The 10 Best American Cities for Working From Home

Man working in coffee shop
Photo by FXQuadro / Shutterstock.com

Thirty-five percent of American workers are freelancers, a survey, by the Freelancers Union and Upwork finds. With technology freeing us to work virtually anywhere and companies saving money by keeping payrolls lean, the ranks of the freelancers just keep growing.

Published for three consecutive years, the study, “Freelancing in America,” estimated there were 53 million freelancers in 2014 and 55 million in 2016. That doesn’t include workers drawing company salaries who telecommute some or most of the time.

The trend has a powerful influence on living patterns and real estate. When your office is your home, or your friend’s home, or your favorite cafe, then certain factors — like the price of coffee and the availability of Wi-Fi — matter more than car commute times.

Cities that are heaven for freelancers have lower-priced rents and real-estate prices since freelancing typically pays less than a payroll job. Freelancers can get by without a car, so the freelancer’s world can be a friendly, dynamic neighborhood filled with comfortable cafes and welcoming bars, all within easy reach by foot or bicycle.

Realtor.com, published by the National Association of Realtors, compiled the report “Escape the Office: Top 10 Cities for Freelancers and Telecommuters,” based on:

  • Home purchase prices
  • Rental prices
  • High-bandwidth internet connections
  • Health care costs
  • Local and state taxes
  • The number of bars per capita open at 3 p.m.
  • The number of gyms per capita
  • The number of coffee shops with free Wi-Fi per capita
  • Walkability, or the ease of walking to essential errands, shopping and conveniences

Here are Realtor.com’s data and its top 10 cities for freelancers and telecommuters:

10. New Orleans

cdrin / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $249,000
  • Median one-bedroom rent: $830

Be prepared to slow way down if you plan to adapt to the local lifestyle when you live in NOLA, which is nevertheless one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.

“Like most of the cities on our list, New Orleans has seen a surge of co-working spaces open over the past few years,” Realtor.com says. Above: A cafe in the historic Faubourg Marigny district.

9. Minneapolis

Oksana Tysovska / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $289,900
  • Median one-bedroom rent: $860

Minneapolis combines the welcoming feel of a Midwestern town with urban attractions like professional sports franchises, good restaurants, galleries and museums. The Mississippi River waterfront of the city — formerly home to lumber mills, warehouses and flour mills — has been transformed into a trendy section of condos, loft spaces and parks connected by miles of paths for biking and walking.

8. Cincinnati

Stephanie A Sellers / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $189,900
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $639

Cincinnati is a little-known treasure of a city say those who love the Ohio town. Fortune 500 companies keep unemployment rates low, the public schools are good, and the city has many cultural resources. Above: A view of Cincinnati from the 49th floor observation deck of downtown’s Carew Tower.

7. Knoxville, Tennessee

Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $225,000
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $673

What is it about Tennessee these days? Tennessee cities are popping up all over the place in lists of best places to live, visit and explore. Movoto’s guide to Knoxville showcases the hyper-local side of town — which is all about University of Tennessee (main campus, Knoxville, of course) sports. You’re on the Tennessee River so, between gigs, freelancers can grab a canoe, jet ski, stand-up paddleboard or kayak and hit the river. Above: Knoxville’s Market Square, on the National Register of Historic Places.

6. Orlando, Florida

Orlando skyline
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $269,900
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $881

Most people associate Orlando with the sprawling Walt Disney World resort, which is not only the city’s largest employer, with 62,000 people on the payroll, but also is the nation’s largest single-site employer, according to Today.com. According to Today, the Epcot theme park at Disney World also helps the resort save:

More than 30 tons of fruits and vegetables are grown each year at Epcot’s Land Pavilion and used in the resort’s restaurants and cafes.

Turns out, the city is also a great place to be self-employed or telecommuting. Above: Orlando’s downtown skyline.

5. Atlanta

BluIz60 / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $274,300
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $867

With more than 5.5 million residents, the metropolitan Atlanta area is growing fast yet the city at the heart of it retains a lot of hometown Southern charm. Above: The Cool Dads Rock nonprofit organization holds its Soap Box Derby in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward.

4. Pittsburgh

Wade-H.-Massie / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $166,300
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $700

Pittsburgh has numerous old neighborhoods filled with distinctive homes and the bars, restaurants and markets, and the local scene makes you feel you’ve finally arrived someplace real. Above: a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood.

3. St. Louis

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $179,900
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $684

The Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the West set off from St. Louis in May 1804. National Geographic tells the story here. For the next century, the city was called “The Gateway to the West” as European explorers and settlers provisioned there and then set out up the Missouri River. Today, for many who work from home, there is no reason at all to move on — the city has everything they need. Above: townhouses on a St. Louis street.

2. Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, Utah
Rigucci / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $347,200
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $790

If you like to get outdoors, Salt Lake City is for you, with its five national parks and numerous major ski resorts within an easy drive. Above: The State Capitol and surrounding neighborhoods.

1. Las Vegas

Christopher Boswell / Shutterstock.com
  • Median home listing price: $241,500
  • Median one-bedroom rental price: $827

Picture Las Vegas, and you probably imagine neon lights, The Strip and Wayne Newton’s casino lounge act. But low unemployment, low taxes and affordable housing make life in Vegas pleasant. What’s more, the city is located amid some of the most scenic country on Earth: Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Death Valley National Park all are within a day’s drive.

What’s your experience of working from home, wherever you live? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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