As previously noted on these pages, three unrelated studies in the past two months have all named the City of Atlanta a top—if not the top—destination for 2023 college graduates who prefer big-city life, despite tremendous spikes in metro-wide housing costs.

An annual analysis by personal-finance company WalletHub provides some evidence this week as to why those earlier nods could be legit.

WalletHub’s 2023 “Most Affordable Cities for Home Buyers” rundown slots Atlanta in the top 22 percent of all U.S. cities that qualify as large when it comes to relative affordability. Still.

By its affordability metrics, WalletHub ranked the City of Atlanta (not the metro) as No. 15 most affordable among big U.S. cities—that is, those with populations of more than 300,000.

Atlanta also landed at No. 53 among 300 cities studied of all sizes, a list bookended by Montgomery, Ala. (most affordable) and Santa Barbara (fuhgeddaboudit).

Among its big-city brethren, Atlanta landed between Charlotte (No. 14) and St. Louis, respectively.

The only city with a metro area of comparable size in the top 15 is Philadelphia, which ranked at No. 12 on WalletHub’s affordability-o-meter.

Analysts compared the 300 U.S. cities across 10 key metrics, with data sets ranging from the cost of homes and their maintenance, tax rates, vacancy rates, median home-price appreciation, and the number of quarterly active listings per capita, among other factors. Data were sourced from The National Association of Realtors, U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, and Insurance Information Institute.

Overall, 68 cities across the U.S. qualified as large by analysts’ standards.

How Atlanta fared among large U.S. cities ranked between 10th and 20th "most affordable," as listed in the lefthand column. WalletHub

The top 5 most affordable large cities on WalletHub’s Rust Belt-heavy list are Detroit (No. 1), Pittsburgh, Columbus (OH), Cleveland, and Las Vegas, respectively.  

The five least affordable cities include usual suspects: Boston, San Jose, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles (No. 68).

None of this is to point a rosy picture for house-seekers in markets across the country facing the daunting, post-pandemic reality of housing costs.

WalletHub’s study indicates the country’s median home sales price has ballooned from $313,000 in early 2019 to nearly $437,000 in the first quarter of 2023.

Prices may be dipping in some markets, but, as analysts note, that’s tempered with skyrocketing interest rates, which climbed from a historic low of 2.65 percent in early 2021 to 6.39 percent this month for average, 30-year fixed mortgages. Gulp.


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• National survey: Atlanta No. 2 'dream city' for people moving (Urbanize Atlanta)