The 7 Best Cities and Towns for First-Time Homebuyers

published Jun 5, 2021
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Credit: Sean Pavone/
Savannah, Georgia

Let’s face it: first times can be scary. Whether taking that first ever plunge off the high dive, gearing up for your first school dance, or taking a car for your first-ever spin, there are ways to ease into that milestone. You certainly wouldn’t select the world’s tallest roller coaster for your first amusement park experience. (My first roller coaster was The Scorpion, with a single loop that was the perfect way to ease into thrill rides!) 

Just like these milestones, buying a home for the first time can be more than a little nerve-wracking. But under certain conditions, first-time buyers can set themselves up for serious success — and location is a key factor. I’ve done a little research on the best cities and towns for first-time buyers, so folks can instead focus on demystifying the ins and outs of buying a home. Here are seven locations for first-time buyers based on median home values in the $300,000 range, proximity to a major city, and a growing population.

Savannah, Georgia

Median Home Value: $221,730
Population Increase Since 2010: 5.5 percent
Nearest Major City: Jacksonville, Florida

If you’re looking for some serious Southern hospitality, stunning views, and plenty of entertainment, Savannah may be just the spot for a first purchase. Nestled on the southeast coast of Georgia and teeming with exquisite cuisine, architecture, history, and celebrations, this city, with its year-round moderate climate, is a fine place to call home. Proximity to South Carolina and Florida makes it perfect for weekend escapes, too. But who’d want to leave the house, when your Spanish Moss-covered yard offers plenty of shade and shelter?

Little Elm, Texas

Median Home Value: $326,335
Population Increase Since 2010: 105.2 percent
Nearest Major City: Dallas, Texas

Little Elm, Texas ain’t so little anymore. Located just a 45-minute drive from Dallas, this town has undergone some serious expansion over the past ten years. Settled along the shores of Lake Lewisville, Little Elm boasts all of the charm you’d expect from a small town in Texas, but is a simple hop, skip, and jump to larger metropolitan areas. For those who will be returning to the office post-pandemic, the commute to Dallas is manageable

Yorkville, Illinois

Median Home Value: $268,229
Population Increase Since 2010: 21.6 percent
Nearest Major City: Chicago, Illinois

With the Fox River running through it, Yorkville is a small Midwestern town with big opportunities for adventure. Just an hour southwest of Chicago and its bustling suburbs, Yorkville is home to Illinois’ only whitewater course. Folks can spend the day kayaking along the Fox River Water Trail, then head into the city for a show. Not a bad way to spend a day!

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Median Home Value: $217,729
Population Increase Since 2010: 3.9 percent
Nearest Major City: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Another Midwestern gem, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is honestly rad. Home to the University of Wisconsin, this university town is so much more. With breweries, music festivals, coffee shops, wineries, distilleries, and a lively downtown, there’s plenty to do, and a great deal of younger inhabitants. For a super social experience in the Midwest that has some ultra-hip vibes of Austin or Portland, settle down in Eau Claire.

Credit: GagliardiPhotography/
Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota

Median Home Value: $249,668
Population Increase Since 2010: 12.3 percent
Nearest Major Cities: Denver, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota

For those major National Parks fans out there, Rapid City, South Dakota, is the perfect place for a first home. Now, I realize that the nearest major cities, Denver and Sioux Falls, aren’t exactly right next door. But as my cattle-ranching, truck-driving, hog-roping friend Costa (who’s also a native Nebraskan) would attest, that’s not considered too far away by the standards of the upper Midwest. Outdoor recreation abounds, but Rapid City also hosts plenty of cultural activities and artistic attractions for indoor-loving folks as well.

Westfield, Indiana

Median Home Value: $332,570
Population Increase Since 2010: 44.9 percent
Nearest Major City: Indianapolis, Indiana

If you’re a first-time homebuyer looking for a small foodie’s paradise, Westfield, Indiana, is calling your name. Located just a 40-minute drive from Indianapolis, Westfield has its own “Restaurant Row,” with a variety of delicious cuisines. Walk off the sushi and pasta at one of Westfield’s many trails. And for those eager to make this place their new haunt, enjoy the town’s Historic Ghost Walking tour.

Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina

Median Home Value: $317,194
Population Increase Since 2010: 68.3 percent
Nearest Major City: Raleigh, North Carolina

Just a half-hour’s drive from Raleigh, Fuquay-Varina has a charming downtown area with dining, shopping, and drinking. Its proximity to North Carolina’s Research Triangle (aka “The Triangle”), which encompasses research universities North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, makes this an affordable and accessible home for those in the medical, research, or academic fields. Plus, there are plenty of breweries to visit, natural wonders to soak up, and Southern foods to indulge in.