By David Widner
One of the advantages of living in a small town like Defiance and in a region like the Midwest is a lower cost of living compared with major metro areas, especially those on either coast. And that’s particularly the case with real estate.
NerdWallet, a company that provides tools and research to help consumers manage their money, recently rated the best U.S. metro areas for homeownership based on such criteria as home availability (more homeowners than renters was a positive), affordability (comparing household incomes with homeowner costs) and population growth.
It turns out that Fort Wayne, Ind., just 50 or so miles down the road from Defiance, ranked No. 2 among small metro areas as the best place to own a home. Among the reasons for Fort Wayne’s lofty perch:
• Homeownership costs per month were just under 25 percent of the median household income, the lowest percentage among all metro areas on NerdWallet’s lists regardless of population.
• The local percentage of home ownership was high at about 71 percent, which translates into a strong inventory of homes for sale.
• The diversity of the local economy – with healthcare, automotive and financial companies in the mix – offers stable employment for residents and opportunities for newcomers.
• The city’s livability scores are high as a result of its excellent schools, low incidence of crime and friendly cost of living.
The No. 1 metro area in Fort Wayne’s category was Huntsville, Ala., which benefits from major defense- and aerospace-industry employers such as the U.S. Army, NASA and Boeing. Rounding out the top 5 in the small metro-area category were Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach-Conway, S.C.; Charleston, W.Va.; and Ocala, Fla.
Among the best large metro areas ranked by NerdWallet, the Indianapolis area checked in at No. 4 and was the most affordable on its list, with less than 30 percent of household income spent on homeownership on average. The area’s surging economy and its wealth of recreational and professional sports also figured prominently in its ranking.
Nearly all the ranked metro areas in each of the three categories were located in the Southeast, Midwest or Rocky Mountain states. So if you’re in the market for a home in the Northeast or on the West Coast, be prepared to pay the price.