Report: Harrisburg, Lancaster areas among top metros to live

U.S. News & World Report’s most recent list of best places to live includes two midstate communities.

The list, which ranks the 100 most populous metropolitan areas in the country, puts the Harrisburg area at No. 34 in the country and first in Pennsylvania.

The Harrisburg area, with a population of nearly 560,000 people, is one of the country’s most affordable housing markets with a cost of living below the national average, researchers said.

The median home price was listed as $83,500. Home prices in Harrisburg, as in many urban areas, are much lower than prices in surrounding suburban communities. The average rent in the Harrisburg area was listed as $856 per month.

Lancaster County was No. 41 on the list. Its population is approximately 530,216, and most living expenses such as food, health and transportation align with the national average. The report noted that housing is “particularly cheap,” with the median home price of $176,138 coming in below the national median. The average monthly rent is listed as $908.

U.S. News and World Report relied on its own data as well as information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor. It then categorized that data into five indexes to come up with a total score.

The indexes evaluated factors such as cost of living, the strength of the local job market, quality of life issues including crime rates and local education, and net migration, or people moving in and out of an area. The rankings also include a Google survey for a desirability index that measured the metro areas where people would most like to live.

Harrisburg and Lancaster both scored highest in value and quality of life.

The top place to live in the U.S., according to the research, was Austin, Texas. The top five also included Denver;  San Jose, Calif., Washington, D.C.; and Fayetteville, Ark.

What other Pennsylvania metros made the list?

The Pittsburgh area was No. 58. The Philadelphia metro was No. 77, followed by Allentown at No. 79 and Scranton followed at No. 86.

Tell us what you love about where you live.

Weigh in with what you enjoy about living in Harrisburg or Lancaster in the polls below. Results will be published tomorrow in the Business Journal Daily.

UPDATE: Read the results of the polls here.

Home sales dip in January

In related news, the greater Harrisburg area in January saw home sales dip about 10 percent from the same month a year ago.

Home sales totaled 503 in January, down from 557 last year. However, the five-year average for January is about 480 home sales, according to the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors.

The association’s multiple listing service, or MLS, tracks sales in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, as well as portions of other neighboring counties, including Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon and northern York.

Most of the home sales each month are in Cumberland and Dauphin counties. There were 165 home sales in Dauphin County and 163 in Cumberland County in January. Another 56 were in York County.

Home prices held steady in January. The median sale price was $153,000 compared with $152,000 last year, according to the association.

Jason Scott
Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com.

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