The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018

These metro areas offer the best combination of jobs, desirability, cost of living, quality of life and more.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer |April 10, 2018, at 12:01 a.m.

The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018

Slideshow

The Best Places to Live in 2018

Aerial view of Capitol building in Austin the Capital of Texas.

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What are the best qualities of your hometown? It may be the fact that it’s easy to get around, there are plenty of job opportunities or that 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 largest 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 2018.

25. Boston

25. Boston

Boston Backbay Falls colors.

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Metro Population: 4,728,844
Median Home Price: $399,458
Median Annual Salary: $64,080

Beantown takes the No. 25 spot, earning recognition for its strong job market. However, Boston’s job market, net migration and desirability scores all dropped slightly compared to its ranking in 2017, when the New England metro area ranked the No. 8 Best Place to Live.

24. Asheville, North Carolina

24. Asheville, North Carolina

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

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Metro Population: 441,724
Median Home Value: $223,600*
Median Annual Salary: $40,330

Making its first appearance in the Best Places to Live rankings, Asheville receives its highest scores for quality of life – a measure that combines health care, education, crime and commute data – as well as desirability, which is based on a Google Consumer Survey of 2,500 people throughout the U.S.

(*The median home price for Asheville was not available, so median home value is listed.)

23. Boise, Idaho

23. Boise, Idaho

Summer at a city park with clouds

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Metro Population: 663,680
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,040

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. However, compared with previous years, Boise fell back in its perceived desirability among U.S. residents, ranking No. 74 in that category.

22. Charlotte, North Carolina

22. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA uptown skyline at dusk.

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Metro Population: 2,381,152
Median Home Price: $200,942
Median Annual Salary: $49,600

Like Boise, Charlotte saw its largest year-over-year ranking drop in desirability, where it ranked No. 44 out of the 125 largest metro areas in the U.S. Still, Charlotte gets high scores for its low cost of living and growing population due to net migration.

21. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

21. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Buildings in Lexington, Kentucky - old and new.

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Metro Population: 495,193
Median Home Value: $161,600*
Median Annual Salary: $43,620

Lexington-Fayette is a small but flourishing metro area with a low cost of living compared to median household income, as well as an average morning commute of just 21.3 minutes – putting it in the top 20 places on the list for shortest commute – and high levels of college preparedness among high school students.

(*The median home price for Lexington-Fayette was not available, so median home value is listed.)

20. San Francisco

20. San Francisco

The San Francisco skyline.

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Metro Population: 4,577,530
Median Home Price: $790,233
Median Annual Salary: $69,110

Despite being one of the most expensive places to live in the country, San Francisco is a top market to find a job and continues to reign as a desirable place to live among U.S. residents. Still, an increased cost of living and slowed population growth due to net migration are significant factors in San Francisco’s fall from the No. 16 spot last year.

19. Phoenix

19. Phoenix

Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit by the last rays of sun at the dusk.

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Metro Population: 4,486,153
Median Home Price: $235,333
Median Annual Salary: $47,540

With roughly the same population as San Francisco, Phoenix is on the list at No. 19. With a median home price one-third than that of San Francisco, according to real estate information company Zillow, Phoenix jumped into the top 20 this year from No. 44 in 2017.

18. Dallas-Fort Worth

18. Dallas-Fort Worth

Photo of Dallas skyline in the morning. Sunrise moment. Dusk.

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Metro Population: 6,957,123
Median Home Price: $210,181
Median Annual Salary: $50,350

The largest metro area in the top 25, Dallas-Fort Worth's highest score is for population growth due to net migration between 2012 and 2016, when the area saw a 5.6 percent increase.

17. San Jose, California

17. San Jose, California

An aerial and panoramic view of the historic Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, CA.

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Metro Population: 1,943,107
Median Home Price: $932,108
Median Annual Salary: $78,990

San Francisco’s Bay Area neighbor and the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose slides from the No. 3 spot in 2017 to No. 17 this year. While San Jose saw drops in desirability and affordability, the area maintains its hold on the No. 1 job market in the U.S.

16. Madison, Wisconsin

16. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, WI, USA - July 29, 2015: View of State street looking towards the State Capitol building in Madison Wisconsin

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Metro Population: 634,269
Median Home Price: $238,375
Median Annual Salary: $50,830

Madison takes the No. 16 spot in the Best Places to Live ranking, in large part due to the metro area’s growing job market. The Madison metro area boasts an unemployment rate of just 2.4 percent and a median annual salary of $50,830, just above the national average of $49,630.

15. Salt Lake City

15. Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Aerial View, Utah. USA

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Metro Population: 2,361,981
Median Home Price: $280,894
Median Annual Salary: $46,221

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 top-15 ranking is the fact that it’s one of the 10 most affordable places to live out of the 125 metro areas considered.

14. San Antonio, Texas

14. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Texas skyline cityscape aerial panorama

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Metro Population: 2,332,345
Median Home Price: $200,667
Median Annual Salary: $45,210

San Antonio moves up nine spots in the Best Places to Live ranking this year, with particular growth in its desirability among U.S. residents. San Antonio is also the 16th fastest-growing metro area, with a population increase of more than 6.5 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone.

13. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

13. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA park and skyline.

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Metro Population: 1,786,119
Median Home Price: $227,814
Median Annual Salary: $52,669

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

12. Grand Rapids, Michigan

12. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Big Cloud over Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Metro Population: 1,028,173
Median Home Price: $166,608
Median Annual Salary: $43,610

Ranking highest on the list for quality of life, this western Michigan metro area comes in just outside the top 10 on the overall Best Places to Live ranking. Grand Rapids has particularly high scores for its quality of education, short commute time, low rates of property crime and murder and general happiness among residents, per the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which examines residents' satisfaction with where they live and their physical health, combined with the area's economic stability.

11. Nashville, Tennessee

11. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Skyline and Bridge at Sunset.

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Metro Population: 1,794,570
Median Home Price: $236,267
Median Annual Salary: $45,780

Nashville moves up two spots from last year, 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 6.7 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone.

10. Seattle

10. Seattle

Seattle, Washington during the commuting hour with the downtown area and Century Link field, home of the NFL football Seahawks, on the left.

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Metro Population: 3,671,095
Median Home Price: $403,650
Median Annual Salary: $61,170

Seattle rounds out the top 10, with its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. But the Emerald City falls four spots from 2017, when it ranked No. 6 in the overall Best Places to Live list.

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA – June 28, 2015: Central business district of Minneapolis. Together, Minneapolis and St. Paul anchor the second largest economic center in the Midwest behind Chicago.

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Metro Population: 3,488,436
Median Home Price: $237,367
Median Annual Salary: $55,010

Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area takes the No. 9 spot after scoring No. 17 in 2017. The primary reason for the eight-spot jump: In addition to a steadily strong job market, population growth due to net migration and affordability, Minneapolis-St. Paul saw a sizable increase in the area’s image as a desirable place to live among U.S. residents.

8. Washington, D.C.

8. Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool, Washington DC, USA

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Metro Population: 6,011,752
Median Home Price: $368,642
Median Annual Salary: $68,000

The nation’s capital maintains a strong job market – the third-best, after San Jose and San Francisco – with job opportunities in both the public and private sectors. The District of Columbia is also considered desirable among U.S. residents polled, ranking 25th out of the 125 metro areas considered.

7. Huntsville, Alabama

7. Huntsville, Alabama

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

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Metro Population: 440,230
Median Home Value: $159,800*
Median Annual Salary: $52,960

Making its first appearance in the Best Places to Live ranking, Huntsville is the smallest metro area in the top 10. This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 largest metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

(*The median home price for Huntsville was not available, so median home value is listed.)

6. Portland, Oregon

6. Portland, Oregon

Sunrise View of Portland, Oregon from Pittock Mansion.

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Metro Population: 2,351,319
Median Home Price: $349,675
Median Annual Salary: $53,960

Portland jumps 26 spots this year, making its way to No. 6 from No. 32 in 2017. U.S. residents view Portland as a highly desirable place to live, and it takes the No. 2 spot in that category. 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.

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Red two story condos in Fayetteville Arkansas with a blue sky and green grass.

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Metro Population: 503,642
Median Home Price: $182,508
Median Annual Salary: $44,980

The fast-growing metro area in northwest Arkansas has long been a strong contender in the Best Places to Live ranking, and this year is no different. 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. 5 ranking for 2018.

4. Des Moines, Iowa

4. Des Moines, Iowa

Downtown Des Moines skyline and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway bridge, with a sea of puffy clouds in the background and the Des Moines River in the foreground.

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Metro Population: 611,755
Median Home Price: $181,217
Median Annual Salary: $49,420

Des Moines takes the No. 4 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.

3. Denver

3. Denver

Aerial shot of Denver

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Metro Population: 2,752,056
Median Home Price: $362,492
Median Annual Salary: $55,910

Denver inches back another spot from No. 2 in 2017 and No. 1 in 2016. Denver remains a strong metro area with a flourishing job market and is desirable to U.S. residents, but migration to the area has slowed over the last couple of years.

2. Colorado Springs, Colorado

2. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Rooftop views over Colorado Springs. Colorado, USA

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Metro Population: 688,643
Median Home Price: $255,233
Median Annual Salary: $49,450

Colorado Springs makes a jump this year from No. 11 in 2017. High marks for college preparedness among high school students, a flourishing job market with multiple military bases as well as industries from aerospace to tourism and high desirability contribute to Colorado Springs’ spot near the top of the ranking this year.

1. Austin, Texas

1. Austin, Texas

Austin Texas Skyline Cityscape Overlook Downtown Urban Lookout during September 2015 a brand new look at the Austin Texas Cityscape Central Texas Capital City View of the Downtown Skyline. Congress Avenue heading towards the capital with the Frost Bank tower and the office buildings and towers all in a line. Austin skyline, Town Lake and Congress Avenue Bridge; Austin,Texas (TX). This barrel-arched bridge with its open spandrel construction, built in 1910, is an Austin landmark.

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Metro Population: 1,942,615
Median Home Price: $278,608
Median Annual Salary: $50,830

For the second 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, leading 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.

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News. Since joining the Consumer Advice team in 2015, she has focused on breaking down the homebuying and selling process, as well as reporting on trends in the real estate industry and their effect on the public. Thorsby previously worked in research and communications for commercial real estate information company CoStar Group, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she worked for the student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at dthorsby@usnews.com.