Long known for its sunny business climate, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of the most populous metropolitan regions in the country — and it continues to grow fast. Since 2010, it has added about 528,000 residents, which beat the growth of the New York City area.
What’s the attraction? Part of the appeal of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been the affordable housing. From 2010 to 2013, home prices increased 2%, almost half the rate for the state as a whole. In the past year, however, prices in the area have surged nearly 13%, according to Zillow.
Buying a home can be difficult, especially the first time. To help those who are preparing to make the biggest purchase of their lives, NerdWallet examined income and housing data to determine the top places for first-time homebuyers in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
Top places for first-time homebuyers in Dallas-Fort Worth
Princeton lands at the top of our list as a quickly growing community that’s still affordable. With a median home value of $120,500, Princeton is less expensive than most places in Collin County, where it’s located, except for Garland. Princeton’s home values are substantially lower than in the nearby cities of Melissa and McKinney, which are also growing fast. Princeton offers proximity to Lavon Lake and Plano, and it has a crime risk score of “most safe” from NeighborhoodScout data.
Located about 16 miles south of Fort Worth, this census-designated place has seen housing values jump 19% from 2010 to 2013. The population of Rendon has increased 11.2% over the same period. The city’s proximity to a diverse range of public and private employers in Fort Worth and Arlington has made Rendon attractive, but it comes with a price: the 2013 median home value of $176,600 was substantially higher than our list’s median of $142,300.
Located on the northwest outskirts of the metroplex, Bridgeport is an ideal location for those willing to trade proximity to a big city for more affordable housing. Bridgeport has a median home value of $88,800, and a median property tax rate of 1.37%, making it one of the most affordable communities in the metro area. The city also boasts a crime risk rating of “safe” from NeighborhoodScout data. However, if you plan on driving to Fort Worth, allow yourself some time — it’s 46 miles away.
Hutchins is the most affordable place on our list, thanks to a median home value of $68,200, which is less than half of the metro area’s median value. For those with a median income of $54,500, homebuyers would need to save about six years to afford a down payment, compared with the average of almost 13 years in the rest of Dallas County. While Hutchins does have a crime risk score of “less safe,” it has positive indicators, including a home value growth of 11.07% and a population increase of 9.26% from 2010 to 2013.
With a population increase of 25.2% and a gain of 14.6% in home values, Melissa exemplifies the growth happening in Collin County. While home values have jumped to $198,100, more than $50,000 above the list’s median, this community still has plenty of land that could be developed. Melissa is also quite accessible, sitting on parts of highways 121, 5 and 75, and is a 22-mile drive to Plano. While home values are high in Melissa, so is safety — the city received the best crime risk score of “most safe” from NeighborhoodScout data.
6. Pecan Acres
Located along the banks of Eagle Mountain Lake, Pecan Acres, a census-designated place of about 5,100 residents, has experienced tremendous growth. Its 45.9% population growth from 2010 to 2013 was the highest on our list. While the community has plenty to offer — natural beauty, proximity to downtown Fort Worth and a high safety rating — its 2013 median home value of $315,700 will price out most first-time homebuyers. Given this, it’s unsurprising that at 2%, Pecan Acres has one of our lowest family poverty rates.
7. Little Elm
The largest community in our top 10 continues to grow. Little Elm added about 6,000 residents from 2010 to 2013, for a total population of 27,966. While the median home value of $157,600 was above our list’s median of $142,300, many homebuyers might be persuaded to pay the premium here for one of the many lakefront properties. The city — which received the best crime rating of “most safe” — is 35 miles from downtown Dallas.
8. River Oaks
River Oaks is a great option for those seeking an affordable city near downtown Fort Worth. Just 5 miles from the city’s center, River Oaks has a median home value of $87,400, and monthly owner costs of $1,008. Home values grew 6.59% from 2010 to 2013, and will likely continue to increase as the city plans to further develop on the SH 183 corridor.
Located at the intersection of highways 377 and 114, Roanoke is accessible to Fort Worth as well as the natural beauty of Grapevine Lake. What makes it even more attractive is the city’s median home value of $131,800, which was below the median of our list. While residents in Roanoke also benefit from a low property tax rate of 1.76%, the city was the only one in the top 10 to see a decrease in the median home value from 2010 to 2013.
Ennis is another example of a place where residents have accessibility to the outdoors and an urban center, too. The city of 18,600 borders Lake Bardwell and is located within commuting distance of Dallas. While a median home value of $106,400 was well below our list’s median of $142,300, the home value in Ennis represents 14.7% growth from 2010 to 2013. It would take the average homebuyer here nine years to save for a down payment. However, it’s worth noting that Ennis is the only location in the top 10 to receive the lowest crime risk score of “least safe.”