There’s an old saying that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. And although that adage has become a well-worn cliche, there’s a reason for that saying: It’s usually pretty on point. Where you buy matters almost as much as what you buy when it comes to shopping for a house, with factors ranging from the cost of living in your area to the quality of local schools ultimately playing a huge role in how satisfied you end up being with the decision.
A new GOBankingRates study is drilling deeper into this, identifying the best place to buy a home in every state based on the quality of the area and what sort of value you can expect based on the local housing market. The study used Zillow’s Buyer-Seller Index — a score that uses a number of factors to determine whether the current market favors people looking for housing or looking to sell relative to other towns in the same metro area — to determine the three strongest buyer’s markets in the state. Then, using AreaVibes’ Livability Score to see which cities offer the most in terms of amenities, employment and education and the Zillow Home Value Forecast to see what sort of return you can expect on your money, the best place for homebuyers was identified.
Data is accurate as of January 4, 2019, and is subject to change.
Last updated: October 9, 2020
Livability Score: 74Median Listing Price: $324,450Median Home Value: $247,900Home Value Forecast: 4.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.279
If you’re getting sick of life in smog-choked, traffic-clogged Los Angeles, it might be time to consider the Yellowhammer State, where you can buy more than 10 median-priced homes in Birmingham for the price of a typical California home. However, it’s Auburn that offers Alabama’s best market for buyers in the state. Just don’t tell the Rolling Tide fans…
Livability Score: 46Median Listing Price: $225,000Median Home Value: $257,400Home Value Forecast: -3.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 8.524
The incredible market for buyers in Fairbanks is probably explained by the fact that home prices are projected to decline over the next year.
Arizona: El Mirage
Livability Score: 70Median Listing Price: $200,000Median Home Value: $190,700Home Value Forecast: 4.5 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.313
No, that median listing price isn’t an exhaustion-induced hallucination. El Mirage provides anyone looking to live the desert life an affordable place to find a home. And if you’re worried about the cost of living, don’t: Arizona falls right smack in the middle of American states with a low cost of living.
Livability Score: 67Median Listing Price: $177,850Median Home Value: $116,900Home Value Forecast: 4.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.0
Arkansas is a bargain shopper’s paradise when it comes to homes, offering rising values, a strong buyer’s market and prices that put homeownership within reach. In fact, you can get 3,212 square feet on a budget of $300,000 based on the state’s excellent price per square foot.
Livability Score: 70Median Listing Price: $679,500Median Home Value: $623,500Home Value Forecast: 6.7 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.110
Although spending in excess of $600,000 on a home might seem absurd for many people, if that Home Value Forecast proves accurate, you’ll make over $40,000 on your purchase in just the first year. But, high costs and higher growth in home values are just part of what makes real estate in California unique.
Livability Score: 62Median Listing Price: $392,500Median Home Value: $369,300Home Value Forecast: 8.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.435
Despite not reaching California levels, Colorado is likewise a state where home values are high and getting higher. Westminster could be a great spot to start for young homebuyers looking for a respite in a state that is among the worst for millennial homebuyers.
Livability Score: 74Median Listing Price: $259,900Median Home Value: $254,400Home Value Forecast: 3.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.313
Coventry offers a good value in a solid market for buyers and a town with a high livability score. It could also be a solid place to look if you’re trying to escape Hartford, one of the cities most in danger of another housing crisis.
Make your home-buying plan:
Livability Score: 66Median Listing Price: $270,000Median Home Value: $258,000Home Value Forecast: 6.7 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.588
If you can “Bear” the price, buying a house in Delaware’s top market should be a relatively strong investment. This area has a strong buyer’s market and a projected gain in home values of almost 7 percent over the next year.
Florida: The Crossings
Livability Score: 82Median Listing Price: $320,050Median Home Value: $361,200Home Value Forecast: 4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.110
Just six states in this study can boast a livability score in excess of 80, and Florida’s entry — The Crossings — is one of them. The potential for a good return on your investment in Florida is clearly there: Tampa was one of the housing markets that beat the S&P 500 over the last five years.
Livability Score: 56Median Listing Price: $278,700Median Home Value: $239,700Home Value Forecast: 7 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.133
Tucker has one of the lower livability scores in this study, but the solid growth in home values would appear to help keep it an attractive market to buy in. After all, it’s right outside Atlanta, another housing market that beat the returns of the S&P 500 over the last half-decade.
Livability Score: 66Median Listing Price: $625,000Median Home Value: $1,070,100Home Value Forecast: 4.8 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.588
The median home value of over $1 million for Honolulu is the second-highest in this study. So although the median list price of $625,000 might seem very steep, it’s also just over half the median home value — potentially indicating you could be getting a real bargain on the home’s value.
Livability Score: 73Median Listing Price: $228,999Median Home Value: $190,900Home Value Forecast: 6.5 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.0
Caldwell offers a good score on Zillow’s Buyer-Seller Index along with its projection for solid growth in home values over the next year, making it a potentially great way to get access to the natural beauty of Idaho at a price you can stand.
Livability Score: 64Median Listing Price: $250,000Median Home Value: $222,400Home Value Forecast: 10.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.226
There could be a simple explanation for Minooka’s low score on the Buyer-Seller Index: No city in this study is projected to see home values climb more than the 10.1 percent in Minooka. This city could be one way for Illinois residents to escape Chicago, one of the cities in the greatest danger of another housing crisis.
Livability Score: 77Median Listing Price: $235,000Median Home Value: $240,200Home Value Forecast: 8.8 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.169
Schererville is another city where the seller’s market can likely be explained by the fact that prices are on the rise there to the tune of nearly 9 percent.
Iowa: Des Moines
Livability Score: 75Median Listing Price: $145,000Median Home Value: $136,300Home Value Forecast: 6 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.833
Younger homebuyers should seriously consider Des Moines during their search. The city boasts solid scores for livability, a buyer’s market, expectations for solid growth in home prices and home prices that mostly stay under $150,000. That could be one of the reasons why Iowa is one of the states where millennials can actually afford homes.
Livability Score: 82Median Listing Price: $339,500Median Home Value: $255,400Home Value Forecast: 5.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.923
Not only is Olathe among the six cities with a livability score above 80, but it’s one of the 12 cities where the Buyer-Seller Index is above 1.0, making it one of just two cities that falls into both of those groups.
Livability Score: 73Median Listing Price: $210,000Median Home Value: $177,400Home Value Forecast: 5.7 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.154
Kentucky’s low costs for housing extend to Independence, the best place to look for a home in the state. The strong buyer’s market and relatively low listing prices could have something to do with it being in one of the states where millennials can afford a home.
Livability Score: 75Median Listing Price: $179,000Median Home Value: $145,700Home Value Forecast: 6.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.714
Gretna is the best market to consider when you’re a homebuyer looking in Louisiana, but the state has a lot to offer potential buyers, especially if you haven’t owned a home before.
Livability Score: 55Median Listing Price: $275,000Median Home Value: $255,500Home Value Forecast: 9.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.909
The projected 9.4 percent growth in home values over the next year is among the highest in the study, indicating that although the livability score in Windham isn’t great, there are other reasons to consider the town. The median home value of over a quarter million, though, is above the median home value in the state.
Livability Score: 72Median Listing Price: $415,000Median Home Value: $285,300Home Value Forecast: 4.6 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.227
Hampstead’s high livability score indicates that it’s a good place to make a home, and that could be especially true if you’re currently living in Baltimore, one of the cities in the greatest danger of a housing crisis.
Livability Score: 76Median Listing Price: $799,000Median Home Value: $1,539,700Home Value Forecast: 5.7 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.172
Cambridge’s median home value in excess of $1.5 million is the highest in the study, so you could find a great value given that the median list price is about half that. But affording that high price isn’t going to be easy for younger buyers, part of why Massachusetts is one of the states where millennials can’t buy a home.
Michigan: Madison Heights
Livability Score: 75Median Listing Price: $140,000Median Home Value: $136,500Home Value Forecast: 3.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.156
The Great Lakes State’s low housing prices make it especially attractive for younger buyers who might have less saved for a down payment.
Livability Score: 73Median Listing Price: $255,000Median Home Value: $249,200Home Value Forecast: 6.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.244
The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the home to Minneapolis, one of the best cities for millennials buying homes. That said, Richfield offers a high livability score along with reasonable home prices and projections for solid growth in home values.
Livability Score: 72Median Listing Price: $199,900Median Home Value: $144,300Home Value Forecast: 0.3 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.769
If you’re planning on staying in the same place for the foreseeable future, Southaven could be a good pick. Just don’t expect to get a lot more for your home than you paid if you have to sell as home values are barely increasing for now.
Missouri: Maryland Heights
Livability Score: 83Median Listing Price: $174,900Median Home Value: $175,000Home Value Forecast: 5 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.179
Sellers in Maryland Heights appear to be asking for a pretty fair price: The median list price is just $100 below the median home value. But if you’re still on the fence about getting your own place, the market isn’t going to make that decision for you: The cost of renting vs. buying in Missouri is roughly equivalent.
Livability Score: 65Median Listing Price: $300,000Median Home Value: $240,400Home Value Forecast: 1.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.556
Helena, Montana’s state capital, also offers a strong buyer’s market if not a huge return in terms of growing home values.
Livability Score: 85Median Listing Price: $179,900Median Home Value: $153,900Home Value Forecast: 3.6 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.379
Nebraska certainly has pockets where the housing markets are taking off, with Lincoln being one of the cities where home prices are rising the fastest. So it might be worth it to take advantage of Norfolk’s solid buyer’s market and high livability while you can.
Nevada: Carson City
Livability Score: 65Median Listing Price: $359,725Median Home Value: $300,300Home Value Forecast: 7.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.641
Carson City might not be the hottest housing market in the state, but it is a good buyer’s market and is expected to see a 7 percent-plus return on your investment in the first year.
New Hampshire: Londonderry
Livability Score: 76Median Listing Price: $339,900Median Home Value: $362,900Home Value Forecast: 1.3 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 1.207
Although Londonderry is a great buyer’s market for its area and boasts a high livability score, the high costs in New Hampshire make it one of the states where you’re most likely to live paycheck to paycheck.
New Jersey: Montclair
Livability Score: 79Median Listing Price: $599,990Median Home Value: $702,200Home Value Forecast: 7.6 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.037
Montclair might have one of the highest median listing prices in the study, but it’s still over $100,000 below the same area’s median home values, so it could be a bargain. And if you’re looking in New Jersey, that and a high livability score aren’t the only reason to pick Montclair over Newark as Newark is the city in the greatest danger of a housing crisis.
New Mexico: Las Cruces
Livability Score: 64Median Listing Price: $199,990Median Home Value: $164,500Home Value Forecast: -0.80 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 2.047
Las Cruces is your best market to buy in New Mexico, but it still has a relatively low livability score relative to other cities on this list, not to mention home prices that are in a decline.
New York: Bethlehem
Livability Score: 63Median Listing Price: $299,900Median Home Value: $272,100Home Value Forecast: 9.6 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.267
Buying in Bethlehem is projected to give you one of the best one-year returns on your money at 9.6 percent. And if you’re younger and looking in the Empire State, you might need alternatives to the Big Apple, one of the worst cities for millennials looking to buy homes.
North Carolina: Oxford
Livability Score: 52Median Listing Price: $234,499Median Home Value: $151,500Home Value Forecast: 6.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.056
Oxford might represent one of the best places to buy in the Tar Heel State, but that might not be saying a lot. It has one of the lowest livability scores in this study, and it’s in one of the worst states for first-time homebuyers.
North Dakota: Grand Forks
Livability Score: 69Median Listing Price: $230,000Median Home Value: $153,900Home Value Forecast: 6.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 7.409
The 7.409 registered by Grand Forks was the second-highest score for the Buyer-Seller Index in the entire study, coming in behind Fairbanks and indicating that being on the search for housing will put you in a solid position there.
Livability Score: 85Median Listing Price: $218,000Median Home Value: $183,200Home Value Forecast: 4.7 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.222
Brunswick offers the second-highest livability score in the study and a median listing price that’s still under $250,000, indicating that this is one great place to live that many people could actually afford.
Oklahoma: Midwest City
Livability Score: 79Median Listing Price: $158,995Median Home Value: $91,600Home Value Forecast: 0.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.714
Although the near-term return on your money would appear to be low to virtually nonexistent if you buy a home in Midwest City, it’s worth noting that the low cost to buy is paired with the chance to save a lot of money moving forward, as well.
Livability Score: 75Median Listing Price: $399,900Median Home Value: $365,200Home Value Forecast: 2.9 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.042
Corvallis is the home to Oregon State University, which could play an important role in boosting its livability score. For many, college towns can be an ideal place to settle down because of the range of amenities they usually offer.
Livability Score: 75Median Listing Price: $259,400Median Home Value: $235,700Home Value Forecast: 8 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.098
Phoenixville offers one of Pennsylvania’s top housing markets, with a modest median listing price and strong projected growth in home value over the next year. And if you’re planning on making your first purchase of a house, you’re in luck: Pennsylvania is one of the best states for first-time homebuyers.
Rhode Island: East Providence
Livability Score: 70Median Listing Price: $249,900Median Home Value: $233,500Home Value Forecast: 8.4 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.588
East Providence has a median listing price under a quarter of a million dollars and expects growth in home values of 8.4 percent, indicating that now might be the time to get in.
South Carolina: Pendleton
Livability Score: 68Median Listing Price: $169,900Median Home Value: $177,800Home Value Forecast: 3.9 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.667
Pendleton has modest home prices with a strong livability score and decent projections for growth in home value.
South Dakota: Sioux Falls
Livability Score: 72Median Listing Price: $229,900Median Home Value: $183,800Home Value Forecast: 2.8 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.724
Sioux Falls might seem like it’s a little on the pricey side to some with a median list price over $200,000, but that could just be a matter of perspective. Anyone coming from San Francisco with its turbo-charged real estate market would feel otherwise as the cost of a home there could get you five houses in Sioux Falls, according to another GOBankingRates analysis.
Tennessee: La Vergne
Livability Score: 72Median Listing Price: $209,990Median Home Value: $194,400Home Value Forecast: 9.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.588
That projected return of over 9 percent in the first year alone is among the best in the study, but that could just be a symptom of how buying a home in Tennessee is often a pretty solid investment.
Livability Score: 90Median Listing Price: $269,000Median Home Value: $250,000Home Value Forecast: 1.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.152
Bedford’s 90 represents the highest livability score in the entire study, so this city tucked in between Fort Worth and Dallas appear to have a lot to offer to potential residents. That said, if northeast Texas isn’t exactly your speed, you could consider going closer to the gulf with Houston suburb Acres Home, which is one of real estate’s hottest neighborhoods in the country.
Utah: West Valley City
Livability Score: 65Median Listing Price: $274,950Median Home Value: $280,400Home Value Forecast: 4.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.714
Utah could be a great place to call home whether you opt to go with West Valley City and its solid housing market or not given the long-term prospects for its economy.
Livability Score: 62Median Listing Price: $169,700Median Home Value: $253,000Home Value Forecast: 2.5 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 5.529
Bennington is among the five highest scores for the Buyer-Seller Index in this study, and the median listing price of just under $170,000 would appear to hold that out. And if you have more room in your budget, you can definitely go larger: $300,000 will get you just under 2,000 square feet of home in Vermont.
Livability Score: 77Median Listing Price: $477,900Median Home Value: $483,600Home Value Forecast: 3.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.149
Franconia’s high livability score reflects a town that’s got a lot going for it, but you are clearly paying a premium for the surroundings as the median listing price is approaching half a million. If you are set on Virginia but want something cheaper, opportunities could be opening up in Richmond, one of the cities where homes are getting cheaper.
Livability Score: 72Median Listing Price: $599,500Median Home Value: $645,600Home Value Forecast: 8.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.222
Edmonds certainly isn’t cheap, with a median listing price a hair short of $600,000, but the projected 8 percent gain in home values over the next year could indicate it’s worth it for those who can afford it.
West Virginia: Parkersburg
Livability Score: 62Median Listing Price: $114,900Median Home Value: $85,200Home Value Forecast: 3.2 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 4.513
Parkersburg is a great buyer’s market for its area, and the low listing price is a clear indication of why West Virginia is one of the states where millennials can actually afford to buy a home.
Livability Score: 69Median Listing Price: $159,900Median Home Value: $152,900Home Value Forecast: 13.3 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.056
If you’re looking for the housing market that’s projected to give you the most return on your investment in the first year, it’s not in California or New York like many might expect. Look no further than Kenosha, where home values are projected to show a double-digit pop over the next 12 months.
Livability Score: 78Median Listing Price: $198,750Median Home Value: $243,800Home Value Forecast: -4.1 percentBuyer-Seller Index: 0.028
Sheridan has a high livability score and a relatively low median list price, so this might be one way to experience the natural wonder of the Rocky Mountains without having to travel far from home, if at all. Just be sure that you’re buying because you want to live there and not because you’re expecting to get a big return on your money. Home prices in Sheridan are projected to decline a whopping 4-plus percent over the next year.
About the Best Places to Buy a Home in Every State
Although most of the decisions you have to make about where you live are out of your control, when you do have the flexibility to expand your search, it’s important to remember that finding the best market can often mean getting more house for your dollar. When you’re looking in markets where the sellers are fighting for you, it can mean getting a better deal on a place that will make you and your family happy for some time.
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Disclaimer: Some of the images are representational.
Methodology: GOBankingRates used Zillow’s Buyer-Seller Index to identify markets with the greatest “buyer’s market” in the state, aka the city with the lowest buyer-seller index number in the state. GOBankingRates then used home value forecast, home value of single-family home and livability score, which factors in crime and education metrics, sourced from AreaVibes.
Data is accurate as of January 4, 2019, and is subject to change.