- Reviews website Niche revealed its 2021 list of the best places to live in America.
- The ranking is based on the cost of living, job opportunities, crime rate, school quality, and more.
- A Philadelphia suburb ranked first on the list, and two LA micro-neighborhoods made the top five.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The pandemic untethered almost millions of Americans from traditionally popular places to live. After remote work broke the chains that bound many professionals to coastal metropolises, they flooded into suburbs, smaller cities, and vacation home spots.
About 11% of Americans have moved, and mass relocations continue unabated as remote work becomes permanent for many. Homeowners and renters are still reevaluating where and how they want to live based on new must-haves — from more square footage to landscaped outdoor space — that became coveted amenities during the pandemic.
So ranking and reviews website Niche’s latest list of the best places to live in the US seems even more relevant for a newly flexible population.
“In the past year, many people have become more mobile than ever before,” Luke Skurman, CEO and founder of Niche, said. “Especially if they’re able to work remotely, people are asking themselves where they really want to live.”
Niche based its list of top neighborhoods on factors including housing affordability, a reasonable cost of living, job opportunities, the amount of racial, generational, and socioeconomic diversity, crime rates, local public schools, parks, weather, walkability, and more. Niche compiled data from the US Census Bureau, the FBI, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), then combined it with millions of residents’ reviews.
So as scores of homebuyers and remote workers continue to reevaluate where to live, consider these under-the-radar communities, which nabbed the top five spots on Niche’s list.
5. Cotton Creek South, Texas
Cotton Creek South is a suburb of the city of Richardson, Texas, which is itself a satellite city of Dallas. About 98% of its 1,100 residents own their homes. Local public schools — located about 15 miles, or a 30-minute drive, northeast of Dallas — are highly rated, and the community is also popular with retirees.
In March, the median list price of homes in Richardson was $359,900, up 7.4% from the prior year, according to Realtor.com.
The population of Texas has ballooned from 25 million to 29 million in the last nine years, with many newcomers entering into bidding wars and paying all-cash for homes in the popular. Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
4. Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania
A suburb northwest of Philadelphia with a population of about 6,000, Penn Wynne is a favorite for retirees and young families, as the local public schools are good. Almost 90% of residents are homeowners.
While Montgomery County ranges from dense suburbs to rural farmland, Penn Wynne falls firmly in the former category. Less than 10 miles west of downtown Philly, it has Quaker roots.
The median list price of homes in Penn Wynne was $350,000 in March, down 12.5% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com. The median sale price of homes in the same period was $380,000, meaning that the typical home sells for over ask. Housing options range from citified apartment complexes to single-family homes with lawns.
3. Ocean Park, California
With its Pacific Ocean-adjacent location, iconic amusement-park pier, and plentiful shopping and dining, Santa Monica is one of Los Angeles’ most coveted areas. South of the pier, an enclave within Santa Monica called Ocean Park ranks as the country’s third-best place to live.
A dense community home to just over 13,000 people, offers locals scores of bars and restaurants. Because many residents are young professionals who can’t afford to (or haven’t decided to) buy property, close to 80% of the Ocean Park population rent their homes.
In March, the median list price of homes in Ocean Park was $1.6 million, according to Realtor.com, trending down 23.9% year-over-year. The median sale price of homes in the same period was $1.1 million, which reveals that most properties sold for under their asking price. Santa Monica rents have also dropped during the pandemic as people relocate to less-central LA communities where their budgets buy bigger houses.
The area is still relatively expensive, though: The Los Angeles Times reported that Southern California home prices hit an all-time high in February, the most recent month for which there is data available.
2. City Center, California
Edging out Ocean Park is another Santa Monica enclave: City Center.
Smack-dab in the center of Santa Monica, the neighborhood has an urban feel with wide streets lined with apartment buildings, bars, and restaurants. Most its 4,700 residents rent rather than own. In addition to its parks and beachfront perks, City Center is known for its solid public schools, and is attractive to young professionals and families.
The median list price of homes in Santa Monica was $1.8 million in March, trending down 9.8% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com. The median sale price for homes in the same period was $1.7 million.
Los Angeles as a whole experienced a pandemic real estate boom, with higher-wage workers seizing upon low mortgage rates to upgrade to larger homes in less-dense areas. Remote work also allowed out-of-staters to relocate to the sunny city.
1. Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania
Topping the list of best places to live is Chesterbrook, a suburb northwest of Philadelphia. The community of 4,8000 inhabit a dense suburban area about 25 miles from the city center; 77% of residents are homeowners and 23% are renters. The quality of Chesterbrook’s public schools, outdoor activities, and the diversity of the community are all draws.
In March, the median list price of homes in Chesterbrook was $422,500, up 20.8% from the same period in 2020, according to Realtor.com. The median sale price of homes in Chesterbrook over the same period was $325,000, which means homes are in demand and selling significantly over asking price.
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