Ranking the Best Cities for Veteran Homebuyers

With the path to homeownership remains difficult for many, Veterans United Home Loans has announced its 2024 Best Cities for Veterans to Live list. While every part of the country is represented, the East Coast and Midwest are among the finest regions for veterans and service members to establish roots.

Tampa, Florida; Rochester, Minnesota; Wichita Falls, Texas; Fargo, North Dakota; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Watertown, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Medford, Oregon; Altoona, Pennsylvania; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota are the top ten overall markets for veterans and service members. In addition to the overall ranking, the comprehensive research offers separate rankings of the top large and small cities based on population size.

Veterans United conducts quarterly polls to determine which aspects are most important to veterans when determining where to live. The Best Cities to Live list ranks more than 500 metropolitan markets based on 25 criteria, including cost of living, crime, housing affordability, and a strong Veteran community, all of which rank highly among Veterans.

“Our in-depth analysis factors in feedback and priorities from hundreds of Veterans we surveyed, so we can really dig into what those who serve are looking for when it comes to planting roots and building communities,” said Chris Birk, vice president of mortgage insight at Veterans United. “These cities, both big and small, are great places to raise a family, offer healthy job markets, an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy for those kicking off the next chapter after the military and provide ample opportunities to connect with fellow Veterans.”

Veterans Weigh-In On Which Factors to Consider When Moving

Cost of living: Higher food, gas, and utility prices leave less money for savings and discretionary expenditure. Veterans United used the cost of goods and services to determine the cost of living. A higher composite score indicates a cheaper cost of living. Sioux Falls had the most affordable composite score of the Top 10 cities, at 90.17, followed by Wichita Falls at 90.13. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Virginia Beach (85.56) was the most costly city in the Top 10, slightly more than the national average of 86.64.

Crime: Veterans and service members routinely identify crime as one of the most important considerations when determining where to live. Veterans United used the FBI’s local violent and property crime data to establish a crime score to each market. A higher composite score indicates lower crime rates. Rochester ranked first with a composite score of 90.71, over 19 points better than the national average score of 80.72. Only two of the Top 10 cities had crime rates somewhat higher than the national average: Sioux Falls (79.30) and Charleston-North Charleston (77.97).

Median home price: For veteran purchasers, affordability is a crucial concern. Half of the Top 10 markets, including Altoona, Wichita Falls, Fargo, Watertown, and Sioux Falls, have median home prices that are less than the national median of $383,538. Altoona had the most cheapest median home price, at $129,950. Tampa has the highest median home price in the top ten, at $415,500.

Quality of life: To assess what constitutes a good place to live, Veterans United considered a number of highly ranked quality of life characteristics for Veterans, such as local air quality, closeness to necessities like grocery shops, and local amenities such as outdoor activities and dining. The Top 10 markets perform well in each of these categories. For example, top-rated Tampa offers a variety of day and nighttime activities for people of all ages, including various amusement parks, museums, theaters, and sandy beaches.

Veteran community: Veterans and military members prefer to be around those who share their experiences and ideals. To determine a Veteran community score, Veterans United looked at both the local community and the state benefits available to veterans. Wichita Falls (No. 3 on the Best Cities list) got the highest score of all 500+ cities, at 166.71, much exceeding the average of 128.1. Wichita Falls is also a beacon for the Veteran community, thanks to the adjacent Sheppard Air Force Base and local groups like Base Camp Lindsey, which aims to eliminate Veteran homelessness in northern Texas.

To read the full report, including more data, charts, and methodology, click here.

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Demetria C. Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for MortgagePoint (formerly DS News and MReport) with more than eight years of writing and editing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is a jazz aficionado, Harry Potter fanatic, and likes to read. She can be reached at demetria.lester@thefivestar.com.
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