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Down payment, housing costs and number of bedrooms are just some of the factors you'll want to consider when searching for an affordable family home.

Finding a home to fit a family can be a difficult task. Beyond looking for the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, prospective owners must consider the full costs of homeownership. Though a mortgage is typically the largest expense for homeowners, other costs like property taxes and home insurance can add up. Additionally, families looking to settle down will want to have a good understanding of whether an area is safe and what school options are available there.

In this study, SmartAsset identified some of the best cities to buy an affordable family home. We looked at 100 of the largest U.S. cities across seven metrics. Specifically, we considered the percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms, the five-year change in homeownership rate, two affordability metrics and three livability statistics. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • More than a third of cities ranking in the top 25 are in Texas. Of the total 13 Texas cities in our study, nine of them place in the top 25 (and two – Arlington and Plano – rank in the top 10). These nine top-ranking Texas cities perform particularly well in terms of down payment-to-income ratio and high school graduation rate. The average down payment-to-income ratio across all nine cities is 0.60, and the average high school graduation rate is 89.62%.
  • About nine in 10 homes in the U.S. have two or more bedrooms. Census Bureau data from 2018 shows that 64.7% of owner-occupied homes in the U.S. have two or three bedrooms, while 22.6% of them have four or more bedrooms. In fact, across the 100 cities in our study, New York City has the lowest percentage of homes with two or more bedrooms, at 82.3%.

 1. Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake, Virginia ranks in the top fourth of cities for five of the seven metrics in our study. It has the second-highest percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms, at 99.6%. Additionally, with the 20th-lowest housing costs as a percentage of income, homeownership is becoming more popular. Between 2014 and 2018, the homeownership rate increased by close to two percentage points. The area also has the third-highest high school graduation rate, at 93.10%, and the 21st-lowest property crime rate in the study.

2. Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, Indiana ranks fourth and first on the two metrics measuring affordability in our study: down payment-to-income ratio and housing costs as a percentage of income, respectively. Census Bureau data shows that a 20% down payment on the median-valued home was less than half of the city’s median household income. Additionally, median housing costs made up only about 18% of the city’s median household income ($48,658).

3. Gilbert, AZ

Almost 42% of owner-occupied homes in Gilbert, Arizona have two or three bedrooms, and 57.9% of them have four bedrooms or more. As a result, close to all homes (99.8%) in Gilbert could fit a family who needed that many rooms. Gilbert is also a relatively safe city. Our data shows that Gilbert has the fourth- and second-lowest property and violent crime rates, respectively, of all 100 cities in our study.

4. Virginia Beach, VA

Like in Gilbert, Arizona, crime rates in Virginia Beach, Virginia are relatively low. In 2018, Virginia Beach had the ninth- and third-lowest property and violent crime rates, respectively, of the cities we considered. Virginia Beach also ranks in the top 10% of cities for the following metrics: percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms and high school graduation rate. More than 99% of owner-occupied homes in the city have two or more bedrooms and the high school graduation rate exceeds 93%.

5. Lexington, KY

More residents in Lexington, Kentucky have chosen to put down roots in recent years. Between 2014 and 2018, the homeownership rate increased by two percentage points. Additionally, for families looking to settle down, 99.2% of homes have two or more bedrooms, the seventh-highest rate for this metric in our study.

6. Arlington, TX

Arlington, Texas ranks the second-best in our top 10 and 15th best overall for its down payment-to-income ratio, at 0.60. In other words, a 20% down payment on the median valued home in the city makes up only 60% of the median household income. Arlington also ranks in the top 15 for housing costs as a percentage of income (21.93%) and high school graduation rate (90.50%).

7. Plano, TX

Plano is the second-highest ranking Texas city in our study, following Arlington. Plano ranks seventh overall due to its impressive high school graduation rate and low crime rates. County Health Rankings data shows that 96.80% of students in the area graduate high school, the best rate for this metric in our study. Additionally, Plano has the eighth- and fifth-lowest property and violent crime rates, respectively, across all 100 cities we considered.

8. Chandler, AZ

In the five-year period from 2014 through 2018, the homeownership rate in Chandler, Arizona rose by more than seven percentage points, from 57.95% in 2014 to 65.81% in 2018. That 7.86% increase is the largest in the study. Additionally, Chandler ranks in the top 25 for four other metrics: percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms (98.6%), housing costs as a percentage of income (18.67%) and property and violent crime rates (roughly 2,121 and 237 per 100,000 residents, respectively).

9. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh, North Carolina ranks in the top third for six of the seven metrics we considered, ranking particularly well for its high percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms (eighth-highest in the study, at 99.1%) and the high school graduation rate (19th-highest in the study, at 89.10%). Raleigh ranks toward the middle of the study for its relatively high down payment-to-income ratio of 0.82. In 2018, the median valued home was $268,900, while the median household income was less than $65,700.

10. Henderson, NV

Henderson, Nevada rounds out our list of the top 10 cities to buy an affordable family home. Henderson’s best metric is its five-year increase in homeownership rate, with a 5.74% increase from 2014 through 2018. Additionally, the city ranks in the top 25 of all 100 cities we considered for its high percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms (98.7%) and its low housing costs as a percentage of income (22.33%).

Data and Methodology

To find the best cities to buy an affordable family home, SmartAsset looked at data for 100 of the largest cities in the U.S. We compared these cities across seven metrics:

  • Percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms. This is the number of owner-occupied homes with at least two bedrooms divided by the number of all owner-occupied homes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Five-year change in homeownership rate. This is the difference between the 2014 and 2018 homeownership rates. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2014 and 2018 1-year American Community Surveys.
  • Down payment-to-income ratio. This is a 20% down payment on the median-valued home divided by the median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of income. This is median annual housing costs divided by the median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 1-year American Community Survey.
  • High school graduation rate. Data comes from the 2020 County Health Rankings.
  • Property crime rate. This is the number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and is for 2018. We used data from Neighborhood Scout for cities where FBI data was not available.
  • Violent crime rate. This is the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program and is for 2018. We used data from Neighborhood Scout for cities where FBI data was not available.

We ranked each city in every metric, giving a half weight to property and violent crime rates and a full weight to all other metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used this average to determine our final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Home Buying Tips

  • Calculate the full costs. As noted previously, property taxes and home insurance can add up. To understand the full costs of homeownership more fully, check out our comprehensive home buying guide. It has a property tax calculator, budget calculator and many informative articles that can help you make smart decisions regarding housing.
  • Remember to negotiate. Though homes in many of the cities listed above are relatively affordable, it doesn’t hurt to negotiate on an asking price. Be sure to think carefully about what you send in as an initial offer.
  • Consider a financial advisor. Buying a home is a big decision and it may be a good idea to consult a financial advisor to better understand your financial situation and what kind of house you can afford. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/fizkes

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
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