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Best Cities for Young Families to Buy a House in 2018

The best cities for young families combine affordable real estate prices with a strong jobs market and high-quality educational resources for kids. Find out how we measured hundreds of American cities to identify the best places for young families to plant new roots in 2018.

As homebuying season kicks into gear, young families looking at their first home purchase must decide where to settle for at least the next few years. For homebuyers willing and able to make a significant move, we took a look at the economic and social data of cities across the country to determine the best places for young families to buy homes.

U.S. map showing the 10 best cities for young families to purchase homes

Top 10 Cities for Young Families Buying a House

RankCityScore
1Bellevue, Washington293.8
2Scottsdale, Arizona285.3
3Frisco, Texas281.8
4Pearland, Texas280.3
5Cambridge, Massachusetts277.3
5Sandy Springs, Georgia277.3
7Chandler, Arizona272.3
8Centennial, Colorado271.8
9Sunnyvale, California271.0
10Gilbert, Arizona270.8

We assessed over 300 of the largest cities in the U.S. based on several criteria that reflect the typical priorities of young homebuying families. These included not only the affordability of real estate but also local economic strength, the quality of education, crime rates, and the level of services available in each city.

To determine which cities represented the best places for families in each part of the country, we broke down our overall rankings according to region as well.

Northeast

The best cities for young families in the Northeast included some major urban centers—but compared to other parts of the country, most of the highest-ranking cities in this region fell behind in our measures of affordability and value for younger families.

RankCityScoreNational Rank
1Cambridge, Massachusetts277.35
2Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania204.377
3New York, New York186.3106
4Boston, Massachusetts171.5138
5Lowell, Massachusetts170.0143

Other than Cambridge, Massachusetts, none of the top ten cities in the Northeast fared very well in the national rankings of the best places for young homebuying families. Major metro areas like New York City and Boston were weighed down by the extreme unaffordability of their local home prices. Nevertheless, the high quality of education and services found in these urban centers tended to elevate their scores compared to smaller cities in the Northeast.

Midwest

The best cities for young families in the Midwest compared fairly well against other regions, with all five leading cities landing within the top 50 among the places we compared.

RankCityScoreNational Rank
1Overland Park, Kansas262.017
2Olathe, Kansas261.318
3Naperville, Illinois247.329
4Ann Arbor, Michigan231.338
5Minneapolis, Minnesota229.341

Overland Park and Olathe, both located in Kansas, led the list of places for young families in Midwestern states to consider. Both cities earned points for having a high proportion of homeowners who spent less than 30% of their monthly income on mortgage payments and real estate taxes. In general, Midwestern cities scored well in terms of housing affordability but were hurt by lower ratings on economic strength and education.

South

In the South, suburban cities in Texas dominated the list of top places for young families to consider settling down. Four of the five highest-scoring cities for this region were located in the Lone Star State.

RankCityScoreNational Rank
1Frisco, Texas281.83
2Pearland, Texas280.34
3Sandy Springs, Georgia277.35
4League City, Texas269.012
5McKinney, Texas261.020

Cities in Texas scored much better in our analysis compared to other southern states, and both Frisco and Pearland were also ranked 3rd and 4th nationally. Georgia was the only other state in the top five, represented by Sandy Springs. For families, the best cities in the South featured very affordable housing markets combined with moderate economic performance, but tended to rate lower on the scale for education and accessibility of services.

West

The best in the West for young homebuyers included some expensive housing markets that made the cut thanks to their excellent quality of local education and strong economic performance.

RankCityScoreNational Rank
1Bellevue, Washington293.81
2Scottsdale, Arizona285.32
3Chandler, Arizona272.37
4Centennial, Colorado271.88
5Sunnyvale, California271.09

The unmanageable rise of housing prices in California is one of the biggest narratives in homebuying today. When it comes to picking a place for your first family home, we found multiple cities in Arizona and other western states that offered more affordable markets than the Bay Area and Los Angeles. While the top spot was taken by Bellevue, Washington—a similarly expensive suburban extension of Seattle—Phoenix, Arizona and Denver, Colorado joined the list with suburbs of their own.

Full List of Cities

Our study of the best places for young families assigned a composite score to each of the 318 U.S. cities with at least 100,000 residents, based on economic and social factors that we selected to represent the homebuying priorities of young families.

RankCityScore
1Bellevue, Washington293.8
2Scottsdale, Arizona285.3
3Frisco, Texas281.8
4Pearland, Texas280.3
5Sandy Springs, Georgia277.3
5Cambridge, Massachusetts277.3
7Chandler, Arizona272.3
8Centennial, Colorado271.8
9Sunnyvale, California271
10Gilbert, Arizona270.8
11Santa Clara, California270
12League City, Texas269
13Boulder, Colorado266.3
14Peoria, Arizona265.8
15Irvine, California265.5
16Highlands Ranch, Colorado263.5
17Overland Park, Kansas262
18Seattle, Washington261.3
18Olathe, Kansas261.3
20McKinney, Texas261
21Cary, North Carolina260.8
22Arvada, Colorado257.5
23Richardson, Texas254.8
24The Woodlands, Texas254.5
25Allen, Texas253.5
26Carlsbad, California251.5
27San Mateo, California249
28Carrollton, Texas248
29Naperville, Illinois247.3
30Plano, Texas247
31West Jordan, Utah245.5
32Fremont, California243.5
32San Diego, California243.5
34Arlington, Virginia240
35Santa Rosa, California237.8
36Denver, Colorado234.8
37Charleston, South Carolina233.8
38Fort Collins, Colorado231.3
38Ann Arbor, Michigan231.3
40Pasadena, California229.8
41Minneapolis, Minnesota229.3
42Round Rock, Texas227.5
43Austin, Texas227.3
44Westminster, Colorado221.5
44Raleigh, North Carolina221.5
46Coral Springs, Florida220.8
46Torrance, California220.8
48Atlanta, Georgia220.5
49Tempe, Arizona220.3
50Huntington Beach, California220
51San Jose, California219.5
52Surprise, Arizona219.3
53Boise City, Idaho219
53Berkeley, California219
55Glendale, California217.5
56Davie, Florida217.3
57Mesa, Arizona216.5
57Thousand Oaks, California216.5
59Tampa, Florida214.8
59Lewisville, Texas214.8
61Aurora, Colorado214.5
62Broken Arrow, Oklahoma214.3
62Burbank, California214.3
64Portland, Oregon213
65Orange, California212
66Madison, Wisconsin210.5
67Alexandria, Virginia210.3
68Elgin, Illinois210
69Simi Valley, California209.3
70Salt Lake City, Utah208
70Thornton, Colorado208
70Fullerton, California208
73Durham, North Carolina207.5
74Elk Grove, California206.8
75Fargo, North Dakota204.5
75Renton, Washington204.5
77Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania204.3
78Oklahoma City, Oklahoma203.3
79Clearwater, Florida202.5
80Aurora, Illinois202
81Hollywood, Florida201.5
82Columbia, Maryland201.3
83Henderson, Nevada201
83Rochester, Minnesota201
85Dallas, Texas200.5
86Beaverton, Oregon200
86Grand Prairie, Texas200
88Lakewood, Colorado199.5
89Santa Clarita, California199.3
90Fort Worth, Texas199
91Colorado Springs, Colorado198
92Denton, Texas197.8
93Provo, Utah197.3
94Miami, Florida195.5
95Urban Honolulu, Hawaii194.8
96Sterling Heights, Michigan194.3
97Costa Mesa, California194
98Kansas City, Missouri192
98Ventura, California192
100Pembroke Pines, Florida191.3
101Lincoln, Nebraska189.5
102Washington, DC189.3
103Murfreesboro, Tennessee188.5
104Garland, Texas186.8
105Fort Lauderdale, Florida186.5
106New York, New York186.3
107Vista, California185.8
108Irving, Texas185.5
109Phoenix, Arizona184.5
110Nashville, Tennessee184.3
110Concord, California184.3
112Arlington, Texas184
113San Francisco, California182.5
114West Palm Beach, Florida182
114West Valley City, Utah182
116Los Angeles, California181.3
116Escondido, California181.3
116Chula Vista, California181.3
119Oceanside, California181
120Daly City, California180.5
120Downey, California180.5
122Roseville, California180.3
123Hillsboro, Oregon179.3
124Houston, Texas178.8
125Enterprise, Nevada178.5
125Grand Rapids, Michigan178.5
127Tulsa, Oklahoma178
128Norman, Oklahoma177.8
128Columbus, Ohio177.8
130Brandon, Florida176.5
131Charlotte, North Carolina176
132St. Petersburg, Florida175.3
133Sacramento, California174.8
134Miramar, Florida173.5
135Murrieta, California173.3
136Huntsville, Alabama172.3
136Orlando, Florida172.3
138Boston, Massachusetts171.5
139Midland, Texas171.3
139Louisville, Kentucky171.3
139Sioux Falls, South Dakota171.3
142Omaha, Nebraska170.5
143Lowell, Massachusetts170
144Indianapolis, Indiana169.8
145Norwalk, California168.8
146Metairie, Louisiana168.3
147Joliet, Illinois168
148Oakland, California167
148Hayward, California167
148Long Beach, California167
148Chicago, Illinois167
152Las Vegas, Nevada163.8
153Columbia, Missouri163.3
154Cedar Rapids, Iowa163
155Rancho Cucamonga, California162.5
156Lexington, Kentucky162.3
157Temecula, California162
158Pompano Beach, Florida161.5
159Greeley, Colorado160.8
160Corona, California159.8
161Glendale, Arizona159.3
161St. Paul, Minnesota159.3
163West Covina, California158.3
164Stamford, Connecticut157.8
165Virginia Beach, Virginia157
166Fairfield, California156.8
167Des Moines, Iowa155.8
168Pasadena, Texas155.3
169Vancouver, Washington154.8
170Spring Valley, Nevada154
171St. Louis, Missouri153
172Green Bay, Wisconsin152.5
172San Antonio, Texas152.5
174Yonkers, New York152.3
175Fort Wayne, Indiana151.5
176Kent, Washington149.8
177Independence, Missouri148.8
178Garden Grove, California147.8
179El Cajon, California147.3
180Little Rock, Arkansas147
181Santa Ana, California146.5
182Jacksonville, Florida146.3
183Billings, Montana145.8
183Mesquite, Texas145.8
185Inglewood, California144
186Anaheim, California143.8
186Paterson, New Jersey143.8
188Hialeah, Florida143.3
189Lafayette, Louisiana142.3
189Port St. Lucie, Florida142.3
189Jersey City, New Jersey142.3
192Knoxville, Tennessee141
192Gresham, Oregon141
194College Station, Texas140.5
195Cape Coral, Florida139
196Columbia, South Carolina138.8
197Manchester, New Hampshire138
198North Las Vegas, Nevada136.8
199Tyler, Texas136.5
200Pomona, California136
201Paradise, Nevada134.5
202Baton Rouge, Louisiana134
203Richmond, California133.5
204High Point, North Carolina133.3
204Everett, Washington133.3
206Cincinnati, Ohio132
207Newark, New Jersey130.5
208Odessa, Texas130
208Philadelphia, Pennsylvania130
210Springfield, Illinois128.8
211Reno, Nevada128.5
212Topeka, Kansas127.8
213Clovis, California126
214Palmdale, California125.8
215El Monte, California125.5
216Abilene, Texas125
216Chesapeake, Virginia125
218Riverside, California123.8
219Antioch, California123.5
219Miami Gardens, Florida123.5
221Elizabeth, New Jersey123.3
222North Charleston, South Carolina123
223Oxnard, California122.8
224Fontana, California122.3
225Rialto, California121.8
226Bridgeport, Connecticut121.3
227Birmingham, Alabama121
228Sparks, Nevada119.3
229Tacoma, Washington118.5
230Baltimore, Maryland118.3
231Chattanooga, Tennessee118
232Lakeland, Florida117.3
233Amarillo, Texas117
234Spokane, Washington116.3
235Evansville, Indiana113.8
236Bakersfield, California113.3
237Greensboro, North Carolina112.8
238Lancaster, California112.5
239Vallejo, California111.8
239Compton, California111.8
241Wichita, Kansas111.5
242Lubbock, Texas111.3
243Warren, Michigan110.8
244Palm Bay, Florida110.5
245Akron, Ohio110
246Richmond, Virginia109
247Davenport, Iowa108.5
248El Paso, Texas107.5
249San Angelo, Texas107
249Waterbury, Connecticut107
251Springfield, Missouri106.3
251Newport News, Virginia106.3
253Eugene, Oregon106
254Peoria, Illinois104.5
255East Los Angeles, California104.3
256Worcester, Massachusetts103.8
257Mobile, Alabama101.8
257Wilmington, North Carolina101.8
259Ontario, California100.3
260Hartford, Connecticut100
261Rochester, New York99.5
262New Orleans, Louisiana98.5
262Milwaukee, Wisconsin98.5
264Montgomery, Alabama98.3
264Corpus Christi, Texas98.3
266Moreno Valley, California98
267Santa Maria, California97.5
268Anchorage, Alaska96
269New Haven, Connecticut95.5
270Killeen, Texas93.5
271Athens, Georgia92.3
271Spring Hill, Florida92.3
273McAllen, Texas92
274Lehigh Acres, Florida90.5
275Providence, Rhode Island89.8
276Buffalo, New York89.3
277Modesto, California88.8
278Sunrise Manor, Nevada88.5
278Waco, Texas88.5
280Hampton, Virginia88.3
281Wichita Falls, Texas85.3
282South Bend, Indiana84
283Shreveport, Louisiana83.3
284Beaumont, Texas83
285Springfield, Massachusetts81.5
286Salem, Oregon80.8
287Tallahassee, Florida78.8
288Fresno, California78.3
289Syracuse, New York77.5
290Clarksville, Tennessee77
290Toledo, Ohio77
292Lansing, Michigan76.8
293San Bernardino, California74.8
294Salinas, California74.5
295Rockford, Illinois73.3
296Winston-Salem, North Carolina71.8
297Kansas City, Kansas71.5
298Norfolk, Virginia70.8
299Jackson, Mississippi69.8
300Allentown, Pennsylvania68.8
301Gainesville, Florida67
302Pueblo, Colorado65.5
302Victorville, California65.5
304Cleveland, Ohio63
305Visalia, California62.8
306Stockton, California59
307Dayton, Ohio54
308Savannah, Georgia52.8
309Detroit, Michigan51.5
310Las Cruces, New Mexico51
311Augusta, Georgia48.8
312Memphis, Tennessee47.5
313Brownsville, Texas46.5
314Albuquerque, New Mexico46
315Laredo, Texas45.8
316Fayetteville, North Carolina41.3
317Tucson, Arizona40.5
318Columbus, Georgia34.3

Methodology: How We Chose the Best Cities

Our analysis of the best cities for young families to buy a home rested on four broad categories: homebuying, economic opportunity, education, and safety. Each category comprised several data points that reflected the priorities of a young family seeking a balance of affordability and quality in their neighborhood.

The study covered 318 cities in the United States, each with a reported population of at least 100,000. To understand how we arrived at our conclusions, read an explanation of each category and its related factors below.

Homebuying and Housing Affordability

The affordability of housing was one of our first concerns. When choosing your family's first house, it's important to consider cities where property prices promise growth but are still affordable. To measure these opposing qualities, we looked at the change in the median home value for each city alongside the percentage of local homeowners who earned enough to afford their monthly mortgage payments.

There were a few additional factors required to round out the picture of homeownership in each city. To determine the varying availability of housing supply in different markets, we examined the percentage of homes that were vacant and up for sale. To evaluate the burden of local tax policies, we also included the ratio of annual property taxes relative to median home value.

Economic Opportunity

The second half of the affordability question rests on local wages and work opportunities. After analyzing the cost of living and buying a home in different cities, we rated them on unemployment rates, average commuting times and a bundle of other economic factors—summarized by Policom Corporation's ranking of economic strength in America's metropolitan and micropolitan areas.

Education and Environment

For families with young children, our analysis also included indicators of educational quality. These included statewide composite scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the ratio of 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs, the number of local arts and entertainment facilities, and the rate of poverty among family households.

Health and Safety

Our final category took into account the rate of violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents in each jurisdiction. Where city data was not reported to the FBI by local law enforcement, we referred to data submitted on the county level for that city. We also considered the number of health and social assistance facilities within reach of each municipality.

Sources:

Chris Moon

Chris is a Senior Research Analyst at ValuePenguin who has covered deposit accounts and home loans since 2016. He has contributed insights and opinions to the New York Times and many other publications.