There is nothing in life more memorable than buying your first home but in a stagnant economy with rapidly inflating house prices; where do you get your foot on the home ownership ladder? Getting the best possible first home is a serious challenge. What do you focus your attention on to make the most of your opportunity?
Realtors recommend that you examine 5 criteria:
- The “affordability” of a home. That is the ratio between the cost of a home and the average income in the area. This is different from buying the cheapest home possible because paying any kind of mortgage is going to require a job.
- The availability of homes. There’s no point heading to a tiny community, no matter how lovely, to buy and then having to camp out on the doorstep for 20 years until a home goes on the market. You want to pick somewhere with sufficient housing stock that is on the market if you want to have a choice of property and move in sometime soon.
- The ease of getting a mortgage. Picking a property in the middle of a flood plain won’t help your chances of getting a mortgage but there are many other less-obvious factors taken into account when weighing up mortgage decisions. If you head to somewhere that mortgages are routinely granted; you have a better chance of getting a mortgage yourself.
- The ease of getting a job and the chances of growing in that job. You want a place with low unemployment rates and good prospects for the future – otherwise you may not be able to afford your first home or to purchase another home later on in your career.
- The neighborhood facilities. You also want to take a look at the quality of life prospects are there entertainment, arts, sports, health care, education, shopping, dining, etc. options available? Buying a home to be stuck in suburbia with nothing of interest for dozens of miles won’t lead to a happy life.
These are the factors that we’ve taken into account while compiling our 10 best places to buy your first home:
1. Dayton, Ohio
Dayton might not be the place that first trips off your tongue but with an average house price of just $115,000 and low levels of unemployment – it’s a great place to start out with a new home. It’s a city built for cyclists and there are over 300 miles of trails to take advantage of. The city is definitely on the rise and while it may once have been a stop off point in a more exciting journey; there are plenty of good reasons to make it your home now.
2. Buffalo, New York
The average salary in Buffalo is just under $35,000 but the average house price is only a touch under $70,000. That means you’re looking at a mortgage that can not only be easily obtained but can be paid off much faster than in most places. Buffalo is great for facilities and while the employment rate is around the national average; it’s not going to be impossible to launch a successful career there either.
3. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A little more expensive that Dayton and Buffalo but a lot more hip; Harrisburg has a vibrant music scene where you can get in touch with latest sounds in everything from jazz to heavy metal. It has an unemployment rate 20% below the national average and a ton of hi-tech jobs as more and more tech companies are moving in. House prices are a very reasonable $168,000 and that’s very affordable compared to local average wages.
4. Fort Wayne, Indiana
The town with America’s lowest cost of living has to be worth a look doesn’t it? In Fort Wayne you’ll find that the ratio between house prices and average wages is about 3 to 1. That means you can get the mortgage cleared pretty quickly if you want to. It also has a ton of history with over 200 years of continuous habitation. Fort Wayne also has all the facilities you could need to get the most from your first home.
5. St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis hasn’t always been a good place to buy a first home; the city was hit hard by the recession in the post-banking crisis world. However, today it’s seeing a fairly rapid decline in unemployment. It has a low cost of living, reasonable house prices at around $164,000 and with nearly a dozen universities and colleges – there are plenty of facilities. It’s definitely a young person’s town but it follows that many first time buyers are going to be young people too.
6. Memphis, Tennessee
There’s more to Memphis than country music but the city’s reputation for that art form is well-deserved. With average salaries of around $31,000 and average house prices of around $92,000 Memphis is incredibly affordable and there are plenty of facilities to suit every need. The employment rate hovers around the national average which might be its only real drawback for a first time home buyer.
7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
New York’s losses may be your gain. Philadelphia is booming thanks to the run-away pricing in New York’s housing market. This is big city life but without the insane price tag. As more people escape the Big Apple – the job market is growing and unemployment is under the national average. It has a great social and sporting scene and violent crime is no longer the issue it once was. House prices are higher than most other places on this list at $222,000 but local earnings keep pace with the difference.
9. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit makes this list for its incredibly low average home value of $42,000 but it’s worth noting it’s a hard town to find a job in – though if you can get a job the average salary is close to $35,000. That means you’ll have no problem clearing your mortgage a decade (or more) early. Detroit has decent facilities though many are in decline thanks to the recent financial hardships that the city has suffered.
10. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge is youthful and friendly. It’s on the doorstep of New Orleans where big city life and the world famous Mardi Gras await. It has the highest rate of granted mortgages for young people anywhere in the country and that’s despite it’s relatively high, for this list, house prices which average at $217,000. With Louisiana State University in the same area there are plenty of facilities here too.
Final Thoughts on Our 10 Best Places to Buy Your First Home
When it comes to buying a first home there are plenty of great places in America to choose from. This list should offer some food for thought when you’re making your own decisions as to where to live. Whatever you do, always keep an eye on your ability to repay your mortgage and if you can pay it off a little (or a lot) early – you should do so.