For young families, homeownership is more than choosing and maintaining a home. It means finding a community with good schools for their kids, a reasonable cost of living and a healthy economy. With that in mind, we asked the following questions as we analyzed cities and towns across the state:
- Does the town have good public schools? We measured schools’ academic performance with ratings from GreatSchools. This non-profit compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 to 10 scale (10 representing the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
- Can you afford to live there? We looked at both median home values in each town and ongoing monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
- Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at average household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.
What makes these towns great? Let us know in the comments below.
The Best Towns for Young Families
Jericho is in Chittenden County and a short drive from downtown Burlington. The community is home to excellent schools, including Mount Mansfield Union High School. 92.4 percent of their AP students score a 3 or higher on exams, and, in 2013, the school claimed six National Merit Finalists – the most in the last several years. Mount Mansfield itself is in the area, too – residents have a view of the mountain from the 216-acre Mills Riverside Park.
Montpelier is the seat of Washington County and capital of Vermont. Its students perform exceedingly well on standardized tests, having bested the state average in each section – math, reading and writing – on the SAT consistently for the last several years. The city offers opportunities for higher education, too, with the Community College of Vermont in town as well as the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Vergennes is located in Addison County, a 30-minute drive from Burlington. The community is the state’s smallest and oldest chartered city, and it maintains a historic downtown district. Meanwhile, the larger county is the state’s agricultural center, with the most farm acreage in the state and the highest value of agricultural products sold – a distinction earned by its dairy and apple-orchard operations.
Arlington is a census-designated place in the larger town of Arlington, in Bennington County. Earlier this year, the local high school was ranked fourth in the state by U.S. News. Meanwhile, Arlington Memorial Middle School gives students in the Accelerated Academy an opportunity to get ahead and earn high school credit.
5. South Burlington
South Burlington is in Chittenden County and sits on the border of Burlington proper. Top employers in the area include the University of Vermont and the headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s, where the ice cream shop was founded. The local high school supports a strong academic program, too, with students in 2012 outperforming the state and nation on the ACT – an average 24.3 compared the to the state’s 23.0 and the nation’s 21.1.
Waterbury is in central Vermont’s Washington County, 13 miles northwest of Montpelier. Since Tropical Storm Irene rocked the city’s economy and landscape in 2011, the community has been on the recovery, with the assistance of FEMA’s Long Term Community Recovery Team. The village’s largest employers are Ben & Jerry’s and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
7. Enosburg Falls
Enosburg Falls is a village in the larger town of Enosburgh, and it boasts one of the more accessible real estate markets in the state. The median home value here is $160,600, nearly $10,000 less than the state median of $170,250. Every June, the community hosts the Vermont Dairy Festival, which donates its proceeds to local concerns. Throughout 2009 and 2010, nearly $20,000 went to local schools and scholarships.
8. Essex Junction
Essex Junction is a 9,498-person village in Essex proper. Major employers in the community include IBM and the Department of Homeland Security, which employs 400 people. The local school district is excellent, too. The Center for Technology, Essex, for example, gives students a chance to experience apprenticeships with local businesses.
Middlebury is the seat of Addison County and home to one of the most respected liberal arts colleges in the nation. In addition to offering 850 courses in 44 different majors, Middlebury College is one of the region’s largest employers, with 922 full-time employees. Education for younger residents is great, too, with Middlebury Union High School. Students there regularly excel on the SAT; in 2013, in writing, they outperformed the national average by 52 points.
Castleton is approximately 15 miles from Rutland and seven miles east of the Vermont-New York state border. A local school, Castleton State College, is a major employer in the greater Rutland area, as is Hubbardton Forge Corporation, a manufacturer of hand-forged iron-lighting fixtures. Also in town is Lake Bomoseeen, the largest lake entirely within Vermont borders: 2,400 acres where residents can swim and boat.
|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,’99-’11||Overall score for young families|
|7||Enosburg Falls||St. Albans||5||$160,600||$1,346||$47,500||57.2%||59.9|
The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:
- GreatSchools city rating. GreatSchools city ratings are calculated by averaging the weighted overall rating for each school in the city (weighted by the number of students enrolled at the school)
- Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
- Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)
46 Vermont cities and areas designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 1,000 were considered.