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
Burlington , VT
Snowy Burlington, former home of four-time Mayor Bernie Sanders, is a great choice for folks seeking to build careers far from the pressures and pace of bigger cities. You won’t find as many ultrademanding corporate jobs in the capital of Vermont, but that doesn’t mean jobs here don’t pay well. The median household income in the Burlington metro is over $70,227, well above the $59,000 national median.
Major employers here include the University of Vermont and ice cream titan Ben & Jerry’s. And housing prices are sufficiently cheap for residents to have enough money left over to spend on what really matters: Cherry Garcia and an afternoon on the ski slopes.
About a third of real estate broker Geri Reilly‘s clients are from out of state. They often like to buy in suburbs like Richmond, which has a walkable downtown. Newcomers can find three-bedroom homes here for under $350,000.
“People want walkability” above all else, she says of her clients.
Median home list price: $325,100 Unemployment rate: 2.5% Median household income: $80,246
Not long ago, Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester was a small private school with about 2,000 students. But in recent years its online enrollment has skyrocketed to around 100,000. That caused the institution to hire more than 1,000 professors and administrators. And it’s become a big driver of folks moving to Manchester.
But the university isn’t the only thing Manchester has going for it. Segway is based just outside downtown, and several health care startups are located here too. The city is less than an hour from Boston, and the median home price in the Boston metro is multiples higher, at $519,950.
Local real estate agent Will Kanteres says many of his clients are in their mid-20s through their 40s seeking condos downtown or houses in the suburbs in the $250,000 to $300,000 range.
“Manchester is an old mill town.” says Kanteres. “And now we have miles of old mills being turned into offices and tech headquarters.”
Median home list price: $270,000 Unemployment rate: 4.3% Median household income: $70,516
The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t the only thing in the City of Brotherly Love that has taken a giant leap forward. The city is in the midst of a building boom, on track to add more than 8 million square feet of development, according to an estimate by JLL Philadelphia, a real estate services firm. The reason? Employers in Philly are hiring so many folks that they need more space.
This Rust Belt cornerstone has a diverse economy. There are lots of drug makers and health care firms as well as companies like Comcast, Aramark, and Urban Outfitters.
And it isn’t just office space that is getting built in Philly: High-rise condos and townhomes are going up all over downtown. But there are still some deals to be had, including this one-bedroom condo built this year priced at $230,000.
Median home list price: $325,100 Unemployment rate: 4.6% Median household income: $77,704
Colorful residential homes in Baltimore
Momentum is on Baltimore’s side. After hitting a low point with the 2015 riots, the city is growing again, and a revitalized downtown and waterfront are attracting new employers and residents alike. Old office buildings on the waterfront with city skyline or harbor views are being converted into luxury condos. And its close proximity to Washington, DC, has lured many folks priced out of the nation’s capital, where median home prices in the metro area are much higher at $449,950.
In terms of job growth, the city is now faring better than many other former manufacturing powerhouses. Earlier this year the Brookings Institute found that of the 70 older industrial cities in the U.S., Baltimore ranked among the strongest for economic growth from 2000 to 2016.
Baltimore benefits from having corporate jobs at firms such as T. Rowe Price headquartered in the region, as well as the number of government jobs in the part of the metro near Washington, DC. The Social Security Administration and National Security Agency are both based in the metro.
Crime levels are still an issue here, although they are improving. They vary considerably by neighborhood and decrease dramatically in the outlying metro areas.
8. Hartford, CT
Median home list price: $275,000 Unemployment rate: 4.5% Median household income: $77,980
Single family home in Hartford
Hartford has come a long way from its self-pitying, youth-targeted ad campaign of the early aughts: “Come to Hartford. I swear, it’s fun.” You can finally make a case for it being true: Millennials are flocking here, and not just because it’s a mecca for good-paying insurance jobs.
“We have so many great companies that can compete on a global scale, so the goal is to get [local college] students to want to work here and live downtown,” says David Griggs, president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, Hartford’s economic development arm.
And real estate investors have made progress (and a buck) building new condos or renovating older units to take advantage of the number of young professionals coming to the area.
“There’s been a boom in residential living downtown, especially the old office buildings converted to residential spaces,” Griggs says.
That’s great for younger millennials. But buyers with families relocating to Hartford are heading for the burbs, which boast good schools. Folks can find single-family homes priced under $325,000 just outside of the city.
9. Madison, WI
Median home list price: $309,800 Unemployment rate: 2.8% Median household income: $70,042
Three-bedroom home in Madison
Home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison prides itself on being able to attract both blue-collar and white-collar workers. The metro is home to firms like Spectrum Brands, maker of the George Foreman Grill, and Alliant Energy, a utility company with over $3 billion in annual revenue. It also boasts a lot of health care jobs.
Those relocating to the region won’t have to break the bank to afford a home. Madison has lots of neighborhoods and nearby suburbs that have streets lined with cute and well-kept single-family homes at a reasonable price. Just a few minutes outside the city, home buyers can find this three-bedroom home for $269,000 in the sought-after community of Verona. And there are renovated condos in downtown priced under $300,000.
A big selling point? The jobless rate in Madison was below 4% in 2009, during the midst of the Great Recession. The economy here is solid.
10. Atlanta, GA
Median home list price: $330,000 Unemployment rate: 4% Median household income: $65,167
Condo in Cabbagetown
Around five years ago, health care consultant Adam Cancilla, 29, left Atlanta after his wife got a great job opportunity in Harrisburg, PA. But now that his wife, a physician, landed a new job back in an Atlanta hospital, they’re thrilled to be moving back.
“I like that Atlanta is a big city, but not Chicago or New York big,” says Cancilla. The couple plan to buy a four-bedroom home in the suburbs. “But it has lots of stuff to do. And the weather is great.”
They don’t call this place Hotlanta for nothing. For decades, Atlanta has worked hard to compete with the largest economic hubs in the country with a slew of downtown development. And now a bunch of startups have joined city stalwarts like Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and Turner Broadcasting System (which owns CNN).
Workers at these companies are often buying homes in historic communities like Cabbagetown. A one- or two-bedroom home in the neighborhood is in the $300,000 ballpark.
“We are a very strong relocation market with so many employers here,” says Joan Arkins, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Atlanta. “We’re a young, vibrant city with a lot of options.”
* A metropolitan statistical area is a designation that includes the urban core of a city and surrounding smaller towns and cities.
** Median household income figures are estimates for 2018 by Nielsen.
Allison Underhill contributed to this report.
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Source: Housing Trends Feed