Do you adore living in a city, but cringe at the sky-high cost of housing there—or even whether you’ll be able to find a nice place for dinner and drinks? Then the perfect compromise may be to steer clear of the big cities and head toward a small city instead—starting with Leawood, KS.
Located about 10 miles south of Kansas City, Leawood, with a population of just under 35,000, was recently ranked 2019’s best small city in America by WalletHub.
More than 1,200 cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 were analyzed based on 42 elements of livability, including economic health, education, quality of life, safety, plus the existence of amenities typically associated with big cities (e.g., the density of restaurants and coffee shops).
And while small cities might not stand up to massive metros like New York City or Los Angeles in terms of nightlife of five-star restaurants, they do have one distinct advantage many will appreciate: a lower cost of living.
“The best thing about getting a home and moving to a small city is affordability,” Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub, told realtor.com®. “The cost of living in these smaller cities can be as low as half of that in large metropolitan areas.”
And housing is a huge part of that affordability: “Small cities are a great place to buy a home for those who appreciate a quainter life and shorter commutes,” Gonzalez says.
Why Leawood is the best small city in America
So what are the housing prices like in Leawood, anyway? Realtor.com data shows that the median listing home price in Leawood is $525,000; that said, prices span a wide range among the 389 homes currently for sale in the area, from a mere $60,000 up to $4.4 million.
Leawood may be its own city, but it has a relaxing suburban vibe, a highly ranked school system, and plenty of parks, restaurants, and cafes. And for those who assume the eating-out options are subpar to bigger cities, get this: Leawood’s Rye restaurant just made a national ranking by Eater and People magazine as having one of the best apple pies in the country.
“Pie has always been America’s dessert. But it is getting a lot of attention right now, which is really fun,” reported Rye’s chef and co-owner, Megan Garrelts, who has been a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef from 2017 to 2019.
What other small cities made the list?
Another small-city option is Brentwood, TN, which was ranked No. 2 on the WalletHub list.
“Brentwood has a low crime rate and offers many great outdoor amenities with more than a dozen family and pet-friendly parks and a well-developed greenway network that spans more than 75 acres,” says Jeff Checko, a real estate broker with Ashton Real Estate Group in Nashville, TN.
Brentwood is about a 20-minute drive to downtown Nashville, has a bustling restaurant and retail scene on Franklin Road, and is home to top-rated schools. But, Checko says, it’s also one of the more expensive areas in the greater Nashville area.
Brentwood’s median home listing price is more than $671,000, with 436 active home listings. Checko says Brentwood features a variety of homes, including high-end subdivisions, new construction, and luxury homes.
The Seattle suburb of Sammamish, WA, placed third on the best small-cities list. Homes in the area come with a median listing price of $926,500, and there are more than 300 available. Popular properties include single-family homes, condos, and townhouses.
Sammamish is home to Lake Sammamish State Park and offers lots of outdoor activities. The city also has a low unemployment rate, highly rated schools, and very little crime.
Here’s the full rundown of the top 10 best small cities in the U.S.:
- Leawood, KS
- Brentwood, TN
- Sammamish, WA
- Melrose, MA
- Carmel, IN
- Lexington, MA
- Milton, MA
- Brookfield, WI
- Fair Lawn, NJ
- Cedar Park, TX