- Considering both climate and affordability, Southeast cities are the leading options for Americans who plan to move in the near future.
- North Carolina hubs Charlotte and Raleigh are the best choices for homebuyers looking for affordable housing and year-round mild weather.
- People looking for warmer climates and gentle winters can find affordable options in the Sunbelt.
- Philadelphia is the top choice for homebuyers who want to avoid scorching summer temperatures.
If you ask a room full of people which type of weather is best, you’ll probably get just as many different answers. However, one thing Americans do agree on: Our daily lives depend a lot on the climate we live in — and we’d rather avoid the extremes. In fact, nearly half of the people who want to move are factoring in climate when deciding where to live next. But, with home prices on the rise, can they find both mild weather and affordable housing?
To find out, we ranked U.S. cities with populations greater than 150,000 based on housing expenses and how comfortable their climates were. Specifically, we pinpointed the cities where homeowners earning a median income would spend no more than 30% of their earnings on monthly housing payments. Then, we factored in how many days per year are clear; how many days reach extreme temperatures; and how rainy and windy they are.
The results show that Americans looking for both mild climates and affordable homes will mostly find options in the humid, subtropical regions of the South and the Southeast. These cities tend to have hot summers, gentle cold seasons and a fair amount of stormy weather. But, while most cities in the top 20 register above-average rainfall, many are also protected from the tropical storms of the Gulf Coast.
Overall, the ranking revealed that affordable cities with gentle climates were becoming less common with the increasing prevalence of extreme weather around the nation. However, those looking for comfortable temperatures can still find cost-effective options in a diverse set of places. From bustling urban cores to quaint areas with small-town flair, or year-round warmth to chilly winters, the nation’s most affordable cities can satisfy a range of preferences.
North Carolina is the Top Choice for Mild Weather & Affordability
Three cities from North Carolina took leading spots in the top 20. Specifically, Charlotte and Raleigh ranked first and second, while Greensboro ranked fifth. Both Charlotte and Raleigh are among the fastest-growing large cities in the nation, and their climates and affordability play pivotal roles in their popularity.
In addition to their moderate cost of living, high-paying jobs and vibrant local communities, these two North Carolina hubs are also the top choices for mild weather: Charlotte and Raleigh register fewer sweltering days than most cities in the ranking (46 and 44, respectively), as well as moderate numbers of days that reach freezing temperatures.
Summers in the region tend to be warm, while winters are significantly less cold than in the Northeast. But, these North Carolina cities truly shine come fall: Locals boast the autumn foliage and the bustling town life as perks during Americans’ favorite season. Of course, the weather can get moody in the region, but both Charlotte and Raleigh stay true to the Carolina blue skies — the two cities have 109 and 111 fully clear days, respectively.
In terms of housing affordability, Raleigh is a more economical option compared to Charlotte. With a median income of $67,266 and a median home sale price of $230,250, Raleigh residents only need to budget around 21% of their earnings for monthly housing payments. Meanwhile, the median income is $62,817 in Charlotte against a $298,296 median home sale price, revealing an affordability index of 29%.
Further south, Columbus, Ga., ranks third among the top 20 affordable cities with mild weather overall. Like most cities in Georgia, the weather in Columbus tends to be comfortable throughout the year. Plus, cold temperatures are short-lived because the city only gets about a month’s worth of days that reach freezing temperatures each year.
Conversely, Columbus summers get hot — especially from June through September — with an average of 78 days that reach 90°F degrees or above per year. However, temperatures tend to stay between 80°F and 90°F during the warm season. Moreover, monthly home payments amount to around 16% of the residents’ median income, making Columbus the third-most affordable city on the list.
Sunbelt Cities Offer Year-Round Warmth & Gentle Winters
For those looking to escape freezing temperatures, the top affordable options are in the southern Sunbelt. More precisely, Jacksonville, Fla., has the mildest winters in the ranking, with the fewest number of days that drop to 32 degrees or below — just 15 per year. As such, the Sunshine State’s northern coastal city never gets too cold for outdoor activities, ranking ninth in the top 20.
In terms of affordability, Jacksonville locals should set aside around 25% of their monthly income for housing, as the median income is $54,701, while the median home price is $227,143.
Not far behind, Baton Rouge, La., and San Antonio, Texas, both record an average of 20 days per year when temperatures drop to 32°F or lower. Baton Rouge occupies the 14th spot in the ranking and has an affordability index of 26%. Residents in the Louisiana city have a median income of $44,470, while the median home price is $194,571.
Meanwhile, San Antonio is a top option for those who want to enjoy both year-round warmth and the big-city life at an affordable price. With a median income of $52,455 against a median home price of $257,900, the Texas hub is one of the few cities with a population of more than 1.5 million where residents have to set aside no more than 30% of their earnings for housing payments.
Homebuyers Can Find Mild Summers on the East Coast
While a significant portion of Americans enjoy warmer areas, many actually prefer colder climates if they can avoid scorching summer temperatures. For those who would rather face the snow than the blazing sun, Philadelphia stands out with the mildest summers in the top 20.
While Philadelphia ranks 20th overall, it records an average of only 25 days with temperatures that reach 90°F or higher per year. Notably, it’s also the only Northeastern city on the list, as well as one of the most accessible of the nation’s largest urban cores. Here, residents earn a median income of around $45,927, while the median home price is $195,000. As such, locals can expect a housing burden of 26% — below the affordability threshold.
Further down the coast, Norfolk, Va., records an average of 33 days with temperatures of 90°F or higher per year. Because it’s a coastal city surrounded on three sides by water, the Atlantic Ocean tempers both the summer heat and the winter cold in the area. As a result, this distinctive climate effect places the Virginia beach town sixth in the top 20, while the median income ($51,590) and home price ($239,00) add up to an affordability index of 28%.
A couple hundred miles to the west, Greensboro, N.C., is a primary option for gentle summers and the #5 city for mild weather and affordability overall. Greensboro registers an average of 34 days when temperatures top 90°F per year and around 109 days of sunshine, making for pleasant summers that don’t get too hot. Here, the median home price is $188,143, while the median income rests at $49,964. Therefore, Greensboro residents should expect to spend around 23% of their earnings on mortgage payments.
Dixieland Offers Most Affordable Homes in Top 20
For those who place cost-effective housing first on their list of requirements, Jackson, Miss., is the most affordable city in the top 20 with a housing burden of just 10%. The median home price in the city rests at $63,571 — the lowest in the ranking — while residents have a median income of $38,888.
Jackson is located in central Mississippi, so newcomers should expect hot summers, mild winters and year-round rain. Ranking seventh overall, the city sees an average of 44 days per year that reach freezing temperatures and 84 days with temperatures that top 90°F, which makes it a top location for people who enjoy warm weather and lush outdoor scenery.
Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Ala., residents should allocate around 13% of their incomes for housing. The $37,375 median income in the city is more than enough to cover mortgage payments for a home purchased at the median sale price of $83,285. Birmingham also registers an average of just 50 days per year when temperatures drop to freezing, as well as 61 days that top 90 degrees. At the same time, the Alabama city experiences fewer tropical storms than the southern part of the state, despite being located near the Gulf of Mexico.
Finally, Columbus, Ga. — which ranks third in the top 20 — is also the third-most affordable option for homebuyers looking to move to a milder climate. With a median income of $46,408 and a median home sale price of $123,571, Columbus residents should budget around 16% of their earnings for monthly housing payments.
Overall, the ranking reveals that up-and-coming cities in North Carolina are Americans’ best option when it comes to year-round mild weather and housing affordability. However, with a few concessions, homebuyers can choose warmer weather and cooler areas as well. As affordability and climate are top priorities for many Americans who want to move, it remains to be seen how these cities evolve in the near future.
The study considered all U.S. cities with more than 150,000 residents. Cities that didn’t have available weather data were excluded from the ranking.
Data sources: U.S. Census Bureau ACS 2019 estimates; The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; PropertyShark; and Zillow.
The affordability index was calculated by taking into account the median income percentage required for monthly mortgage payments on a home purchased at each city’s median sale price point.
The final ranking is based on a proprietary index calculated based on the yearly averages of:
- number of clear days
- number of days in which temperatures fell to or below 32°F
- number of days in which temperatures reached 90°F or higher
- volume of precipitation
- wind speed
The index takes into account the weighted individual rankings for the:
- lowest number of days with extreme temperatures
- lowest number of clear days outside the national average
- lowest volume of precipitation outside the national average
- lowest average wind speed