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Top Ten Big Cities for Homeownership

Feb. 7, 2013
Personal Finance
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The nation’s home ownership rate is currently 65.4%, the lowest it has been in 16 years; however, home ownership is important to 96% of Americans, according to a poll from Prudential Real Estate.  It’s a buyer’s market right now, meaning that prices and mortgage rates are low, favoring homebuyers rather than sellers.  If you’re looking to buy a home, now might be the time to start looking!

For city-lovers who also aspire to own their own home, NerdWallet looked through the twenty-five most populous cities to find the big cities that are most friendly to homeowners.

Our analysis addresses three main questions:

  1. Are homes available?   We assessed availability by the percentage of residents who own their own home. For example, New York’s home ownership rate is only 32.6%, likely a signal of competitive inventory, more housing options for renters rather than buyers, and expensive housing.
  2. Are homes affordable?  We measured this by dividing the median 3-bedroom house price by the median income of residents, showing what homes costs as a multiple of income.
  3. Is the city likely to grow in upcoming years? We assessed growth by the percent population growth and the unemployment rate. High-growth cities have a low unemployment rate and a high population growth rate.

For more information, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool.

Top Ten Big Cities for Home Ownership

1.     Fort Worth, TX

Fort Worth has the lowest median home cost on our list, a low unemployment rate and a relatively high population growth rate, making this popular Lone Star State city an ideal place for homebuyers to settle down.  The “City of Cowboys and Culture” has a thriving social scene as well, with its own indoor rodeo at The Stockyards, a district containing classic Texas barbecue restaurants and historical landmarks.

2.     Charlotte, NC

Charlotte’s low cost of living and high home ownership rate make it a much easier city than most in which to purchase a home.  This financial center is family-friendly, with excellent schools and large public parks.  Charlotteans can benefit from the city’s great real estate offerings for those looking to purchase homes.

3.     San Antonio, TX

San Antonio’s real estate market is great for homebuyers—the majority of residents are homeowners, and homes are fairly low-cost in the Alamo City.  The city is an excellent location for families as well, with plenty of historical sites and family-friendly such as the Alamo and the River Walk, and a Six Flags and Sea World to boot.

4.     El Paso, TX

El Paso’s high homeownership rate and low cost of living make it a great city for those who plan on buying their own home.  Aspiring homebuyers would do well to check out The Sun City’s real estate market.  With great food, a great climate and many emerging technology and health care research companies, the city’s is a great place to settle down.  Other attractions include the Franklin Mountains and the historic missions.

5.     Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville has the highest home ownership rate on our list, making it very likely that aspiring homeowners will be able to save up for the home of their dreams in the Sunshine State.  Plus, with 20 miles of beaches, the popular Riverside district and plenty of museums, the city is full of things to do.

6.     Austin, TX

Austin, the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” is known for its music festivals such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, but the city is great for homebuyers as well as music-lovers.  A home is only 7.5 times the median income, and the city’s home values are very likely to appreciate in time, given the city’s low unemployment rate and high growth rate.

7.     Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix has a below average cost of living and a moderate median income.  The city’s real estate market is very friendly to house-hunting Phoenicians.  With plenty of natural beauty at the Grand Canyon and historic trading posts as well as tons of culture at the art museums and theaters, Phoenix provides something for everyone.

8.     Indianapolis, IN

More than half of those living in Indianapolis own a home, and the homes themselves are very affordable, particularly when combined with the low cost of living in the city.  Indianapolis provides plenty of affordable homes for homebuyers.

9.     Denver, CO

Although Denver homes are somewhat costly compared to the other cities on this list, the median income is high enough in this nature-loving city to compensate for the higher cost.  Denver, known for its cleanliness, has something for every resident, including great sports teams, food, nearby mountains for hiking and skiing and a great music scene.

10.  Columbus, OH

Columbus is a great place to settle down and buy a home, with its low unemployment rate and low cost of living.  This college town (it’s home to the Ohio State University) has a laid-back Midwestern vibe, and the city has world-renowned hospitals (including The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center) and research centers as well as an up-and-coming dining scene.

Rank City Home ownership rate Median 3BR home cost Median individual income Home price divided by income Cost of living index Change in population Unemployment rate Overall score for homebuyers
1 Fort Worth, TX 59.8% $200,396 $24,270 8.3 89.3 2.3% 8.0% 89.9
2 Charlotte, NC 58.7% $231,090 $31,667 7.3 93.7 2.7% 9.2% 88.9
3 San Antonio, TX 57.5% $224,190 $22,333 10.0 87.7 2.4% 7.4% 87.8
4 El Paso, TX 61.0% $231,054 $18,781 12.3 94.6 2.5% 9.5% 86.2
5 Jacksonville, FL 63.3% $217,710 $25,716 8.5 95.7 0.7% 10.4% 85.2
6 Austin, TX 45.5% $234,193 $31,170 7.5 94.4 3.8% 6.2% 83.4
7 Phoenix, AZ 58.5% $274,800 $24,365 11.3 96 1.6% 8.9% 82.9
8 Indianapolis, IN 57.2% $227,102 $24,430 9.3 93.9 0.9% 9.4% 81.3
9 Denver, CO 51.7% $340,529 $32,051 10.6 105.1 3.3% 9.1% 80.5
10 Columbus, OH 48.6% $216,923 $23,618 9.2 89.2 1.3% 7.6% 77.9


The overall score for homebuyers was calculated from the following measures:

  1. Home ownership rate within the city from the US Census, 2007-2011
  2. Median 3-bedroom home cost from the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, divided by the median per capita income for an individual, obtained from the US Census
  3. Cost of living index from the ACCRA cost of living index.  A score of 100 represents the national average.
  4. Growth rate, measured by the percent change in population between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011 from the U.S. Census and the unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011 ranking

The 25 biggest cities were included in this analysis.

Close up of paper houses image from Shutterstock