The past few years have seen cities across the U.S. experience significant population turnover. From COVID fears to shifting job opportunities to sticky inflation, Americans have been voting with their feet in large numbers.
Those looking around for greener, urban pastures could find a useful starting point in Livability's latest ranking of "Best Places To Live in the U.S." The recently released report recognizes unsung metro areas that balance opportunity, amenities and cost of living.
Spotlight on under the radar cities
Livability differentiates their ranking of U.S. cities primarily through their focus on metros with populations between 75,000 and 500,000. The site prefers to leave well-trodden rankings of NYC, Houston, and San Francisco to other outlets.
The report also purportedly sets itself apart with by focusing on the average wage earner and excluding all cities with median home value ceiling exceeding $500,000. As home prices flirt with all time highs and inflation lingers, Livability's report centers on cities that grow wages and home values while maintaining an affordable cost of living.
Livability partnered with Applied Geographic Solutions (AGS) to construct a list of 100 cities based on data points and an algorithm that analyzed a city’s economy, housing and cost of living, amenities, transportation, environment, safety, education and health. The report dashboard allows users to filter the city list across eight factors: economy, housing and cost of living, amenities, transportation, environment, safety, education and health.
We're not going to share the whole list of 100 cities here. Instead, we've excerpted the overall top 10 cities from Livability's rankings, based on a proprietary "LivScore" that incorporates all of the aforementioned factors of urban life.
|City||LivScore||Region||Population||Med. Home Value|
|Johns Creek, GA||877||South||82,493||$453,747|
|Flower Mound, TX||872||South||81,173||$423,603|
|Sugar Land, TX||854||South||118,604||$361,907|
|Overland Park, KS||849||Midwest||200,773||$353,316|
Takeaways from the report
We can see a few patterns emerging in the top 10. Five cities from the midwest lead the regional breakdown, followed by four cities from the south and one from the west. No West Coast or Northeast cities crack the top ten, although Clifton, NJ comes in at number 12 with a LivScore of 831. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given that our list of the 11 most expensive cities to live in the U.S. comprises entirely West Coast and Northeast cities.
Population totals hover between 76,000 and 200,000. For the entire list of 100 top cities, the average city population measures in at roughly 100,000, perhaps suggesting a sweet spot for urban density and amenities.
Median home values float between $330,000 and $490,000. You have to scroll down to number 21 in overall city rankings to find median home values below $300,000, suggesting a common price floor among the best small to medium cities.
How to manage moving costs
If you're considering a new home on the list or elsewhere, follow our tips for minimizing your moving costs.
Schedule your services well in advance, especially during during the peak moving season of Memorial Day through Labor Day. Prices are lower if you move during slower months and avoid weekends. Getting a head start also gives you time to purge your possessions, reducing the amount to transport.
Secure packing supplies
You'll need tape, bubble wrap and boxes. If you hire movers, see whether they charge extra fees for transporting large items or handling furniture assembly.
Sort out insurance
Moving companies must include free, baseline insurance coverage for a move across state lines. If you’re transporting high value items that you packed yourself, you may need to consider third-party insurance. Consider this checklist from Move.org to see if you need extra coverage.
Account for travel costs
If your move entails a multi-day trip, factor in costs for fuel, lodging, meals and tolls. Remember to have cash ready to tip your movers.
Tap your employer moving benefits
If you’re moving for a job, ask your employer whether it will cover at least some of the cost. Housing and relocation benefits are on the decline, but managers extending job offers can often provide such benefits if the candidate asks.
Ben Demers manages digital content and engagement at Kiplinger, informing readers through a range of personal finance articles, e-newsletters, social media, syndicated content, and videos. He is passionate about helping people lead their best lives through sound financial behavior, particularly saving money at home and avoiding scams and identity theft. Ben graduated with an M.P.S. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Vassar College. He joined Kiplinger in May 2017.
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