The Best Cities to Buy a Home Big Enough to Raise a Family

Finding the right place to buy a family home can be difficult. Families with more than one child need enough space to live comfortably. But larger homes can be hard to find, especially large affordable homes. Below SmartAsset looks at these and other factors to find the best cities to buy a home big enough to feed a family.

Are you looking to buy a house? Check current mortgage rates.

To rank the best cities to buy a home big enough to feed a family, SmartAsset looked at data on six metrics. We looked at the 5-year change in median home value, the 5-year change in the average cost of rent, the average effective property tax rate, the percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms, the median home price as a percentage of income, and the percentage of homeowners who bear the burden of housing costs.

Main findings

  • Hot houses in Arizona – Arizona homes have grown in value faster than homes almost anywhere else. In particular, homeowners around the Phoenix metro area – in cities like Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale – have seen their home values ​​increase by more than 40%. This makes it a great place to be a host. Combine that with the large number of multi-bedroom homes and you have a great market to find a family home.
  • Bigger cities tend to be worse – Los Angeles, Chicago and New York all ranked 20. Overall, these places tend to be packed with smaller apartments and lack the space a family might want for a family nest.
  • Buying is not always better – While raising a family, you may want to own your home so that you have complete control over your living circumstances. Financially, however, owning may not always be the best idea in every city. In several Midwestern cities, namely Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cincinnati, home values ​​fell between 2011 and 2015.

1. Chandler, Arizona

According to our data, Chandler – a large city in the Phoenix metro area – is the best city to buy a family home. Our data shows that between 2011 and 2015, the median home value increased by 45%. While that trend probably won’t continue at such a rapid rate in the future, it’s still a good sign for potential homeowners.

In addition to appreciating home values, the housing supply here is also favorable for home hunters to live in. Our data shows that more than 91% of homes in Chandler have at least two bedrooms. For both indices, home appreciation and percentage of home supply with at least two bedrooms, Chandler ranks in the top 10.

2. Boise, Idaho

For families who prioritize affordability when deciding where to base their roots, Boise is a great choice. Our data shows the median house price is just 20% of the median household income, the fifth lowest in our study. Additionally, only 19% of residential mortgage owners are burdened with housing costs (i.e. they spend more than 30% of their income on their mortgages).

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3. Gilbert, Arizona

Gilbert is the second of three Arizona cities to make our top 10, Gilbert scoring highly on many of the same metrics that Chandler did. Gilbert’s home values ​​are skyrocketing. The median home value increased by just under 47% between 2011 and 2015.

Gilbert also has the largest share of housing stock built with the families in the study. More than 96% of homes here have at least two bedrooms.

4. Fremont, California

Fremont tenants get short ends compared to landlords. Our data shows that average rents increased by about 25% between 2011 and 2015, one of the highest. At the same time, home values ​​increased by 34%. Hopefully Fremont families who decide to rent instead of buy will put more money into their 401(k) because they missed out on appreciating the home’s value.

Fremont also has a low property tax, like most of California, which lowers the cost of ownership compared to other cities. One concern that may linger in the minds of Fremont families is affordability. Just under 30% of homeowners here are burdened with housing costs.

5. Aurora, Colorado

Aurora is the first of two Colorado cities to make the top 10. Like most of Colorado, home prices here are soaring. Between 2011 and 2015, the value of the average home increased by more than 32%. At the same time, rents have also increased by 22%, meaning that households here are better off buying and renting, especially if they plan to stay longer.

Colorado property taxes are also low. According to our data, the average effective property tax rate in Aurora is just 0.56%, the seventh lowest in our study.

6. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs benefits from the same low property tax rates as Aurora. According to our data, the average effective property tax rate in Colorado Springs is 0.48%. That’s the second lowest in our study.

But low property tax rates aren’t the only reason to own in Colorado Springs. According to our data, monthly rent costs are growing faster than home values. This means that year-to-year rentals in Colorado Springs are becoming less and less affordable for families.

7. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne ranks seventh largely due to its affordability. This city has the smallest proportion of families burdened with housing costs. The reason is that housing costs are low compared to people’s incomes. According to our data, the average household only needs to spend 19% of their income to build a roof over their head.

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The other good news is that if you’re a family shopping for a home in Fort Wayne, you’ll have plenty of family-friendly options. According to our data, just under 88% of homes here have at least 2 bedrooms.

8. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale combines rising property value (up 27.25% from 2011 – 2015) with a low property tax rate (0.55%) to make a great place to buy a family home.

However, make sure you don’t mortgage a mortgage you can’t pay. Our data suggests that some people in Scottsdale may have bought more homes than they could afford. According to our data, just over 33% of homeowners here are incurring the cost of buying a home.

9. Plano, Texas

Plano housing was the most affordable relative to income in our study. Data from the Census Bureau shows that the average Plano household earns more than $83,000 per year while the average home costs $16,300 per year. That means if a typical household buys a typical home, they will only need to spend 19.5% of their income on housing.

Most households also manage to make their monthly mortgage payments relatively easily. According to our data, only 25% of homeowners spend more than 30% of their income on home payments.

10. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh takes our last spot. Home values ​​here increased about 16% from 2011 to 2015 while the average cost of rent rose similarly. That pushes the rent-or-buy debate in Raleigh in favor of buying.

Raleigh is also relatively affordable for those who live there. According to our data, Raleigh comes in at the top third for all of our affordability metrics.

Data and Methodology

To rank the best cities to buy a family home, we looked at data on the 100 largest cities in the country. Specifically, we looked at the following six factors:

  • Change in median home value over 5 years. This is the percentage change in median home value. Data taken from the Census Bureau’s 2015 and 2011 American Community Surveys.
  • Five-year change in average rental costs. This is the percentage change in average rental costs. Data taken from the Census Bureau’s 2015 and 2011 American Community Surveys.
  • Average effective property tax rate. Data taken from the Census Bureau’s 2015 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of homes with at least two bedrooms. Data taken from the Census Bureau’s 2015 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Average housing costs as a percentage of median income. This is the average housing cost divided by the median household income. Data taken from the Census Bureau’s 2015 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of homeowners who bear the burden of housing costs. This is the percentage of homeowners spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Data taken from the Census Bureau’s 2015 1-year American Community Survey.
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We’ve ranked each city by metric. We then find the average rating of each city, giving equal weight to each metric. We used this average rank to create our final score. The city with the best average rating received a score of 100. The city with the worst average rating received a score of 0.

Tips to find out how much mortgage you can afford

While the idea of ​​buying a spacious family home sounds great, you need to make sure you can afford it.

Mortgage is a two-way street, which means that both the lender and the borrower need to agree on terms. Lenders have different thresholds for determining loan amounts, but a general rule of thumb is that your total debt payments should equal 36% of your pre-tax income. That means lenders will take into account your student loan debt, credit card debt, and any other obligations when deciding how much to lend.

There are two other numbers that come into play when you’re deciding on a large loan you can take out: the mortgage term and the mortgage rate. The length of the loan is something you can decide. A longer mortgage, usually a 30-year mortgage, means lower monthly payments but more total interest to be paid. A shorter loan, such as a 15-year mortgage, means higher monthly payments but less total interest paid.

When lenders decide the interest rate on your loan, they look at your credit score. The difference between a bad credit score and a good one can mean tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. In fact, a credit score below 620 could mean you can’t get a mortgage.

There are other factors that determine if you can afford a mortgage that lenders can’t help you with. For example, are you thinking about leaving your job or worried that you might not make as much money today as you will tomorrow? Those are the questions you need to answer for yourself. You don’t want to be in a situation where your income suffers and you can no longer afford your monthly mortgage payments.

Questions about our research? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Image credit: © iStock.com / Monkeybusinessimages

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