The Definitive Guide to Buying Your First Home

The best place to buy a home in California is not San Francisco or San Jose

San Francisco, California  Skyline
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San Francisco and San Jose are two of California's most popular cities, but that doesn't make them the best places to buy a home.

Financial website GOBankingRates recently conducted a study to find "the best place to buy a home in every state based on the quality of the area and what sort of value you can expect based on the local housing market." The study used data from real-estate websites Zillow and AreaVibes.

Researchers analyzed each state using five metrics: livability (measuring factors such as amenities, employment and education); median home listing price; median home value; home value forecast (gauging the "return you can expect on your money"); and buyer-seller index (a score that determines "whether the current market favors people looking for housing or looking to sell" relative to other towns in that same metro area).

Based on the results, the top place to buy a home in California is Hawthorne, a city in Los Angeles County that's home to Elon Musk's Tesla, SpaceX and Boring Company.

  • Livability score: 70
  • Home value forecast: 6.7 percent
  • Buyer-seller index: 0.11

And according to the most recent data available from Zillow, here's what buyers can expect to pay:

  • Median listing price: $648,944
  • Median home value: $647,700

"Although spending in excess of $600,000 on a home might seem absurd for many people," says GOBankingRates, "if that home value forecast proves accurate, you'll make over $40,000 on your purchase in just the first year."

As the site adds, "high costs and higher growth in home values are just part of what makes real estate in California unique."

While home values in Hawthorne are up more than 9 percent over the past year, reports Zillow, they're still pretty inexpensive compared to other cities in the Golden State. In San Francisco, the median home value is well over $1.3 million. In San Jose, it's more than $1 million.

"Where you buy matters almost as much as what you buy when it comes to shopping for a house," says GOBankingRates.

So, if you can, the site suggests, be open-minded about location: "Although most of the decisions you have to make about where you live are out of your control, when you do have the flexibility to expand your search, it's important to remember that finding the best market can often mean getting more house for your dollar."

If you're looking to buy a home, experts suggest you first make sure you're ready to transition from renting. And no matter where you may decide to settle down, living within your means and employing common-sense budgeting tactics can help you save in the long run.

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