Most Affordable Cities to Raise a Family


If you’re considering settling down or relocating, you might be wondering, “Where can I live that is going to be a great fit for my family?” 

That’s not an easy question to answer! 

While no two families have the same wants and needs, you could consider the employment outlook, geographical climate, and everyday activities that match your lifestyle. For example, if you’ll be working remotely and are free to live anywhere in the country, consider which cities have access to reliable and fast internet.    

The post-pandemic economy has made homes less affordable over the last two years, but some suburbs and smaller cities can offer more bang for your buck. Many places offer the freedom to recreate without being far away from retail and grocery stores.

In our research, AgentStory browsed to find places to live for families across the U.S. based on the following factors: housing costs, access to quality K-12 and college education, low crime rates, and outdoor activities. We’ve catered to most family lifestyles in our following nine city recommendations.

  1. The Woodlands, Texas

People are flocking to Texas, leaving behind expensive coastal cities for a cheaper cost of living. The state has no income tax, and now the number of jobs exceeds those lost during the pandemic. The Woodlands (pop. 114,532) is a Houston suburb and housing is more affordable than in Austin. Many residents say that the schools are excellent and shopping is convenient. Families will enjoy the abundance of parks, more than 220 miles of trails, and access to local swimming pools in the city. 

Insider Tip: The Play Street Museum gives little ones ample space to play, create, and interact with other children to build their imaginations and developmental skills.

2. Overland Park, Kansas

Living in Overland Park (pop. 193,412), a suburb of Kansas City, could be an ideal place to raise a family in the populous state. The median home listing price in Overland Park is $419k, which is cheaper than neighboring high-end Leawood, which is $650k. Residents say the streets are well-maintained and that it’s very safe for families. The public and private schools receive high ratings. The city features 83 parks with hiking and biking trails, a farmer’s market, and two public memorials. 

Insider Tip: Visit Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead for some serious farm fun at a low admission price. You can feed the goats, see birds of prey and other critters, and even go fishing.

3. Columbia, Maryland

Columbia (pop.105,412) has plenty to offer families, from a strong job market in a variety of fields, access to quality healthcare, and competitive schools. While there are amenities like shopping at the massive Columbia Mall and food markets that cater to healthy living, the city has a small-town feel. There are farms and state parks just minutes away. If you’re looking for a safe place to live, consider living here.

Insider Tip: Visit the Merriweather Post Pavilion to enjoy an outdoor summer concert on the lawn. Bring your picnic basket.

4. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor (pop. 121,093) has highly educated residents who appreciate art, food, and football. The city features strong public schools, International Baccalaureate (IB) pre-K-12 schools, and the University of Michigan (Go Blue). There are plenty of outdoor pursuits, such as fishing, canoeing, walking, and sightseeing. The university’s hospital is highly ranked.

Insider Tip: Every July, roughly half a million people flock to the Ann Arbor Art Fair. It’s three fairs combined into one weekend, and the oldest one was established 60 years ago. The event showcases around 1,000 artists’ fine arts and crafts.

5. Seal Beach, California

A coastal city in Orange County, California, Seal Beach (pop. 24,268) is a great place to live if you love the beach and want a discount on housing. While the cost of living in Southern California is not cheap, the median home listing price is $452k, compared to list prices in Huntington Beach and Irvine that top $1 million. Seal Beach offers quick access to relaxing beaches and water activities like paddleboarding, kayaking, and surfing along the idyllic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The weather is mild most of the year and with many people moving out of pricier cities in California, this city is a gem for young families. Public schools receive top ratings, and the University of California, Irvine, and California State University, Fullerton is about half an hour’s drive away. 

Insider Tip: Rent a paddleboard or kayak at Sunset Beach to experience the peacefulness of Huntington Harbour on a Saturday morning.

6. Fort Collins, Colorado

Are you considering a move to Colorado? Fort Collins (pop. 166,069) is a college town that could be a good place to put down roots. If you love breweries, mountains, and socializing, this city beckons. Explore the neighborhoods and get a primer on the bustling city to start your search. While Fort Collins is one of the more expensive places to live in Colorado, it offers excellent schools for K-12 students and Colorado State University, a research university.

Insider Tip: If you’re an avid hiker or climber, Fort Collins is your kind of paradise. Scale a fourteener (or 14er) which is a mountain with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. There are 54 of them, so make sure to pace yourself.

7. Raleigh, North Carolina

There’s a reason living in the Tarheel State has its perks, and Raleigh (pop. 469,698) is a standout. Diverse educational opportunities abound at the city’s colleges and universities, and its K-12 schools are great too. It’s one of the fastest-growing job markets in the nation. And residents say that you’ll get to experience all four seasons. Even though it’s hot and humid in the summer, it’s more tolerable than living in Florida or Texas (yes, there’s shade!). It’s a very safe city for kids and adults alike, and beaches and mountains are about a two-hour drive away. 

Insider Tip: For a special occasion date night away from the kids, be sure to try out the Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern. The fine dining experience at the restored Dodd-Hinsdale House is affordable and unique.

8. Virginia Beach, Virginia 

If you’re looking for beach access without the high California price tag, Virginia Beach (pop. 450,882) could be your new digs. The city’s median home listing price is $349k. Families will appreciate the schools, restaurants, outdoor activities and local attractions (yes, there’s a dolphin tour). Virginia Beach has a strong military presence, featuring the Oceana Naval Air Station and Virginia Military Aviation Museum. While summers do get hot and humid, there are plenty of indoor attractions and a waterpark to beat the heat. Note that there are some quieter beaches and nature preserves for relaxing or engaging in water sports if you’re not into crowds.

Insider Tip: Take the family out to Little Island Park for some outdoor recreation. You’ll have access to swimming, pickleball, volleyball and much more. The park offers picnic shelters with charcoal grills for your gathering.

9. Portland, Oregon

Located in the Pacific Northwest, Portland (pop. 650,380) offers an environmentally-friendly culture with a laid-back vibe. It features a lower cost of living than neighboring Washington state and is considerably cheaper than Seattle at the time of writing. The draws include hiking, parks, restaurants, nightlife, bookstores, and coffee shops. If you like to get out in nature, Portland offers lush greenery and forests. You can visit Mt. Hood, hike the Columbia River Gorge, and drive the Oregon Coast Highway. 

Insider Tip: Visit Powell’s City of Books to refresh your home’s library with new or used books. You might get lost roaming its shelves!

The Bottom Line

You may find it difficult to find a desirable and affordable location for your family, but brainstorming and visiting places can help. Start by writing down a list of your must-haves and use a cost-of-living calculator to compare basic expenses to where you live now.

And once you’ve chosen a location, searching for homes in your new destination is easier when you have an expert real estate agent. AgentStory’s agent match will help you find an expert to advise you on your unique situation.

You May Also Like