Top 11 Best Places to Live in 2016

Looking for places where homes are affordable and jobs are plentiful?   Then we’ve got the list for you.

Money recently released its Best Places to Live report for 2016, analyzing more than 800 cities with populations between 50,000 and 300,000. For this year’s report, researchers crunched numbers and analyzed 60 key factors: taxes, education, healthcare and more.  The top contenders include some of the usual suspects like Naperville, Illinois, along with new neighborhoods like Weston, Florida. Whether established or just emerging on the scene, these 11 communities earned the highest scores and are all incredible places to dwell.

 

Columbia, Maryland

Columbia turns 50 next year, and it’s never looked so good. One of the most successful planned communities in the country, Columbia is a magnet in the Baltimore–Washington corridor, attracting families in search of good schools and businesses hungry for educated employees.

  • Population – 102,221
  • Median Home Price – $310,000
  • Property Tax – $4,442
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.5%
  • Commute Time – 29 minutes

Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Eden Prairie has appeared on the Best Places list several times, and finished No. 1 in 2010. One reason for its success: Like those eco-friendly homes, the economy is self-sustaining too. Several large employers, including Optum, C.H. Robinson, Starkey, and Supervalu, have their headquarters here. Though Eden Prairie has only 62,000 residents, it’s home to 57,000 jobs and a downright low 3.6% unemployment rate.

  • Population – 62,617
  • Median Home Price – $310,000
  • Property Tax – $4,317
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.5%
  • Commute Time – 20 minutes

Plano, Texas

What makes Plano a great place to work is that it’s also a great place to live and raise a family. It has the lowest crime rate of any Texas city, and some of the lowest taxes in the region. On a $301,850 home (the median in 2016), the annual property tax is approximately $6,000.

  • Population – 277,767
  • Median Home Price – $301,848
  • Property Tax – $6,066
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.6%
  • Commute Time – 26 minutes

West Des Moines, Iowa

The capital city, sometimes called “the Hartford of the Midwest,” is home to more than 80 insurance companies, which account for 16% of the region’s jobs. The average commute time for all West Des Moines residents is 17 minutes, the lowest of any location on our top 11 list.

  • Population – 64,478
  • Median Home Price – $187,500
  • Property Tax – $3,565
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.9%
  • Commute Time – 17 minutes

Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey

Parsippany (official name: Parsippany–Troy Hills) is still very much a New York City suburb. The Big Apple is a mere 35 miles away, and many residents commute. But it is also surprisingly affordable by regional standards. The typical home costs about $356,500; property taxes on it would run about $8,220 a year. That may sound expensive, but residents pay less in property taxes relative to their homes’ values in Parsippany than they do in 75% of the locations on our list.

  • Population – 53,173
  • Median Home Price – $356,500
  • Property Tax – $8,221
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.9%
  • Commute Time – 25 minutes

Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Highlands Ranch is a bedroom community where residents sleep very well at night. In fact, they affectionately refer to their hometown, about 15 miles south of downtown Denver, as “the bubble” because crime is low, the schools are top-notch, and jobs are plentiful. UCHealth plans to build a $315 million hospital in Highlands Ranch by 2018, and two years ago Charles Schwab consolidated its Denver-area offices nearby. No other place on our list is predicted to add more jobs in the next five years.

  • Population – 105,132
  • Median Home Price – $410,000
  • Property Tax – $2,466
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.4%
  • Commute Time – 26 minutes

Clarkston, New York

This community on the Hudson River is actually nine villages combined together by their bucolic setting and affordable homes, all within a short 35-mile drive of New York City. In one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country, Clarkston’s $360,000 median home price is a bargain — that’s 34% lower than in neighboring Westchester County.

  • Population – 84,787
  • Median Home Price – $360,000
  • Property Tax – $12,803
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.9%
  • Commute Time – 32 minutes

Weston, Florida

Geography is key to much of Weston’s success. Located within easy commuting distance of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, this community offers abundant employment options at companies including Cleveland Clinic Florida and Ultimate Software. Weston is at the top of the list for economic opportunity, a category driven largely by purchasing power. That means residents have to sink less of their household income (the median is $99,690 a year) to buy a home than residents in most places around the country.

  • Population – 69,081
  • Median Home Price – $365,000
  • Property Tax – $7,672
  • Unemployment Rate – 4.5%
  • Commute Time – 30 minutes

Beaverton, Oregon

It’s fitting that Nike, Beaverton’s most famous resident, took its name from a Greek goddess. One in five Beaverton residents was born outside the U.S., and nearly 100 languages are spoken in the public schools — which, incidentally, rank among the best in the state. One of Beaverton’s prime selling points — value — translates easily into any language. The median home price is $320,000, up about 11% from the year before. Property taxes are about 85% of what you’d pay in Portland. Another reason you’ll find extra money in your pocket: Oregon is one of only five states with no sales tax.

  • Population – 96,500
  • Median Home Price – $319,950
  • Property Tax – $4,399
  • Unemployment Rate – 4.7%
  • Commute Time – 22 minutes

Naperville, Illinois

Charm doesn’t come cheap, however, and neither does a superb education (88% of Naperville Central High’s 2015 graduating class went to college). The typical home in Naperville sold for $350,000 in 2016, though that was down slightly year over year. Yet with a median household income of $122,600, the ratio of income to home prices is lower than in many upscale communities.

  • Population – 141,310
  • Median Home Price – $350,000
  • Property Tax – $8,253
  • Unemployment Rate – 5.1%
  • Commute Time – 40 minutes

Woodbury, Minnesota

Woodbury is the ninth largest city in Minnesota, with a population of 67,696. That’s up a whopping 46% from 2000. It’s no surprise that Woodbury is growing, though — this community just east of the Twin Cities offers plenty to do, a diverse population, varied housing stock, and easy access to a number of great jobs.

  • Population – 67,696
  • Median Home Price – $271,500
  • Property Tax – $3,542
  • Unemployment Rate – 3.6%
  • Commute Time – 29 minutes

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