The best markets for first-time home buyers in 2024

Zillow Research has found the top metros that offer the best of both worlds: affordable housing options and a community of peers

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First-time home buyers had a standout year in 2023, representing the largest share of total home purchases in recent history. A new Zillow® analysis has unveiled this year’s prime markets for first-time home buyers, where their dollars go further and starter homes are relatively plentiful. 

Zillow’s ranking of the best markets for first-time buyers is based on rent affordability (how much of their income a typical household puts toward rent), the share of for-sale listings a typical household can comfortably afford, how stiff the competition is expected to be for those affordable listings, and how many similar-age households ¹ live in the area. 

Join us on a tour of the top 10 markets that give aspiring first-time home buyers the best opportunity to break through — half of which are nestled in the heart of the Midwest. 

1. St Louis

▪️ Known for the world’s tallest arch, the Gateway Arch
▪️ Rent affordability: 19.9%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 66.7%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 3.4
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 26.0%

3. Minneapolis

▪️ Known as the “City of Lakes” and home to Mall of America
▪️ Rent affordability: 19.8%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 48.4%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 2.5
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 28.1%

5. Austin

▪️ Texas’ state capital, famous for its delectable barbecue
▪️ Rent affordability: 20.3%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 23.0%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 1.3
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 33.6%

7. San Antonio

▪️ Acclaimed for its picturesque River Walk and the historic landmark, the Alamo
▪️ Rent affordability: 22.6%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 32.8%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 2.6
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 30.6%

9. Kansas City

▪️ The largest city in Missouri, boasting back-to-back Super Bowl champions the Chiefs
▪️ Rent affordability: 21.0%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 50.6%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 2.2
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 27.2%

2. Detroit

▪️ The automotive capital of the world. home to iconic car manufacturers
▪️ Rent affordability: 21.5%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 63.6%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 4.0
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 24.3%

4. Indianapolis

▪️ The state capital and site of the prestigious Indy 500 auto race
▪️ Rent affordability: 22.0%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 50.4%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 2.6
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 28.9%

6. Pittsburgh

▪️ “The Steel City,” pivotal in shaping the US steel industry
▪️ Rent affordability: 21.9%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 62.9%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 3.7
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 24.4%

8. Birmingham

▪️ “The Magic City” home to all three essential elements for iron production
▪️ Rent affordability: 22.4%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 47.5%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 4.2%
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 25.3%

10. Baltimore

▪️ Famous for its seafood delights, harvested fresh from the Chesapeake Bay
▪️ Rent affordability: 22.2%
▪️ Share of affordable listings: 56.4%
▪️ Affordable listings per 100 renters: 2.3
▪️ Share of similar-age households: 27.1%

First-time buyer tips and tricks

Zillow has gathered tools on one easy-to-navigate web page to help aspiring first-time buyers make the leap to homeownership, from getting finances in tip-top shape to hiring the right real estate agent who can help a buyer win a home. 

Zillow’s affordability calculator can help buyers understand their price range, including some of the hidden costs of homeownership that are often overlooked. 

It’s important for first-time buyers to understand how their credit score can impact their loan options and costs. A top loan officer can help a buyer understand all of their options, like whether “paying points”or an adjustable rate mortgage might make sense for a buyer’s specific financial situation. 

Renters who pay their landlords through ZIllow can now help build or enhance their credit history by opting in to rent payment reporting, with on-time payments reported to a major national credit bureau. 
A down payment is often the biggest financial hurdle for a first-time buyer. Those without enough saved for a 20% down payment shouldn’t fret — nearly half of buyers put down less than 20%. Zillow displays down payment assistance programs a buyer may be eligible for on all for-sale listings.

 ¹ Ages 29–43. Zillow Research shows nearly half of first-time buyers are in this age range.