Becoming a first-time homeowner is hard in today’s real estate market. A year after the COVID-19 global pandemic resulted in a near-nationwide economic lockdown, the U.S. housing market is more competitive than ever. In fact, according to CoreLogic’s February 2021 data, home prices are up more than 10 percent year-over-year, the largest annual jump on a national level since 2006. Redfin data indicates similar pricing trends, with 42 percent of homes in that database selling for more than list price (up 16 percent over a year prior).
Although first-time homebuyers can leverage record-low interest rates toward their home purchases, they still need to be competitive in their chosen market if they want to win the bidding wars and snag a home of their own. Real estate professionals these days praise markets for being “attainable” – a word that has largely replaced “affordable” in the lexicon simply because very few single-family residential homes meet the definition of affordable in today’s market. Naturally, a strong, recession- (and COVID-) resistant economy is a must for first-time homebuyers, as is a relatively low cost-of-living.
Not surprisingly, when Good Housekeeping assembled its list of best places to live in the United States for first-time homeowners, the southeastern United States region was well represented. In fact, most of the reasons first-time homeowners would be well-served to consider living in this area of the country will also apply to any homebuyer. On this list, which factors in housing costs, cost of living, local economic health and resilience, housing attainability, and employment data, Savannah, Georgia, stands out. Not only does the city have a home-buyer assistance program customized for three different types of buyers and offering down payment assistance, closing cost assistance, gap financing, and even loans on new construction, but it also boasts a cost of living that is 6 percent lower than the national average.
Despite the rising heat in the housing market, Savannah also still posted a median home price 4.8 percent lower than Georgia’s state median home price. The city also has an extremely diverse economy that has proved resistant to the COVID-19 economic downturn thanks in large part to the local Port of Savannah and a pleasant climate that enables locals and tourists to enjoy the outdoors nearly all year long. The city also has a long track record of being business- and investor-friendly. Many economic incentive programs, including the home-buyer assistance program mentioned above, also have a pro-business or pro-development component. For example, the “Dream Maker Home Buyer Assistance Program” also offers funding programs for developers, who may use the program to find qualified buyers.