As a first-time buyer, there is much to consider. Here we have a look at some of the factors that may influence your decision, including: good school systems, tax breaks, reasonable housing, reasonable living costs and low crime rates. (To determine if you are ready for your own home, check out Are You Ready To Buy A House?)
TUTORIAL: Buying A Home
Buying a house in an area that has good schooling should be a consideration even if you don't have children of your own. Why? Well, when the time comes to sell, you'll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers; thus helping to boost property values and helping you to sell your home.
So, which areas in the U.S. are renowned for high-quality schooling? Forbes has done some research into this area, and the top two areas are listed here.
The Arlington area seems to be a good option. With 90% of children enrolled in one of the city's 1,035 public schools (the other 10% are in private schools), there is a public library system offering 10 million books and some of the country's most acclaimed undergraduate and graduate programs are in the area.
As an alternative, the Cambridge-Newton-Framingham area boasts 378 public K-12 schools and 51 private options. This part of Massachusetts is bustling with intellectual excellence. With world-class universities, like Harvard, Tufts, MIT and Boston College in the surrounding area, it's easy to see why this area is one of the most educationally rich areas in the United States.
If you're looking outside of these areas, use the internet and local sources to get information on the school system. Even if you're not looking for your own children, it'll be well worth the research.
Unfortunately we all have taxes to pay, but don't forget that different states have very different tax regulations in place. Where you choose to live could save you thousands of dollars each year!
It may come as no surprise that the most tax-friendly state is Alaska. Alaskans pay the lowest state taxes, and have no sales tax. They even get tax refunds from the government owing to the revenue it collects from the oil companies working in the state.
New Hampshire is the second friendliest tax state, as its residents don't have any personal tax to pay at all. Tennessee residents also benefit from low taxes, as they are only required to pay tax on dividends and interest.
At the other end of the spectrum, to avoid the high taxes, stay away from Vermont, where residents lose more than 14% of their annual income on their tax bill. (For more on the history of tax, read The History Of Taxes In The U.S.)
Where in the country will your dollar go the furthest? This can be one of the most important factors in the house hunt. "U.S. News" analyzed data from the National Association of Realtors and the U.S. Census Bureau, and compared median property prices with median household incomes. The places that were deemed the most 'affordable' were those where buyers might pay a very small fraction of their annual incomes in mortgage repayments to buy mid-market homes.
By these calculations, an Atlanta homebuyer, for whom monthly payments would be approximately $400, or less than 10% of median income, is living in the most affordable housing in the U.S.
Wherever you're considering moving to, it's worth looking at both the average property price and the average salary. This will allow you to calculate whether payments will be affordable for your family in this state.
Cost of Living
With the economy these days, a cheaper area to live may be just what the doctor ordered. But we're not just talking about mortgages and rent. Cheap cost of living includes everything from the average price of a hamburger in a city to the price of a three-bedroom house. So, where can offer you affordable housing, food, transportation and healthcare?
The cheapest living costs are in Brownsville, Texas, where the costs for groceries and other consumer goods are exceptionally low. In fact, in the top 10 cheapest places to live are all in Texas, so this is the area to head to for overall lower living costs.
High crime rates might well put you off living in a particular place. It's always worth remembering that big cities are, by their very nature, more likely to have high crime rates. Nevertheless, it's an important consideration, and so Areavibes.com has compiled a list of the 'safest' cities in America based on the violent crime and property crime in each area.
By this measure, Scottsdale, Ariz. is the safest place to live in the U.S. The number of violent crimes in Scottsdale is 61% less than the state average, and almost 50% less than the national average.
Plano, Texas is also a safe city to live in. Violent crimes and property crimes fall below the national averages. The overall crime index in Plano is 5% less than the national average, which, for a big city is impressive.
Location Location, Location
So, there you have it. The single most important factor when buying a home is location, location, location. Anything else can be changed, but once you buy, you can't change the town, city or state your home is situated in.
So, be sure to do your research into the myriad of factors you need to consider, and make sure that your home is an investment you can rely on. (For more on places to live, check out The Most Affordable Cities To Live In.)