Finance, RETIRE

These are the 25 Best Places to Live in America Right Now

As millennials age, it’s not a question of whether they will settle down. It’s a question of where.

After all, the generation-long chided as eternal renters are finally buying houses of its own. Of all the homebuyers in the U.S., more than a third were millennials in 2017, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

But they aren’t buying in the cities they’ve called home for over a decade. While millennials still prefer to rent in urban centers, those who want to own a home are packing their bags and moving — largely to the suburbs — when the time comes, according to a NAR report.

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 5.12.45 PM.pngA couple strolls through downtown Rogers, Ark. Courtesy of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce

It’s not lifestyle choice that’s driving buyers from big cities, says Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a matter of affordability.

Whether you’re a millennial in the market for the first time or just looking for a thriving spot to resettle your family, MONEY wants to help. The top 25 list follows; or see MONEY’s full 2018 ranking of the Best Places to Live in America.

As you’ll see, the top 50 spots are not filled with New Yorks and San Franciscos, even though we considered any U.S. city with a population of 50,000 or greater. As it turns out, the best places to find a job, buy a house, and settle down are large suburbs or small cities where the cost of living is proportional to income.

Take, for example, this year’s top spot: Frisco, Texas. What was once a tiny rail town had become the fastest-growing city in the U.S. by mid-2017, according to the Census Bureau. While there’s a lot to love about Frisco, part of its appeal is the city’s relatively low cost of living compared with its higher incomes and booming job growth. A typical Frisco family could pay off a new home in less than half the time it would take a Bostonian one to do so.

Frisco has company: A recent Census report shows that, while overall mobility is down and growth is slowing in the Northeast, the population in parts of the South and West is booming. In 2017, 10 of the 15 fastest-growing cities were in Southern states, with seven in Texas alone. “These are states where job growth is rapid,” Wachter explains. “The only difference is housing prices are not increasing.”

Of course, we all have different values, and Frisco won’t be the perfect fit for everyone. If you’re considering a move, we hope this ranking, filled with towns and cities that offer jobs, affordable living, and community, give you the tools you need to find your perfect place.

No. 1

Frisco, Texas

Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford could have moved his video game company anywhere. But ultimately, the California native picked Frisco, Texas, a city 30 miles north of Dallas, as the site of the company’s new headquarters.

Pitchford is not the only one picking up and moving to the north Texas city. A sleepy bedroom community of 6,500 people as recently as 1990, the city today houses around 180,000 residents. Jobs are projected to grow by nearly 15% over the next four years, according to Moody’s Analytics, and companies from T-Mobile to Oracle have offices in the city.

Frisco’s growth, while impressive, is not necessarily unusual for Texas. The state has grown by 3 million people since 2010, more than any other in the U.S., while its local economies are going strong. “Job growth is expanding in Texas as fast as anywhere,” says Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Firms are moving to provide jobs where houses are affordable, and people are moving to jobs where the cost of living is not high.”

But growth alone is not what makes Frisco the best place to live in America. Rather, it’s the way the city has translated its growth into a higher quality of life. One of those metrics: Frisco’s outstanding public schools. With more than 70 campuses, the Frisco Independent School District has the highest graduation rate of all the cities and towns MONEY evaluated this year.

Like many Frisco institutions, the schools have benefited from a city focus on public-private partnerships — arrangements that bring high-level sports, art and technology to the Texas town. Take the Ford Center at The Star, an indoor athletic facility where the Dallas Cowboys have practiced since 2016. It was built as a partnership between the team, city government and the Frisco schools — so when the Cowboys aren’t using the indoor field, high school teams get it for practice and games.

Local officials have worked similarly with Drive.AI, a California-based self-driving car company, to bring driverless car testing to Frisco — a project the city hopes will ease transit for residents while boosting business in Frisco’s entertainment district.

For all of Frisco’s growth, there are trade-offs. Christie Smith, who moved to Frisco 10 years ago, says she is glad she bought a home when prices were lower. In the first quarter of 2018, the median home price reached $349,000. That may sound cheap to some coastal readers, but it’s well above the median U.S. home price.

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Population
179,067
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Clear Days per Year
232
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Median Family Income
$ 129,118
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High School Graduation Rate
98.0%
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Median Home Price
$ 349,000
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Average Commute
30 minutes
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Projected Job Growth 2017–2022
14.91%
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Home Price/Income
2.7x

No. 2

Ashburn, Virginia

No. 3

Carmel, Indiana

No. 4

Ellicott City, Maryland

No. 5

Cary, North Carolina

No. 6

Franklin, Tennessee

No. 7

Dublin, California

No. 8

Highlands Ranch, Colorado

No. 9

Sammamish, Washington

No. 10

Woodbury, Minnesota

No. 11

Lower Merion, Pennsylvania

No. 12

Newton, Massachusetts

Located less than 10 miles west of Boston and encompassing 13 villages, many with their own parks or shopping centers, Newton is an affluent commuter town with thriving local energy. Home prices are high, but so are family incomes. Newton has low unemployment, and a few prominent local employers of its own, including Boston College and Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

The nearby Chestnut Hill Reservoir Park, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted — the designer of New York City’s Central Park — offers breathtaking views of the Boston skyline and is very popular with residents. But there’s another local feature that puts Newton on the map each spring: Heartbreak Hill, one of the most difficult legs of the challenging Boston Marathon course.

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Population
86,131
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Clear Days per Year
201
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Median Family Income
$ 162,989
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High School Graduation Rate
97.0%
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Median Home Price
$ 815,000
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Average Commute
24 minutes
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Projected Job Growth 2017–2022
3.71%
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Home Price/Income
5.x

No. 13

Orem, Utah

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No. 14

Rogers, Arkansas

No. 15

Overland Park, Kansas

No. 16

Flower Mound, Texas

No. 17

Eastvale, California

No. 18

Broomfield, Colorado

No. 19

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

No. 20

Bethesda, Maryland

No. 21

Weston, Florida

No. 22

Doral, Florida

No. 23

Novi, Michigan

No. 24

Alpharetta, Georgia

This year there is also a walking tour of the city’s historic downtown and cemetery with actors from Atlanta Theatre-to-Go who depict characters from the area’s past — one that reaches back centuries, from when the area was home to Cherokee Indians. History buffs can learn more at the Alpharetta and Old County History Museum or on a 22-stop self-guided tour that sheds light on the city’s early cotton-based industry and explores several of its oldest mansions and homes.

The city’s extensive parks house an arboretum and an equestrian facility. Alpharetta also has several distinct shopping districts, including the newly opened City Center, which offers dining, retail and apartments for rent. The current median home value is $380,000; median household income is $96,000, nearly double that in Georgia more generally.

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Population
65,861
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Clear Days per Year
217
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Median Family Income
$ 115,157
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High School Graduation Rate
87.0%
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Median Home Price
$ 400,000
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Average Commute
27 minutes
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Projected Job Growth 2017–2022
5.32%
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Home Price/Income
3.5x
NOTES: Median home price is based on Q1 2018. Home price to income is calculated using median home price and median family income. SOURCES: Synergos Technologies, Realtor.com, Moody’s Analytics, NOAA, Ed.gov. Illustrations by Martin Laksman. For full Best Places to Live methodology, see money.com/BPLmethodology.

No. 25

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

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