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Top 10 Cities to Buy Your First Home and not Die Trying

By examining affordability, inventory, mortgage availability, job growth, and livability, selected the best markets for first-time buyers.

Buying your first home is difficult enough without the additional stress of fighting over the few available homes, coping with ever-increasing prices, and enduring terrifying bidding wars. When you throw getting a reasonable mortgage into the mix, you have a recipe for disaster. These factors explain why (according to the National Association Realtors) the share of first-time buyers in the market declined in 2015. This key figure sank (from 33% to 32%) for the third consecutive year, its lowest point in nearly three decades.

In this study, focused on the 25-to-34 age group. This demographic includes the most first-time home buyers. Their researchers filtered the 100 largest U.S metropolitan areas for affordability, as measured by many factors:

  • Home Price to Income Ratio
  • Inventory (the number of homes for sale per 1,000 households)
  • Mortgage Availability (home loans purchased)
  • Job Growth
  • Lower Than Average Unemployment Rates
  • Livability (the number of restaurants, schools, retailers, health care facilities, and entertainment options available per 1,000 households)

So what locations should eager buyers consider? Let these findings guide your quest:

  • Portland, Maine: With a median price of $304,000 and the lowest unemployment rate of 3.3% (a third less than the 5.2% national average) this city offers a great combination of features, including superb lobster and a thriving microbrewery scene.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: This city has become the new home of over 27,000 people who fled New York to escape high prices but still want to enjoy big city amenities. Philly has a median home price of $222,000 and an unemployment rate of 4.8%.
  • Louis, Missouri: Washington University and a dozen other higher-education institutions give this city a youthful vibe and a promising work landscape. Eight Fortune 500 companies have set up shop in St. Louis. With an unemployment rate of 5.2%, this city has seen a surge in new jobs; its employers created over 6,900 in February alone! An average home in St. Louis costs $164,000.
  • Allentown, Pennsylvania: A far cry from Billy Joel’s sad “Allentown” song about the decline of the coal and steel industry, this city is well on the path of economic redevelopment. With an unemployment rate of 5%, it hosts several multinational companies, including Pennsylvania Power & Light and Air Products & Chemicals. First-time buyers can expect a median price of $188.000.
  • Albany, New York: The capital of New York, Albany has a median price of $238,000 and an unemployment rate of 4.5%. It has become a “Tech Valley” and features an array of new businesses and residential developments. Albany’s bustling cultural life includes the Spring Tulip Festival, which celebrates its Dutch heritage.
  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Perhaps the newest tech hub, Harrisburg is home to at least 18 new companies. It offers a median home price of $168,000 and an unemployment rate of 4.2%. Harrisburg also boasts a vibrant music scene that ranges from jazz to indie pop.
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The state’s youngest metropolitan area boasts a median age of 34.7, the highest mortgage rate (of all the cities surveyed in this study) of 52%, and the best Mardi Gras experience. Baton Rouge’s median property price is $217,000; its unemployment rate is 4.8%.
  • Dayton, Ohio: Offering the most affordable median price on this list at $115,000, Dayton helps you save on transport by cycling. Daytonians have mastered urban bike culture since 1973. This city’s unemployment rate is 5.2%.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: The city, known as America’s second fittest, has 200 miles of bike lanes and 5,000 acres of parkland. Minneapolis offers a median property price of $294,000 and may be the country’s most literate city. Minneapolis is home to Open Book, the country’s biggest book art center, and boasts an unemployment rate of 3.9%.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia: Virginia Beach’s eponymous beaches and low-density neighborhoods inspired local Pharrell Williams to write the song “Happy.” On average, this city’s homes cost $256,000; its 5% unemployment rate makes residents happy, too!

California takes first place as the worst market for first-time home buyers with a combination of climbing home prices and plunging inventory (which are not sustained by employment and infrastructure). Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at, points out that many markets are affected by the “spillover effect”. Home prices are rising throughout the state as people look for alternatives to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

First-time home buyers may want to steer clear of the last five spots in’s ranking:

  • Stockton has a median price of $340,000 and an unemployment rate of 8.8%.
  • Fresno homes have a $262,000 median price, and its population faces 10.5% unemployment.
  • Bakersfield has the highest unemployment rate at 10,9%; its median home price is $222,000.
  • Sacramento homes cost a whopping $428,000 median price; it has 5.4% unemployment.
  • Riverside has a $344,000 median property price and a 5.8% unemployment rate.

Buying a Home in the Adirondacks

If you are looking to buy a home in the Adirondacks, The Keir Weimer Team has you covered. Give us a call today to discuss your dream home needs.

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