The best (and worst) real estate markets of 2020

Mortgage rates are at record lows, but is the real estate market hot in your area?

Real Estate Market
(Image credit: Stephen Leonardi for Unsplash)

The real estate market has been a much buzzed-about topic in 2020. Due to the pandemic, mortgage rates have hit record lows. Meanwhile, unemployment numbers have done the opposite, and many Americans are struggling to make ends meet.

For those in strong financial situations, the current dynamics could provide a great time to buy a home. But don't expect bargains across the board. With low inventory in many parts of the country, home prices have been rising during the pandemic. 

Since home prices and rental rates can vary widely by region, WalletHub conducted a study comparing 300 cities of varying sizes. To determine the strength of each market, 24 key indicators range from median home-price appreciation to home sales turnover rate and job growth. Want to know the best (and worst) cities to buy a house right now? Read on. 

The Best Place To Buy A House In The U.S.

Like the Pacific Northwest? Boise, ID, and Seattle, WA, nabbed the top two spots as overall best-ranked markets. With a top score of 100, these cities earned 68.05 and 67.77 points, respectively. They also ranked highest among cities of comparable sizes (Boise as a mid-sized city and Seattle as a large city). 

Boise has been called the best place for Millennials to live in the country. It has been attracting transplants from nearby states like California, Washington, and Oregon for its low cost of living, burgeoning tech scene, and natural beauty. 

Seattle has consistently been one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. in recent years, thanks to its status as the nation's tech capital. (Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing are all based here.) Plus, locals love it for its abundant green spaces and temperate summers. 

If you don't want to go west, many southern cities ranked high on the list as well. Frisco, TX; Nashville, TN; Austin, TX; Gilbert, AZ; and Durham, NC, all had strong showings. Plus, they had higher affordability rankings than their western counterparts. 

The Weakest Markets In 2020

Houses in cities like Berkeley and San Francisco, CA, and Alexandria, VA, have been flying off the shelves. Meanwhile, New York City showed the highest average number of days until a house is sold. Neighboring Yonkers, NY, and Paterson, NJ, performed poorly as well. It's no surprise, as city dwellers continue to flee the Big Apple in the wake of COVID-19, seeking greener pastures in suburbs. 

A similar phenomenon is happening in the current epicenter of the virus, with Miami and Miami Beach, FL, showing soft markets as well. Of course, if you do want to buy a home in one of these metropoles, buyers have major bargaining leverage. 

If you're looking for a good investment, avoid cities like Albany, NY; Stamford, CT; Springfield, IL; and Little Rock, AR. These places all came in with the lowest median home-price appreciation. (Meanwhile, Richmond and Oakland, CA, had the best.)

The Most Affordable Places To Live

Of course, you can't look at only housing prices to determine an affordable place to live, since everything is relative. When evaluating the lowest home prices as a percentage of income, Akron, OH; Peoria, IL; and Rochester, NY all came in as most affordable places to live. (No surprise, cities in California nabbed the top five most-expensive slots.)

And if you aren't naturally handy, you might want to avoid places like Detroit, MI; Hartford, CT; and Athens, GA. These cities all have high maintenance costs as a percentage of income. Durham, NC, had the lowest — and it also performed strongly when it came to its real estate market and affordability. Go Blue Devils!

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Ann Loynd Burton

After serving as an editor for luxury publications for nearly a decade, Ann Loynd Burton struck out on her own as a freelance writer covering design and lifestyle. Along with her work highlighting decor trends for Real Homes, Loynd Burton has covered interiors for such publications as Apartment TherapyAspireCottages & Gardens, and Galerie