Best Cities to Buy Real Estate in 2024

Looking for the right cities to buy real estate in 2024?

You’ve probably got your favorites in mind, but why not start again from scratch and find cities and towns that you might not have known are real gems? In this phase of your research why not open your imagination wide, so you actually find cities that are investible, that other investors may have missed?

You’re competing with millions of homebuyers and investors in 2024. With more properties expected to be put up for sale all across the country next year, you might need to be extra curious and thorough in your research.  In this post we create a collection of cities where the odds are best for affordable prices, best price appreciation prospects and rental income if you’re buying as a rental property wealth generator.

Given mortgage rates are headed back to 6% and real estate is in severely short supply, your next property is as good as any investment you could make.  Let’s get right to the task of finding the right cities, perhaps with the lowest prices and those with fixer-upper potential too in this new post-inflation era economy.

Major Cities with Excellent Potential

These major cities are looking strong for the years ahead, especially those with low tax burdens which are pro-business.

Businesses are willing to relocate to these cities and states and with growing workforces, profitable business, and commitments to infrastructure, they might be your best bets as an investment. Currently, some of these cities have seen an exodus and dropping sales prices, as the econony cools and corporations are forcing employees back to the major cities.

And as the economy picks up, home prices in the major metros will soar higher than ever, leading to another exodus to remote work from home cities. Employers will be stressed by rising wages driven by high real estate and rent prices.

  • Austin, Texas: Known for its tech industry growth, vibrant culture, and increasing population.
  • Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina: Boasts a strong job market, especially in the technology and research sectors, coupled with a high quality of life.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: Offers a combination of a growing job market, cultural appeal, and relatively affordable housing.
  • Boise, Idaho: Has seen significant population growth and offers a good balance of affordability and quality of life.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: Attracts a steady influx of residents due to its climate, job opportunities, and relatively lower cost of living.
  • Tampa, Florida: Known for its favorable tax laws, growing job market, and appeal to retirees and job seekers alike.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: A hub for business and culture with a diverse and growing population.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah: Offers a strong job market, especially in tech, and is surrounded by natural beauty.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina: Has a robust financial sector and is experiencing rapid growth and urban development.
  • Denver, Colorado: Known for its lifestyle appeal, strong economy, and population growth.

Hard to beat some of the best large cities for buying real estate, but smaller markets offer lifestyle advantages, safety, children children-friendly environments where the whole family is safer from big city violence, crime and strife. It’s not always about jobs and income.

Real Estate Markets under 100,000 Population

Smaller have a unique capacity for good living, while still offering most of the amenities of large cities (Population Under 100,000)

  • Bend, Oregon: Known for its outdoor recreation opportunities and a growing tech sector. It’s a popular spot for both retirees and young professionals.
  • Carmel, Indiana: Offers a high quality of life with excellent schools and a strong local economy. It’s close to Indianapolis, providing access to larger city amenities.
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan: Home to the University of Michigan, which drives the local economy and creates a steady rental market.
  • Asheville, North Carolina: Attracts tourists and new residents alike with its vibrant arts scene and beautiful mountain setting.
  • Sarasota, Florida: Known for its cultural amenities, beaches, and appeal to retirees, it has a strong real estate market.
    Santa Fe, New Mexico: Offers a unique cultural experience with a thriving arts scene, appealing to a diverse group of buyers.
  • Rochester, Minnesota: Home to the Mayo Clinic, which provides a stable job market and attracts residents from all over the world.
  • Charlottesville, Virginia: A historic city with a strong educational foundation due to the University of Virginia and a growing tech sector.
  • Boulder, Colorado: Known for its outdoor lifestyle, tech industry, and educational institutions, it’s a sought-after location for various demographics.
  • Fargo, North Dakota: Has a growing economy, especially in the healthcare and tech sectors, and offers a high quality of life with a small-town feel.
  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina: Popular for its beaches and golf courses, it’s a prime location for vacation homes and retirement living.
  • College Station, Texas: Driven by Texas A&M University, it has a strong rental market and is seeing steady growth.
    Ithaca, New York: Home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, creating a strong rental market and a vibrant community.
  • Plymouth, Minnesota: Offers a high quality of life with good schools and a strong job market, being close to Minneapolis.
  • Prescott, Arizona: Known for its historic charm and appeal to retirees, offering a mild climate and a variety of outdoor activities.

Buying Property in Small Towns of Less Than 30,000 Population

Small towns and villages are very popular but with limited housing available. Today, small towns sitll offer shopping, amenities, schools and social opportunities that give them an edge in the real estate market. Homes in these communities are highly cherished by young families looking for a great environment to raise their kids and for more rewarding social connections for healthy, happy living.

Try this array of charming towns with a history for compelling living and more affordability.

  • Leavenworth, Washington: Known for its Bavarian-style architecture and vibrant festivals. It’s a great place for those who love outdoor activities and a strong sense of community.
  • Taos, New Mexico: Famous for its artistic community, Pueblo architecture, and beautiful desert landscape. Ideal for those seeking cultural richness and inspiration.
  • Stowe, Vermont: A picturesque ski town offering year-round outdoor activities and a quaint, New England charm.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea, California: Known for its stunning coastline, artistic community, and fairy-tale cottages. It’s a peaceful retreat for those looking for a blend of art and nature.
  • Beaufort, South Carolina: Offers a historic downtown, beautiful antebellum architecture, and a coastal lifestyle.
  • Eureka Springs, Arkansas: A Victorian town in the Ozark Mountains, known for its arts, culture, and natural springs.
  • Lititz, Pennsylvania: Has a rich history, unique shops, and a small-town feel, making it ideal for families and history enthusiasts.
  • Hood River, Oregon: A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with strong windsurfing and kiteboarding scenes, set amidst beautiful scenery.
  • Telluride, Colorado: Renowned for its ski slopes and film festivals, it’s perfect for those seeking an active lifestyle and mountain beauty.
  • Franklin, Tennessee: Offers a blend of Southern charm and history, with a vibrant music scene and a strong sense of community.
  • Mackinac Island, Michigan: Known for its car-free streets and historic charm, it’s like stepping back in time.
  • Breckenridge, Colorado: A historic mining town with world-class skiing and a lively downtown area.
  • Decorah, Iowa: Offers a strong Norwegian heritage, beautiful parks, and a famous Nordic Fest.
  • Port Townsend, Washington: A maritime town with Victorian architecture and a vibrant arts scene.
  • Bisbee, Arizona: A former mining town turned artist haven, known for its colorful houses and unique history.
  • Woodstock, Vermont: Epitomizes New England charm with its historic homes and covered bridges.
  • Dahlonega, Georgia: Rich in gold mining history and nestled in the North Georgia mountains, offering a quaint downtown and scenic beauty.
  • Galena, Illinois: Known for its well-preserved 19th-century buildings and main street, ideal for history buffs.
  • Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania: Often called the “Switzerland of America” for its picturesque setting and rich history.
  • Crested Butte, Colorado: A mountain town with stunning landscapes, known for wildflower displays, skiing, and mountain biking.
Cities with the Fastest growing home prices in the US.
Fastest growing prices in the US. Screenshot courtesy of Redfin.

And if the economy does recover in 2024, Texas and Florida will likely see return of brisk buying and inmigration.

American Migration Trends: Top Cities

Redfin’s latest migration report shows that nationwide, 25% of homebuyers searched to move to a different metro area between Aug ’23 – Oct ’23. The most searched states to move to were Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Maine.
High tax blue states including California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and District Of Columbia were the top 5 states homebuyers searched to move from. They’re looking for the best cities elsewhere.
Sacramento was the most searched major metro destination for those looking to buy residential real estate in the third quarter 2023. Las Vegas, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, and Portland were most popular cities too. San Francisco was the most searched for destination among homebuyers looking to leave, followed by New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Seattle.
Top cities where they’re moving away or moving to.
Top real estate markets: top cities with inflows and outflows.
Top ten cities moving from and moving to. Screenshot courtesy of Redfin Real Estate.

Which Cities/Towns Have the Qualities You Seek?

The matter of price vs rental yields, employment growth, taxes, vacancy rates are key signals that will color estimates of value in cities and states both.  For homebuyers who want to reside in a particular city, of course prices, taxes, crime rates, school quality, good neighborhoods, and strong employment levels as most important.

17 Things Features To Evaluate in the Best City to Buy Income Real Estate:

  1. lowest vacancy rate
  2. rising working-age population
  3. rising developments
  4. lowest price-to-rent ratios
  5. rising number of millennials or baby boomer retirees
  6. growing economy
  7. good metro GDP
  8. lots of US-based companies
  9. local restrictions on new construction
  10. located in the heartland or south region
  11. lower purchase prices
  12. lower property taxes
  13. lowest state income taxes
  14. better ratings for schools
  15. lifestyle rating
  16. lower crime rating
  17. lower pollution and quick commutes

Which cities and states offer the best employment outlook, lowest taxes, fewest regulations, large millennial population, and a pro-business climate?  Texas might be first in line, especially as the price of oil has climbed back up to $35 a barrel.

Which State is Most Attractive?

The climate, cost of doing business, state business incentives, presence of labor, and tax costs in each state comes into the calculation.  Georgia, Texas, and Michigan would definitely rise to the front of the line. However, cities in North Carolina, Idaho, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Miami FloridaBoston, Massachusetts, and Ohio also offer potential savings for New York and California companies who are looking to relocate.

Milken Institute’s look at the Best Cities

Milken Institute conducts an investigation of the best big and small towns to consider. This year’s ranking takes these factors into consideration:

  • Job growth
  • Wage growth
  • Short-term job growth
  • High-tech GDP growth
  • High-tech GDP concentration
  • Number of high-tech industries

Yet Milken didn’t appear to take into account the non-employment factors in relocation — namely remote work. Even as subways, airlines, trains, buses gear up for the long daily commutes, we may turning more to a more commute free trend where pollution and time waste must be reduced.

At the same time, many corporations are pushing employees hard to return to headquarters to work in person. This has affected migration in the country. The best cities are situated in states with lower population density offering lower taxes and either lifestyle or employment/career advantages.

Here’s Milken Institute’s 2023 selection of best cities:

  1. Provo-Orem, Utah
  2. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  3. Raleigh, NC
  4. Nashville-Davidson-Murphreesburg-Franklin, TN
  5. Boise City, ID
  6. Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX
  7. Wilmington, NC
  8. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
  9. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR
  10. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida

And Milken chooses their top 10 Small Cities:

  1. Idaho Falls, Idaho
  2. Logan, Utah-Idaho
  3. St. George, Utah
  4. The Villages, Florida
  5. Bend-Redmond, Washington
  6. Punta Gorda, Florida
  7. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
  8. Missoula, Montana
  9. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  10. Gainesville, Georgia
  11. Prescott, AZ
  12. Bloomington, Indiana
  13. Wenatchee, Washington
  14. Burlington, North Carolina
  15. Twin Falls, Idaho

Cities that Are Rated as Declining:

Source: Milken Institute (2023 report)

Wallethub: Best Places to Buy a House

Wallethub the mortgage rate website offers an extensive look at America’s best cities in 2023 from many perspectives.  Their calculations focus mainly on quality of life which is after, very important.

However, there is little pertaining to buying homes and rental property nor which will be the best cities in 2024.  A few more columns for taxes, income, economic growth, and price-to-rent ratios would be nice.

Best Small Cities to Live in America

City Total Score Affordability Economic Health Education & Health Quality of Life Safety
Lancaster, PA 71.04 800 215 659 10 59
Carmel, IN 70.91 30 36 197 273 27
Fair Lawn, NJ 70.59 136 130 29 888 29
Lexington, MA 70.58 405 68 4 208 7
Brentwood, TN 70.57 34 74 169 340 97
Melrose, MA 70.42 413 78 10 715 22
Zionsville, IN 69.9 3 145 177 836 103
Needham, MA 69.88 161 165 20 537 26
Portland, ME 69.82 1056 454 58 13 380
Westfield, IN 69.8 41 128 236 822 37
Milton, MA 69.72 140 427 27 674 12
Sammamish, WA 69.7 183 89 75 1164 30
Dublin, OH 69.31 10 92 719 189 131
Brookfield, WI 69.23 91 224 70 294 270
Leawood, KS 69.06 6 81 105 851 194
Apex, NC 68.93 38 20 206 586 164
Arlington, MA 68.92 750 352 8 222 8
Burlington, MA 68.85 367 27 11 488 85
Newton, MA 68.83 680 150 7 338 14
Princeton, NJ 68.71 596 114 255 84 60
Redmond, WA 68.71 604 9 81 113 374
Randolph, MA 68.58 696 456 53 1156 275
Ridgewood, NJ 68.56 262 66 24 947 15
Leesburg, VA 68.53 211 334 39 185 181
Saratoga Springs, NY 68.46 751 119 101 51 376
Fishers, IN 68.42 25 305 198 618 35
Castle Rock, CO 68.38 103 167 48 451 185
Wake Forest, NC 68.36 68 13 260 501 286
Medford, MA 68.35 888 23 16 437 80
Reading, MA 68.33 171 654 6 1088 9

Best Cities for Rental Income Property

For rental property investment buyers, the rules that govern the best places to buy are similar as with young home buyers — employment stability, jobs outlook, migration trends, state GDP, city economic outlook, and house prices. For landlords, cap rates, price-to-rent ratios, rent price trends, and projected maintenance costs come into the picture.

Screen capture Courtesy of Realty Trac

Cities where it’s Better to Buy than Rent

This buy/rent difference stat is important for those want to wait to rent, and for investors who might want to avoid cities where it’s cheaper to buy.

Cities where it's cheaper to buy than rent.
Cities where it’s cheaper to buy than rent. Screenshot courtesy of SmartAsset.

Top 80 Cities and their Potential for Passive Rental Income ROI

These converted stats in this chart from Smart Assets are very insightful. They used U.S. Census data, to calculate the price-to-rent ratio in every U.S. city with a population over 250,000.

This is their list of 80 US cities below with the worst potential for rental property income investment appearing at the top (The ones at bottom such as Detroit have better potential, unless employment fails to recover in Michigan).

US Cities with Population above 250k Price-to-Rent Ratio

Home Price

(for a $1,000 Rental)

1 San Francisco, California 45.9 551000
2 Honolulu, Hawaii 40.1 481000
3 Oakland, California 38.5 462000
4 Los Angeles, California 38.0 456000
5 New York, New York 35.7 428000
6 Seattle, Washington 35.1 421000
7 San Jose, California 34.7 417000
8 Long Beach, California 34.6 415000
9 Washington, District of Columbia 32.0 384000
10 Anaheim, California 31.3 375000
11 San Diego, California 30.3 363000
12 Portland, Oregon 29.3 351000
13 Boston, Massachusetts 28.7 344000
14 Jersey City, New Jersey 26.3 316000
15 Denver, Colorado 26.0 312000
16 Chula Vista, California 25.8 310000
17 Santa Ana, California 25.3 303000
18 Sacramento, California 24.3 291000
19 Miami, Florida 23.4 280000
20 Austin, Texas 23.4 280000
21 Atlanta, Georgia 23.0 276000
22 Colorado Springs, Colorado 22.8 274000
23 Bakersfield, California 22.5 270000
24 Raleigh, North Carolina 22.4 269000
25 Riverside, California 22.4 268000
26 Lexington, Kentucky 22.0 264000
27 Albuquerque, New Mexico 21.9 263000
28 Chicago, Illinois 21.6 259000
29 Henderson, Nevada 21.6 259000
30 Chandler, Arizona 21.5 257000
31 New Orleans, Louisiana 21.4 256000
32 Virginia Beach, Virginia 21.1 253000
33 Fresno, California 21.0 252000
34 Newark, New Jersey 21.0 251000
35 Minneapolis, Minnesota 21.0 252000
36 Anchorage, Alaska 20.9 251000
37 Phoenix, Arizona 20.3 244000
38 Louisville, Kentucky 20.1 241000
39 St. Paul, Minnesota 20.0 239000
40 Plano, Texas 19.9 239000
41 Stockton, California 19.5 234000
42 Durham, North Carolina 19.5 233000
43 Las Vegas, Nevada 19.3 232000
44 Nashville, Tennessee 19.1 230000
45 Greensboro, North Carolina 19.1 229000
46 Mesa, Arizona 19.1 229000
47 Lincoln, Nebraska 19.1 229000
48 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 19.1 229000
49 Wichita, Kansas 18.4 221000
50 Charlotte, North Carolina 18.1 217000
51 Cincinnati, Ohio 18.0 216000
52 Aurora, Colorado 18.0 216000
53 Kansas City, Missouri 17.4 209000
54 Tulsa, Oklahoma 17.2 206000
55 Omaha, Nebraska 16.7 200000
56 St. Louis, Missouri 16.7 200000
57 Orlando, Florida 16.6 199000
58 Tampa, Florida 16.6 199000
59 Tucson, Arizona 16.3 196000
60 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 16.3 196000
61 Dallas, Texas 16.2 194000
62 Laredo, Texas 15.9 191000
63 Columbus, Ohio 15.9 190000
64 St. Petersburg, Florida 15.8 189000
65 Fort Wayne, Indiana 15.5 186000
66 Baltimore, Maryland 15.5 186000
67 Arlington, Texas 15.5 186000
68 El Paso, Texas 15.4 185000
69 Indianapolis, Indiana 15.4 184000
70 Houston, Texas 15.3 183000
71 Fort Worth, Texas 14.8 177000
72 Jacksonville, Florida 14.3 172000
73 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 14.2 170000
74 San Antonio, Texas 13.7 164000
75 Toledo, Ohio 13.3 159000
76 Corpus Christi, Texas 13.1 158000
77 Memphis, Tennessee 12.3 147000
78 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 12.0 144000
79 Buffalo, New York 10.7 128000
80 Cleveland, Ohio 10.5 126000
81 Detroit, Michigan 6.3 75000


There are so many real estate investment opportunities in the US and in Canada too. Hopefully, my amateur US housing forecasts, predictions and unguaranteed advice will help you find those opportunities for the best upside in cash flow, safety and equity appreciation. Be careful with any investment. Do your due diligence.

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