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These Are the 15 Best Cities for First-Time Homebuyers

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There are probably few things more overwhelming first-time home purchasing. Not only must you arrange a significant sum of money as a down payment, you have to take a lot of factors into consideration, from location to whether you can afford your mortgage. At the very least, you have some core decisions to make — and lots of steps to take after that.

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After you get your funding together, the next thing you need to research are the best cities to buy a house so you can get the most bang for your buck. To make your job easier, GOBankingRates has put together a list of the 15 best places to buy a home. Cities were ranked on a number of factors, including foreclosure rates and median household listing price. Use this guide to find the best places to buy your first home.

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Toledo, Ohio

  • Median list price: $147,600
  • Down payment required: $29,520
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $24,836
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.28%
  • Housing opportunity index: 84.6

Toledo is a popular place for first-time homebuyers to find a house. Buy a median list price home and your mortgage payment would be only $683 per year. You’d only need to come up with a down payment of $29,520.

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Akron, Ohio

  • Median list price: $158,617
  • Down payment required: $31,723
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $26,691
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.44%
  • Housing opportunity index: 86.5

Ohio has numerous cities that are affordable for first time homebuyers, and Akron is no exception. If you buy a median list price home, your mortgage payment would be only $733 per year. You’d only need to earn $26,691 per year to afford that mortgage.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Median list price: $206,633
  • Down payment required: $41,327
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $34,764
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.42%
  • Housing opportunity index: 88.4

Pittsburgh is a bustling place that’s friendly to new home buyers. You can afford a median list price home on a salary of less than $35K, and pay only $956 per month in mortgage. 

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Median list price: $200,600
  • Down payment required: $40,120
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $33,745
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.15%
  • Housing opportunity index: 77.6

Like beer? Move here: Milwaukee is famous for its breweries. It’s also famous for being one of the best places to buy a home if you’re just entering the market. You’ll pay just $11,136 per year in mortgage costs to live here.

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Syracuse, New York

  • Median list price: $147,600
  • Down payment required: $29,520
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $24,836
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.28%
  • Housing opportunity index: 84.6

Toledo is a popular place for first-time homebuyers to find a house. Buy a median list price home and your mortgage payment would be only $683 per year. You’d only need to come up with a down payment of $29,520.

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Dayton, Ohio

  • Median list price: $186,967
  • Down payment required: $37,393
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $31,455
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.51%

Dayton, Ohio, the home of famous pilots Orville and Wilbur Wright, is also a great place to buy a home. The average household income here is $58,169, but you’d only need to pay $865 per month in mortgage. 

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St. Louis, Missouri

  • Median list price: $226,967
  • Down payment required: $45,393
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $38,182
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.04%
  • Housing opportunity index: 80.5

The Show Me State has plenty to offer first-time homebuyers — all you need to do is look. If you make just over $38,000, you can afford a home here. Millennials, take note: If you’re just entering the work world, you can still buy a house on what might be a likely starting salary.

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Buffalo, New York

  • Median list price: $221,633
  • Down payment required: $44,327
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $37,273
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.00%
  • Housing opportunity index: 78.4

This town in upstate New York gives you the best of the suburbs with relatively close proximity to New York City. Better yet, you’d only need to earn a minimum salary of under $40,000. Your mortgage payment would only be $1,025 per month. 

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Wichita, Kansas

  • Median list price: $229,333
  • Down payment required: $45,867
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $38,582
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.00%
  • Housing opportunity index: 76.1

The Air Capital of the World still costs money to live in, but not as much as other cities. Your mortgage payment would only be $1,061 per month. You can afford a home earning less than $40,000 per year. The city must be doing something right since the foreclosure rate is 0 here.

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Cleveland, Ohio

  • Median list price: $187,100
  • Down payment required: $37,420
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $31,455
  • Foreclosure rate: 1.19
  • Housing opportunity index: 82.8

If you don’t mind the roller-coaster ride that is the sports teams here, Cleveland might be one of the best places to buy a home as a first-timer. For the low, low annual price of $10,380 in mortgage costs you can live here and still have a salary under $32,000. 

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Detroit, Michigan

  • Median list price: $229,967
  • Down payment required: $45,993
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $38,961
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.06
  • Housing opportunity index: 77

The Motor City is attracting first-time homebuyers thanks to its homes’ low median list prices and a cost of living that makes a salary of only $45,993 livable. For only $12,768 per year in mortgage costs, you can get in the market now.

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Rochester, New York

  • Median list price: $210,000
  • Down payment required: $42,000
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $62,104
  • Foreclosure rate: 1.38%
  • Housing opportunity index: 83.4

Rochester is a picturesque town that attracts a lot of tourists due to nearby lakes. However, you can enjoy this beauty as a first-time homebuyer thanks to its homes’ low median list prices. For only $11,652 per year in mortgage costs, can get in the market now.

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Louisville, Kentucky

  • Median list price: $261,600
  • Down payment required: $52,320
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $44,000
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.0%
  • Housing opportunity index: 77.1

Buy your first home in Louisville, Kentucky, and you can visit the legendary Kentucky Derby. You’ll also be able to afford an annual mortgage bill of $14,520 with room to spare on a salary of only $44,000.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Median list price: $294,998
  • Down payment required: $59,000
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $49,636
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.15%
  • Housing opportunity index: 87.6

With a very reasonable median home list price and low foreclosure rate Indianapolis is an excellent place to spend your money if you’re a first-time homebuyer. Your annual mortgage payment on a median list price home would be only $16,380, which would leave plenty to live on if you made just under $50,000. 

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Baltimore, Maryland

  • Median list price: $323,300
  • Down payment required: $64,660
  • Salary needed to afford a home: $54,364
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.17%
  • Housing opportunity index: 77.8

Baltimore is Maryland’s largest city, but there’s still room for first-time homebuyers. Your annual mortgage payment on a median list price home would be only $17,940, which would leave plenty to live on if you made just under $55,000. 

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Choose Wisely

Now that you have a list to get you started shopping in the best cities for first-time homebuyers, it’s important that you know what else to do when you’re in the real estate market for the first time.

First, start saving for a down payment today. That way, when you find the home that’s right for you, you can actually get started buying it. Make sure you accurately calculate what you can afford and compare mortgage lenders to ensure you get the best deal available to you.

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Methodology: For this piece, cities were ranked according to seven factors: (1)current foreclosure rates, sourced from RealtyTrac; (2) median home listing prices during the month of December 2021 (the most recently released data), as sourced from Zillow; (3)the 20% down payment required to purchase a home at the median listing price; (4)the salary needed to afford a home at the median listing price, calculated with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage set at 3.74% and excluding taxes and fees, with monthly payments comprising 33% or less of income (as recommended by financial advisors); (5) the median household income for each city, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey; and (6) the Housing Opportunity Index, sourced from the National Association of Homebuilders for Q4 of 2021 (the most recently released data), indicating the share of affordable homes sold to median income families in a given area. These seven factors were scored and weighted  to determine each state’s ranking. All data was collected on and up to date as of Feb. 9, 2022.

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