The Definitive Guide to Buying Your First Home

The best place to buy a home in Florida is not Orlando or Palm Beach

Miami Beach, Florida.
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Orlando and Palm Beach are two of Florida's most popular destinations, but that doesn't make either of them the best place in the state to buy a home.

That's according to financial website GOBankingRates, which used data from real-estate websites Zillow and AreaVibes, to find "the best place to buy a home in every state based on the quality of the area and sort of value you can expect based on the local housing market."

The top place to buy a home in the Sunshine State: The Crossings, a town of roughly 22,700 in Miami Dade County, that's about 40 minutes away from, and 20 miles south of, Miami.

Researchers analyzed each state using five metrics: livability (measuring factors like 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 the same metro).

Here's how The Crossings ranks:

  • Livability score: 82
  • Home value forecast: 4 percent
  • Buyer-seller index: 0.11

And based on the most recent data from Zillow, here's what the housing market is like:

  • Median listing price: $300,00
  • Median home value: $277,800
Red Sox owner John Henry's $25 million South Florida estate

"Just six states in this study can boast a livability score in excess of 80, and Florida's entry is one of them," says GOBankingRates. At the same time, median home values there fall within the range of what a lot of millennials are willing to pay (between $200,000 and $299,999, according to a report from home-buying platform Clever Real Estate).

Home values in The Crossings are trending up: They've increased 5 percent over the past year, Zillow reports, and could rise another 6 percent within the next year. Still, real estate there is much cheaper than in places like Miami, which has a median home value of nearly $340,000, and Palm Beach, which has a median home value well over $1 million.

Median homes values in Orlando are $239,700, about $38,000 less than in The Crossings, but the city didn't make the grade in other respects, like livability.

There are benefits to being open-minded about location, if that's possible, GOBankingRates writes: "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."

The site concludes, "Where you buy matters almost as much as what you buy when it comes to shopping for a house."

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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