These Are the Best Cities for First-Time Home Buyers in 2021


With home prices rising just about everywhere, first-time buyers are set to enter one of the most competitive markets imaginable this spring. Across the country, homes are selling within days and after multiple offers, pricing out buyers of all ages—especially millennials, who’ve made up the majority of first-timers for the past few years.

No getting around it, things are tough out there. So where are the best cities for stressed-out first-time home buyers to nail a deal in 2021? crunched the numbers to find out.

Bottom line: Competition is expected to heat up in the coming months, so buyers looking for affordable homes in places with plenty of good jobs and ample things to do may need to expand their home search outside large urban meccas like New York and San Francisco, and even the newer real estate darling Austin, TX. Smaller, less-hyped cities could offer more options for first-time buyers, especially as more people can work from home or only go into the office a couple of times a week.

“For a first-time home buyer in this generation, the issue of affordability is front and center, and that’s especially true for many millennials who moved to big cities to start and build their careers,” says George Ratiu, senior economist at®. “Between student debt, slow-growing wages, and fast-growing home prices, when the pandemic hit they were still in these large cities but no closer to being able to afford a home.”

At the top of our list of best markets for first-time home buyers was Bloomington, IL, where the median list price last month was $160,000—less than half of the national median price tag of $370,000 in March. Located within two hours of Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, Bloomington offers plenty of jobs, low commute times, and affordable housing, according to Becky Gerig, a real estate broker at Re/Max Choice.

“Because it’s in the middle of the state of Illinois, it’s a great little spot,” Gerig says. “For young people, there is a lot of opportunity for jobs.”

Big employers in the area include State Farm Insurance and multiple colleges, including Illinois State University. Commute times are also low here.

“We can get from one side of the town to another in 20, 25 minutes,” Gerig adds.

To help find other places that could be a good fit, looked at nearly 800 cities, all with at least 50,000 residents. We took into account six factors, including home prices compared with local incomes; the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds living in these places; the number of homes for sale; job opportunities; distance to work; and amenities such as bars and restaurants. To achieve geographic diversification, the list was limited to one city per state.

So where are the best places for newbies to take their first splash into the housing market? Let”s take a look.