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Over the years, small cities and sparsely populated states around the U.S. have seen their population numbers shrink as Millennials and Gen Xers opt to live in major metro hubs like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. But lately, smaller locales are getting crafty and luring new residents to town by offering perks in the form of student loan reimbursements, housing discounts and even cold, hard cash. So if you’re ready to ditch that Brooklyn one bedroom you share with two roommates in favor of a home of your own where—in some cases—the buffalo roam, here are the top 10 places that will pay you to move there, ranked from least to most desirable, based on factors like affordability, population and fun things to do.

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#10: North Platte, Nebraska

Nebraska

The Stats: pop. 24,733; median home value $147,800

The Deal: In an effort to help fill job openings in the area, the North Platte Area Chamber of Commerce started offering up to $10,000 to future residents who relocate to the mid-size town for work. And to sweeten the deal, you can even opt to be presented with the kind of oversized check usually reserved for lottery winners.

Pros: Cornhusker Pride is a real thing and we don’t just mean the University of Nebraska football team whose fandom rivals that of Japanese boy band MADKID. Unemployment in the state is at 2.8% which is pretty amazing and the cost of living is 11.5% lower than the national average.

Cons: Winters can be brutal, and the closest major airport is more than 250 miles away in Denver (Omaha is even further!), so planning a cold weather escape to an exotic locale can be quite a costly ordeal.

 

#9: Harmony, Minnesota

Amish country

The Stats: pop. 1,020; median home value $98,250

The Deal: Even though this town has a musical name, you don’t have to worry about winning any sort of The Voice-esque singing competition in order to cash in on the incentive to move here. Instead, just fill out a Residential Rebate Program application and you could receive up to $12,000 cash in exchange for building a new home within town limits.

Pros: Locals refer to their hometown as the “biggest little town in Southern Minnesota.” You won’t be completely deprived of commerce and culture options, thanks largely to the bustling Amish community—the largest in the state—who run antique, furniture and other low-tech shops in town.

Cons: There’s only one movie theater, so chances are you won’t be able to screen all the Best Picture nominees come Oscar season. In fact, St. Paul is about a two-hour drive so make sure you build a really nice house because you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it shopping online and streaming movies.

 

#8: Hamilton, Ohio

hamilton ohio

Flickr CC: 5chw4r7z

The Stats: pop. 62,447; median home value $163,000

The Deal: A year or so ago this small, industrial city realized it could use an injection of fresh blood. So in an effort to get new college grads to take up residency here, Hamilton has vowed to help repay up to $5,000 of student loan debt for relocating to the heart of the city.

Pros: Hamilton is just 20 miles north of Cincinnati, so you’ll be less than an hour away from bigger city offerings like well-known stores, a theater scene, and more adventurous restaurants. It’s like having the best of both worlds.

Cons: The downtown area has seen better days, so you’ll be tempted to spend a lot of your free time making the trek to Cincy. Since younger people are starting to move to Hamilton, a downtown revitalization shouldn’t be far behind…you’ll just have to wait, or go and be a part of it!

 

#7 Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa

The Stats: pop. 402,000; median home value $175,000

The Deal: Tulsa Remote made national headlines in 2018 with a program that selects remote or self-employed workers through an annual application to move to Tulsa. Those selected for the program also get help settling in with $10,000 in cash, assistance with housing costs and a paid membership to a co-working space in downtown Tulsa.

Pros: The 100-acre Gathering Place provides a riverfront green space for all ages featuring eateries, a water maze, gardens, miles of trails, and an accessible playground. Downtown’s Tulsa Arts District features live music venues and a First Friday Art Crawl. In June 2019, Google announced the expansion of its data center in Pryor, a 45-minute drive from Tulsa. Unemployment is at 3.2%.

Cons: Those coming from large cities with 24/7 offerings might feel the need for their taste buds to adjust in weighing culinary comparisons. Plus, unless you’re going to live and work within the downtown area, you’re going to need a car to get around.

 

#6 Vermont

Vermont, Montpelier

Montpelier, Vermont

The Stats: state pop. 626, 299; median home value: $202,500

The Deal: In 2018, the Green Mountain State (yep, the whole state) started a program which offers up to $10,000 to remote workers to relocate and work from a new home in Vermont.

Pros: When it comes to nature, this small state offers big opportunities. The terrain here is mostly forested, with the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain rivaling one another for your free time on weekends. The shopping scene is slowly improving, too: Vermont finally got a Target—the last U.S. state to get one. And remember these two words come fall: maple syrup.

Cons: Cable and broadband Internet isn’t as available throughout the state as you’d assume, so you’ll need to do a good deal of research before picking the spot for your home office. And because the state is so far east, the sun sets pretty early here in winter, something to keep in mind if you suffer from seasonal depression.

#5: Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore

The Stats: pop. 619,493; median home value: $133,100

The Deal: You’ll find a couple of programs (Buying into Baltimore and City Living Starts Here) that will give qualifying buyers $5,000 towards the purchase of a new home in Charm City. Another program awards up to $10,000 for those who want to take on the challenge of buying one of the many vacant homes that were abandoned during the city’s tougher times.

Pros: Living near the Chesapeake Bay means you’re just steps away from an amazing, fresh seafood meal at all times, you’ll be able to claim the Super Bowl-winning Ravens as your home team and the city’s famed quirks are real: Check out the Hampden neighborhood or oddball museums like the American Visionary Art Museum.

Cons: Yes, Baltimore is in the midst of a comeback and officials have made great strides into making the city feel less dangerous, but crime rates are still on the high side, so it’s a good idea to always take extra safety precautions and choose your neighborhood wisely. And after you move to Baltimore, get ready for your out-of-town friends to constantly bring up The Wire when talking about your new city.

#4: Alaska

Harbor at Homer, Alaska

Homer, Alaska

The Stats: state pop. 710,231; median home value: $306,100

The Deal: If it doesn’t bother you to sleep in long john underwear for the majority of the year, it might be time to pack your thermals and head to the Last Frontier. Alaska has a Permanent Reserve Fund that pays residents $1,000 annually if they’ve lived in the state for a calendar year and plan to stay indefinitely.

Pros: If you’re a nature lover, there are few destinations that can top the 49th state. As you check out glaciers and hike the many trails throughout the state, you’ll be greeted with awe-inspiring scenery and glimpses of wild animals like moose, reindeer and other creatures you can normally only find at the zoo.

Cons: During the summer, the sun stays out for up to 19 hours of the day, and on the flip side, winter days can be very dark and feel long. Both extremes take some getting used to. Online shopping isn’t as convenient in Alaska due to steep shipping rates because of its distance from the lower 48 states. Oh, and you probably won’t get to see Russia from your house (but that might also be a plus).

#3: Detroit, Michigan

detroit, michigan

Detroit

The Stats: pop. 673,104; median home value: $162,200

The Deal: Out-of-state college grads can apply for one of 30 paid fellowships (via Challenge Detroit) to help them move, live and work in Detroit for the next year. Elsewhere in Motor City, employers such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Quicken Loans cough up extra money to live in the once bustling, currently revitalizing downtown area (aka close to work). New renters get around $3,500 over two years to use towards renting an apartment. After that, it’s about $1,000 each year.

Pros: Many Detroiters say the city is in the toddler stages of its comeback, so moving there now gives you “early settler status” (you know, bragging rights). Plus, the average one bedroom costs $941/monthly compared to SF and NYC, which are north of $3K.

Cons: Not all of downtown Detroit has been revitalized yet, so some spots feel safer than others. Even if you live and work downtown, you’ll still need a car get around—they don’t call it the Motor City for nothing—which is another expense to consider.

#2: Maine  

Maine

Maine

The Stats: state pop. 1,338,404; median home value: $232,600

The Deal: If you have an idea for a new business, skip Silicon Valley and head to New England. The Maine Venture Fund provides capital for promising business ideas and young companies willing to plant their roots in Maine. There’s also the “Visit for a Week, Stay for a Lifetime” campaign which promises to reimburse your vacation expenses if you decide to stay indefinitely. Because who hasn’t dreamed of leaving for vacation and never coming back?

Pros: 90% of the lobster Americans eat comes from Maine, so lobster fans, step to the front of the line. If you move to Portland, you’ll find a perfect balance of nature and city life; the city is home to a bevy of foodie-approved dining options and breweries, as well as theaters and museums and more than 700 acres of open space and public parks.

Cons: Portland is the state’s largest and most cosmopolitan city and its population is a mere 66,000 people. Imagine how isolated you’ll feel elsewhere. And if you’re allergic to shellfish, relocating to Maine for its culinary offerings would be a major con.

#1: New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut

The stats: pop. 129,779; median home value: $172,100

The Deal: If you haven’t lived in a college town since, well, college it might be time to head back to school. The town that’s home to Yale University offers up to $10,000 in forgivable loans to first-time home buyers. And if you’re buying a historic home, you could qualify for up to $30,000 in forgivable loans to help bring the property up to date. Plus, the city is committed to providing in-state college tuition to any child who graduates from New Haven Public Schools, so it’s not a bad idea to raise a family here.

Pros: Living in the backyard of an Ivy League university means you get the charms of a pretty campus without having to cram for a final exam. The downtown area is completely walkable with a nice variety of shops, restaurants and bars. And if it’s big city vibes you want, the fastest train to Manhattan takes only 90 minutes.

Cons: Living among Yale scholars means you’ll most likely never come close to being the smartest citizen in town.

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Tagged: Midwest, New England, New York, Vermont

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Kevin Aeh

Kevin Aeh

Kevin Aeh is an editor/writer based in New York City. He covers lifestyle, travel, and pop culture; and his current obsessions include finding the best eye cream, booking a trip to Cuba, and binge-watching Lady Dynamite on Netflix. His writing has appeared in Time Out New York, Furthermore from Equinox, Refinery29, Vulture, and more.

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