We’ve been ranking cities across the country, and even those within single states, in a lot of different ways for a while now on the Movoto Real Estate Blog: nerdiest; worst dressed; most… cowboy. Now we’re going state-by-state answering the question of which city within their borders is actually the best based on the data. Congratulations, Michigan, you’re up first.
We hate drawn-out buildups as much as the next blog, so we’re going to just lay it out: Midland is the best city in Michigan. Boom. It sits atop a top 10 that looks like this:
“Wait,” you say, “that’s 11.” You’re right—and that’s because there was a tie for 10th. But how did these cities even end up in this order in the first place? Well, dear Michiganders—and potential Michiganians—you can read all about that in the ensuing paragraphs.
Michigan’s Metro Supreme
What makes a great city? The same thing that makes a great athlete: fundamentals. In the case of ranking cities in terms of overall best-itude, we settled on the following six criteria to measure:
- Amenities (shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.)
- Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
- Crime (percent above or below state average)
- Education (student to teacher ratio compared to state average)
- Employment (income and unemployment compared to state average)
- Home value (percent above or below state average)
We started with a list of the 50 most populous cities and townships in Michigan, then gave each city a rank from one to 50 in the individual criteria above based on the data, with one being the best possible score. Then, we averaged the criteria together for each city and gave it an overall Big Deal Score. The lower this number was, the higher the city ranked.
Now that you know how we did it, let’s talk about where each of our top 10 best cities in Michigan excelled the most. At the end of this post, you’ll find the full list of 50 cities ranked for your statistical pleasure.
Well, Midlanders, you now have a bigger claim to fame that being the headquarters of Dow Chemical, because you just took the top spot on our list of best cities in Michigan. How’d you manage it? By placing really well in all our categories, of course.
In addition to being chock full of places to shop and things to do, you’re also safe—ranked fifth on our list with a crime rate 53 percent below the Michigan average. In other words, you can tell all those people who claim Michigan is generally unsafe to worry about their own safety; you’re sleeping just fine, thank you. You’re also a good environment for jobs, with a median household income of $48,843 that’s five percent above the state average. Your cost of living helped too; it’s five percent less than Michigan’s average.
The fact that you have neat places like Dow Gardens and the Dow Diamond baseball park only sweeten the deal—we just hope they don’t have a strong chemical smell.
The rest of Michigan might know you as “that place outside of Detroit where people from there go to shop,” but we’re here to tell you, Novi, that you’re more than that. Your home values are really, really good—we’re talking 92 percent higher than the state average. But that’s not all: your median income is also fantastic. It’s $80,151, which is 73 percent higher than the Michigan average. We’re also pretty sure monocles outsell traditional eyeglasses in Novi 5:1.
Of course, you’ve got lots of retail—and other amenities too—and a crime rate that’s 35 percent lower than the state average doesn’t hurt, either. (Nor does the Emagine movie theater with its posh luxury seating sections—nice one, Novi.)
Here’s an interesting fact about Canton, MI: It’s named after the city of Canton in China. Here’s another: Its home values are nearly 91 percent higher than the Michigan average. That’s not surprising (well, at least not as surprising as having a Chinese name) given that it’s so attractive to prospective residents.
Some of that comes from a crime rate that’s 39 percent lower than the state average. Yet more is from an unemployment rate of only 2.5 percent coupled with a median income of $85,444 which is 85 percent higher than the average for Michigan. So, no only can you put more in the bank, but you don’t have to worry as much about needing it to cover expenses if you get laid off.
What’s your fascination with the word “zoo,” Portage? Seriously, you’re right next door to Kalamazoo, and you’re home to an Air Zoo. That’s not what got you into our top 10, though. (This isn’t a ranking of zoo-related places, after all.) Nope, that would be the fact that you’re highly ranked for amenities, education, and home value.
For that last one, your housing is valued at 15 percent above the state average—your median income is also solid at $55,936, which is 1 percent above the state average. If there’s one area you could work on, it’d be crime; your crime rate is 34 percent higher than Michigan’s average. Are those sirens we hear?
5. Ann Arbor
The home of the University of Michigan also turns out to be a good place to call home—and especially to own a home. That’s because property values there are 78 percent above the state average.
As for everything else we looked at, Ann Arbor did quite well too. Education and amenities are good, crime is slightly below the state average, and the cost of living is a mere 7.6 percent above average for Michigan. (We imagine life inside any of the city’s tiny, fascinating fairy doors is probably a lot cheaper.)
6. Grand Blanc
Hey, Grand Blanc, it’s okay that your biggest claim to fame in recent years has been that you’re the home town of Tate from “American Horror Story”, because you’re a really solid place to live. You’re above or below average in all the right places.
Cases in point: Your crime rate is 15 percent below the state average, but your home value is 26 percent above. The only thing you could be doing better is attracting more amenities. You know, for when Even Peters, who played Tate, comes home to spend his millions. (Maybe he’ll buy everyone scoops at Ziggy’s Ice Cream—we hear it’s pretty good!)
7. Royal Oak
We have to say that being the setting for the sitcom classic “Home Improvement” is a bit of a step up from Grand Blanc’s TV-related claim to fame. We also have to wonder if this fact has anything to do with why home values in Royal Oak are 31 percent higher than the state average.
We figured Royal Oak would’ve placed higher in terms of amenities with attractions like the Detroit Zoo located there, but it’s still pretty good. So’s a crime rate that’s 29 percent below the average for the rest of the state. We’re not sure if that number includes incidents relating to escaped zoo residents, though.
8. East Lansing
The third college town on our list, East Lansing is home to Michigan State University. But we’re not ranking college towns here; we’ll save that for another day.
East Lansing’s cost of living is in line with the state average, while its median household income is actually lower at $31,167 and its home value is 41 percent higher at $189,800. Honestly, we actually expected more out of the hometown of Google cofounder Larry Page. Like, maybe free Google Glass for everyone?
9. Farmington Hills
Located about 30 minutes northwest of Detroit—and right next to No. 2 Novi—Farmington Hills is what you’d describe as “affluent.” As a result, the cost of living is 31 percent higher than the state average, while home values are a whopping 76 percent above.
Crime, on the other hand, is 38 percent lower than the average for Michigan. See, sounds pretty affluent. What all that money doesn’t get you, though, is as many amenities as in other parts of the Great Lakes State. (Although having a place called Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum that’s full of cool/creepy coin-operated contraptions helps in our book.)
10. Troy and West Bloomfield Township
The final town towns on our list actually managed to tie—something we don’t get around here too often. But, when the data speaks, we listen. While both cities received the same Big Deal Score and both placed 10th, there are some notable differences between them in terms of what makes them such good places to live.
Troy, on the one hand, is better in terms of cost of living at 34 percent above the state average; West Bloomfield’s is a whopping 78 percent above. On the other hand, West Bloomfield has a much better crime rate at 56 below the Michigan average; Troy is still quite safe at 18 percent below. Both towns have about the same in terms of school quality, available amenities, and employment prospects.
Michigan, My Michigan
So, Michiganers, there you have it. We hope we’ve helped to settle some arguments—although we suspect that we might have just added fuel to the fire. Good thing you’ve got that big lake, eh?
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is an online real estate brokerage based in San Mateo, CA. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes and CBS News.