Buying one's first home presents enough questions as-is. (Like, is it affordable? A good investment? Will I be able to fit all of my family's shoes in that one narrow hall closet?)
Recent research published by LendingTree, an online exchange that links lenders to consumers, aims to take away some of the guesswork—if you're city-agnostic, that is. According to their analysis of the U.S.' 50 largest metropolitan areas, the best bets for first-time homebuyers are Pittsburgh and Cleveland. (In third, fourth, and fifth place: Oklahoma City, Cincinnati, and Birmingham, respectively.)
"While these metros may not necessarily have the lowest credit score requirements or down payments in the country, they consistently rank highly across all six metrics that were considered in this study," says their release.
LendingTree ranked cities by the following factors (all data except the last measure is based on borrowers within their marketplace over the course of 2018):
Average down payment amount, and percentage of total cost (the lower, the better)
Share of buyers using a Federal Housing Administration mortgage (thereby helping with loans)
Average Federal Housing Administration down payment as a percentage of average down payment for all loans (which, according to LendingTree's release, "measures how much homebuyers are saving by using FHA loans")
Percentage of buyers who have credit scores below 680 (which can help first-time buyers be more competitive)
The Housing Opportunity Index score for the area ("measures the share of homes sold that are affordable to median income families in a given area")
Meanwhile, LendingTree's list of the worst cities for first-time homebuyers is topped by Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, San Jose, and Portland, OR.
New York City is ranked as the eighth worst—or 42nd best, if you're a Joe's-pizza-slice-half-full kind of person.
Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.