Want the small-town life? The Northeast has the best small cities

November 1, 2017 - 2 min read

NE cities top small city rankings

If big city living’s not for you, then it may be time to consider the Northeast. According to a new national report, that’s where many of the nation’s top 20 small towns are – places that offer high quality of life, affordable housing, good schools and even a bustling restaurant scene.

Princeton’s the place to be

Analysts from WalletHub evaluated more than 1,200 small American cities, looking at factors like housing costs, median income, school quality, education levels, work hours, number of restaurants per capita and more.

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At the top of the list was Princeton, New Jersey. The college town ranked No. 1 for economic health and No. 19 for its quality of life. Close behind it was Lexington, Massachusetts, which ranked high in safety, education and health.

The remaining top 10 list included:

  • Leawood, Kansas
  • Milton, Massachusetts
  • Brentwood, Tennessee
  • Los Altos, California
  • Carmel, Indiana
  • Needham, Massachusetts
  • Holly Springs, North Carolina
  • Littleton, Colorado

In total, six of the top 20 small towns hailed from Massachusetts.

Housing and homeownership

Madison, Alabama came out with the lowest housing costs, according to the analysis, while Marion, Iowa; Keller, Texas; Leawood, Kansas; and Collierville, Tennessee rounded out the top five. The highest housing costs were in San Gabriel, California.

According to Thao Le, an assistant professor of real estate at Georgia State University, housing costs should be a major factor when settling on which city to buy in.

“The most important financial factor to consider is housing cost (be it renting or owning,) since it is the single largest household expense,” Le said.

“If you have to spend more than 40 percent of your gross income on paying rent or mortgage and property tax, there will be little left for other non-housing consumption, as well as for saving and/or investing.”

Homebuying tips: How to choose your neighborhood

Homeownership rates were the highest in The Villages, Florida, where 96.25 percent of residents own a home. That’s 108.1 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, where the homeownership rate is lowest.

Other cities with low rates of homeownership were West Hollywood, California, and West New York, New Brunswick and Union City, New Jersey.

Get today’s rates

Want to live the small town life in one of these top-ranking cities? Then shop around and get the best mortgage rate today.

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Aly J. Yale
Authored By: Aly J. Yale
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Aly J. Yale is a mortgage and real estate writer based in Houston who has contributed to Forbes and worked for organizations such as The Dallas Morning News, PBS, NBC, and Radio Disney.