The 10 Best Cities to Buy an Affordable Family Home

Happy couple buying a home in a new city
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This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

Finding a home to fit a family can be a difficult task. Beyond looking for the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, prospective owners must consider the full costs of homeownership.

Though a mortgage is typically the largest expense for homeowners, other costs like property taxes and home insurance can add up. Additionally, families looking to settle down will want to have a good understanding of whether an area is safe and what school options are available there.

In this study, SmartAsset identified some of the best cities to buy an affordable family home. We looked at 100 of the largest U.S. cities across seven metrics. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the data and methodology section next.

Data and methodology

Man studying data on his computer
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To find the best cities to buy an affordable family home, SmartAsset looked at data for 100 of the largest cities in the U.S. We compared these cities across seven metrics:

  • Percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms. This is the number of owner-occupied homes with at least two bedrooms divided by the number of all owner-occupied homes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 one-year American Community Survey.
  • Five-year change in homeownership rate. This is the difference between the 2014 and 2018 homeownership rates. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2014 and 2018 one-year American Community Surveys.
  • Down payment-to-income ratio. This is a 20% down payment on the median-valued home divided by the median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 one-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of income. This is the median annual housing cost divided by the median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 one-year American Community Survey.
  • High school graduation rate. Data comes from the 2020 County Health Rankings.
  • Property crime rate. This is the number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and is for 2018. We used data from Neighborhood Scout for cities where FBI data was not available.
  • Violent crime rate. This is the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and is for 2018. We used data from Neighborhood Scout for cities where FBI data was not available.

We ranked each city in every metric, giving half weight to property and violent crime rates and full weight to all other metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used this average to determine our final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

10. Henderson, Nevada

Henderson, Nevada aerial photo
Khairil Azhar Junos / Shutterstock.com

Henderson, Nevada, just makes our list of the top 10 cities to buy an affordable family home. Henderson’s best metric is its five-year increase in homeownership rate, with a 5.74% increase from 2014 through 2018.

Additionally, the city ranks in the top 25 of all 100 cities we considered for its high percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms (98.7%) and its low housing costs as a percentage of income (22.33%).

9. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina
Sharkshock / Shutterstock.com

Raleigh, North Carolina, ranks in the top third on six of the seven metrics we considered, ranking particularly well for its high percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms (eighth-highest in the study, at 99.1%) and the high school graduation rate (19th-highest in the study, at 89.10%).

Raleigh ranks toward the middle of the cities in the study for its relatively high down payment-to-income ratio of 0.82. In 2018, the median-valued home was $268,900, while the median household income was less than $65,700.

8. Chandler, Arizona

Chandler, Arizona
Mark Skalny / Shutterstock.com

In the five-year period from 2014 through 2018, the homeownership rate in Chandler, Arizona, rose by more than 7 percentage points, from 57.95% in 2014 to 65.81% in 2018. That 7.86% increase is the largest in the study.

Additionally, Chandler ranks in the top 25 for four other metrics: percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms (98.6%), housing costs as a percentage of income (18.67%) and property and violent crime rates (roughly 2,121 and 237 per 100,000 residents, respectively).

7. Plano, Texas

Plano, Texas hot air balloons
Wisanu Boonrawd / Shutterstock.com

Plano is the second-highest ranking Texas city in our study, after Arlington. Plano ranks seventh overall due to its impressive high school graduation rate and low crime rates. County Health Rankings data shows that 96.80% of students in the area graduate high school, the best rate for this metric in our study.

Additionally, Plano has the eighth- and fifth-lowest property and violent crime rates, respectively, across all 100 cities we considered.

6. Arlington, Texas

Arlington, Texas
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Arlington, Texas, ranks the second-best in our top 10 and 15th-best overall for its down payment-to-income ratio, at 0.60. In other words, a 20% down payment on the median-valued home in the city makes up only 60% of the median household income. Arlington also ranks in the top 15 for housing costs as a percentage of income (21.93%) and high school graduation rate (90.50%).

5. Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

More folks have chosen to put down roots in Lexington, Kentucky, in recent years. Between 2014 and 2018, the homeownership rate increased by 2 percentage points. Additionally, for families looking to settle down, 99.2% of homes have two or more bedrooms, the seventh-highest rate for this metric in our study.

4. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia at night.
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

Crime rates in Virginia Beach, Virginia, are relatively low. In 2018, Virginia Beach had the ninth- and third-lowest property and violent crime rates, respectively, of the cities we considered.

Virginia Beach also ranks in the top 10% of cities for the following metrics: the percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms and a high school graduation rate. More than 99% of owner-occupied homes in the city have two or more bedrooms and the high school graduation rate exceeds 93%.

3. Gilbert, Arizona

Anton Foltin / Shutterstock.com

Almost 42% of owner-occupied homes in Gilbert, Arizona, have two or three bedrooms, and 57.9% of them have four bedrooms or more. As a result, close to all homes (99.8%) in Gilbert could fit a family that needed that many rooms.

Gilbert is also a relatively safe city. Our data shows that Gilbert has the fourth- and second-lowest property and violent crime rates, respectively, of all 100 cities in our study.

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne, Indiana
Travis Eckert / Shutterstock.com

Fort Wayne, Indiana, ranks fourth and first on the two metrics measuring affordability in our study: down payment-to-income ratio and housing costs as a percentage of income, respectively. Census Bureau data shows that a 20% down payment on the median-valued home was less than half of the city’s median household income. Additionally, median housing costs made up only about 18% of the city’s median household income ($48,658).

1. Chesapeake, Virginia

Chesapeake, Virginia
JoMo333 / Shutterstock.com

Chesapeake, Virginia, ranks in the top fourth of cities for five of the seven metrics in our study. It has the second-highest percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms, at 99.6%.

Additionally, with the 20th-lowest housing costs as a percentage of income, homeownership is becoming more popular in the city. Between 2014 and 2018, the homeownership rate increased by close to 2 percentage points. The area also has the third-highest high school graduation rate, at 93.10%, and the 21st-lowest property crime rate in the study.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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