Top 5 affordable American suburbs with a ‘city’ feel

These 5 U.S. suburbs offer the best balance the space and affordability of the suburbs while still maintaining that fun and feeling of a big city.


As the coronavirus crisis creates more opportunities to work from home, many Americans are reconsidering where they live. While it's true a number of buyers are flocking to the suburbs in search of more space, others are snapping up spots in big cities like New York. In Brooklyn, for instance, home contract signings have experienced a near-record surge.

In a new report, Zillow and Yelp teamed up to rank the top U.S. suburbs that offer space and affordability but maintain a "city" feel.

The "Cityness Index" considers key metrics such as housing availability and housing affordability, compared to both the nearest big cities and to the country overall. It also looks at environment, including the diversity of businesses, consumer reviews, and check-ins.

The scores range from 0-100 and the Zillow and Yelp indicators were each weighted at 50% for the final index.

Researchers considered the highest-scoring suburb in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, before narrowing the list down to the final locations. To find the "typical" home value, Zillow used a proprietary formula that looks at the median estimate over a fixed time for a set of homes in a given area.

Here are America's top five most affordable suburbs with a "city" feel.

1. Waterbury, Connecticut

Cityness Index Score: 67.6
Typical home value: $139,304 

2. Lowell, Massachusetts

Cityness Index Score: 64.7
Typical home value: $323,576

3. Joliet, Illinois

Cityness Index Score: 63.8
Typical home value: $155,018

4. Sunrise, Florida

Cityness Index Score: 60.7
Typical home value: $243,078

 5. Pasadena, Texas

Cityness Index Score: 60.5
Typical home value: $168,080

All the above areas, other than Lowell, Massachusetts, fall below the $256,663 national median home value. And Connecticut is the 10th happiest state in the country, according to a recent survey.

If you're considering a move

The ability to work from home depends on the industry you're in, but more employees, overall, are doing it. According to the Real-Time Population Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the number of employed workers working remotely is three times higher than it was before the start of the outbreak and many companies are offering employees flexibility with their schedules.

Meanwhile, a Zillow survey finds that almost two-thirds of respondents would consider moving if they could work from home. The option to work away from the office could also give renters in some places the chance to relocate and buy a home in a more affordable area.

If you're considering a move to a city or a suburb, or perhaps to Bermuda, remember that there are lots of factors that contribute to your satisfaction living anyplace.

"Some areas are more urban and some are more community-based. Others are less dense and have a slower pace," Jay Parker, chief executive officer of real estate firm Douglas Elliman, recently told Grow. "Take the time to consult your lifestyle and see if it matches with the different elements in a community, because that can have a material impact on where you decide to go."

And no matter where you are, buying a home is a big financial commitment. Mortgage rates have dropped to record lows, which can add to your buying power because less of your monthly payment goes to interest. But median home values are also expected to rise, countering the benefit of cheaper borrowing. The national median jumped 5.1% in the past year and could climb 4.8% within the next year.

And once you buy a home, expenses like maintenance, utilities, and property taxes can be surprisingly expensive.

Experts suggest renting in the area you're scouting before making a decision. That way you can get a sense of the and whether the pace is right for you. And make sure you can work from home if that's your plan.

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