Each year, organizations like Kiplinger and CNN rank the top cities in which to live, to buy a home and to work. This year, Pennsylvania cities are hitting high in the rankings of best places to buy a home in a number of different forums. Three Pennsylvania cities rank in the various top 10 and top 30 places to buy a home, and five Pennsylvania cities made the 2008 Kiplinger Top 50 Places in America to Buy a Home list. Where are the best areas to purchase a home in Pennsylvania? The answers may surprise you.
Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, ranked third on MSN Real Estate’s Best Bargain Markets. The Harrisburg-Carlisle area has a lot to recommend it to potential home buyers. An hour and a half east of Philadelphia, Harrisburg is a quiet city with a growing economy that is shifting from manufacturing to life sciences and biotechnology, logistics and tech support services. The new businesses are pulling in young professionals who enjoy the city’s amenities and the comfortable but historic feeling.
The city is a small one, with a population of about 50,000, but the metropolitan area has a population of more than ten times that, making it the fourth most populous metro area in Pennsylvania. Home prices are currently stable, and there are museums, sports and many other entertainment venues.
The biggest cons: Limited public transportation and an hour and a half drive to the nearest large city.
Once seen as a stodgy steel town, Pittsburgh has become a very desirable location for young families, professionals and retirees. It offers affordable homes in a wide variety of neighborhoods, each offering a unique personality and identity. Pittsburgh is home to many major corporations, as well as Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon Universities. The combination of high tech, education and manufacturing means that the employment picture is robust and growing.
In the area of entertainment and leisure, Pittsburg offers a diverse and vibrant downtown area with great shopping and plenty of nightlife along the river. Pittsburg is well known for its sports fan base in hockey, baseball and football.
The biggest cons: The weather rates as one of the less appealing aspects of Pittsburg, and, say locals, it may not be the most exciting place for young singles to live.
Philadelphia has a surprising amount of good things going for it. While most major Northeastern cities have hit the top of their housing bubble, Philadelphia home values continue a slow but steady appreciation. With a housing cost to income ratio of 31%, Philadelphia has a low cost of living compared to cities like Washington DC (53%) and New York City (72%). Job growth is also slow and steady, which suggests an increasing economy that bodes well for long-term growth.
Like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia has numerous neighborhoods with unique identities, so it’s easy for most families to find a home in a community that suits them well. The city boasts major historical attractions, excellent science museums and venues, art museums and a healthy sports base. There’s also an excellent public transportation system.
The biggest cons: While the crime rate is dropping, it is still high in some sections of the metro area.
Sometimes known as Happy Valley, State College, Pennsylvania made it onto Kiplinger’s list of 30 Smart Places to Live. In the 1980s, a survey conducted by Psychology Today rated State College as the least stressful place to live in the United States. Sperling’s has rated State College as the Safest Small City to Live, and Forbes listed State College among the top ten places to start a new business. It’s also been listed as the Number One Single City by CNN Money.
As a college town, State College offers many cultural, sporting and educational opportunities for families, singles and retirees. Housing prices are stable, and the economy benefits greatly from the presence of Pennsylvania State University.
With a population of just over 50,000, Lancaster is the 8th largest city in Pennsylvania. The city has a rich cultural and historical heritage, and is home to several small but well known colleges. The cost of living in Lancaster is low in comparison to many other cities its size and the range of architectural styles makes the real estate market varied and interesting.
Home prices are stable, and the economy takes equal parts from agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. Lancaster is home to one of the largest settlements of Amish in the nation. The city is accessible via both Amtrak and the Lancaster Airport.