The Best City In Every State to Buy a Home

We surveyed all 50 states to find the best cities to buy a home. Using a robust criteria matrix, we ranked the best city I every state to be a homeowner.

best cities to buy a home

Are you looking to buy a home? If you’re one of the half of Americans with a job that could allow you to work from home, the nation is your oyster. In this case, you might want to look at the best places for buying a home. That’s why we pulled together this list of the best city in every state to buy a home.

Before we launch into the rankings, let’s talk about why we chose these particular cities.

The Criteria Matrix

As we’ve done with our other city-related articles, we used a decision matrix with this one. After we chose the criteria, we gave each piece of criteria a different weight. When it comes to choosing where to buy a home, some things are just more important than others. Here are the criteria we used:

Average Cost Per Square Foot–16%

We based all of our housing costs data on averages from Zillow. You’ll find outliers in any city, of course. But the average cost per square foot is a good proxy for how much house you can get for your money in any given city.

And these costs vary wildly from city to city. In some places, average price per square foot is less than $65, while in other areas the costs skyrocket to more than $500.

Median House List Price–15%

Of course, the cost of a home will be a big determinant on where you can afford to buy. If you’re just starting out, you probably can’t pay half a million dollars for your first home. So we gave cities a better ranking if they had lower overall average housing costs, again based on Zillow data.

Zillow Property Pricing Forecast–27%

Whether you’re buying a house as an investment or as a starter home, you ideally want to buy in areas where property prices are going to increase. This is the best way to get a good return on your investment. So this is the category with the heaviest weight in our matrix.

Again, this information is based on data from Zillow, which uses the past year’s home prices and current listings to project future increases.

Amenities–4%

We used data from AreaVibes.com for the rest of the criteria listed here. Amenities can include things like attractions, restaurants, public areas and more. Amenities like these can make an area more attractive. But since everyone has different opinions on what amenities are most important, we didn’t give this category much weight.

Crime–8%

Again, we used data from AreaVibes.com for this information. Crime rates, however, can vary dramatically from one side of town to the other. So we gave this factor some weight but not too much. Just be sure to check out property and violent crime statistics in a particular area of town before you purchase a home.

Schools–12%

For home buyers, the quality of an area’s schools is often a huge factor. That’s why we gave it so much weight in our formula. The schools rating from AreaVibes.com ranks the city’s schools as a whole. So, again, keep in mind that a particular school or network of schools may outperform others in your chosen city.

Cost of Living–18%

Even if home prices are low, you’re less likely to live well in an area that has otherwise high cost of living. So we definitely wanted to give the city’s overall cost of living some weight in our matrix.

A Note on Population

Originally, we planned to only include cities on our list if they had a population of 100,000 or more. These cities are more likely to be diverse and have a lot going on. However, in many states, there are no cities that met this criteria. So we looked at any city that had at least 100,000 residents. But if a state didn’t have many–or any–cities at that level, we looked at the five most populated cities in a state.

The Rankings

Now that you know how we’ve rated the cities on our list, here are our rankings by state.

Alabama

First Place: Mobile

This Gulf Coast city is known for the Port of Mobile, which helps sustain its economy. It’s one of the cultural centers of Alabama and offers art museums, an orchestra and an opera, a ballet company, and lots of historic architecture. Mobile boasts a low cost of living and well-rated schools.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $89

Median List Price: $112,000

Runner Up: Birmingham

Median Price Per Square Foot: $47

Median List Price: $65,100

Alaska

First Place: Anchorage

If the great outdoors is where you want to be, Anchorage is a beautiful place to live. It has a population of 401,000 people, which is about half of the people who live in Alaska. The city is home to a FedEx hub, and the Anchorage International Airport is a common stop for international flights.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $167

Median List Price: $300,000

Runner Up: Juneau

Median Price Per Square Foot: $214

Median List Price: $343,600

Arizona

First Place: Tucson

Part of a larger metropolitan area, Tucson is home to more than a million people. It’s another wonderful place to go if you love the outdoors, as it’s home to many public parks. The city also offers a variety of cultural attractions, including several regular fairs and festivals.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $126

Median List Price: $173,300

Runner Up: Surprise

Median Price Per Square Foot: $128

Median List Price: $238,400

Arkansas

First Place: Fort Smith

This mid-sized city won based on its affordable housing and fast-growing market. But it also boasts a low cost of living and well-rated schools. The city has several art and history museums, as well as a great live music scene.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $83

Median List Price: $111,900

Runner Up: Fayetteville

Median Price Per Square Foot: $125

Median List Price: $195,900

California

First Place: Stockton

Downtown Stockton is a beautiful place with a waterfront walk that’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Its home prices are fairly low compared to other California cities. But it’s home to many cultural attractions, as well as a variety of parks, shopping malls, and festivals.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $171

Median List Price: $277,700

Runner Up: Elk Grove

Median Price Per Square Foot: $211

Median List Price: $415,500

Colorado

First Place: Pueblo

Located on the Arkansas River, Pueblo is a great location for outdoorsy types. The steel-producing city offers plenty of industry jobs. And it was rated one of the most affordable places to live in America in 2014. The city has just over 100,000 residents.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $147

Median List Price: $147,000

Runner Up: Colorado Springs

Median Price Per Square Foot: $174

Median List Price: $267,600

Connecticut

First Place: Waterbury

In Waterbury, you can enjoy East Coast culture without the high East Coast costs. It’s on the Naugatuck River about 30 miles out of Hartford. As with many cities in the area, it boasts beautiful historic architecture, as well as historical attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $88

Median List Price: $109,200

Runner Up: New Haven

Median Price Per Square Foot: $126

Median List Price: $162,900

Delaware

First Place: Newark

This small city in Delaware is nearby to many parks and natural areas, and it also has a storied history back to the American Revolution. It has fairly low crime and well-rated schools.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $134

Median List Price: $286,900

Runner Up: Dover

Median Price Per Square Foot: $105

Median List Price: $167,200

Florida

First Place: Ocala

This Northern Florida city has a population of almost 60,000. In the 1920s, it was a horse breeding capital, so it still has some interesting attractions and history. Nearby to Silver Springs, Ocala is an area that brings in plenty of tourists.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $102

Median List Price: $133,600

Runner Up: Spring Hill

Median Price Per Square Foot: $96

Median List Price: $151,300

Georgia

First Place: Savannah

The oldest city in the state of Georgia is still a wonderful place to call home. It features beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, and venerable academic and religious institutions. Savannah has a great downtown area with plenty of green space, and many attractions for a variety of residents and visitors.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $105

Median List Price: $126,900

Runner Up: Columbus

Median Price Per Square Foot: $72

Median List Price: $88,700

Hawaii

First Place: Pearl City

Median Price Per Square Foot: $422

Median List Price: $710,600

Hawai’i is the most expensive state for real estate, by far. So you’re not likely going to buy a starter home in Pearl City. But if you are looking to move to Hawai’i, it’s a great city to choose and has a much lower price per square foot than other cities on the islands.

Runner Up: Honolulu

Median Price Per Square Foot: $699

Median List Price: $694,800

Idaho

First Place: Pocatello

This city is rated as a great place for small businesses, and it has a low cost of living and highly-rated schools. The city is home to several universities, as well.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $123

Median List Price: $128,600

Runner Up: Idaho Falls

Median Price Per Square Foot: $92

Median List Price: $150,300

Illinois

First Place: Rockford

Here’s a random fact about Rockford, it’s the fastener capital of the world, a place where many of the world’s screws and other fasteners are manufactured. It also boasts low home prices and an overall low cost of living.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $60

Median List Price: $86,100

Runner Up: Springfield

Median Price Per Square Foot: N.A.

Median List Price: $124,500

Indiana

First Place: Fort Wayne

This metropolitan area is home to plenty of great attractions, including a wonderful zoo. It has good schools and a very low cost of living.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $88

Median List Price: $103,700

Runner Up: South Bend

Median Price Per Square Foot: $73

Median List Price: $68,900

Iowa

First Place: Sioux City

Sioux City is home to about 80,000 residents, but is part of a larger metropolitan area with more like 100,000 residents. The city is home to many attractions, including public art centers and museums. There are also some beautiful parks to enjoy.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $119

Median List Price: $113,000

Runner Up: Des Moines

Median Price Per Square Foot: $118

Median List Price: $130,800

Kansas

First Place: Kansas City

The largest city in Missouri is also a great place to buy a home. It’s a fairly large city with a vibrant culture and an up-and-coming restaurant scene. The city is divided into several neighborhoods, so do your research before you decide where to buy.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $115

Median List Price: $127,600

Runner Up: Topeka

Median Price Per Square Foot: $79

Median List Price: $99,900

Kentucky

First Place: Owensboro

This small Kentucky city is located on the Ohio River, so it has plenty of interesting natural attractions to explore. It’s home to several interesting annual festivals and fairs, and hosts the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $107

Median List Price: $135,800

Runner Up: Covington

Median Price Per Square Foot: $87

Median List Price: $100,900

Louisiana

First Place: Lafayette

This city along the Vermillion River is the center of Cajun and Creole culture, which means it’s also home to lots of great food and interesting cultural attractions. With over 100,000 residents, it’s a diverse city that’s a great place to call home.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $118

Median List Price: $139,900

Runner Up: Shreveport

Median Price Per Square Foot: $91

Median List Price: $101,600

Maine

First Place: Bangor

Home to only 33,000 residents, Bangor is a beautiful city that was once a center of the lumber industry on the East Coast. Downtown Bangor is home to some wonderful urban renewal efforts, and Bangor is also within an easy drive of plenty of beautiful natural attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $103

Median List Price: $131,900

Runner Up: Lewiston

Median Price Per Square Foot: $108

Median List Price: $132,300

Maryland

First Place: Baltimore

If big city life is more your speed, Baltimore might be the city for you. Like many other cities in the U.S., its downtown area is undergoing renewal in many areas. The city has been home to a variety of U.S. artists and writers, as well as the famous baseball player Babe Ruth.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $121

Median List Price: $124,400

Runner Up: Bowie

Median Price Per Square Foot: $164

Median List Price: $340,400

Massachusetts

First Place: Springfield

This city sits at the intersection of three rivers, and it gives you access to plenty of the cultural and natural attractions of Massachusetts with lower costs than Boston. As with many large cities, this one has many neighborhood areas, each with its own distinct culture and attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $105

Median List Price: $150,000

Runner Up: Worcester

Median Price Per Square Foot: $156

Median List Price: $226,900

Michigan

First Place: Grand Rapids

This city is home to loads of people–over a million–and some large industries, including one of the world’s leading office furniture company. The city is home to several academic institutions, as well as a variety of cultural attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $113

Median List Price: $139,800

Runner Up: Lansing

Median Price Per Square Foot: N.A.

Median List Price: $80,400

Minnesota

First Place: Rochester

Rochester is perhaps best known as being the home to the famed Mayo Clinic, which treats many individuals with hard-to-treat conditions. The city gives you access to some of the beauties of Minnesota, including the Zumbro River and nearby farmland and forests.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $198

Median List Price: $208,000

Runner Up: Duluth

Median Price Per Square Foot: $194

Median List Price: $152,200

Mississippi

First Place: Gulfport

Gulfport is a relatively large city with a population of about 67,000, but it’s also part of the larger Gulfport-Biloxi-Pasagoula metropolitan area. It’s nearby to the beauties of the Gulf Coast and hosts the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet Seebees.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $98

Median List Price: $161,200

Runner Up: Southaven

Median Price Per Square Foot: $92

Median List Price: $118,400

Missouri

First Place: Independence

If you’ve ever played Oregon Trail, you know about Independence. It’s where people got their covered wagons ready to go to California, Oregon, and Santa Fe. A rich history isn’t the only thing Independence has going for it. It also boasts a low cost of living and plenty of museums and other cultural attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $84

Median List Price: $108,900

Runner Up: St. Louis

Median Price Per Square Foot: $111

Median List Price: $128,600

Montana

First Place: Billings

With over half a million residents, Billings offers something for everyone. But it’s particularly attractive to those who love hiking and adventuring, since it’s close to attractions like Pictograph Cave, Bighorn Canyon, and Red Lodge Mountain Resort.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $173

Median List Price: $222,500

Runner Up: Great Falls

Median Price Per Square Foot: $158

Median List Price: $163,600

Nebraska

First Place: Grand Island

This mid-sized city is home to two colleges and plenty of small businesses. It’s also home to the training center for all Nebraska law enforcement officers.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $131

Median List Price: $155,400

Runner Up: Kearney

Median Price Per Square Foot: $148

Median List Price: $198,300

Nevada

First Place: North Las Vegas

Las Vegas, known for its nightlife and partying style, is actually a great place to buy a home and raise a family. And North Las Vegas is more affordable than Las Vegas proper. Enjoy plenty of things to do, cultural attractions, and even natural attractions nearby.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $130

Median List Price: $232,000

Runner Up: Las Vegas

Median Price Per Square Foot: $153

Median List Price: $241,800

New Hampshire

First Place: Derry

Derry is also known as Spacetown, since the first U.S. astronaut is from there. The city is close to a variety of beautiful natural attractions, has very low crime, and good schools.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $159

Median List Price: $270,800

Runner Up: Dover

Median Price Per Square Foot: $190

Median List Price: $250,500

New Jersey

First Place: Jersey City

After Newark, Jersey City is the most populous city in New Jersey. Real estate is quite expensive, but it’s also a good place to invest at the moment. And you can’t go wrong with all the nearby cultural attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $464

Median List Price: $432,800

Runner Up: Paterson

Median Price Per Square Foot: $89

Median List Price: $218,900

New Mexico

First Place: Las Cruces

This city is in the midst of the Mesilia Valley, an agricultural region near the Rio Grande. It’s home to New Mexico State University and is close to the beautiful Dona Ana Mountains and other attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $109

Median List Price: $148,400

Runner Up: Albuquerque

Median Price Per Square Foot: $140

Median List Price: $188,800

New York

First Place: Rochester

Located in northern New York State, Rochester is a beautiful city that hosts the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester. The area has created some of the biggest companies in the United States, and it’s a great place to live.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $39

Median List Price: $85,300

Runner Up: Buffalo

Median Price Per Square Foot: $106

Median List Price: $150,300

North Carolina

First Place: Fayetteville

Home to Fort Bragg and Pope Army Airfield, Fayetteville hosts hundreds of military families. The city boasts many cultural and historical attractions, and it’s situated in a beautiful area of the country.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $82

Median List Price: $114,100

Runner Up: Charlotte

Median Price Per Square Foot: $138

Median List Price: $200,700

North Dakota

First Place: Fargo

The largest city in North Dakota, Fargo is home to North Dakota State University. It also has its own orchestra and youth symphony, as well as a ballet company.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $163

Median List Price: $217,800

Runner Up: West Fargo

Median Price Per Square Foot: $135

Median List Price: $237,900

Ohio

First Place: Cleveland

Cleveland is a very affordable place to live, and it’s a fun community as well, since it hosts several institutes of higher education. Cleveland has some great parks and arts attractions, and plays host to many large events each year at its convention center.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $58

Median List Price: $61,600

Runner Up: Dayton

Median Price Per Square Foot: $43

Median List Price: $57,300

Oklahoma

First Place: Lawton

Located southwest of Oklahoma City, Lawton is a very affordable place to live, and it’s known for having great public schools. The city also has several higher education institutions in the city, as well as a variety of museums.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $68

Median List Price: $76,300

Runner Up: Tulsa

Median Price Per Square Foot: $89

Median List Price: $115,800

Oregon

First Place: Salem

Life in Oregon isn’t always cheap, but Salem is a fairly affordable place to live. Home to several universities, Salem is known for having great public transportation. It also hosts many cultural events and series, as well as museums and historical attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $177

Median List Price: $256,000

Runner Up: Eugene

Median Price Per Square Foot: $186

Median List Price: $282,100

Pennsylvania

First Place: Erie

Situated between Buffalo, New York and Cleveland, Ohio, Erie is a crossroads in the country. It has begun cultivating a tourism industry, but it’s still an incredibly affordable place to live.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $56

Median List Price: $78,600

Runner Up: Pittsburgh

Median Price Per Square Foot: $121

Median List Price: $130,700

Rhode Island

First Place: Providence

One of the first cities in the United States to industrialize, Providence is still home to some manufacturing. It’s home to an interesting mix of historic buildings and modern architecture, and it offers plenty of cultural attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $158

Median List Price: $193,300

Runner Up: Warwick

Median Price Per Square Foot: $177

Median List Price: $220,300

South Carolina

First Place: Columbia

This large city in South Carolina is home to a national guard base operated by the Air Force as well as the South Carolina State House. If you want to buy a relatively affordable historic home, this is one place to do it.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $100

Median List Price: $131,300

Runner Up: Rock Hill

Median Price Per Square Foot: N.A.

Median List Price: $162,900

South Dakota

First Place: Sioux Falls

Here’s another great place to live if you value low cost of living and outdoor attractions. Sioux Falls has more than 70 parks and greenspaces, including the waterfalls on the Big Sioux River.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $156

Median List Price: $177,400

Runner Up: Aberdeen

Median Price Per Square Foot: $80

Median List Price: $182,400

Tennessee

First Place: Memphis

Running along the Mississippi River, Memphis offers beautiful riverfront properties and several natural aquifers. It’s a great place to go for music, food, and general Southern charm.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $53

Median List Price: $82,600

Runner Up: Knoxville

Median Price Per Square Foot: $104

Median List Price: $136,900

Texas

First Place: Brownsville

Located in far south Texas, Brownsville is a large city with a diverse population. If you’re looking to start a business, Brownsville is known as a great place to do it.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $84

Median List Price: $89,200

Runner Up: Pasadena

Median Price Per Square Foot: $100

Median List Price: $139,300

Utah

First Place: Provo

Provo is home to Brigham Young University and is a great, growing city with a vibrant economy. It’s a great place to start a business, especially if you want a small mortgage payment while you’re doing it.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $185

Median List Price: $231,800

Runner Up: Orem

Median Price Per Square Foot: $171

Median List Price: $245,600

Vermont

First Place: Rutland

This small town has a beautiful downtown district, which is made up largely of historic buildings. For a small city, it has a variety of regular events and fun places to visit, including a great downtown public library and a park where you can hike or mountain bike.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $128

Median List Price: $158,300

Runner Up: Burlington

Median Price Per Square Foot: N.A.

Median List Price: $294,100

Virginia

First Place: Richmond

Besides being an affordable place to live, Richmond is also a culturally rich city. It has a fairly diverse population and plenty of historical and cultural attractions.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $155

Median List Price: $188,700

Runner Up: Hampton

Median Price Per Square Foot: $111

Median List Price: $157,500

Washington

First Place: Spokane

Median Price Per Square Foot: $174

Median List Price: $189,500

Runner Up: Vancouver

Median Price Per Square Foot: $206

Median List Price: $297,200

West Virginia

First Place: Parkersburg

This small city is actually host to plenty of tourism attractions and several annual cultural events, including a BBQ and beer festival and an international festival. It’s also got very low property prices and a low general cost of living.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $78

Median List Price: $86,500

Runner Up: Wheeling

Median Price Per Square Foot: $85

Median List Price: $94,900

Wisconsin

First Place: Racine

Racine is home to many industrial companies, and it’s a city experiencing revitalization. It’s a diverse area with plenty of attractions and a University of Wisconsin campus.

Median Price Per Square Foot: N.A.

Median List Price: $99,100

Runner Up: Kenosha

Median Price Per Square Foot: $113

Median List Price: $144,100

Wyoming

First Place: Cheyenne

Sitting in the midst of Laramie County, Cheyenne is quintessential Wyoming. It offers several parks, and it’s also known for being a wonderful town for hikers.

Median Price Per Square Foot: $164

Median List Price: $217,700

Runner Up: Casper

Median Price Per Square Foot: $156

Median List Price: $180,200


Topics: Money and Life

5 Responses to “The Best City In Every State to Buy a Home”

  1. Have you ever been in Grand Island, NE or Sioux City, Iowa. What a joke. Raw stats don’t mean anything and apparently personal finance blogs don’t either.

  2. I am confused by your pick for Kansas. You mention Missouri then pick Kansas City. Yes there is a KC in both states but there is no way you meant to pick KC in Kansas and certainly weren’t describing it.

  3. Im utterly shocked that you picked Stockton, California. You obviously did not do your research on violent crime rates. Stockton has one of the top ten highest violent crime rates of ALL cities in the entire nation! I live in this rotten city and cant wait to get out. Im tired of having to call 911 to report multiple gun shots. And I supposedly live in a good neighborhood! At one time in the last ten years Stockton had the highest murder rate in the nation. Too many gangs, too much poverty, too little to do in this rotten city. Oh, and Stockton as a beautiful city?? Youve obviously never been downtown! Its a run down ghost town, with lots of homeless, guys just released from prison, and prostitutes. Get your facts straight lady!

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