Ever since a women’s magazine editor coined the phrase “having it all” in the hazy, hopeful ’80s, it has served as a stress-inducing cliché to some, a long-standing life goal to others. After all, who doesn’t want love and money? Work and family? Netflix and Hulu? And, perhaps most importantly, a comfortable home and a stellar career?
But the real estate version of this isn’t so easy to achieve. National unemployment rates may have dipped below 4% for the first time since 2000, yet that’s only part of the story. The places with the most high-paying jobs are the same cities where home prices are highest—often well out of reach for mere mortals. The areas with the most affordable homes are usually where decent salaries are few and far between. Sigh.
But don’t despair! Just in time for Labor Day, the realtor.com® workaholic data team set out to solve this dilemma. We found the parts of the country where folks can build their careers—whether they’re just starting out or already well-established—and score a nice, reasonably priced apartment or home. These are booming places with plenty of job growth.
And that’s a good thing, since more than 60% of the folks who move each year do it for either housing or job-related reasons, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We’ve got you covered on both!
“When people are dissatisfied … by a lack of opportunity and career growth, they tend to move,” says career coach Roy Cohen. “If you can find a community where you can maximize all of the exciting [career] options available to you and minimize some of the unattractive things like [home] cost … you are in the ideal situation.”
To find the best places to Have It All
Median realtor.com home list prices under $350,000
Median one-bedroom rent prices
Median household incomes
Number of Fortune 1000 companies
Job growth over the past year
Share of households earning above $75,000
Population growth from 2010 to 2017
So update those LinkedIn profiles and get ready to hit the road!
Best Places for Good Pay + Cheap Homes
1. Chicago, IL
Median home list price: $299,600 Unemployment rate: 4.4% Median household income**: $69,911
Bike to work in Chicago (in the summer).
Dotted with skyscrapers, world-class eateries, and a livelier-than-lively nightlife scene, the Windy City offers all the big-city fun someone would expect to find in the country’s third-largest metro. But there’s one thing conspicuously missing: meteoric housing prices. Homes here are way more affordable compared with the two biggest U.S. cities: New York City ($535,100) and Los Angeles ($750,100).
Usually when a place has lower home prices, it also has a weaker economy. Not here. Nearly 30 of the Fortune 500 companies are in the Chicago metro, including Walgreens and Boeing. And after nearly a half-century in the burbs, McDonald’s opened its new $250 million headquarters here in June.
All of these great jobs bring of mix of workers of all ages, experience levels, and professions to town. And they have lots of diverse real estate options to choose from.
“Twenty-year-olds are looking to be near nightlife, close to the lake, and close to the great public transportation” in the heart of the city, says Amy Duong Kim, a senior broker at Compass in Chicago. “In their 30s, they’re looking for a little larger place with some convenience and maybe in a high-rise with a lake view.
“Chicago is a city of neighborhoods,” she adds. “Each has a different vibe, and you can find your niche.”
Note: While parts of Chicago proper have high violent-crime rates, the levels in the metro are steadily improving from their spike in 2016.
2. Houston, TX
Median home list price: $325,000 Unemployment rate: 4.6% Median household income: $67,225
Four-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot house in Houston
Houston is a major economic powerhouse as a national hub for oil, gas, and export gigs. Those job opportunities might bring people here, but they stay because homes are a bargain compared with other big cities. Plus, folks don’t need a college degree to get a good-paying job.
There are lots of blue-collar jobs at the Port of Houston, where crude oil is shipped to places like Brazil, Canada, and Mexico. The region is also home to plenty of folks in suits in the headquarters of multinational companies like Phillips 66 and and Halliburton.
Everything really is bigger in Texas, including a housing market packed with single-family homes well over 3,000 square feet. So if you need extra space, this four-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot house with granite countertops should do the trick. And it’s priced at $350,000.
The Houston housing market has taken a hit over the past year. Hurricane Harvey destroyed thousands of homes and impacted some flood-prone areas, possibly for years to come.
“There are areas that used to be popular … but now people won’t move there because they want to avoid flooding,” says Paul Silverman, a broker associate for Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty Circle of Excellence. And many homeowners here didn’t have flood insurance, causing foreclosures to skyrocket.
Median home list price: $344,600 Unemployment rate: 2.8% Median household income: $76,791
One of the Twin Cities
Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul may not be the first places you’d consider an epicenter for big business. But the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs are home to a dozen of the Fortune 500, including powerhouses such as General Mills, Target, and UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s fifth-largest public company.
“We’re not solely dependent on one or two employers. There’s a great variety of large companies as well as tech startups,” says Danny Dietl, a broker for Brix Real Estate in Minneapolis. “It’s easy to start in one job, move to another, and still stay in the area.”
All of those good jobs have led to a double-digit population rise since 2010. And that in turn has spurred a boom in condo and apartment buildings in the city’s downtown. Earlier this year Ryan Companies, a national builder, proposed building a 101-unit condo building that would be the city’s tallest project since the recession.
“The job market [here] attracts a lot of talent from New York City and Chicago,” Dietl says. “They’ll start off in the apartments and transition to a single-family home in the suburbs once they’re ready.”
Median home list price: $319,100 Unemployment rate: 2.6% Median household income: $70,227