America’s Best Places To Raise A Family, Listed By State

December 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Great Places To Raise A FamilyBusinessWeek recently released its 2011 America’s Best Place to Raise a Family rankings. College-town Blacksburg, Virginia took top honors, breaking a 2-year win streak for the Chicago, Illinois region.

In 2009, suburban Mount Prospect, Illinois placed first. Last year, it was Tinley Park, Illinois.

The BusinessWeek report employs data from real estate information firm Onboard Informatics to make its rankings, compiling data across categories such as education, crime, and jobs plus access to parks and affordable homes. All selections are limited by population; all selections are home to 50,000 residents or fewer. Median incomes are within 20 percent — plus or minus — of the state’s median income levels.

BusinessWeek names one winner in each state. The winners in the 10 most populous states and their nearest “big city” are listed below

  1. California : East San Gabriel (Los Angeles)
  2. Texas : Wells Branch (Austin)
  3. New York : Hampton Manor (Albany)
  4. Florida : Niceville (Fort Walton Beach)
  5. Illinois : Morton Grove (Chicago)
  6. Pennsylvania : Cecil-Bishop (Pittsburgh)
  7. Ohio : St. Henry (Dayton)
  8. Michigan : Spring Arbor (Jackson)
  9. Georgia : Hoschton (Atlanta)
  10. North Carolina : Tryon (Spartanburg, SC)

The winners in all 50 states can be found on the BusinessWeek website.

Rankings like the BusinessWeek America’s Best Place to Raise a Family can be useful for home buyers in Mason , but like everything in real estate, statistics do not apply to every home equally. Even within the “best towns”, there are areas in which school systems are better, crime figures are lower, and amenities are more plentiful.

Therefore, before you make the decision to buy a home, talk with a real estate agent who has local market knowledge. It’s the most effective means to get data that matters to you.


Ranking The Best Places To Live In The U.S. (2011 Edition)

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Top Places To Live 2011CNNMoney recently released its Best Places To Live 2011 list.

The annual survey is based on data from Onboard Informatics. Using Quality of Life factors such as education, crime and “town spirit”, and focusing on towns with between 8,500 and 50,000 residents, the CNNMoney survey ranks the country’s best “small towns”.

To be eligible, towns must be have a median household income greater than 85 percent, and less than 200 percent of the state median income; must not be a categorized as a “retirement community”; and must be racially-diverse.

From a list of 3,570 eligible towns nationwide, Louisville, Colorado was ranked #1.

The complete Top 10 Best Places to Live as cited by CNNMoney, and their respective average home listing prices :

  1. Louisville, Colorado ($383,569)
  2. Milton, Massachusetts ($577,008)
  3. Solon, Ohio ($291,162)
  4. Leesburg, Virginia ($486,018)
  5. Papillion, Nebraska ($218,520)
  6. Hanover, New Hampshire ($643,500)
  7. Liberty, Missouri ($177,678)
  8. Middleton, Wisconsin ($347,770)
  9. Mukilteo, Washington ($345,487)
  10. Chanhassen, Minnesota ($418,607)

Rankings like these can be helpful to home buyers nationwide, but it’s important to remember that the Best Place To Live survey is subjective. You may find none of the above towns to be to your liking.

You may also find the lowest-ranked city to be your favorite.

In other words, before making a decision to buy, connect with a real estate agent who has local market knowledge. That’s the best, most reliable way to make sure you get the housing data that matters to you.


Top 25 Least Expensive U.S. Cities

June 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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25 Least Expensive U.S. Cities

A report issued Monday by the U.S. government showed core inflation rising 2.5 percent in the last 12 months for its biggest one-year gain since January 2010.

Everyday living is becoming expensive, it seems.

But there are some U.S. towns in which the cost of living remains affordable — and downright cheap — as compared to the national average. They’re detailed in a BusinessWeek piece titled “The Cheapest 25 Cities In The U.S“.

In comparing costs across 340 urban areas as compiled by the Council of Community & Economic Research, cities in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma ranked consistently high. Cities in Hawaii did not.

Take note, though. Although the BusinessWeek piece highlights inexpensive cities in which to live, a low cost of living does not necessarily correlate to a high standard of living. Cost-leader Harlingen, Texas, for example, boasts a poverty rate nearly triple the national average.

Other “Inexpensive Cities” feature similar poverty rates.

The Top 10 “cheapest cities”, as shown by BusinessWeek are:

  1. Harlingen, Texas
  2. Pueblo, Colorado
  3. Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
  4. McAllen, Texas
  5. Cookeville, Tennessee
  6. Commerce-Hunt County, Texas
  7. Brownsville, Texas
  8. Fort Smith, Arkansas
  9. Muskogee, Oklahoma
  10. Springfield, Illinois

And, at the other end of the spectrum, the top 5 most expensive cities/areas were, in order, Manhattan, New York; Brooklyn, New York; Honolulu, Hawaii; San Francisco, CA; and Queens, New York.

Manhattan’s cost of living is more than twice the national average.

The complete list is available at the BusinessWeek website.


The 50 Most Expensive Small Towns In The United States

June 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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50 Most Expensive Small Towns In AmericaAccording to the National Association of REALTORS®, foreclosures and other “distressed properties” sell at discounts of 20 percent of more. Discounts of that size affect pricing in the broader housing market, too. It’s among the reasons why median home prices are dropping.

Not all markets are affected equally, however. In a recent BusinessWeek analysis, it was shown that one-third of the nation’s 50 most expensive small towns experienced a median price increase between 2010 and 2011.

Topped by Sagaponack, New York — a town of only 582 residents — each of the cities carries a median home price of more than $1,000,000, and a total population of 10,000 or less.

The list is dominated by New York and California, with 22 and 13 entrants, respectively. The rest of the towns are spread throughout the country, including Chilmark, MA (#28), Yarrow Point, WA (#29) and Belle Meade, TN (#48).

The complete Top 10 follows:

  1. Sagaponack :
    $3,406,640, -14.5%
    Jupiter Island, FL : $2,810,434 -11.3%
    Kings Point, NY : $2,379,905 +13.5%
    Los Altos Hills, CA : $2,161,255 -13.6%
    Water Mill, NY : $2,111,688 -10.0%
    Belvedere, CA :  $2,100,453 + 1.3%
    Rolling Hills, CA : $2,063,917 +7.3%
    Hidden Hills, CA : $1,871,182 +0.7%
    Sands Point, NY : $1,823,677 +9.0%
    Woodside, CA : $1,792,837 -15.7%

    $3,406,640, (-14.5% from 2010)

  2. Jupiter Island, FL : $2,810,434 (-11.3% from 2010)
  3. Kings Point, NY : $2,379,905 (+13.5% from 2010)
  4. Los Altos Hills, CA : $2,161,255 (-13.6% from 2010)
  5. Water Mill, NY : $2,111,688 (-10.0% from 2010)
  6. Belvedere, CA :  $2,100,453 (+1.3% from 2010)
  7. Rolling Hills, CA : $2,063,917 (+7.3% from 2010)
  8. Hidden Hills, CA : $1,871,182 (+0.7% from 2010)
  9. Sands Point, NY : $1,823,677 (+9.0% from 2010)
  10. Woodside, CA : $1,792,837 (-15.7% from 2010)

See the complete list at the BusinessWeek website.


Getting More Educational Bang For Your Housing Buck

May 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Get more educational bang for your housing buckA recent joint report from Forbes and GreatSchools debunks a powerful myth in housing. There’s little correlation between Public School Quality and the Median Price Point for a home.

In other words, the most expensive districts don’t always have the best schools. And spending per pupil seems only loosely correlated, too.

The study, titled America’s Best Schools For Your Housing Buck, puts tiny Falmouth, Maine at the top of its 2011 list.

Falmouth is a city of less than 11,000 people, and its school system educates roughly 2,000 children. With a median home sale price of near $350,000, Falmouth is the only city to score a 100 on the Forbes/GreatSchools list.

The complete Top 10 Best Schools For Your Housing Buck list follows:

  1. Falmouth, ME (Score: 100; Median Price: $351,550)
  2. Mercer Island, WA (Score: 99.12; Median Price: $708,740)
  3. Pelle, IA (Score: 98.25; Median Price: $148,200)
  4. Barrington, RI (Score: 97.96; Median Price: $296,010)
  5. Bedford, NH (Score: 97.96; Median Price: $293,730)
  6. Manhattan Beach, CA (Score: 97.69; Median Price: $1,278,980)
  7. Moraga, CA (Score: 97.69; Median Price: $722,010)
  8. Parkland, FL (Score: 95.98; Median Price: $426,390)
  9. St, Johns, FL (Score: 95.98; Median Price: $181,700)
  10. Southlake, TX (Score: 95.74; Median Price: $476,880)

One reason why Falmouth, Maine, tops this list is because the area’s Unemployment Rate is low, and so is Teacher Turnover — just two teachers have left for jobs in other districts since 1998. In fact, each of the ranking cities boast similar strengths.

To see the Top 10 areas in a variety of price ranges, visit the Forbes website.


How Does Your Real Estate Tax Bill Compare To Other Parts Of The Country?

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Real Estate Taxes compared to local household income

Mortgage rates may be a function of free markets, but real estate taxes are a function of government. And, depending on where you live, your annual real estate tax bill could be high, low, or practically non-existent.

Compiling data from the 2009 American Community Survey, the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan educational organization in Washington D.C., published property taxes paid by owner-occupied households, county-by-county.

The report shows huge disparity in annual property taxes by region, and by state.

As a percentage of home valuation, Southeast homeowners tend to pay the fewest property taxes overall, while Northeast homeowners tend to pay the most. But statistics like that aren’t especially helpful. What’s more useful is to know how local real estate taxes stack up as compared to local, median household incomes.

Not surprisingly, real estate taxes are least affordable to homeowners in the New York Metro area. The 10 U.S. counties with the highest tax-to-income ratios physically surround New York City’s 5 boroughs. The areas with the lowest tax-to-income, by contrast, are predominantly in southern Louisiana.

A sampling from the Tax Foundation list, here is how select counties rank in terms of taxes as a percentage of median income:

  • #1 : Passaic County (NJ) : 9.7% of median income
  • #6 : Nassau County (NY) : 8.6% of median income
  • #15 : Lake County (IL) : 7.2% of median income
  • #18 : Cheshire County (NH) : 7.1% of median income
  • #70 : Travis County (TX) : 5.0% of median income
  • #90 : Marin County (CA) : 4.6% of median income
  • #110 : Middlesex County (MA) : 4.4% of median income
  • #181 : Sarasota County (FL) : 3.9% of median income
  • #481 : Douglas County (CO) : 2.4% of median income
  • #716 : Maui County (HI) : 1.3% of median income

The U.S. national average is 3.0 percent.

The complete, sortable list of U.S. counties is available at the Tax Foundation website. For specific tax information in your neighborhood or block, talk with a real estate agent.


How Does Your Work Commute Compare To Other Cities?

April 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Average Commute Times In The US, By County

As part of the Census Bureau’s data collection activities from 2005-2009, a number of interesting charts have been published at

The data should not be confused with Census 2010 — a separate survey conducted every 10 years. This is the first-ever, 5-year American Community Survey. Based on data from 3 million households, it details social, economic, housing, and demographic data “for every community in the nation“.

Among the surveys:

  • Median Household Income, Inflation-Adjusted To 2009 Dollars (Chart)
  • Median Housing Value Of Owner-Occupied Housing Units (Chart)
  • Percent Of Households That Are Married, With Children Under 18 (Chart)

The ACS survey also charts average commute time by county. The chart is shown at top.

Whether you live in a “long commute” town like Richmond, NY (40 minutes), or a “short commute” town like King, TX (3.4 minutes), rising gas prices have made commute times and distances relevant to everyone.

Since the start of 2011, the average price for gasoline is higher by 54 cents per gallon. Assuming 22 miles per gallon on a passenger car, that’s an increase of 2.5 cents of gasoline per mile driven in the last 90 days. It’s a cost that adds up quickly, and can affect a household budget. Plan for higher pump prices moving forward, too. Historically, gas prices surge between April and June.

The American Community Survey is loaded with charts and data. It can tell you a lot about your current neighborhood, and any neighborhood to which you may want to relocate. Then, to bridge the ACS data with community details such as school performance and typical home prices, talk to a real estate professional.


Rankings : America’s Best Places To Raise A Family (2010)

December 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Best Places To Raise A Family 2010

BusinessWeek recently released its America’s Best Place to Raise a Family list. Chicago suburb Tinley Park, Illinois, topped the list.

2010 marks the second straight year that a Chicago suburb took top honors. Last year’s winner was Mount Prospect, Illinois.

The BusinessWeek survey uses data from Onboard Informatics, compiling statistics in areas including education, crime, and access to parks, jobs and affordable homes.  Selections are limited to towns with 45,000 residents or fewer, and a median income of between $40,000 and $125,000.

One winner and 2 runner-ups are named for each state; the 10 most populous of which are listed below:

  1. California : Arcadia (Monterey Park, Diamond Bar)
  2. Texas : San Marcos (San Antonio, Houston)
  3. New York : Tonawanda (Irondequoit, Cheektowaga)
  4. Florida : Pembroke Pines (Sunrise, Tamarac)
  5. Illinois : Tinley Park (Arlington Heights, Schaumburg)
  6. Pennsylvania : Scranton (Erie, Allentown)
  7. Ohio : Lakewood (Parma, Strongsville)
  8. Michigan : Ann Arbor (Royal Oak, Portage)
  9. Georgia : Warner Robins (Valdosta, Roswell)
  10. North Carolina : Chapel Hill (Cary, Jacksonville)

Rankings like this BusinessWeek report can be useful for home buyers, but like all of real estate, it’s important to remember that statistics don’t apply to all parts of town equally. Some parts will have better schools, or better crime prevention, or more amenities.

Therefore, before you make a buying decision, talk with a real estate agent who has local market knowledge. It’s the most reliable way to get data that matters.


How Close Do You Live To America’s Largest Landfills?

November 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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LandfillsThe 1937 opening of the Fresno Municipal Sanitary Landfill marked the birth of the modern landfill.

Today, transporting and burying garbage is a $50 billion annual business with an estimated 3,000 landfills in operation across the country, plus an additional 10,000 municipal “dump” sites.

A recent article by Forbes detailed the nation’s 10 largest landfills, collectively profiling the structures as technology-driven, environmentally-responsible, and mostly odor-free.

The 10 largest landfills, according to Forbes:

  1. Apex Regional (Las Vegas, NV)
  2. Puente Hills (Whittier, CA)
  3. Newton County Landfill Partnership (Brook, IN)
  4. Okeechobee (Okeechobee, FL)
  5. Atlantic Waste (Waverly, VA)
  6. Rumpke Sanitary (Colerain Township, OH)
  7. Pine Tree Acres (Lenox, MI)
  8. El Sobrante (Corona, CA)
  9. Veolia Orchard Hills (Davis Junction, IL)
  10. Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (Aurora, CO)

Landfill sites are often “hidden”; blended in to their surroundings. Because of this, when you’re shopping for a home, you may not know just how close you’re buying to an landfill or dump.

Therefore, be sure to ask your real estate agent about it, and consider following up with the county to learn what materials can be safely disposed at the local site.


America’s Most Expensive ZIP Codes (2010 Edition)

October 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Expensive ZIP codesThe value of a home is based on the basic economic principle of Supply and Demand. When the number of buyers exceeds the number of sellers, home prices rise. Conversely, when sellers outnumber buyers, home prices fall.

There’s always a opening price point for negotiation and that figure often factors in specifics like square footage, number of rooms, and finishes and amenities. Location matters, too.

On a ZIP code-by-ZIP code basis, prices can vary wildly and it’s tiny, tony 91008 — located in Duarte, California — that tops the 2010 Forbes list of America’s Most Expensive ZIP Codes. Home to fewer than 1,400 residents of Los Angeles County, the ZIP code’s median home cost is $4,276,462.

By contrast, the median home cost across all of Duarte’s ZIP codes is just $358,454.

As listed by Forbes, America’s 10 most expensive ZIP codes are:

  1. Duarte, CA (91008) : $4,276,462
  2. Atherton, CA (94027) : $4,010,200
  3. Rolling Hills, CA (92074) : $3,892,456
  4. Alpine, NJ (07620) : $3,814,885
  5. New York, NY (10014) : $3,785,445
  6. Beverly Hills, CA (90210) : $3,684,150
  7. New York, NY (10065) : $3,626,001
  8. Belvedere (94920) : $3,283,269
  9. New York, NY (10012) : $3,221,371
  10. Santa Barbara (93108) : $3,151,220

The real estate market is a local one, as evidenced by the Forbes list. Even within large cities like New York, there are areas that stand out from the pack in terms of cost and affordability and the same is true for all cities.

Therefore, when you need local market data for Mt Lookout , look past the “national statistics”.  Talk to a real estate agent with local market knowledge instead. It’s the most reliable way to get data that matters.


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