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The Best Place to Buy a Home in Every State

Joel Anderson

There’s an old saying that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. And although that adage has become a well-worn cliche, there’s a reason for that saying: It’s usually pretty on point. Where you buy matters almost as much as what you buy when it comes to shopping for a house, with factors ranging from the cost of living in your area to the quality of local schools ultimately playing a huge role in how satisfied you end up being with the decision.

A new GOBankingRates study is drilling deeper into this, identifying the best place to buy a home in every state based on the quality of the area and what sort of value you can expect based on the local housing market. The study used Zillow’s Buyer-Seller Index — a score that uses a number of factors to determine whether the current market favors people looking for housing or looking to sell relative to other towns in the same metro area — to determine the three strongest buyer’s markets in the state. Then, using AreaVibes’ Livability Score to see which cities offer the most in terms of amenities, employment and education and the Zillow Home Value Forecast to see what sort of return you can expect on your money, the best place for homebuyers was identified.

Alabama: Auburn

Livability Score: 74
Median Listing Price: $324,450
Median Home Value: $247,900
Home Value Forecast: 4.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.279

If you’re getting sick of life in smog-choked, traffic-clogged Los Angeles, it might be time to consider the Yellowhammer State, where you can buy more than 10 median-priced homes in Birmingham for the price of a typical California home. However, it’s Auburn that offers Alabama’s best market for buyers in the state. Just don’t tell the Rolling Tide fans…

Alaska: Fairbanks

Livability Score: 46
Median Listing Price: $225,000
Median Home Value: $257,400
Home Value Forecast: -3.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 8.524

The incredible market for buyers in Fairbanks is probably explained by the fact that home prices are projected to decline over the next year.

Arizona: El Mirage

Livability Score: 70
Median Listing Price: $200,000
Median Home Value: $190,700
Home Value Forecast: 4.5 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.313

No, that median listing price isn’t an exhaustion-induced hallucination. El Mirage provides anyone looking to live the desert life an affordable place to find a home. And if you’re worried about the cost of living, don’t: Arizona falls right smack in the middle of American states with a low cost of living.

Arkansas: Benton

Livability Score: 67
Median Listing Price: $177,850
Median Home Value: $116,900
Home Value Forecast: 4.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.0

Arkansas is a bargain shopper’s paradise when it comes to homes, offering rising values, a strong buyer’s market and prices that put homeownership within reach. In fact, you can get 3,212 square feet on a budget of $300,000 based on the state’s excellent price per square foot.

California: Hawthorne

Livability Score: 70
Median Listing Price: $679,500
Median Home Value: $623,500
Home Value Forecast: 6.7 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.110

Although spending in excess of $600,000 on a home might seem absurd for many people, if that Home Value Forecast proves accurate, you’ll make over $40,000 on your purchase in just the first year. But, high costs and higher growth in home values are just part of what makes real estate in California unique.

Colorado: Westminster

Livability Score: 62
Median Listing Price: $392,500
Median Home Value: $369,300
Home Value Forecast: 8.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.435

Despite not reaching California levels, Colorado is likewise a state where home values are high and getting higher. Westminster could be a great spot to start for young homebuyers looking for a respite in a state that is among the worst for millennial homebuyers.

Connecticut: Coventry

Livability Score: 74
Median Listing Price: $259,900
Median Home Value: $254,400
Home Value Forecast: 3.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.313

Coventry offers a good value in a solid market for buyers and a town with a high livability score. It could also be a solid place to look if you’re trying to escape Hartford, one of the cities most in danger of another housing crisis.

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Delaware: Bear

Livability Score: 66
Median Listing Price: $270,000
Median Home Value: $258,000
Home Value Forecast: 6.7 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.588

If you can “Bear” the price, buying a house in Delaware’s top market should be a relatively strong investment. This area has a strong buyer’s market and a projected gain in home values of almost 7 percent over the next year.

Florida: The Crossings

Livability Score: 82
Median Listing Price: $320,050
Median Home Value: $361,200
Home Value Forecast: 4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.110

Just six states in this study can boast a livability score in excess of 80, and Florida’s entry — The Crossings — is one of them. The potential for a good return on your investment in Florida is clearly there: Tampa was one of the housing markets that beat the S&P 500 over the last five years.

Georgia: Tucker

Livability Score: 56
Median Listing Price: $278,700
Median Home Value: $239,700
Home Value Forecast: 7 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.133

Tucker has one of the lower livability scores in this study, but the solid growth in home values would appear to help keep it an attractive market to buy in. After all, it’s right outside Atlanta, another housing market that beat the returns of the S&P 500 over the last half-decade.

Hawaii: Honolulu

Livability Score: 66
Median Listing Price: $625,000
Median Home Value: $1,070,100
Home Value Forecast: 4.8 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.588

The median home value of over $1 million for Honolulu is the second-highest in this study. So although the median list price of $625,000 might seem very steep, it’s also just over half the median home value — potentially indicating you could be getting a real bargain on the home’s value.

Idaho: Caldwell

Livability Score: 73
Median Listing Price: $228,999
Median Home Value: $190,900
Home Value Forecast: 6.5 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.0

Caldwell offers a good score on Zillow’s Buyer-Seller Index along with its projection for solid growth in home values over the next year, making it a potentially great way to get access to the natural beauty of Idaho at a price you can stand.

Illinois: Minooka

Livability Score: 64
Median Listing Price: $250,000
Median Home Value: $222,400
Home Value Forecast: 10.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.226

There could be a simple explanation for Minooka’s low score on the Buyer-Seller Index: No city in this study is projected to see home values climb more than the 10.1 percent in Minooka. This city could be one way for Illinois residents to escape Chicago, one of the cities in the greatest danger of another housing crisis.

Indiana: Schererville

Livability Score: 77
Median Listing Price: $235,000
Median Home Value: $240,200
Home Value Forecast: 8.8 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.169

Schererville is another city where the seller’s market can likely be explained by the fact that prices are on the rise there to the tune of nearly 9 percent.

Iowa: Des Moines

Livability Score: 75
Median Listing Price: $145,000
Median Home Value: $136,300
Home Value Forecast: 6 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.833

Younger homebuyers should seriously consider Des Moines during their search. The city boasts solid scores for livability, a buyer’s market, expectations for solid growth in home prices and home prices that mostly stay under $150,000. That could be one of the reasons why Iowa is one of the states where millennials can actually afford homes.

Kansas: Olathe

Livability Score: 82
Median Listing Price: $339,500
Median Home Value: $255,400
Home Value Forecast: 5.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.923

Not only is Olathe among the six cities with a livability score above 80, but it’s one of the 12 cities where the Buyer-Seller Index is above 1.0, making it one of just two cities that falls into both of those groups.

Kentucky: Independence

Livability Score: 73
Median Listing Price: $210,000
Median Home Value: $177,400
Home Value Forecast: 5.7 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.154

Kentucky’s low costs for housing extend to Independence, the best place to look for a home in the state. The strong buyer’s market and relatively low listing prices could have something to do with it being in one of the states where millennials can afford a home.

Louisiana: Gretna

Livability Score: 75
Median Listing Price: $179,000
Median Home Value: $145,700
Home Value Forecast: 6.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.714

Gretna is the best market to consider when you’re a homebuyer looking in Louisiana, but the state has a lot to offer potential buyers, especially if you haven’t owned a home before.

Maine: Windham

Livability Score: 55
Median Listing Price: $275,000
Median Home Value: $255,500
Home Value Forecast: 9.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.909

The projected 9.4 percent growth in home values over the next year is among the highest in the study, indicating that although the livability score in Windham isn’t great, there are other reasons to consider the town. The median home value of over a quarter million, though, is above the median home value in the state.

Maryland: Hampstead

Livability Score: 72
Median Listing Price: $415,000
Median Home Value: $285,300
Home Value Forecast: 4.6 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.227

Hampstead’s high livability score indicates that it’s a good place to make a home, and that could be especially true if you’re currently living in Baltimore, one of the cities in the greatest danger of a housing crisis.

Massachusetts: Cambridge

Livability Score: 76
Median Listing Price: $799,000
Median Home Value: $1,539,700
Home Value Forecast: 5.7 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.172

Cambridge’s median home value in excess of $1.5 million is the highest in the study, so you could find a great value given that the median list price is about half that. But affording that high price isn’t going to be easy for younger buyers, part of why Massachusetts is one of the states where millennials can’t buy a home.

Michigan: Madison Heights

Livability Score: 75
Median Listing Price: $140,000
Median Home Value: $136,500
Home Value Forecast: 3.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.156

The Great Lakes State’s low housing prices make it especially attractive for younger buyers who might have less saved for a down payment.

Minnesota: Richfield

Livability Score: 73
Median Listing Price: $255,000
Median Home Value: $249,200
Home Value Forecast: 6.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.244

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the home to Minneapolis, one of the best cities for millennials buying homes. That said, Richfield offers a high livability score along with reasonable home prices and projections for solid growth in home values.

Mississippi: Southaven

Livability Score: 72
Median Listing Price: $199,900
Median Home Value: $144,300
Home Value Forecast: 0.3 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.769

If you’re planning on staying in the same place for the foreseeable future, Southaven could be a good pick. Just don’t expect to get a lot more for your home than you paid if you have to sell as home values are barely increasing for now.

Missouri: Maryland Heights

Livability Score: 83
Median Listing Price: $174,900
Median Home Value: $175,000
Home Value Forecast: 5 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.179

Sellers in Maryland Heights appear to be asking for a pretty fair price: The median list price is just $100 below the median home value. But if you’re still on the fence about getting your own place, the market isn’t going to make that decision for you: The cost of renting vs. buying in Missouri is roughly equivalent.

Montana: Helena

Livability Score: 65
Median Listing Price: $300,000
Median Home Value: $240,400
Home Value Forecast: 1.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.556

Helena, Montana’s state capital, also offers a strong buyer’s market if not a huge return in terms of growing home values.

Nebraska: Norfolk

Livability Score: 85
Median Listing Price: $179,900
Median Home Value: $153,900
Home Value Forecast: 3.6 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.379

Nebraska certainly has pockets where the housing markets are taking off, with Lincoln being one of the cities where home prices are rising the fastest. So it might be worth it to take advantage of Norfolk’s solid buyer’s market and high livability while you can.

Nevada: Carson City

Livability Score: 65
Median Listing Price: $359,725
Median Home Value: $300,300
Home Value Forecast: 7.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.641

Carson City might not be the hottest housing market in the state, but it is a good buyer’s market and is expected to see a 7 percent-plus return on your investment in the first year.

New Hampshire: Londonderry

Livability Score: 76
Median Listing Price: $339,900
Median Home Value: $362,900
Home Value Forecast: 1.3 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 1.207

Although Londonderry is a great buyer’s market for its area and boasts a high livability score, the high costs in New Hampshire make it one of the states where you’re most likely to live paycheck to paycheck.

New Jersey: Montclair

Livability Score: 79
Median Listing Price: $599,990
Median Home Value: $702,200
Home Value Forecast: 7.6 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.037

Montclair might have one of the highest median listing prices in the study, but it’s still over $100,000 below the same area’s median home values, so it could be a bargain. And if you’re looking in New Jersey, that and a high livability score aren’t the only reason to pick Montclair over Newark as Newark is the city in the greatest danger of a housing crisis.

New Mexico: Las Cruces

Livability Score: 64
Median Listing Price: $199,990
Median Home Value: $164,500
Home Value Forecast: -0.80 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 2.047

Las Cruces is your best market to buy in New Mexico, but it still has a relatively low livability score relative to other cities on this list, not to mention home prices that are in a decline.

New York: Bethlehem

Livability Score: 63
Median Listing Price: $299,900
Median Home Value: $272,100
Home Value Forecast: 9.6 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.267

Buying in Bethlehem is projected to give you one of the best one-year returns on your money at 9.6 percent. And if you’re younger and looking in the Empire State, you might need alternatives to the Big Apple, one of the worst cities for millennials looking to buy homes.

North Carolina: Oxford

Livability Score: 52
Median Listing Price: $234,499
Median Home Value: $151,500
Home Value Forecast: 6.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.056

Oxford might represent one of the best places to buy in the Tar Heel State, but that might not be saying a lot. It has one of the lowest livability scores in this study, and it’s in one of the worst states for first-time homebuyers.

North Dakota: Grand Forks

Livability Score: 69
Median Listing Price: $230,000
Median Home Value: $153,900
Home Value Forecast: 6.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 7.409

The 7.409 registered by Grand Forks was the second-highest score for the Buyer-Seller Index in the entire study, coming in behind Fairbanks and indicating that being on the search for housing will put you in a solid position there.

Ohio: Brunswick

Livability Score: 85
Median Listing Price: $218,000
Median Home Value: $183,200
Home Value Forecast: 4.7 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.222

Brunswick offers the second-highest livability score in the study and a median listing price that’s still under $250,000, indicating that this is one great place to live that many people could actually afford.

Oklahoma: Midwest City

Livability Score: 79
Median Listing Price: $158,995
Median Home Value: $91,600
Home Value Forecast: 0.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.714

Although the near-term return on your money would appear to be low to virtually nonexistent if you buy a home in Midwest City, it’s worth noting that the low cost to buy is paired with the chance to save a lot of money moving forward, as well.

Oregon: Corvallis

Livability Score: 75
Median Listing Price: $399,900
Median Home Value: $365,200
Home Value Forecast: 2.9 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.042

Corvallis is the home to Oregon State University, which could play an important role in boosting its livability score. For many, college towns can be an ideal place to settle down because of the range of amenities they usually offer.

Pennsylvania: Phoenixville

Livability Score: 75
Median Listing Price: $259,400
Median Home Value: $235,700
Home Value Forecast: 8 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.098

Phoenixville offers one of Pennsylvania’s top housing markets, with a modest median listing price and strong projected growth in home value over the next year. And if you’re planning on making your first purchase of a house, you’re in luck: Pennsylvania is one of the best states for first-time homebuyers.

Rhode Island: East Providence

Livability Score: 70
Median Listing Price: $249,900
Median Home Value: $233,500
Home Value Forecast: 8.4 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.588

East Providence has a median listing price under a quarter of a million dollars and expects growth in home values of 8.4 percent, indicating that now might be the time to get in.

South Carolina: Pendleton

Livability Score: 68
Median Listing Price: $169,900
Median Home Value: $177,800
Home Value Forecast: 3.9 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.667

Pendleton has modest home prices with a strong livability score and decent projections for growth in home value.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls

Livability Score: 72
Median Listing Price: $229,900
Median Home Value: $183,800
Home Value Forecast: 2.8 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.724

Sioux Falls might seem like it’s a little on the pricey side to some with a median list price over $200,000, but that could just be a matter of perspective. Anyone coming from San Francisco with its turbo-charged real estate market would feel otherwise as the cost of a home there could get you five houses in Sioux Falls, according to another GOBankingRates analysis.

Tennessee: La Vergne

Livability Score: 72
Median Listing Price: $209,990
Median Home Value: $194,400
Home Value Forecast: 9.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.588

That projected return of over 9 percent in the first year alone is among the best in the study, but that could just be a symptom of how buying a home in Tennessee is often a pretty solid investment.

Texas: Bedford

Livability Score: 90
Median Listing Price: $269,000
Median Home Value: $250,000
Home Value Forecast: 1.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.152

Bedford’s 90 represents the highest livability score in the entire study, so this city tucked in between Fort Worth and Dallas appear to have a lot to offer to potential residents. That said, if northeast Texas isn’t exactly your speed, you could consider going closer to the gulf with Houston suburb Acres Home, which is one of real estate’s hottest neighborhoods in the country.

Utah: West Valley City

Livability Score: 65
Median Listing Price: $274,950
Median Home Value: $280,400
Home Value Forecast: 4.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.714

Utah could be a great place to call home whether you opt to go with West Valley City and its solid housing market or not given the long-term prospects for its economy.

Vermont: Bennington

Livability Score: 62
Median Listing Price: $169,700
Median Home Value: $253,000
Home Value Forecast: 2.5 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 5.529

Bennington is among the five highest scores for the Buyer-Seller Index in this study, and the median listing price of just under $170,000 would appear to hold that out. And if you have more room in your budget, you can definitely go larger: $300,000 will get you just under 2,000 square feet of home in Vermont.

Virginia: Franconia

Livability Score: 77
Median Listing Price: $477,900
Median Home Value: $483,600
Home Value Forecast: 3.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.149

Franconia’s high livability score reflects a town that’s got a lot going for it, but you are clearly paying a premium for the surroundings as the median listing price is approaching half a million. If you are set on Virginia but want something cheaper, opportunities could be opening up in Richmond, one of the cities where homes are getting cheaper.

Washington: Edmonds

Livability Score: 72
Median Listing Price: $599,500
Median Home Value: $645,600
Home Value Forecast: 8.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.222

Edmonds certainly isn’t cheap, with a median listing price a hair short of $600,000, but the projected 8 percent gain in home values over the next year could indicate it’s worth it for those who can afford it.

West Virginia: Parkersburg

Livability Score: 62
Median Listing Price: $114,900
Median Home Value: $85,200
Home Value Forecast: 3.2 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 4.513

Parkersburg is a great buyer’s market for its area, and the low listing price is a clear indication of why West Virginia is one of the states where millennials can actually afford to buy a home.

Wisconsin: Kenosha

Livability Score: 69
Median Listing Price: $159,900
Median Home Value: $152,900
Home Value Forecast: 13.3 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.056

If you’re looking for the housing market that’s projected to give you the most return on your investment in the first year, it’s not in California or New York like many might expect. Look no further than Kenosha, where home values are projected to show a double-digit pop over the next 12 months.

Wyoming: Sheridan

Livability Score: 78
Median Listing Price: $198,750
Median Home Value: $243,800
Home Value Forecast: -4.1 percent
Buyer-Seller Index: 0.028

Sheridan has a high livability score and a relatively low median list price, so this might be one way to experience the natural wonder of the Rocky Mountains without having to travel far from home, if at all. Just be sure that you’re buying because you want to live there and not because you’re expecting to get a big return on your money. Home prices in Sheridan are projected to decline a whopping 4-plus percent over the next year.

About the Best Places to Buy a Home in Every State

Although most of the decisions you have to make about where you live are out of your control, when you do have the flexibility to expand your search, it’s important to remember that finding the best market can often mean getting more house for your dollar. When you’re looking in markets where the sellers are fighting for you, it can mean getting a better deal on a place that will make you and your family happy for some time.

Click through to see how much you need to live comfortably across the U.S.

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Disclaimer: Some of the images are representational.

Methodology: GOBankingrates used Zillow’s Buyer-Seller Index to identify markets with the greatest “buyer’s market” in the state, aka the city with the lowest buyer-seller index number in the state. GOBankingRates then used home value forecast, home value of single-family home and livability score, which factors in crime and education metrics, sourced from Areavibes.com.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.comThe Best Place to Buy a Home in Every State