BAM Key Details: 

  • Realtor.com just shared its forecast for the top 10 markets for first-time home buyers in 2023, highlighting factors that make those markets ideal for less experienced buyers.
  • 2023 will likely be a challenging year for home shoppers, but with mortgage rates slipping to the low 6s, more buyers are entering (or returning to) the market. 

Realtor.com has shared its forecast for the top 10 markets for first-time home buyers in 2023, adding the caveat that, with affordability still strained, buyers may need to be more flexible to secure a home this year.

In 2022, rising interest rates, inflation, and double-digit year-over-year jumps in home prices made buying a home unaffordable for many would-be home shoppers.

Realtor.com’s 2023 forecast acknowledges that this will likely be a challenging year, too. But as mortgage rates dip into the low 6s (and even below that), more home buyers are likely to test the waters. Especially if we also see the home price drops forecasted by Capital Economics.

Still, many first-time home buyers are finding it difficult to know where to begin looking for a home—specifically, which markets are more favorable to them.

That’s where this top 10 list from Realtor.com® comes in. 

Realtor.com®’s top 10 markets for first-time home buyers in 2023

In this year’s update to the best markets for first-time home buyers, Realtor.com® highlights 10 towns that surfaced to the top of its list—and the features that make them so appealing.

To find those towns, Realtor.com® assessed 659 cities and places with populations over 5,000 located within the 100 largest U.S. metros. These places were ranked based on qualities that make a town attractive—like affordability, livability, and accessibility to new or younger buyers.

Whether your clients are looking for a starter home or a “forever” home, these markets are well worth a serious look.

Here are the top 10 markets for first-time home buyers in 2023:

  • Portsmouth, VA
  • DeForest, WI
  • Windsor Locks, CT
  • Gloucester City, NJ
  • Moore, OK
  • Magna, UT
  • Eggertsville, NY
  • Watervliet, NY
  • Mattydale, NY
  • Somersworth, NH

What do this year’s top 10 markets have?

What makes these 10 towns ideal for first-time home buyers?

Here’s what they offer: 

  • Robust job markets—Job stability is a huge deciding factor in homeownership. As a group, these towns have an average forecasted 2023 unemployment rate of 3.3%, lower than the forecasted national average of 4.0%. Magna, UT, is forecasted to have the lowest unemployment rate at 2.4%. 
  • Short commute times—While it’s generally easier to find amazing, affordable homes further out from urban areas, sometimes the cost of commuting cancels out the savings.  The cities on this list have an average commute time of 24 minutes—less than the national average of 30 minutes, saving 50 hours a year for a 5-day commuter. At 20 minutes, Eggertsville, NY has the lowest average commute time. 
  • An abundance of places to eat and drink—As a group, these cities are located within metro areas with an average of 5.6 food and drink establishments per 1,000 households—slightly more than the national average of 5.3. Somersworth, NH has the highest count of food and drink establishments, but it also has the second highest price-to-income ratio of the markets on this list. 
  • A younger population—The top 10 markets have an average estimated 25-34 year-old population share of 14.8% for 2023, meaning these markets have a larger than average share of younger adults compared to the overall 13.4% for the U.S. Moore, OK and Magna, UT have the largest share of young adults (Millennials and Gen Z) at 16.8%. 
  • Affordability—As a group, the top 10 markets had an average 2022 listing price-to-income ratio for 25-34 year-old buyers of 3.5, lower than the national average of 5.1. The less a home costs compared to the median gross income for 25-34 year-olds, the more affordable they are for younger buyers in the area. Mattydale, NY, and Gloucester City, NJ, had the lowest price-to-income ratios, while none of the markets on the list were less affordable than the national average. 
  • More homes to choose from—In 2022, the top markets had an average number of active listings per 1,000 existing households of 47.8, just a bit higher than the national average of 45.2. Several of the towns on this list have a higher number of active listings for their populations, making their local market less competitive than other markets for first-time home buyers. At 73.7, Magna, UT had the highest ratio. But in markets like Watervliet, NY, buyers may find more affordability but fewer homes to choose from. 

The housing market will continue to be challenging for first-time buyers in the coming year, but for those with a bit of flexibility in where they live, there are markets where young buyers can find not just a relatively affordable home, but a neighborhood that offers a mix of economic opportunity and lifestyle amenities. Affordability is always a consideration for first-time buyers, but it’s also important to make sure that you’re settling down in a location that has all the qualities that make it an enjoyable place to live. After all, you’re not just buying a house, you’re investing in a community.

Danielle Hale

Realtor.com® Chief Economist

Realtor.com’s methodology

The numbers for inventory of homes for sale and local median listing prices are from Realtor.com® data for December 2021 to November 2022. Data for the population, household count, median household income, and average commute time were sourced from Claritas estimates for 2022 and 2023 based on Census Bureau data.

Numbers for local population and household count are at the city/place level and also include mapped zip code data. Median household incomes and average commute times are at the city/place level.

Forecasted unemployment rates are based on data from Moody’s Analytics projections of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics for each market’s surrounding metro area. 

Numbers of food and beverage establishments—compared to the local household count—are sourced from 2020 County Business Patterns and are also reported at the metro-level.

The 2023 forecasts for home sales and prices are Realtor.com® projections for each market’s surrounding metro area as detailed in their 2023 Housing Forecast and Top Housing Markets for 2023 reports.

Top takeaways for real estate agents

First-time home buyers need as much help as you can give them to spotlight the options and special features in your market that make them well-suited to less experienced home shoppers.

Whether you serve one of the markets on Realtor.com®’s top 10 list or not, you can find out what advantages your local market offers them. Or, for those who’ve expressed an interest in moving to an area more accommodating to first-time home buyers, you can help them by providing this information and laying out the advantages and disadvantages of relocating.

Ultimately, the goal is to help them make the right decisions for them.