyers have a better chance of getting one they actually want. It also doesn’t hurt that if a seller is having trouble making a sale, they’ll be more willing to haggle and make a deal.

Median Income to Median Home Price Ratio (Affordability)
More money doesn’t mean more problems here, it just means affordability. In short, if you have a lot of money to spend and the houses are less expensive wherever you’re looking, you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck.

Crime Rate
Low crime means a higher home value, both now and in the long run when residents are eventually looking to sell. Besides, buyers don’t exactly go running out to find heavy-crime areas to live in, so it’s important to know you’ll be safe in your future home.

School Quality
Quality schools also keep prices up and keep the value of your home on the rise. Plus, if you’re looking to build a family, a good nearby school is a major plus.

Higher Unemployment Rate
Trust us, it actually does make sense. People without jobs aren’t looking to buy homes, so those who are well employed and trying to purchase a house will have less competition in areas with higher unemployment. It may be depressing, but it’s true.

In each of those categories, we ranked the cities from 1 to 100, with one being the best. We then combined the different rankings for each place into one Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the best. That very best score went to Clarksville, TN, who headed up a very buyer-friendly 10 best cities list.

All our top places may have their own unusual and very personal charms, but let’s examine why each of these 10 deserve to be the best cities for home buyers.

1. Clarksville, TN

Clarksville, TN

Source: Flickr User Brent Moore

This mid-sized home buyer’s paradise gets the No. 1 spot for many reasons. The first is the lack of competition home hunters face.

The unemployment ranks No. 39, which means there are less people to vie with for good homes. The homes also sit on the market an average of 71 days, which means there’s plenty of time to look over your options and better chances for a good deal. The main selling point is the sheer number of houses to pick from, with the homes per person ranking No 3 overall.

But what about the livability of the place? Also not an issue. The school ranking here is at No. 11, which keeps the market prices high and gives good education options for junior. The crime rate isn’t the lowest on our list, but it isn’t bad and sits at the middle of the pack for that criterion.

2. Cape Coral, FL

Cape Coral, FL

Source: Flickr User Michael Roach

Cape Coral’s unemployment is high, ranking No. 22, and the days on market is a very high 62 days. The median income to home price ratio is also fairly decent, which all adds up to make this an affordable and less stressful option for house hunters.

There’s a whole lot to pick from here, as this city scores first in homes for sale per capita. Buyers will have lots of options and less competition during their search because of this. The school rank is also ties for No. 11, and the crime is fairly low, which means home values will stay high in the long run.

3. Port St. Lucie, FL

Port St. Lucie, FL

Source: Flickr User Jeremy Glass

Florida comes up big again with the city of Port St. Lucie. While you may feel that the No. 5 ranked unemployment rank is a minus, it actually just allows home buyers less competition when searching for a house.

If you combine that with the No. 6 ranked homes per person score, you can see that there’s lots of homes to go around and pretty few competitors with whom to contend.

The crime rate here only adds to the place’s desirability, considering that for this place there are only 2,536 crimes per 100,000 people. The schools don’t rank poorly, and homes stay on the market for an average of 63 days, so anytime is the best time to buy here.

4. Fayetteville, NC

Fayetteville, NC

Source: Flickr User J. Stephen Conn

If you’re stressing about trying to keep up with new houses and constant competition, our No. 4 city might be right for you. Houses stay on the market here an average of 104 days, which ranks No. 4 on our list for that criterion.

There are also lots of houses on the market at any one time, with a homes per person rank of No. 7, and a high unemployment rate to cut down on other buyers. So you don’t have to feel rushed as you make your search in Fayetteville.

We will say, the only real drawback here is a high crime rate. However, the schools are decent and the median income to home price ratio is ranked a high 19th, so all that balances out some.

5. McAllen, TX

McAllen, TX

Source: Flickr User Alex Wathen

If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, you’ve come to the right place. McAllen has the ninth lowest median income to home price ranking, which means that you’ll be making well enough money to pay for your new dwelling.

The schools are decent and the crime rating is pretty middle of the pack, so in general this is a pretty good place to search for affordable but quality housing.

There’s also not as much competition here. The days on market ranking is No. 24, and the unemployment rank is No. 20. That means you’ll have time to look and a better chance of getting a bargain.

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6. Mobile, AL

Mobile, AL

Source: Flickr User Faungg’s photo

Your chances of getting a good deal in No. 6 Mobile are pretty high, so home buyers might want to begin the search here. The homes per person rank is 21st, and the many homes to pick from spend an average of 82 days on market.

Not to mention, the unemployment rank is No. 35, which narrows down the buyers even more. After their house being on the market for that long with so few buyers, sellers might be willing to give some very good prices.

While the schools here fare well, ranking at a tie for 24th, the crime rate is a little high, ranking No. 83 on our overall list for that criteria. However, the median income to home price rank is also high, so that’s worth considering.

7. Naperville, IL

Naperville, IL

Source: Flickr User Michael Kappel

While our No. 7 city doesn’t offer the most days on market, the highest unemployment rank or even the highest median income, it goes offer a very pleasant place to live.

The crime rate here is the third lowest, at merely 1,562 crimes per 100,000 people, and the schools are rates 9 out of 10, ranking at a tie for second on our list for that category. Basically, this city is quite livable for families and singles alike.

It’s not all just safety and good education; the market is pretty solid, too. Home hunters will be pleased to see that the homes per person rank is No. 24, which means that there are options to pick from and a little less competition.

8. Frisco, TX

Frisco, TX

Source: Flickr User Kelly DeLay

The smallest city in our top 10 for home buyers offer some big numbers for those looking to relocate. We’ll start by noting that the median income here is $103,533, which makes the median income to home price rank a pleasant No. 5 for that criteria.

There are also lots of homes on the market, with the homes per person ranking No. 23. Homes here may not stay on the market as long as others in our top 10, but the sheer number of homes available helps make up for that.

Where this place really shines is in the safety and education department. The crime rate ranks No. 12, and the schools here are the best on our overall list. Not only will that keep the home values here high, but it will also offer a great family environment for those with kids or those looking to have kids someday.

9. Salem, OR (tie)

Salem, OR

Source: Flickr User Dennis Larson

One of the few cities on our list not in the southern part of the U.S., Salem offers a pretty solid package for those looking to buy.

The homes available are many, they spend quite a while on the market, and the unemployment rate makes it so that there’s less competition for buyers. Basically, this place offers a low-stress home buying market, and doesn’t score particularly badly in any one area.

There’s even the additional plus of this place having schools that are tied for the No. 24 rank on our list for that category. The crime rate isn’t extremely high either, so homes should keep a good value as time passes.

9. Peoria, AZ (tie)

Peoria, AZ

Source: Flickr User Edmund Garman

Peoria boasts a 38th ranked crime rate and the 11th ranked schools, which keep this place valuable over the years. More than that, there’s plenty of housing to go around, as the homes per person rank here is 14th, offering more options to choose from during the housing search

This city doesn’t really have much of a drawback. The median income to home price ranking and days on market ranking are both decent. The only lower score is the unemployment rank, which scores 69th on our list. Even then, more people being employed could be looked at as a positive thing once you’ve nabbed your new home.

Where to Buy and Where to Pass By

If you’re looking for 10 places that give you affordability, options, quality schools, low-stress searching, and low crime, you can’t go wrong with the places listed above. However, there are a few cities that sit pretty firmly at the bottom of our list.

Hayward, CA offers very little to those on the house hunt. The third-shortest days on market, the No. 85 median income to home price ratio, and a school ranking of only 87th makes this a poor option for home buyers.

Salt Lake City, UT is just about as poor, with a high crime rate and very low unemployment. Our third-to-last city West Valley City, UT has the 95th lowest school ranking as well as the 93rd lowest unemployment rank, and few homes on the market. All of these are definitely ones to pass on, unless you have a specific personal reason for going there.

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posted on: April 24, 2014
12,052 views, 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Ashley

    Sorry- there’s a lot more going on in Clarksville than accounted for here. Clarksville ranks pretty high in violent crime per capita, and has many homes in foreclosure; while the city itself is growing, it’s still an economically depressed area. It’s primarily a military/college town (being right next to Ft. Campbell and home to APSU) and when the 101st is home in its entirety, the traffic is horrendous. Tennessee as a whole ranks lowest/near-lowest evaluating public education by state (or did when I worked for TN Child Services ~4 years ago), and Clarksville (Montgomery Co. public schools) recently made local headlines by being one of the cities that invests the least money per child in public education. I grew up in Tennessee, got my first degree at APSU (in Clarksville) and tutored for the state for several years; some of the statistics on their school system are frightening. The people were wonderful there, but no way would I by a home and raise a family in that area.


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