Top 10 Cities Ideal for First-Time Homebuyers in 2024

In 2023, prospective first-time homebuyers faced a challenging housing landscape marked by soaring mortgage rates, a persistent housing shortage, and escalating home prices. These obstacles led many to postpone their home search, awaiting a more favorable market. However, with mortgage rates now on the decline and housing inventory slowly increasing, aspiring buyers are eager to reenter the market.

To assist these hopeful buyers, the® economics team has meticulously identified the top 10 markets tailored for first-time homebuyers in 2024. These markets offer a wealth of housing options at price points feasible for budget-conscious buyers. Additionally, they provide ample employment opportunities, short commute times, and a vibrant array of amenities and activities.

“Our selection process prioritizes affordability and housing availability, making these markets highly conducive for first-time buyers looking to navigate the housing market,” explains Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “Moreover, we’ve targeted areas with not just a sizable young population but also a significant proportion of younger homeowners, indicating favorable conditions for success in the housing market.”

A significant portion of these desirable locations resides in the Northeast, with three nestled in upstate New York, where home prices stand at a fraction of those found in bustling New York City. The remaining selections dot the landscape of the South and Midwest, all situated in quaint, residential communities neighboring larger urban centers. Here, the promise of affordability breathes life into the dream of homeownership, whether one seeks a modest starter abode or a forever home.

“As we look ahead, there’s optimism for first-time homebuyers,” remarks Hale. “An anticipated decline in mortgage rates, already surpassing expectations, will alleviate the financial burden associated with mortgage payments, while a steady housing market will provide buyers with an opportunity to match their incomes.”

To compile this coveted list, meticulously evaluated nearly 3,000 towns and cities. Criteria included factors such as housing availability, median home list prices spanning December 2022 through November 2023, a substantial proportion of youthful homeowners, reasonable commute durations, low unemployment rates, community amenities, and projected trends in home sales and prices for the upcoming year.

In a bid to ensure geographic diversity, the team limited selections to one city per metropolitan area. (Metropolitan areas encompass the principal city and its surrounding suburbs, towns, and smaller urban locales.)

For prospective first-time homebuyers, this compilation serves as a roadmap to guide your quest for the perfect abode.

Nestled in the embrace of nature, Irondequoit, New York, derives its name from the Iroquois language, meaning “where the land meets the water.” True to its roots, Irondequoit is bordered by the majestic Genessee River to the west and the tranquil Irondequoit Bay to the east. Its northern boundary kisses the shores of Lake Ontario, one of the renowned Great Lakes.

Conveniently located just a short drive from Rochester, Irondequoit offers proximity to various amenities and opportunities. Rochester, a bustling city, is home to the esteemed University of Rochester and serves as the headquarters for Wegmans, Xerox, Eastman Kodak Co., and Bausch + Lomb.

According to Tiffany Hilbert, a seasoned real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty Greater Rochester, Irondequoit boasts seamless connectivity, ensuring swift commutes to any corner of Rochester within a mere 15 minutes.

Embracing a quaint charm, Irondequoit provides easy access to the serene lake, boasting several public beaches, a zoo, and an amusement park. However, the town’s allure extends beyond its natural beauty. Hilbert reveals that Irondequoit’s appeal has attracted significant attention, with lower-priced homes often sparking fierce bidding wars, sometimes fetching double their list prices.

Despite their age, the homes in Irondequoit exude character and charm. Take, for instance, this delightful three-bedroom, one-bathroom abode constructed in 1928, boasting hardwood floors and gumwood trim throughout. Currently listed at $184,900, this property epitomizes the timeless allure of Irondequoit’s real estate offerings.

Nestled equidistantly between the bustling metropolis of Little Rock and the famed spa haven of Hot Springs, Benton, Arkansas, offers an idyllic small-town ambiance coupled with convenient access to urban amenities. Positioned just under 30 miles from the state capital and approximately 30 miles from Hot Springs, Benton serves as a perfect residential hub for those seeking swift commutes to the city or weekend escapades to the spa town.

Brimming with charm, Benton’s quaint downtown area boasts iconic landmarks like the Royal Theatre and the historic Saline County Courthouse, which dates back to 1901. Here, locals and visitors alike can explore an array of quaint shops and indulge in delectable cuisines offered by the town’s restaurants.

However, Benton’s most enticing feature undoubtedly lies in the affordability of its housing market. With median list prices hovering around $197,500, prospective homeowners can find their dream abode without breaking the bank.

Take, for instance, this charming three-bedroom, two-bathroom residence adorned with vaulted ceilings, nestled on a sprawling 1.5-acre lot. Priced at just under $200,000, this property epitomizes the allure of homeownership in Benton. Alternatively, buyers can explore this inviting four-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling, boasting a spacious walk-in closet in the primary bedroom, offered at a competitive price of $220,000.

Nestled in the heart of Iowa, Winterset exudes a quintessential small-town charm, offering a serene and family-friendly atmosphere. Renowned as the backdrop for the iconic Clint Eastwood film “Bridges of Madison County” and the birthplace of the legendary John Wayne, Winterset boasts a rich cultural heritage intertwined with picturesque landscapes.

“Residents of Winterset enjoy the best of both worlds— the tranquility of rural living combined with easy access to the bustling suburbs of Des Moines,” remarks Paul Walter, a seasoned real estate agent affiliated with Re/Max Concepts in Des Moines. “The allure of small-town living complemented by nearby amenities makes Winterset an attractive destination for those seeking a relaxed pace of life.”

Despite its rural setting, Winterset offers a range of local recreational activities, quaint eateries, and iconic landmarks, including the six covered bridges immortalized in the famed novel and film from the mid-1990s.

With its close proximity to Des Moines and still-affordable housing options, Winterset has emerged as a sought-after residential destination, with homes often selling swiftly and close to their listing prices. For a median list price of $269,400, prospective first-time homebuyers can acquire charming properties like this inviting three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch house. Boasting a full front porch, a cozy wood-burning fireplace, and a fenced backyard, this residence epitomizes the timeless allure of homeownership in Winterset.

Nestled within the vibrant metropolitan area of Hartford, Connecticut, Newington stands out as a beacon of affordability amidst the upscale suburbs that dot the region. While its median list price of $290,294 may seem steep at first glance, it pales in comparison to the exorbitant real estate prices found in neighboring communities.

“Newington has always offered a more budget-friendly option compared to its affluent neighbors like West Hartford and Avon,” explains Lisa Barall-Matt, a seasoned real estate agent based in West Hartford. “Despite experiencing a rise in home values over the years, Newington still presents excellent value for homebuyers seeking an accessible entry into the market.”

Newington’s appeal lies not only in its competitive housing prices but also in its vibrant downtown scene, boasting an array of charming eateries, coffee shops, and the picturesque Mill Pond Park, home to the nation’s smallest waterfall.

“I can reach the shoreline in less than an hour, and destinations like Vermont for skiing or bustling cities like Boston and New York are within a two-hour drive,” shares Amy Chorew, a dedicated real estate agent at Century 21 All Points in Hartford. “Newington’s strategic location and burgeoning community make it an attractive choice for individuals transitioning from urban settings like New York City in search of a family-friendly environment.”

For $299,999, prospective homebuyers can embark on their homeownership journey with properties like this enchanting three-bedroom Dutch Colonial, featuring 1.5 bathrooms and a host of desirable amenities.

Nestled on the western fringes of Iowa, adjacent to the vibrant city of Omaha, Council Bluffs emerges as an idyllic haven for first-time homebuyers seeking a harmonious blend of small-town charm and urban conveniences. With a median list price of $200,000, this picturesque locale beckons with affordable housing options and a rich tapestry of history and culture.

Established in 1855, Council Bluffs boasts a storied past, serving as the proud home of the Iowa School for the Deaf and earning distinction as the second city in the nation to introduce electric trolleys. Notably, it holds the prestigious title of being designated by President Abraham Lincoln as the starting point of the transcontinental railroad, with Mile Zero situated at the corner of 21st Street and Ninth Avenue.

Embracing a tight-knit community ethos, Council Bluffs exudes a quaint, neighborly vibe, where locals jest that it’s the “biggest small town” around—a sentiment that underscores the genuine warmth and camaraderie found within its borders.

For those eager to call Council Bluffs home, opportunities abound, including this charming three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom residence nestled in the historic Fairmount Park neighborhood, priced at a modest $175,000.

Nestled within close proximity to downtown Buffalo and just a short jaunt from the iconic Niagara Falls, the charming town of Cheektowaga beckons to first-time homebuyers with its blend of small-town tranquility and urban accessibility. With a median list price of $199,000, this suburban gem offers an enticing opportunity for those seeking an affordable slice of upstate New York living.

Despite its snowy winters, Cheektowaga boasts a vibrant community spirit and a plethora of recreational activities to enjoy year-round. From exhilarating ice skating adventures to leisurely strolls through the sprawling Stiglmeier Park spanning 308 acres, residents revel in the town’s abundant natural beauty and outdoor amenities.

For prospective homebuyers, Cheektowaga presents a wealth of affordable housing options, exemplified by this inviting four-bedroom, two-bathroom residence priced at $179,900. Situated on a corner lot and boasting 1,285 square feet of living space, this cozy abode offers ample room for comfortable living and charming curb appeal.

Nestled in the heart of Michigan’s vibrant landscape, Grand Rapids beckons with its blend of urban energy and small-town charm. Boasting a bustling downtown, renowned breweries and distilleries, and esteemed universities, this Midwestern gem offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences and recreational opportunities.

Renowned as a hub for office furniture production, Grand Rapids seamlessly combines industrial heritage with contemporary allure. Its diverse neighborhoods, interconnected by scenic bike trails and walking paths, create a sense of community amidst the city’s dynamic atmosphere.

For families and young professionals alike, Grand Rapids presents an affordable haven where every lifestyle is catered to. With a median list price of $260,000, aspiring homeowners can find their dream residence without breaking the bank.

One such gem is this meticulously renovated two-story dwelling, offering three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, and a wealth of modern amenities. Priced at $280,000, this charming abode boasts stylish updates and a spacious backyard, providing the perfect backdrop for a quintessential Grand Rapids lifestyle.

Situated just a short drive south of Oklahoma City lies the thriving community of Moore. Despite enduring the devastation of a tornado in 2013, the resilient locals have rallied together to rebuild their city, infusing it with brand-new amenities and attractions.

One such development is The Station at Central Park, spanning 51 acres and offering a host of recreational facilities including a fitness center, aquatic center, walking trails, and an outdoor amphitheater. Additionally, residents can bask in the tranquility of Buck Thomas Park, a sprawling 128-acre green space boasting a dog park, scenic walking trails, and ample room for outdoor pursuits.

For first-time homebuyers seeking modern comforts, the Abbott Lake Community in Moore presents an enticing option. Here, $286,588 affords buyers a spacious three-bedroom, two-bathroom residence spanning 1,464 square feet. Future plans for this fully planned community include two scenic ponds, a fishing dock, a vibrant splash pad, and convenient access to Tinker Air Force Base.

In the serene hamlet of Mattydale, New York, prospective homebuyers are greeted with an astonishing median list price of $138,450. Yes, you read that correctly. In Mattydale, a charming community nestled just 5 miles north of Syracuse, buyers can secure a home for roughly a third of the national median home price, as per data for December 2023.

Despite its modest size—spanning a mere 1.9 square miles and inhabited by a cozy population of 6,446 residents—Mattydale exudes an undeniable allure and warmth.

Residents of this idyllic hamlet enjoy a plethora of family-friendly activities, including ample green spaces, easy access to the serene Oneida Lake, and the breathtaking Finger Lakes region, located just an hour’s drive away.

For those seeking to make Mattydale their home, a charming four-bedroom, one-bathroom classic Cape awaits. Priced at an inviting $129,900, this delightful abode boasts an enclosed porch, elegant hardwood floors, and a spacious full basement, offering ample room for comfortable living and entertaining.

Nestled approximately 15 miles southeast of Baltimore, Riviera Beach stands as a quaint seaside suburb with a median list price of $269,079. Characterized by its charming waterfront locale, Riviera Beach offers a temperate climate year-round, ensuring residents enjoy mild weather conditions and picturesque surroundings.

“It’s a water-oriented community on the lower Patapsco River right where it meets the Chesapeake Bay,” remarks Wayne Curtis, a seasoned real estate agent with Monument Sotheby’s International Realty in Baltimore. “The housing stock tends to be older, smaller, and often in need of some modernization. And in this region where home prices continue to surge, that’s probably where some of the best values can be found.”

For prospective first-time homebuyers eyeing Riviera Beach, a delightful opportunity awaits. Priced at $299,900, this charming two-level home boasts four bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, and a host of desirable features including a screened front porch and a spacious fenced yard—providing the perfect setting for comfortable living and leisurely outdoor enjoyment.

Matthew Graham
Matthew Graham
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