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Best cities for first-time home buyers

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K303 // Shutterstock

Best cities for first-time homebuyers

2018 saw 2.07 million first-time homebuyers, making it the best year for the first-time homebuyer market since 2006. The housing market took a big hit after the 2008 recession and continued to suffer as the primarily affected generation couldn’t afford to spend as much. Throughout recent years as the economy began to mend, more and more young people have made the important decision to move away from renting and toward buying a house of their very own. But with so much on the line financially, picking the right city for first-time homebuyers is essential.

Stacker has taken some of the guesswork out of choosing the best city for first-time home owners to consider. We sourced data from WalletHub that analyzed a sample of 300 cities across the United States, examining affordability, real estate market, and quality of life. These three dimensions were evaluated using 27 different metrics. 

To study affordability, everything from average cost of homeowners insurance to cost of living and price per square foot was measured for each city. Exploring the real estate meant considering the rent-to-price-ratio, housing-market health index, the share of homes sold in one year, median home-price appreciation, and foreclosure rate, as well as the share of mortgage holders with negative equity, the homeownership rate for millennials, and more.

For quality of life, researchers delved into the quality of the school system, weather, driver-friendliness, job market, and crime. Stacker investigated further reasons a city may be attractive for first-time homebuyers, such as additional perks for homebuyers, and other relevant facts and figures about each city from other sources.

Read on to find out which cities in America are the best choices for buying your very first home. 

You may also like: Worst cities for first-time home buyers

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Brent Eckley // Flickr

#50. Plano, TX

- Total score: 60.55
- Affordability rank: #165
- Real estate market rank: #31
- Quality of life rank: #67

Plano offers residents a higher median income and higher property value than the rest of Texas. The city does, however, have a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the state, which lowers the quality of life rank.

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FloridaStock // Shutterstock

#49. Boca Raton, FL

- Total score: 60.68
- Affordability rank: #175
- Real estate market rank: #40
- Quality of life rank: #22

One thing keeping Boca Raton, located in Palm Beach County, from a more favorable position is its high cost of living. In 2019, Kiplinger reported that Boca Raton was an "above-average tax burden" city; they estimated that a family with a $250,000 home would pay an annual property tax bill of $2,660. 

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Felix Mizioznikov // Shutterstock

#48. Denver, CO

- Total score: 60.69
- Affordability rank: #220
- Real estate market rank: #18
- Quality of life rank: #21

The proximity of Denver to nature-oriented places centered on rock climbing, camping, and snow activities makes Denver a solid choice for active young people. In 2019, Niche named it #11 on a list ranking the best cities for young professionals in America. 

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Serenethos // Shutterstock

#47. Sunrise, FL

- Total score: 60.83
- Affordability rank: #143
- Real estate market rank: #8
- Quality of life rank: #146

Located near Miami in Florida, Sunrise is a metropolitan area with a 3.3% unemployment rate, lower than the country's average of 3.9%, according to Sperling's Best Places. While the housing prices are low for the area, Sunrise is high risk for natural disasters such as hurricanes.

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Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#46. Las Vegas, NV

- Total score: 61.08
- Affordability rank: #61
- Real estate market rank: #45
- Quality of life rank: #154

Though Las Vegas has a reputation for gambling, clubbing, and late nights, beyond the strip you’ll find many residential communities, world-renowned restaurants, and preserved nature areas. WalletHub ranked North Las Vegas #43 and Las Vegas #9 on a list of the most pet-friendly cities in America

 

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terrie scherman // Shutterstock

#45. Hampton, VA

- Total score: 61.23
- Affordability rank: #12
- Real estate market rank: #229
- Quality of life rank: #74

Home to the Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton has a good school system that has produced a higher-than-state-average number of high school graduates and undergraduate enrollment. While the city itself is considered affordable, the median house value is significantly less than the state’s average.

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aceshot1 // Shutterstock

#44. Columbus, OH

- Total score: 61.24
- Affordability rank: #24
- Real estate market rank: #118
- Quality of life rank: #100

When ordering cities with the most green space per capita, Columbus comes in at #11; the Sustainable Columbus Advisory Committee aims to have a green space within a 10-minute walk of every resident. The city’s cost of living is lower than similar metro areas of the same size (Columbus has a population of just over 2 million people) and the average home price is less than the U.S. average.

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Rigucci // Shutterstock

#43. Vancouver, WA

- Total score: 61.33
- Affordability rank: #150
- Real estate market rank: #25
- Quality of life rank: #47

Vancouver has seen a significant population increase since the 1990s, leading to higher cost of living while the real estate market remains strong. Trulia reports an increase of 5% in median home sales in Vancouver over the last year. 

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MARELBU // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Oklahoma City, OK

- Total score: 61.37
- Affordability rank: #68
- Real estate market rank: #51
- Quality of life rank: #135

Oklahoma City's population has been rising since the 1970s; a renovation project in the 1990s boosted the the downtown area. With highly rated public schools and a suburban feel, Niche also ranks Oklahoma City the #17 best city to buy a house in the U.S.

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Chris Rand // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Green Bay, WI

- Total score: 61.42
- Affordability rank: #17
- Real estate market rank: #269
- Quality of life rank: #18

Home of the Green Bay Packers, this city is alluring for sports fans. Green Bay comes in at #28 on Stacker's list ranking U.S. cities where people work the least for the most money

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James Kirkikis // Shutterstock

#40. Lexington, KY

- Total score: 61.55
- Affordability rank: #26
- Real estate market rank: #102
- Quality of life rank: #101

Lexington holds a mid-list spot due to its growing population, which is a testament to its desirability, but also a possible precursor to overcrowding in the future. Lexington ranks at #28 for the most congested cities in America

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James R. Martin // Shutterstock

#39. Dearborn, MI

- Total score: 61.62
- Affordability rank: #47
- Real estate market rank: #148
- Quality of life rank: #132

Homebuyers looking for a smaller city with a younger demographic may want to consider choosing Dearborn for their first home. The median age for residents of this city is more than eight years younger than the state of Michigan’s average.

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Bill Wilson // Flickr

#38. Norman, OK

- Total score: 61.71
- Affordability rank: #90
- Real estate market rank: #91
- Quality of life rank: #33

Norman, Okla., is known for having a high quality of life compared to similar cities, thanks to having a small amount of crime and a higher estimated median house and condo value than the rest of the state. Additionally, the median income for Norman residents is slightly higher than the state average.

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Nadezda Murmakova // Shutterstock

#37. Cape Coral, FL

- Total score: 61.71
- Affordability rank: #133
- Real estate market rank: #4
- Quality of life rank: #128

Cape Coral’s biggest attractions include the Sun Splash Family Waterpark, the Cape Coral Historical Museum, and the Cape Coral Yacht Club. Compared to the Florida average, this city has a lower unemployment percentile and a higher median house value.

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Todd Van Hoosear // Flickr

#36. Livonia, MI

- Total score: 61.73
- Affordability rank: #15
- Real estate market rank: #113
- Quality of life rank: #119

The median household income in Livonia is more than the rest of the state by almost $20,000. Further, crime rates in the city are significantly lower than the United States average.

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Paul L Dineen // Flickr

#35. Fort Collins, CO

- Total score: 61.8
- Affordability rank: #197
- Real estate market rank: #71
- Quality of life rank: #1

This Northern Colorado city is famous for its Old Town historic district, nearby nature parks, and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Home to Colorado State University, younger generations looking to buy a first home may feel more comfortable here due to the young population. Niche ranked Fort Collins the #20 best city to raise a family in the country. 

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Sopotnicki // Shutterstock

#34. Pueblo, CO

- Total score: 61.81
- Affordability rank: #98
- Real estate market rank: #49
- Quality of life rank: #80

Although housing prices in Pueblo are cheaper than similar cities, the high crime rate (over twice the national average) lessens the quality of life ranking. On the brighter side of things, lovers of the outdoors will appreciate Pueblo’s nearby wilderness areas and nature centers.

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Travis Eckert // Shutterstock

#33. Fort Wayne, IN

- Total score: 62.02
- Affordability rank: #6
- Real estate market rank: #36
- Quality of life rank: #237

Fort Wayne’s affordable cost of living makes it one of the best options for buyers looking to stay under a certain budget while still being able to enjoy the perks that come with a metro. The Midwest city puts a great deal of emphasis on tradition while continuing to grow economically through business and manufacturing. Trulia reports the average listing price for homes in Fort Wayne is $175,728 an median price to buy a home is $146,200, though the annual average salary is $44,850.

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Kirk Fisher // Shutterstock

#32. Spokane Valley, WA

- Total score: 62.05
- Affordability rank: #77
- Real estate market rank: #70
- Quality of life rank: #82

The cost of living in Spokane is less than the U.S. average thanks to Washington state’s omission of personal income taxes and the city’s low utility prices and low housing prices. The unemployment rate, however, is higher than the national average at 5.6%.

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RodClementPhotography // Shutterstock

#31. Roswell, GA

- Total score: 62.28
- Affordability rank: #88
- Real estate market rank: #21
- Quality of life rank: #151

Housing values are around two times higher than the rest of the state in this city. Additionally, the median household income is higher and the unemployment rate is lower.

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Khairil Azhar Junos // Shutterstock

#30. Henderson, NV

- Total score: 62.33
- Affordability rank: #50
- Real estate market rank: #16
- Quality of life rank: #178

The Henderson real estate market is better than similar Nevada cities, having risen from $151,400 to $291,100 between 2000 and 2016. Crime rates are lower than the rest of the country and the amount of law enforcement officers is close to the state’s average.

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Tim Roberts Photography // Shutterstock

#29. Scottsdale, AZ

- Total score: 62.43
- Affordability rank: #42
- Real estate market rank: #100
- Quality of life rank: #54

Known for hot, dry weather, Scottsdale is a good choice for lovers of the desert who also want access to commercialized city amenities. Household income on average is higher than the rest of Arizona and the median house value is more than two times the state average.

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UncleVinny // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Roseville, CA

- Total score: 62.47
- Affordability rank: #141
- Real estate market rank: #13
- Quality of life rank: #52

The median income for Roseville residents is lower than the California average, with the median household value also being less than the state's average. Niche ranked Roseville as the #37 healthiest place to live in the U.S.

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LunaseeStudios // Shutterstock

#27. Surprise, AZ

- Total score: 62.47
- Affordability rank: #9
- Real estate market rank: #35
- Quality of life rank: #236

Surprise city in Arizona has seen a rapid population increase since the 1990s. It has a higher median income rate than the rest of the state and a lower rate of crime compared to the national average.

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mimher // Shutterstock

#26. Longmont, CO

- Total score: 62.51
- Affordability rank: #182
- Real estate market rank: #42
- Quality of life rank: #7

Longmont has a growing tech scene without the extremely high cost of living of areas like Silicon Valley. Longmont calls itself "Gig City," offering high-speed fiber internet to all; PC magazine rated the city's internet service provider NextLight the fastest in the country in 2017. In 2019 it came in at #3. 

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trekandshoot // Shuttestock

#25. Atlanta, GA

- Total score: 62.53
- Affordability rank: #103
- Real estate market rank: #10
- Quality of life rank: #118

The city of Atlanta has worked in recent years to revive and modernize local neighborhoods that had been previously declining, and the results have certainly been good for the economy. Despite the increased cost of living expenses that this revitalization has created, Atlanta’s average cost of living has remained below the national average.

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John Hoffman // Shutterstock

#24. Colorado Springs, CO

- Total score: 62.57
- Affordability rank: #113
- Real estate market rank: #75
- Quality of life rank: #26

Colorado Springs is a great place for young professionals to get their foot into the real world after graduating, since it is located near several quality universities. You will also find military families there due to the proximity of military bases. U.S. News also gives Colorado Springs a perfect score for desirability due to its lower cost of living, low unemployment, and the variety of recreation options.

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GoodFreePhotos

#23. Westminster, CO

- Total score: 62.64
- Affordability rank: #151
- Real estate market rank: #63
- Quality of life rank: #8

Median home value in Westminster almost doubled between 2000 and 2016, and the median income, slightly higher than the rest of Colorado, didn’t see a ton of change during that time. Unemployment peaked in 2010, but has seen a sharp decrease since then.

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Linda Harms // Shutterstock

#22. Chesapeake, VA

- Total score: 62.68
- Affordability rank: #22
- Real estate market rank: #94
- Quality of life rank: #96

Chesapeake is home to rugged, beautiful swamplands, which offer a unique natural experience for its residents while still maintaining a suburban feel in certain spots. Good public schooling has led to a high number of high school graduates, and the nearby Chesapeake Bay is known for its quality seafood.

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Kristin Nador // Flickr

#21. Broken Arrow, OK

- Total score: 62.69
- Affordability rank: #62
- Real estate market rank: #84
- Quality of life rank: #44

Located in Tulsa County, Broken Arrow has paid a great deal of focus to its downtown Rose District: a result of over $80 million in projects aiming to revitalize the area. Broken Arrow Mayor Craig Thurmond said: "The Rose District has seen such a transformation over the last six years and has helped attract people to Broken Arrow, and it continues to grow and be a focal point of our community and the surrounding communities."

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Payton Chung // Flickr

#20. Cary, NC

- Total score: 63
- Affordability rank: #34
- Real estate market rank: #68
- Quality of life rank: #91

There were 4.4% of city residents living in poverty in 2016, a notable number considering the Census Bureau reports the U.S. average is 12.3%. Niche ranked Cary the #2 best suburb to live in in North Carolina

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David Prahl // Shuttestock

#19. Kenosha, WI

- Total score: 63.02
- Affordability rank: #66
- Real estate market rank: #157
- Quality of life rank: #19

As a city right on Lake Michigan, Kenosha is full of water activities and museums that highlight the area. The most common professional industry for male residents is transportation services and for females is office and administrative support.

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Ingus Kruklitis // Shutterstock

#18. Orlando, FL

- Total score: 63.18
- Affordability rank: #180
- Real estate market rank: #9
- Quality of life rank: #25

Besides being close to Disney World, living in Orlando has plenty of perks. One of those being no state income tax thanks to the city’s lodging taxes being offset by the hundred million-or-so annual visitors. Though the cost to buy a house in Orlando is higher (just slightly) than the national average, the day-to-day cost of living such as groceries and health care are on the same level as similar cities.

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Pixabay

#17. Charleston, SC

- Total score: 63.5
- Affordability rank: #108
- Real estate market rank: #12
- Quality of life rank: #72

The city of Charleston, S.C., is steeped in important historic preservation and southern hospitality. While Charleston is a great place to live if you’re looking to spend a bit more money on a home, it can be difficult for those trying to stick to a budget. Not only does the average resident make a smaller salary than the rest of the country, the city’s cost of living is higher than the national average.

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Ben Freedman // Flickr

#16. Gilbert, AZ

- Total score: 63.64
- Affordability rank: #7
- Real estate market rank: #15
- Quality of life rank: #210

Previously a primarily agriculture-based town, Gilbert residents now enjoy a median household income almost $40,000 higher than the state average. Median house value nearly doubled from 2000 to 2016 (from $157,000 to $307,000). 

 

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Laura Glickstein // Shutterstock

#15. Roanoke, VA

- Total score: 63.74
- Affordability rank: #20
- Real estate market rank: #176
- Quality of life rank: #24

One of Roanoke’s touristic highlights is the Mill Mountain Star, the biggest free-standing star in the United States. While the city suffers a low median household income of $37,044 and the median house value is $125,000 (the Virginia state median is $264,000), Roanoke has become a center for health services and a hub for transportation manufacturing.

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James R. Martin // Shutterstock

#14. Murfreesboro, TN

- Total score: 63.79
- Affordability rank: #63
- Real estate market rank: #19
- Quality of life rank: #117

Murfreesboro is full of young residents: The median resident age is 30 years old compared to 38—the median age for the state of Tennessee. The school system is above average in Murfreesboro, with over 95% of the over-25 population holding a high school degree.

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Fred Mays // Shutterstock

#13. Frisco, TX

- Total score: 63.82
- Affordability rank: #142
- Real estate market rank: #3
- Quality of life rank: #48

Both household income and housing value in Frisco are above the state average, and the city is known for its National Videogame Museum and the Museum of American Railroad. Although the ratio of law enforcement officers to residents is lower than the rest of Texas, the crime index is less than half that of the national average.

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trolvag // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Chandler, AZ

- Total score: 63.91
- Affordability rank: #10
- Real estate market rank: #43
- Quality of life rank: #122

Just southeast of Phoenix, Chandler has an abundance of natural parks, with the overall health of residents being slightly higher than the rest of the state. Chandler boasts an unemployment rate 1% less than the state average and the median commute time is under 23 minutes.

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Christopher Boswell // Shutterstock

#11. Lincoln, NE

- Total score: 63.96
- Affordability rank: #94
- Real estate market rank: #89
- Quality of life rank: #14

The capital of Nebraska has a rich agricultural history, which has continued to support the economy through modern times. Redfin’s 2017 City & Neighborhood Ratings ranks Lincoln the #25 most bike-friendly city in the U.S.

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Faina Gurevich // Shutterstock

#10. Centennial, CO

- Total score: 64.21
- Affordability rank: #123
- Real estate market rank: #85
- Quality of life rank: #5

Niche reports that the median home value in Centennial is $367,000, considerably higher than the national average of $184,700. A notable 82% of residents own their home. 

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Geeklet42 // Wikimedia Commons

#9. McKinney, TX

- Total score: 64.27
- Affordability rank: #160
- Real estate market rank: #1
- Quality of life rank: #45

Mckinney has the best real estate market on this list. Further, the overall cost of living is lower than the national average. Additionally, nearby Cherry Creek and Chatfield State Parks provide various outdoor recreational activities, perfect for fitness and family activities.

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Mvanderkolk // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Arvada, CO

- Total score: 64.53
- Affordability rank: #170
- Real estate market rank: #29
- Quality of life rank: #6

Poverty in Arvada is some of the lowest in the state, at just over 5% of residents living below the poverty level. Crime has remained consistently low since the early 2000s.

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DCA88 // Shutterstock

#7. Peoria, AZ

- Total score: 64.57
- Affordability rank: #13
- Real estate market rank: #5
- Quality of life rank: #223

It is safe to say that most residents in Peoria choose to buy homes rather than rent. The median house value in the city is $248,700 and the median gross rent is over $1,000 per month. A majority of residents hold jobs in the management field, followed by customer service and computer science.

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Pixabay

#6. Greeley, CO

- Total score: 64.79
- Affordability rank: #126
- Real estate market rank: #73
- Quality of life rank: #3

Greeley is home to several colleges such as the University of Northern Colorado and the Monfort College of Business, so the number of students living in the city is above the state average. Younger home buyers may feel more comfortable planting roots in Greeley, as the median age for residents is more than five years younger than the rest of Colorado.

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Pixabay

#5. Boise, ID

- Total score: 65
- Affordability rank: #57
- Real estate market rank: #125
- Quality of life rank: #28

Lovers of outdoor recreation will enjoy spending their time in Boise, Idaho: The city is close to numerous rivers, mountains, deserts, and lakes to explore, along with a booming downtown area that combines nature with civilization in a unique way. Unemployment is on the low side as well, at only 2.6%

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Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#4. Grand Rapids, MI

- Total score: 65.21
- Affordability rank: #39
- Real estate market rank: #14
- Quality of life rank: #116

This Michigan city is known for its small-town vibe and overall friendliness. Residents will enjoy a vibrant art scene, good health care, and a strong LGBT community, just to name a few. Grand Rapids is the #31 best-run city in America, according to WalletHub. 

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Arina P Habich // Shutterstock

#3. Thornton, CO

- Total score: 66.3
- Affordability rank: #138
- Real estate market rank: #28
- Quality of life rank: #4

Thanks to the wide-open spaces and close proximity to Denver and the Rocky Mountains, Thornton residents enjoy a high quality of life. The cost of living, however, is higher than the national average.

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Wichakorn Kitrungrot // Shutterstock

#2. Overland Park, KS

- Total score: 67.04
- Affordability rank: #104
- Real estate market rank: #24
- Quality of life rank: #9

Residents of Overland Park have access to many parks, gardens, and trails, including the Overland Park Arboretum. Coming in at #2 on this list of best cities for first-time homebuyers, WalletHub also ranked this city one of the top in the U.S. for house flipping

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Pixabay

#1. Tampa, FL

- Total score: 67.14
- Affordability rank: #147
- Real estate market rank: #2
- Quality of life rank: #13

One of the best cities in the country for people who hate driving, Tampa is ideal for those looking for an active lifestyle. Near the beach, culturally diverse, and known for its warm weather year-round, Tampa was named the #1 best city for first-time homebuyers by WalletHub.

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