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The Best Cities to Be a Homeowner

Home is where the heart is, so the saying goes. For homeowners, their home is also where they probably invested a large chunk of their money. In some places homeownership has proved to be a worthwhile investment, as the home values skyrocket. But in other places, depressed home values and high property taxes may have made owning a home less worth it. 

Find out now: how much house can I afford?

In order to determine the best cities for homeowners, we looked at four factors. Specifically, we looked at the one-year median home value change, the six-year median home value change, the property crime rate per 100,000 residents and the average effective property tax rate. To get a better understanding of where we got the data and how we put it together, check out our data and methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • The Centennial State – Colorado cities claimed two of the top three spots in our study of the best cities to be a homeowner. Denver and Aurora finished first and third, respectively.
  • Satellite cities – Many of the cities in our top 10 are satellite cities or suburbs of a larger city. Aurora, Fremont, Irvine, Arlington, Gilbert and Chandler all fit this profile.
  • Midwest tanks – Four out of the five cities that received the worst rankings are in the Midwest. The biggest culprit for this is declining home values. In Milwaukee, for example, median home values declined by over 15% from 2010 to 2015. And in Cleveland, that decline was close to 20% over the same time period.

Best Cities to Be a Homeowner

1. Denver, Colorado

If you recently became a homeowner in the Mile High City, you can pat yourself on the back. Our data shows that Denver is the best city for homeowners. Home values have been consistently growing. From 2010 to 2015, Denver home values grew 12.6%, with a 5.3% increase between 2014 and 2015. Denver also has the second-lowest average effective property tax rate in our top 10 at 0.54%.

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2. Fremont, California

Demand for housing in Fremont has risen recently, perhaps due to the city’s proximity to San Francisco. Fremont residents saw the largest rise in median home values in our top 10 from 2014 to 2015. Values rose 5.58% over that time period. But the short-term growth is not the only reason Fremont is a great place for homeowners. Fremont also has one of the lowest property crime rates in the country. There are 1,880 property crimes per 100,000 residents in Fremont.

3. Aurora, Colorado

Aurora saw median home values jump more than 5% from 2014 to 2015. To put that 5% in context, the median home value in Aurora in 2014 was $179,300 and grew to $189,100 in 2015. However the longer-term trends are not as favorable for Aurora homeowners as they are for some other cities. Growth over the six-year period from 2010 to 2015 shows that home values only rose about 0.7%.

4. Honolulu, Hawaii

Homeowners in Hawaii have seen some impressive growth in home values over the past few years. Over the 2010 to 2015 time period, median home values in Honolulu grew 8% and from 2014 to 2015, they grew 3.4%. Homeowners in Honolulu also have the benefit of paying very low property taxes – only 0.29%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

5. Irvine, California

From 2014 to 2015, median home values in Irvine grew from $662,200 to $688,200. That’s an increase of almost 4%. Over the period of 2010 to 2015, home values grew 1.64%. However, homeowners in Irvine can expect to pay a quite a bit in property taxes. Data from the Census Bureau shows that the average effective property tax rate in Irvine is 0.81%. That’s the second-highest in the top 10.

Buying in the Golden State? Check out California mortgage rates.

6. Arlington, Virginia

There is plenty of demand for housing in Arlington, possibly related to how close the city is to the nation’s capital. Home values grew 6.3% in Arlington from 2010 to 2015. That growth looks set to continue, as median home values rose 2.17% from 2014 to 2015, as well. Prospective Arlington buyers will want to be aware that the property tax rate here is on the high side. The 0.87% average effective property tax rate is the highest in the top 10.

7. Gilbert, Arizona

Gilbert is the first of two Arizona cities to crack our top 10. Home values in Gilbert rose by almost 5.4% between 2014 to 2015. Gilbert also has the lowest property crime rate in the top 10. There are about 1,321 property crimes per 100,000 residents in Gilbert. A fact that homeowners in Gilbert are probably well aware of.

8. Santa Ana, California

Hopefully if you bought your home in Santa Ana sometime around 2010, you have not sold it yet. The median home value in Santa Ana was down 13% over the period from 2010 to 2015. However, home values now look to be trending up. They rose 5.19% between 2014 and 2015. Santa Ana also offers homeowners an effective property tax rate around 0.7% and a low property crime rate of only 2,155 per 100,000 residents.

9. (tie) Boston, Massachusetts

With a population of 650,000, Boston is the second-largest city to crack out top 10. Homeowners here will appreciate the increasing home values and low property taxes, especially considering how expensive buying a home can be. The median home in 2015, for example, cost almost $400,000. For the Bostonians who managed to buy a home, they saw median values rise 3.72% from 2014 to 2015. That’s the 30th-fastest rate in our study. Plus, if you own a home in Boston, you can expect to only have to pay an average effective property tax of 0.77% – a top 20 rate in our study.

9. (tie) Chandler, Arizona

Another suburb of Phoenix, Chandler is great for homeowners for many of the same reasons as Gilbert. Home values in Chandler rose 5.17% from 2014 to 2015. That’s the 14th-largest increase in our study. Property taxes are also very affordable. Homeowners in Chandler pay an average effective property tax of only 0.67%, one of the lowest in the study.

The Best Cities to Be a Homeowner

Data and Methodology

In order to find the best cities to be a homeowner, we gathered data on the 100 largest cities. We considered the following four metrics:

  • One-year median home value change. This is the percent change in the median home value from 2014 to 2015 and is meant to measure the short-term change in home values. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 and 2015 5-Year American Community Surveys.
  • Six-year median home value change. This is the percent change in the median home value from 2010 to 2015. This metric measures the long-term change in home values. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 and 2015 5-Year American Community Surveys.
  • Average effective property tax. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Property crime rate per 100,000 residents. This is the number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. The property crime data comes from FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from local police departments and city websites.

We ranked each city across each of the four metrics, giving an equal weighting to each metric. We then averaged each ranking. Next, we applied a score to each city based on its average ranking. The city with the highest ranking received a score of 100 and the city with the lowest ranking received a score of 0.

Questions about our study? Contact us at

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Derek Miller, CEPF® Derek Miller is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh where he studied economics. He is passionate about using data to help people make better financial decisions. Derek is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He is a data journalist whose expertise is in finding the stories within the numbers. Derek's writing has been featured on Yahoo, AOL, and Huffington Post. He believes the biggest financial mistake people make is waiting too late to save for retirement and missing out on the wonders of compounding interest. Derek lives in Brooklyn.
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