Deciding to buy a home is one thing, but actually buying one—even if you have your down payment saved up and all your financials in order—is something else altogether. You have to be able to find a house to buy, and with inventory levels near an all-time low, even that can be extremely difficult. You also want to make sure that looking in a place where your income will go as far as possible, and where your big investment will hold its value over time without adding a wet bar or an underground superhero lair.
Seeing how real estate is kind of what we do here at Movoto Real Estate, we decided to combine our expertise in home buying with our patented* Big Deal Lists to create a ranking of the best cities in the country to buy a house, based on where the optimal home buying climate exists at this very moment in the market.
So, after considering all the most important factors to home buying—which we’ll get to in a moment—we determined that the best city in America for prospective home buyers is Henderson, NV. The full top 10 played out as follows:
- Henderson, NV
- Las Vegas, NV
- Greensboro, NC
- El Paso, TX
- Lexington, KY
- North Las Vegas, NV
- Chesapeake, VA
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Fort Wayne, IN
- Charlotte, NC
Before we get into why each of these cities made the cut (and ranked how it did), let’s go over how we determined what makes a good city for home buyers in the first place.
How We Did It
In order to come up with our ranking, we first put together a list of the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. to rank. Then, we looked at each of them in terms of several criteria that we deemed the most important to a city being buyer-friendly. These included real estate fundamentals of supply and demand and quality of life issues that affect ongoing property values:
Total Homes for Sale Per Capita
A housing market with more properties available for sale will generally be less competitive.
Median Days on Market
When houses are on the market for longer, buyers have a better chance of getting the one they want. Also, the longer a home is on the market, the more willing the seller may be to negotiate price.
Median Income to Median Home Price Ratio (Affordability)
The more that potential buyers make in relation to the median home price, the higher the area’s affordability.
Areas with a lower crime rate will be more attractive to future buyers, helping keep property values up.
Similarly, areas with higher quality schools will also keep property values up.
Higher Unemployment Rate
This is probably our most controversial criteria, but fewer people capable of purchasing homes does mean less competition for buyers. Obviously, higher unemployment in the long run can affect resale value, but we foresee the unemployment rate in general decreasing over the next couple of years.
Once we had researched each city, we ranked them in each individual criterion on a scale of 1 to 100, with lower being better from home buyers. We then averaged their scores across all the criteria together to end up with a final Big Deal Score. The lower it was, the better.
Now that you know how we made our ranking, let’s take a more in-depth look at the top 10 cities and why they’re such good ones for potential home buyers.
Winners In Detail
1. Henderson, NV
Located less than 20 miles from Las Vegas, Henderson may be Nevada’s second most populated city, but it’s first when it comes to being ideal for home buyers.
In terms of inventory, it’s fourth best, with one available home for every 106 residents. The city also placed highly in terms of safety, with 21 crimes per year per 1,000 residents—the lowest in our top 10. As for schools, it tied for third, earning an eight out of 10 rating from greatschools.org. Unemployment, days on market, and affordability were all in the top 50 percent.
2. Las Vegas, NV
Henderson’s more well-known neighbor to the west, Sin City was an absolute boomtown of new home construction in the late 1990s through mid-2000s and was hit hard by the financial and housing troubles of the late 2000s. Now prices there are making a comeback, but owning a home there is still well within the means of residents, with affordability in our index ranking 29th overall.
The housing boom means there’s lots of inventory; it’s first in that regard, with one available house for every 57 residents. Unfortunately—or fortunately for prospective buyers—unemployment in Las Vegas is 9.8 percent, the second highest in our index.
3. Greensboro, NC
Moving from the American Southwest to the Southeast, North Carolina’s third-largest metro is also our third-best city for home buyers. Greensboro fared especially well when it came to median days on market, with homes there going a whopping 105 days before selling.
In terms of affordability, it came in 11th, but it didn’t do so well where crime is concerned; it placed 60th, with 57 crimes per year per 1,000 residents.
4. El Paso, TX
The Lone Star State has a lone representative on our ranking, and it’s El Paso. The west Texas town placed highly thanks in part to a top 50 finish across the board, with standout categories including median days on market (12th at 95 days), crime rate (16th at 30 per year per 1,000 people) and school quality (tied for 16th with a score of six out of 10).
Affordability was El Paso’s weakest trait, with a median home price of $152,000 but a median income of $39,442—the second lowest in our top 10.
5. Lexington, KY
It may lay claim to being the horse capital of the world, but in our findings Lexington is the house capital of Kentucky. The Bluegrass State’s second-largest city was propelled halfway up our ranking in part by its school quality (it scored a seven out of 10) and number of available homes per person (there’s one for every 132 residents).
However, with an unemployment rate of only 6.6 percent, it’s actually 68th in our findings in that regard, meaning that prospective buyers will see more competition from other employed shoppers. Lexington was also middle-of-the-road for crime, with 49 per year per 1,000 residents.
6. North Las Vegas, NV
While the two as often seen as one, Sin City’s smaller sibling is officially a separate entity—which is how it can rank four places behind on our list. How different are the two? Well, for started, where Las Vegas ranked 1st for available homes, North Las Vegas ranks 11th, with one for ever 133 residents.
North Las Vegas does have regular old Las Vegas beat when it comes to affordability, however. In fact, it’s almost twice as affordable when you consider median income versus the median home price. No, casino winnings don’t count.
7. Chesapeake, VA
Before 1963, there was no Chesapeake, VA. Now, in its 50th year, it has received perhaps its greatest honor: making our list of best cities for home buyers. Joking aside, there are some good reasons this Virginian metro placed where it did.
First of all, it’s got good schools (they scored a seven out of 10). Secondly, it placed 9th overall in terms of median days on market (96). Lastly, its available inventory per capita isn’t too shabby either; it placed 9th in that that respect with one available home for every 132 people.
8. Pittsburgh, PA
It might be known for its steel, but as far as home buyers are concerned, Pittsburgh is all about being affordable. In fact, the city placed 6th overall in our top 100 ranking when it comes to the median income to median home price ratio. The former is $37,161 per year, while the latter is $78,700.
Pittsburgh also fared well for school rank (it scored a six out of 10) and median days on market, where it was in the top 25 percent at 82 days.
9. Fort Wayne, IN
Established near the site of a Revolutionary War era fort of the same name, Fort Wayne stood out in one key area on our individual criteria ranking: affordability. Specifically, it placed 4th, with a ratio of just about 2 to 1 between its median home price of $90,000 and median income of $44,597 per year.
Fort Wayne’s performance in other categories was fairly average, with the slight exception of unemployment, where it almost broke the top 25 with its rate of 8.5 percent.
10. Charlotte, NC
The second North Carolina city on our top 10, and only about an hour from our No. 3 pick Greensboro, Charlotte placed near the middle of the ranking across its individual criteria, with a couple of exceptions. In terms of available homes per capita, it placed 14th, with one for every 200 residents. It also placed respectably at No. 23 for median days on market at 82 days.
So You Want to Buy a House
If you’re in the market for a home and not adverse to moving, we’re confident in saying that you’ll have your best possible chances of doing so with the least competition and the best financial outcome in the 10 markets we just covered.
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.