The 5 Most Underrated Places in America — and the 5 Most Overrated

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happy man in city
Olena Yakobchuk /

Americans who are up for moving have a vast variety of cities to live in. They can choose a bustling metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles, escape to the tropical climes of Miami or seek out the mountainous adventures of Denver or Salt Lake City, among many other options.

But in the past year, Americans have become less satisfied with where they live, according to a recent survey conducted by real estate website Home Bay in conjunction with Allied Van Lines. In 2023, just 63% of Americans say they like where they live, down from 80% in 2022.

Home Bay surveyed 1,000 Americans online, asking them 26 questions on where they live, which areas of the U.S. they prefer and what they believe makes a city or state desirable, undesirable, underrated or overrated. The company supplemented its survey with data such as net migration rates, violent crime rates and typical home values. Allied Van Lines produced data on which cities and states have seen the most outbound and inbound moves from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2023.

We’ve listed the top five most underrated cities, followed by the top five most overrated cities, according to the survey. Let’s start with the most underrated top five, counting down from No. 5.

5. Boston

Boston skyline summer day.
Danica Chang /

Good old Boston is the home of the bean and the cod, as the saying goes. And the famed college town is also No. 5 on the list of most underrated U.S. cities, moving up 31 spots, according to Home Bay. Survey respondents say high crime is the top reason they would choose to move, even though Boston was ranked No. 2 among the safest cities in America, according to a recent Gallup poll.

4. St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

Meet me in St. Louis? The Missouri city jumped a whopping 42 spots to become the No. 4 most underrated city. It was the No. 2 choice among Gen Z members and urban residents. According to Home Bay, affordability is the main draw here, with a cost of living 5% lower than the average among studied cities and a typical home price 44% below average. It also came in at No. 5 on a recent list of U.S. cities with the cheapest first year of homeownership.

3. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte North Carolina
Kevin Ruck /

Charlotte jumped up five spots this year to the No. 3 on the most underrated cities list. Home Bay notes rural residents who took the survey find it to be the most desirable of all U.S. cities. Charming Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., but be warned: It’s getting pricier. It ranked No. 6 on a recent list of cities where homebuyers are most impacted by rising interest rates.

2. Tampa, Florida

Tampa, Florida
Ilya Images /

Tampa moved up 21 spots this year to become the No. 2 most underrated city in the U.S. But weirdly, it also moved up 21 spots to land at No. 6 on the most overrated city list. Can a place be both under- and overrated? Tampa definitely has both pros and cons. It topped a recent list of places where inflation is soaring, but also came in at No. 9 on a list of the best places to retire in America.

1. Seattle

Seattle, Washington
cdrin /

Scenic Seattle … underrated? According to the survey, the Emerald City is considered both the most desirable U.S. city — stealing the distinction from Virginia Beach — and the most underrated. Seattle’s positives are easy to list: the natural beauty of the Puget Sound, Olympic and Cascade mountain views, vast opportunities for outdoor recreation and the city’s many good restaurants and cultural attractions.

Seattle recently made the list of most relaxed cities in the U.S. And at a time when many states are suffering through hotter daily temperatures than ever, Seattle remains relatively cool. But let’s hope you have one of the city’s famed high-paying tech jobs, because the study notes that the cost of living here is 14% higher than the U.S. average. Perhaps because of this, Seattle experienced the second-most outbound moves among all 50 cities studied between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2023.

The most overrated cities

Unimpressed or disappointed young woman or teen giving a thumbs down and a bad review
Mix and Match Studio /

While the previous cities were listed as underrated by survey respondents, the next five cities were labeled as overrated. No. 5 is first, and we’ll count down to the No. 1 most overrated city.

5. Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.
f11photo /

The museums, monuments and history of our nation’s capital beckon many, but in this survey, enough respondents dubbed it overrated to land Washington, D.C., in the top five. Poor D.C. was also named the least desirable city in the survey, although it still posted at No. 2 for cities with the most inbound moves from January through June 2023, behind only retiree-favorite Phoenix.

4. Chicago

Rudy Balasko /

The busy bustle of the Windy City is undeniable, but not everyone thinks Chicago is as hot as a deep-dish pizza. Not only did it come in at No. 4 on the most-overrated city list, but Chicago also had the most outbound moves of any other city in the first half of this year. Another unpleasant real-estate reality for Chicagoans: The Illinois city landed on a recent Redfin list of cities where home sellers are losing money.

3. San Francisco

San Francisco
Pius Lee /

Open up that Golden Gate … or maybe, don’t? The “City by the Bay” is both one of the most overrated and most desirable, according to the survey. In addition to being No. 3 most overrated, it was No. 6 most desirable — as well as No. 7 least desirable. (Rural and suburban residents were more likely to call big cities overhyped, which is perhaps to be expected since they’ve chosen not to live in one.) Sure, San Francisco has its issues — it tops a recent list of places where home sellers are losing money. But don’t worry, be happy: SF is No. 2 on a list of the most relaxed cities in America.

2. Los Angeles

Highway traffic in Los Angeles, California
Sean Pavone /

Los Angeles boasts famously sunny weather and ocean beaches, as well as proximity to Hollywood and other entertainment-industry careers. But enough Americans find it overrated to push it to No. 2 on the list. Opinions differ, of course: L.A. is also No. 7 on the survey’s list of most desirable cities to live in. It’s the top choice of millennials, with 19% of them ranking it most desirable, just ahead of Seattle for that generation. And while there are many job opportunities here, try and get one that allows you to work from home, because L.A. is No. 2 on a recent list of cities where residents lose the most time in rush-hour traffic.

1. New York City

New York City
Songquan Deng /

Tops on the most overrated list is New York City. They say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But the gleaming skyscrapers, busy subways and Broadway shows of the Big Apple aren’t for everyone. Still, NYC also came in at No. 4 on the list of most desirable cities to live in. The city’s high cost of living is well-known. But if you can land a well-paying job that lets you work from home, know that NYC recently topped a list of the best metro areas for remote workers.

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