These housing markets could be a first-time buyer's best bet in 2023

(NEXSTAR) – The last few years have been a brutal ride for prospective first-time home buyers as prices, then mortgage rates soared.

“A lot of first time homebuyers who would have had an FHA loan or a VA loan were really left out of the housing market last year because there were so many multiple bids for properties that all cash buyers would would essentially just win out on that property, and that was about a quarter of the market,” Jessica Lautz, National Association of Realtors deputy chief economist and vice president of research, told Nexstar.

As dark as prospects may seem for first-time house shoppers at the start of 2023, an analysis by found that there are still markets where dreams of settling down without crushing, monthly payments is a reality.

Plentiful housing and reasonable home prices were two main criteria, but the study’s authors also looked for communities where young residents could still enjoy a social life over the weekend and a short commute during the week.

The markets targeted on the list “have local employment markets which are strong enough to support young professionals getting a start in their careers,” Senior Economist George Ratiu said in the report.”

More than half of the cities or towns on the list are located in the Northeast. See the top five below:

Rank City State
1 Portsmouth Virginia
2 DeForest Wisconsin
3 Windsor Locks Connecticut
4 Gloucester City New Jersey
5 Moore Oklahoma

All five cities fell well below the national price-to-income ratio of 5.1, and all of the markets with the exception of Windsor Locks had both a higher 2023 forecasted population of 25-34 year olds and a higher 2022 home inventory ratio than the median. See for the full list.

Tips for a first-time home buyer

If you’re not ready to relocate to Portsmouth, Virginia, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of buying a first home.

Lautz recommends making sure you have expert help in the process.

“A realtor can show you overlooked areas and be able to show you homes that maybe you would have thought were not in in necessarily a place that you were originally looking and widen your scope,” Lautz said. “A good mortgage broker is going to tell you about low down payment programs and programs that you may qualify for and can really help you be able to secure that loan and be able to move forward.”

Despite historically high prices and mortgage rates, competition is still present, but has eased, Lautz said. A seller who might have received five offers a year ago may now only get a couple, but flexibility on the part of the buyer is still a great approach in 2023, according to Lautz.

“For a lot of first-time homebuyers, they may have to make a compromise, and whether that’s location of the home or condition of the home, and, you know, they’re buying a fixer upper or whatever that means, that they may have to look farther out from where they had been looking,” Lautz said.

Lautz also cautions buyers against trying to time the market or mortgage rate fluctuations, and recommends buying whenever the time is right based on one’s own individual situation.

Finally, for prospective buyers who don’t have the luxury of moving in with their parents to save up for a down payment, or taking a loan from the bank of mom and dad, Lautz advises that they look to low down payment options like FHA loans and VA loans.