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The 10 best U.S. cities for first-time homebuyers

Adriana Belmonte
Associate Editor

Bankrate.com compiled a list of the 10 best U.S. metropolitan areas for first-time homebuyers and Pittsburgh was at the top, ranked first for both affordability and safety.

The analysis used 13 measures that fell under the weighted categories of affordability, culture, job market, market tightness, and safety.

Pittsburgh took the top spot. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Raleigh, N.C., Oklahoma City, Hartford, Conn., and St. Louis rounded out the top five. Not far behind were Cincinnati, Buffalo, N.Y., Minneapolis, Kansas City, Mo., and Virginia Beach, Va.

‘First-time buyers need to be able to compromise’

The median home price in the Pittsburgh metro area is $142,800, according to Zillow. That’s far below the national median home sales price, which currently stands at $230,100. Most of the top 10 cities list a median home sales price under the national rate.

“It’s more affordable in these areas than say, Los Angeles, or the bigger metros,” Bankrate data analyst Adrian Garcia told Yahoo Finance. “So though they may be a little smaller, and in some cases perhaps have less culture, then affordability is why they come to the top of the list.”

FILE- This Jan. 4, 2019, file photo shows a house for sale in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood. On Thursday, Jan. 31, Freddie Mac reports on this week’s average U.S. mortgage rates. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Garcia added: “First-time buyers need to be able to compromise. It’s going to be really hard to find the best location at the best price in today’s real estate market. Even in a place like Pittsburgh, maybe they’re going to need to move farther away from downtown to find a price that works for them. So, being able to come up with a compromise is what helps you ultimately get to homeownership, [which] will be really important.”

Notably, none of the top metro areas are coastal cities. Garcia said he’s “not sure if there’s any magic” as to why that is.

But in places like Pittsburgh and Raleigh, “they have smaller populations and perhaps have been overlooked in past years by younger people who are starting their careers,” Garcia noted. “You might think of starting your career in San Francisco versus Raleigh and yet, in these areas, the job market is offering strong [options] for you to find a job … and a home.”

Many of the cities on the list have an unemployment rate below the 3.8% national average. Oklahoma City’s is just 3.5%, while Virginia Beach and Minneapolis are both at 3.6%.

Furthermore, Pittsburgh was named the 15th-best U.S. city for jobs in 2019.

Pittsburgh skyline and Point State Park. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“Even though Pittsburgh is still ranked 12th in terms of culture,” Garcia said, “it’s not like buyers have to go to the middle of nowhere to find a reasonably priced home. You just have to think outside the box.”

‘California is struggling’

On the other side of the spectrum, six of the top 10 worst cities for first-time homebuyers are in California. Also on the list are coastal cities like Seattle and Miami.

“California is struggling with rising real estate costs, in the past few years,” Garcia said. “I think that’s inarguable, but that’s partly paired with them not having a lot of houses for sale. When you don’t have a lot of homes available, the ones that are on the market are just going to be costlier and that makes the whole market more competitive. That’s not the same case in middle America.”

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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