5 Cities Becoming Popular With Millennials: Are They Right for You?

Aerial drone view Austin Texas Perfect Texas flag flying in front of Austin Texas downtown skyline cityscape sunny perfect day.
Roschetzky / iStock.com

You’re looking for a new hometown that checks several boxes. As a millennial, in the past you might’ve set your sights on one of the largest cities in the U.S., but you’re ready to broaden your horizons.

A recent Bank of American study revealed five cities realizing a surge in popularity with millennials. Take a look at the list to see if any might interest you.

Austin, Texas

  • Average home sale price: $570,000
  • Average apartment rent: $1,819 per month
  • Average cost living: 1% higher than the national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.5%, as of June 2023
  • Diversity grade: A-plus

Cleveland, Ohio

  • Average home sale price: $116,000
  • Average apartment rent: $1,335 per month
  • Average cost living: 6% lower than the national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%, as of June 2023
  • Diversity grade: A

Tampa, Florida

  • Average home sale price: $430,000
  • Average apartment rent: $1,543 per month
  • Average cost living: 2% lower than the national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3%, as of June 2023
  • Diversity grade: A-plus

Dallas, Texas

  • Average home sale price: $437,500
  • Average apartment rent: $1,565 per month
  • Average cost living: 3% lower than the national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%, as of June 2023
  • Diversity grade: A-plus

Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Average home sale price: $420,000
  • Average apartment rent: $1,500 per month
  • Average cost living: 2% lower than the national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.4%, as of June 2023
  • Diversity grade: A-plus
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Why Are Millennials Attracted To These Cities?

Austin topping the list of cities becoming popular with millennials is no surprise to Jim Olenbush, broker and founder at AustinRealEstate.com.

“This city is a microcosm of the larger trend we’re seeing with millennials,” he said.

He brings up a time when he showed properties to a young couple just out of college years ago. “As we toured, they weren’t just concerned about the house’s specifications. They mused about proximity to eclectic dining spots, the vibrancy of the neighborhood and how easy it would be to cycle to work or hop on public transport.”

Unlike previous generations who mainly pursued job prospects, Olenbush notes millennials tend to focus more on modern urban allure and city amenities when deciding where to relocate. “While economic conditions have their place, they don’t reign supreme in the millennial decision-making process. In fact, the essence of a city’s cultural heartbeat, its social fabric and the authentic experiences it offers often rank higher.”

Cleveland is another good example of this.

“The city’s revitalized art scene, trendy eateries and bustling music venues offer a draw that’s hard to resist,” he said. “While its economic growth has been steady, it’s the enrichment of the urban lifestyle that’s the real game-changer.”

It’s easy to assume cosmopolitan cities like New York and Los Angeles would have the biggest draw for millennials, but Olenbush said that isn’t the case. “While they do attract a sizable portion, smaller cities, with their balanced economic opportunities and urban amenities, are increasingly on the radar. Imagine the charm of a Santa Cruz or an Ann Arbor, offering the best of both worlds.”

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Ultimately, the manner in which millennials choose their relocation destinations somewhat defies conventional wisdom.

“They blend the practical with the whimsical,” he said. “While economic factors are undeniably influential, the weight of work-life balance and the allure of those authentic experiences can’t be underestimated.”

‘Vibe’ and Affordability Are Key

Dennis Shirshikov, head of growth at real estate investing platform Awning.com, agreed that lifestyle is very important to millennials when choosing a new hometown.

“Millennials are all about experiences — from the local coffee shop that offers just the right ambiance for a weekend chill to outdoor activities and music festivals,” he said. “Cities that offer a unique cultural experience or have a ‘vibe’ become instant hits.”

For example, he said Austin has a legendary music scene. “Every time I’m there, I can’t help but get pulled into the live music events. It’s clear to see the appeal for millennials.”

The sense of community these cities offer is also a draw.

“Cities that foster a sense of belonging and have inclusive communities tend to draw millennials,” he said. “For instance, Cleveland has been making waves with its initiatives to become more green and sustainable, and this eco-friendly push definitely aligns with the values of many millennials today.”

This, combined with a lower cost of living than cities like New York and San Francisco have created a surge in popularity among millennials.

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“Austin, Dallas and Charlotte, for instance, offer a blend of good job opportunities and affordability, which is a huge magnet for the younger crowd,” Shirshikov said. In addition, Tampa’s lovely weather and Charlotte’s proximity to both mountains and coast offers lifestyle benefits that resonate with millennials’ desire for a strong work-life balance.

“As a finance and real estate expert, I can attest to the fact that these cities are seeing rapid growth in real estate investments,” he said. “This implies that not only are millennials moving there, but they see a future in these places.”

Goodbye, Big Cities

Shirshikov mentions a millennial friend of his that recently moved from New York City to Dallas.

“When I asked her why, she said, ‘It’s where I feel my dollar stretches further, but I don’t compromise on the vibrancy of city life,'” he said. “I believe her sentiment captures the essence of why many are making similar moves.”

As for why some cities are more popular than others, he believes the job market plays a major role.

“The influx of tech companies and startups in places like Austin has created a thriving job market for millennials, especially in the digital, creative and tech sectors. Dallas and Charlotte have seen a surge in finance and healthcare jobs.”

This may explain why certain groups of millennials seem to flock to one city over another. “It’s almost like these cities are forming their own unique identities that resonate with specific segments of the millennial population,” he said.

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If you’re considering a move, one of the five cities above may have just what you’re searching for. If not, there are plenty of other up-and-coming cities that tick off millennials’ boxes.

Note: Data was sourced from Redfin, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Niche.com.

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