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Before making your first major move, consider the factors that will matter most, including the right job opportunities and how the cost of living will work with your income. (Getty Images)

Earning a college degree is a significant achievement indeed. It's the culmination of 17 years (or more) of hard work, and at the end of this long road, college grads are faced with myriad choices for how to begin their adult lives in the "real world." Chief among them is the question, "Where am I going to live?"

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 2.75 million people earned bachelor's or postgraduate degrees in the 2018 to 2019 school year, and for many, this will mark the first (and maybe only) time they're truly free to live anywhere in the country. For those millions of you who are new or soon-to-be graduates, and perhaps overwhelmed by choice, let's take a look at six factors that will help you decide where to put down roots.

[See: The 20 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for the Weather in 2019]

Here's what to consider when thinking about finding a new city or metro area to live in:

  • Job market.
  • Type of place that appeals to you.
  • Housing costs.
  • Social opportunities.
  • Transportation.
  • Where you see yourself in a few years.

1. The Job Market


For the vast majority of people, finding work is the primary factor in deciding where you'll live once you've got that degree in hand. Looking for a region with a thriving job market, especially on the entry-level end of the spectrum, is key. While you will want to consider the strength of the specific industry you plan to work in, taking a moment to ponder the overall economic drivers of your target city is also smart.

Places like New York City (No. 90 in U.S. News' Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019), Seattle (No. 9), San Francisco (No. 7), Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina (No. 10) and Madison, Wisconsin (No. 12), have long been strong employment centers, as reflected in their rankings among the Best Places to Live 2019 list. But less expected towns, such as Portland, Maine (No. 23), and Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3), also earn high marks for their abundant job opportunities and substantial starting salaries. Fayetteville, Arkansas (No. 4), and Reno, Nevada (No. 33), were recently named among a list of emerging boomtowns – for places with populations under 500,000 within city limits that are experiencing strong GDP and wage growth – proving that even small towns can offer some sweet job prospects.

2. City Slicker, Country Mouse or Something In Between?


While your employment prospects might be the primary factor driving your post-graduation home search, the overall size, geography and culture of your soon-to-be hometown are also important considerations. Fortunately, the U.S. is filled with every type of environment you could want – from urban metropolis to coastal hamlet.

The country's largest metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles (No. 107) and Chicago (No. 104), offer an unbeatable appeal for those seeking vibrant diversity, lively nightlife and abundant cultural venues, all supported by sizable job markets and transit infrastructure. Meanwhile, America's small cities are often home to surprisingly hearty employment centers with a slower pace and leafier surroundings. For example, in the south, Asheville, North Carolina (No. 16), and Pensacola, Florida (No. 37), provide value and beautiful outdoor space, while out west, Santa Barbara, California (No. 73), and Salem, Oregon (No. 77), deliver coastal living and small town appeal.

[See: The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life in 2019]

3. The Price is Right


Housing and other cost of living factors can have a significant impact on your choice of residence. Who can doubt the allure of living in New York City, Seattle or San Francisco? But the fact is, those cities come with notoriously tight housing markets and expensive price tags, so you'll need to have a plan for ameliorating the higher cost of living. The plentiful shared housing options, cheap eats, public transit and year-round free cultural events found in these urban hot spots can help ease the financial strain.

On the other hand, if you'd like to have a little more cash left in your wallet each month, there are plenty of places that offer an ideal mix of affordability and high wages. In the southwest, Dallas-Fort Worth (No. 21) and Phoenix (No. 26) deliver strong value, stable job markets and big-city attractions like national sports teams, international airports and thriving nightlife scenes. For a relaxing pace and low home costs, not to mention fantastic barbecue, value-driven midwestern places like Omaha, Nebraska (No. 32), and Kansas City, Missouri (No. 49), are worth a look.

4. Nightlife, Social Life and Quality of Life


All work and no play – well, you know how the saying goes. Your newly chosen hometown should offer not just great jobs and affordability, but also some really enjoyable ways to spend your free time. Do you love the outdoors? Colorado is known for its sunny days and glorious natural beauty, so it's no surprise that both Denver (No. 2) and Colorado Springs land near the top of the Best Places to Live list. Runners have their pick of cities where social ties can be built through local running clubs, and it’s virtually free of charge. New York City has dozens of casual and competitive running clubs and a full calendar of road races. Washington, D.C. (No. 19), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (No. 6), are also repeatedly praised by runners.

Is live music your thing, either to watch or play? Then you can do no better than Austin, Texas (No. 1), and Nashville (No. 15). If art is your passion, Charleston, South Carolina (No. 45), and Cincinnati (No. 39) are among the country's best, albeit lesser known, cities for the arts and artists. Foodies, meanwhile, can do no better than San Francisco and Portland, Oregon (No. 8).

5. Getting Around Town


Studies repeatedly show that commute times have a major impact on overall quality of life and job satisfaction, so it stands to reason that factoring in transportation in a prospective home makes sense. Unless you're lucky enough to work from home or score a pad within walking distance of the office, you'll either need to drive or take public transportation to your place of work. Those who plan to be behind the wheel every day might consider Winston-Salem, North Carolina (No. 31), or Jacksonville, Florida (No. 41), both of which earn high marks in their overall combination of traffic, infrastructure and car ownership costs. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids, Michigan (No. 13), Omaha, Knoxville, Tennessee (No. 46) and Kansas City have ranked among the U.S. metro areas with the least traffic.

For those who'd prefer to live car-free, seeking out a robust public transit system is crucial. New York City has passed some important initiatives – including the nation's first congestion-pricing model – to maintain and improve its massive public transit system. While San Francisco is a challenging place to drive, it does offer an array of public transportation options that make getting around the Bay Area without a car a breeze. Same for its neighbor, San Jose, California (No. 14). The District of Columbia, Boston (No. 27) and Indianapolis (No. 38), also offer plenty of public transit options.

[Read: These Metro Areas Are Growing Fast, But the Cost of Living May Not Be Affordable]

6. Room to Grow


Believe it or not, there will be a time when the fun, carefree life of a recent graduate begins to give way to thoughts of settling down. That may include marriage and children, or maybe even a return to school for an advanced degree. Choosing a city or town where there's room to grow and evolve through several stages of life can lend a sense of long-term stability. Will you outgrow your metro area's nightlife-driven energy or are their other cultural or educational venues available to nurture your interests? You may have never before contemplated the quality of the local school system, but if kids are in your near future, now's the time to start doing your research. Will you be ready to transition to a larger home soon? If so, does the local housing market support your next steps?

While no single city or town may tick all the boxes, taking into consideration a wide range of factors is a surefire way to find your best new home address.


The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019

The Best Places to Live in 2019

Photo of colorful bars, clubs and businesses at the famous Sixth Street music and entertainment district of downtown Austin, Texas, USA, illuminated at night.

(Getty Images)

What are the best qualities of your hometown? It may be that it’s easy to get around, there are plenty of job opportunities or it attracts new residents every year. To determine the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News looks at data on the country’s 125 most populous metro areas, including the cost of living, job market, crime rates, quality of education and more. The data is weighted based on the responses from a survey of more than 2,000 people throughout the U.S. to determine what matters most to them when picking their next place to live. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019.

Updated on May 17, 2019: This slideshow was originally published on April 9, 2019, and has been updated to reflect a change to the methodology in the desirability category, which did not affect the overall Best Places to Live rankings.

25. Melbourne, Florida

25. Melbourne, Florida

Sunset over the Melbourne Causeway

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 568,183
Median Home Price: $198,425
Median Annual Salary: $48,240

After ranking No. 29 in 2018, Melbourne moves up four spots this year, in part due to its rapid growth in population and high-quality high school education. The Quality of Life score for Best Places to Live factors in college preparedness among high school students, access to quality health care, property crime and murder rates, morning commute and overall well-being.

24. Salt Lake City

24. Salt Lake City

Morning orange sky over Salt lake city utah

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,399,521
Median Home Price: $324,198
Median Annual Salary: $47,272

Salt Lake City is recognized for its strong job market, ability to attract new residents and overall quality of life. The biggest contributor to the Utah capital’s ranking at No. 24 is its affordability. Salt Lake City residents spend just 22.14% of the median household income on housing costs, which includes mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities.

23. Portland, Maine

23. Portland, Maine

The Portland Head Light at sunrise just outside of Portland, Maine.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 525,776
Median Home Price: $223,367
Median Annual Salary: $48,970

The most populous metro area in Maine may be one of the smaller places in the top 25, but Portland residents are quite happy. Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Portland ranks sixth on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which asks residents how they feel about their hometown.

22. Greenville, South Carolina

22. Greenville, South Carolina

Downtown Greenville South Carolina.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 872,463
Median Home Price: $172,067
Median Annual Salary: $43,230

Situated in the mountains of South Carolina, Greenville takes the No. 22 spot on the list. Greenville gets its best score for affordability. Residents of the metro area benefit from having to spend just 21.44% of the median household income on housing expenses.

21. Dallas-Fort Worth

21. Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas, Texas, USA downtown city skyline.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250

The most populous metro area in the top 25, Dallas-Fort Worth’s highest score is for population growth due to net migration. The Dallas-Fort Worth area grew by 5.7% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

20. Charlotte, North Carolina

20. Charlotte, North Carolina

A foggy and colorful sunrise in Charlotte, North Carolina during the morning rush hour traffic.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,427,024
Median Home Price: $213,983
Median Annual Salary: $50,150

Moving up two spots from 2018, Charlotte gets its highest score from fast and sustained population growth. The Charlotte metro area grew by 7.06% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone.

19. Washington, D.C.

19. Washington, D.C.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Georgetown Washington DC.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210

After ranking No. 8 on the 2018 Best Places to Live list, the District of Columbia fell back this year to No. 19. While the nation’s capital continues to have a strong job market and high median annual salary, the area’s cost of living has increased and net migration slowed between 2013 and 2017. The metro area grew by just 1.88% due to net migration during that time period.

18. Sarasota, Florida

18. Sarasota, Florida

Going toward Downtown Sarasota from from the Ringling Bridge

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 768,381
Median Home Price: $237,260
Median Annual Salary: $42,680

After ranking No. 34 in 2018, this metro area on the Gulf Coast of Florida jumps 16 spots to No. 18. Sarasota is the third-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 places on the list. Between 2013 and 2017, Sarasota saw a population increase of 13.1% due to net migration.

17. Boise, Idaho

17. Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 677,346
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,880

Idaho’s capital makes the list with high scores for population growth due to net migration and housing affordability compared with its median annual household income. Boise’s lowest score, however, is in desirability among U.S. residents when considering where they would want to live.

16. Asheville, North Carolina

16. Asheville, North Carolina

Epic Sunset over Downtown Asheville North Carolina NC cityscape with blue ridge mountain range and Mt. Pisgah featured in the background.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 445,625
Median Home Price: $248,500
Median Annual Salary: $41,210

Set in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville receives its highest score for desirability, where it ranks 16th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Additionally, the Asheville area grew by 6.16% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.

15. Nashville, Tennessee

15. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Skyline and Bridge at Sunset.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,830,410
Median Home Price: $248,883
Median Annual Salary: $47,110

Nashville takes the No. 15 spot overall, with many U.S. residents viewing the Tennessee metro area as a desirable place to live. People are also acting on that feeling, as Nashville has grown by 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone.

14. San Jose, California

14. San Jose, California

San Jose California

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180

The capital of Silicon Valley climbs three spots from No. 17 in 2018. With a median annual salary of $77,180 and an unemployment rate of just 2.6%, San Jose continues its reign as the metro area with the strongest job market out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI, USA - June 7, 2007: People on the Pedestrian bridge over the Grand River in Grand Rapids MI

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,039,182
Median Home Price: $181,533
Median Annual Salary: $44,770

Grand Rapids ranks sixth out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for affordability. The western Michigan metro area also scores highly for quality of life, which takes into account the quality of public high school education, commute time, property crime and murder rates and general happiness among residents, per the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

12. Madison, Wisconsin

12. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, USA downtown skyline at dusk on Lake Monona.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 640,072
Median Home Price: $247,967
Median Annual Salary: $52,190

Madison takes the No. 12 spot in the Best Places to Live ranking, in large part due to the metro area’s job market. Madison residents benefit from a median annual salary of $52,190, which is above the national average of $50,620. The unemployment rate, at 2.2%, is 1.7% better than the national average of 3.9%.

11. Huntsville, Alabama

11. Huntsville, Alabama

This could be anywhere downtown.  The various brick buildings, and the fresh contrasting painted building give us a glimpse into the past.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 444,908
Median Home Price: $167,300
Median Annual Salary: $53,600

Huntsville is the smallest metro area in the top 25 Best Places to Live. This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA downtown city skyline.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,824,266
Median Home Price: $249,294
Median Annual Salary: $53,788

The Raleigh and Durham metro area continues to be an attractive place for people to relocate, thanks to its affordability and job market. Research, technology, education and health care are consistently growing industries in the area.

9. Seattle

9. Seattle

Neon Public Market sign at sunset

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120

Moving up one spot from 2018, Seattle ranks No. 9 this year thanks to its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. The job market contributes to its reputation as a great place to live, with Seattle ranking seventh out of the 125 metro areas on the list for desirability.

8. Portland, Oregon

8. Portland, Oregon

Portland, OR, USA - July 16, 2015: People ordering food from the multi-ethnic fast-food vendors in downtown Portland, Oregon

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330

U.S. residents view Portland as a highly desirable place to live, with the city taking the No. 1 spot in that category in a four-way tie with Colorado Springs, Colorado, Honolulu and San Francisco. Additionally, a strong job market and consistent growth in population due to net migration over a five-year period leads to the Rose City’s rise in the rankings.

7. San Francisco

7. San Francisco

Aerial view of San Francisco and the Oakland Bay Bridge. See other photos from USA:

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700

Ranking No. 20 in 2018, San Francisco jumped to No. 7 this year. San Francisco continues to have a strong job market, and even more U.S. residents are saying they would like to live in the City by the Bay. San Francisco received a perfect score for desirability.

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Minneapolis Minnesota Downtown and the Stone Arch Bridge at Sunset

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 3,526,149
Median Home Price: $237,367
Median Annual Salary: $56,030

Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area takes the No. 6 spot, continuing its climb up the rankings after scoring No. 9 in 2018 and No. 17 in 2017. A major reason for Minneapolis-St. Paul’s jump is the metro area’s low cost of living. Area residents spend just 21.5% of the median household income on housing expenses.

5. Des Moines, Iowa

5. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa, United States, North America

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 623,113
Median Home Price: $178,942
Median Annual Salary: $50,600

Des Moines takes the No. 5 spot this year, with continued growth in its job market, sustained net migration to the metro area and solid quality of life scores. Des Moines also maintains a low cost of living compared to the median household income.

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas

bikers and walkers use the Razorback Greenway over the dam at Lake Fayetteville in Northwest Arkansas on a sunny day with whit clouds

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 514,166
Median Home Price: $177,942
Median Annual Salary: $45,830

This fast-growing metro area in Arkansas has long been a strong contender in the Best Places to Live ranking – and this year is no different. A low cost of living compared with household income, strong population growth due to net migration and high quality of life scores all contribute to Fayetteville’s No. 4 ranking in 2019.

3. Colorado Springs, Colorado

3. Colorado Springs, Colorado

The beautiful City of Colorado Springs in the middle of summer

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 698,595
Median Home Price: $286,700
Median Annual Salary: $50,050

At No. 3 in the overall Best Places to Live list, Colorado Springs also shares the top spot for desirability as a place to live among U.S. residents with San Francisco, Honolulu and Portland, Oregon. High marks for college preparedness among high school students and a consistently strong job market help Colorado Springs rank near the top of the list this year.

2. Denver

2. Denver

beautiful drone image of the golden cupola of the Colorado state capital building in the city of Denver

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,798,684
Median Home Price: $393,842
Median Annual Salary: $57,400

After taking the No. 3 spot in 2018 behind Colorado Springs, Denver is back in second place in 2019. Denver remains desirable to U.S. residents and has a flourishing job market, but migration to the area has slowed over the last couple years.

1. Austin, Texas

1. Austin, Texas

Weekends finds Austin, Texas 6th Avenue closed to cars, allowing foot traffic to easily come and go from the city nightlife, bars, and clubs.  Horizontal, long exposure image.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840

For the third year in a row, Austin is the No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. The capital of Texas continues to receive interest from the tech industry, contributing to a strong job market and high desirability among Americans as a place to live. Aside from the job opportunities, new residents are attracted to Austin for its eclectic arts and music scene, which are highlighted in the annual South by Southwest festival, which features music, film and television attractions.

The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019:

The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019:

USA, Florida, Stuart, Aerial view of suburbs

(Getty Images)

  • Austin, Texas
  • Denver
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • San Francisco
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle
  • Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • San Jose, California
  • Nashville
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Sarasota, Florida
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Portland, Maine
  • Salt Lake City
  • Melbourne, Florida

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, moving


Lisa Larson is a licensed associate real estate broker for Warburg Realty in New York City. Ranking as a Top 5 broker firm-wide for each of the past four years, including Warburg Realty's No. 1 Top Producer in 2017, her strong command of the market has led her to sell an average of $50 million in residential sales per year.

Larson has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Real Deal and other top-tier outlets for her industry insights and expertise. Recognized among her peers for her eye for design, she has bought, renovated and sold apartments and homes in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Nantucket, providing her an acute insight into the needs of buyers and sellers alike.

Lisa holds a Master's degree in History and was a member of the Division I cross-country and track teams at the University of California, Berkeley. Larson also remains actively involved with various charitable foundations, neighborhood associations and at both of her children's schools, and serves as a director on the board of the USA Track & Field Association.

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