Top 4 Cities in Ohio for Millennial Homeowners

These cities are some of the best places in the country for Millennials to live

a city skyline


Sarah Stager


Jan 21, 2021

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Ohio may be known for its rural beauty and sprawling fields, but discounting its cities would be a big mistake. In fact, four of those cities were recently rated in the Top 20 Cities for Young Home Buyers by Clever Real Estate — the highest number from any state. Yes, Ohio is moving up in the world. Or at least in the United States. But why? In this post, we’ll explore exactly what makes these cities so attractive to Millennials, and why you might want to live there, too.

The Millennial Metric

Before we get into the specifics of each city, we should know the reasoning behind Clever Real Estate’s original list. That means it’s time for some statistics! How fun. Don’t worry — it’s all very understandable.

In order to determine the best cities for young homeowners, Clever used something they called the Millennial Metric, which is actually a combination of four other key metrics:

  1. Job Opportunity — based on hourly median wages, decade-long wage growth, and unemployment rate
  2. Home affordability — using Zillow’s home value index and price-to-income ratio
  3. Livability — based on environment, commutes, education, and crime rate
  4. Housing market forecast — using predictions from Zillow for the next twelve months

These metrics were then applied to the 100 most populated metros in the United States, with home affordability and livability both weighted at 30%, and job opportunity and housing market forecast weighted at 20%. We’ll be talking more about these scores later on, so it’s important to note that a 100 represents the most favorable conditions in any one metric. If you’re interested in more specifics, Clever presents their entire methodology just for you.

Although it may not boast the most impressive skyline, Dayton possesses other advantages that draw young buyers in.

4. Dayton, Ohio

Coming in at number 4 on Clever Real Estate’s list, Dayton is the number 1 city in Ohio for young homeowners. It has a weighted average score of 70 (as opposed to Rochester, NY in first place, with a weighted average score of 77). This may come as a surprise to some, since Dayton is a relatively small city in comparison to the relatively nearby Cincinnati and Columbus, and it’s most famous achievement is being the birthplace of the Wright Brothers. However, Dayton’s secret weapon is its affordability score — a whopping 98, and the highest on the list. Considering that affordability is one of the most important aspects of real estate for most young buyers, the significance of this score should not be underestimated.

Dayton’s other scores are significantly less impressive. The job score is 50, and livability as well as housing market forecast both come in at 59. Though cities on the West Coast, like Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco may have better job scores (73, 74, and 88, respectively), these cities ultimately end up toward the bottom end of any list of potential cities for young buyers because of their abysmal affordability scores. Seattle is an 8, San Diego is a 6, and San Francisco is at a shocking 3. As far as the Millennial market is concerned, it’s better to have sky-high affordability and a mediocre job score than to have a somewhat high job score and rock-bottom affordability.

Though affordability is definitely one of the biggest advantages of living in Dayton, there are other perks that Clever Real Estate’s list doesn’t quite delve into. Dayton is home to a booming intellectual community, with the University of Dayton, Wright State University, and other academic institutions located right within the city. It’s also a magnet for engineers who work on projects at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. With nationally-ranked restaurants, the artsy Oregon District, and 7 MetroParks, there’s always something to do on the weekend. The young population in this city is growing every day, and it’s easy to see why — so why not join the masses and move to Dayton?

Akron shows off all the characteristics of that Midwestern charm — including incredible affordability. Image courtesy of Blu Jazz+.

7. Akron, Ohio

Much like Dayton, Akron just manages to squeeze out ahead of the larger Ohio cities because of its terrifically high affordability score of 91. Also like Dayton, other than that whopper, Akron is pretty much middle-of-the-pack, with a job score of 42, and livability and housing market forecast scores both at 67 — at least it’s beating Dayton in those categories. All of this combines to give Akron a weighted average score of 67 and an overall ranking of 7. And so, the same pattern emerges — affordability is very important to young buyers, and therefore Akron, a very affordable city, is ranked highly.

Although Akron offers affordable city living, and is the fifth-largest city in Ohio, it also possesses that distinctly pastoral Midwestern atmosphere, largely thanks to the Hale Farm and Village, which gives visitors a taste of life in Ohio in the 19th century, and the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which allows citydwellers to indulge in the natural beauty of Ohio regularly. The city itself is an incubator for musicians, especially those who play jazz. Akron is home to the Jazz Corridor of the Midwest, a street full of jazz clubs that many residents love to visit on the weekends. Other musicians can get their start at the Akron Art Museum, where free concerts are regularly scheduled. As a resident, you won’t want to miss these, especially since you can also tour the museum afterward for free.

Columbus takes advantage of its placement on the Scioto River by surrounding it with a series of parks known as the Scioto Mile.

8. Columbus, Ohio

Right behind Akron, number 8 on the list is Ohio’s state capital, Columbus. Although this city doesn’t have any truly outstanding scores, it still managed to pull a respectable weighted average score of 66. This may be partially because of its job score of 63, which is higher than either Akron or Dayton. However, Columbus’ affordability score of 67 can’t even come close to competing with the scores of the two cities above. The livability and housing market forecast scores are also just slightly above average, both at 56.

However, when considering these scores, you also have to remember that Columbus is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Ohio, and ranks up there with cities such as San Jose, Austin, San Francisco, or Indianapolis. When compared to these other large cities instead of the smaller cities within Ohio, Columbus undeniably comes out on top in terms of value for young homeowners.

Science, art, and the great outdoors are all well-represented in this metropolis within the COSI, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Columbus also contains many metro parks to explore, whether they be along the Scioto River, within the city, or in the nearby wilderness. Whether you’re craving a cup of coffee, something sweet, a classic pizza pie, or pretty much anything else, Columbus has dozens of unique, locally-owned shops that offer the best of every cuisine. The city also plays host to hundreds of festivals, events, and celebrations monthly — there’s always something happening in this vibrant city. While the city itself has been attracting many young people, for obvious reasons, young families especially are also flocking to the quiet suburbs that surround the city because of their fantastic school districts and easy commute.

One of the more crowded cities in Ohio, Cincinnati comes third in terms of population after Columbus and Cleveland.

10. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati achieves the decent position of number 10, with a weighted average score of 64, only separated from its Ohio buddies, Columbus and Akron, by the Harrisburg-Carlisle metro in 9th place. Cincinnati repeats the pattern seen first in Dayton, then in Akron, but not in Columbus — high affordability, with unremarkable scores in other categories. The affordability score is 78, not as insanely high as that of the first two, but still significant. In all other respects, the city is around average: a job score of 52, and livability and housing market forecast both at 48.

Despite this, Cincinnati holds to the general rule that we established earlier — affordability is the most important. With real estate costs skyrocketing in cities that would typically be deeply considered by idealistic young buyers, like Los Angeles, Seattle, or San Francisco, even the most tenacious of dreamers may have to face that the up-and-coming cities in Ohio are just more practical. Cincinnati is no exception, and although it may not have that innate glamour of the big coastal cities, many young people are much more likely to find success if they don’t have to worry about scaling an impossible wall of imposing rent payments, or shelling out a down payment that’s in the hundred thousands for a small home.

In addition to setting up its Millennials for success, Cincinnati also has everything needed to keep them happy and entertained. With excellent food, plenty of alcohol, also plenty of coffee bopping concerts, museums galore, and even more parks, this city certainly isn’t lacking in fun. Whatever your scene might be, Cincinnati will oblige you, and more.

Ohio is a Haven for Millennial Homeowners

It’s about time for the stereotype of the boring Midwest to be dispelled. Sure, there are much more dazzling places to live, but in this age of climbing prices and precarious job markets, young buyers need to be more practical than idealistic. And, the reality is that there is nothing of substance that the glitzy coastal cities can offer that Ohio’s cities can’t match, or exceed. If Millenials want to set themselves up for success while still enjoying the metropolitan lifestyle, the Midwest is a great place to start.

February 12, 2020
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