If you're looking to move to a small city that's still affordable, these are the top 7

  • The pandemic has changed the calculus for urban living, for instance with the suburbs around New York City swelling with migrants seeking more space.
  • But not everyone who wants to move is seeking the suburbs. Zillow economist Jeff Tucker says many want less densely populated areas, but still seek the appeal of urban living.
  • Personal finance website WalletHub ranked the best small cities in America based on more than 40 key indicators of livability, including housing costs. 
  • Three small cities in Massachusetts made the list, while Sammamish, Washington, ranked first place. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

With the pandemic driving an increase in suburban living, the movement out of major cities has shined a spotlight on small ones.

More suited for social distancing than urban areas, many small cities have seen an uptick in interest through 2020, as they can often offer residents a better quality of life and higher degree of affordability. 

This uptick in demand has the potential to change smaller urban housing markets over the long term. Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow, told Business Insider that while people are moving out of major cities in search of less densely populated areas, they are still on the hunt for the appeals of city life.

There is a growing interest in living in markets where restaurants, arts, nightlife, and retail establishments are close to home, he said. These desires, and the ability for many to move away from central cities, means that affordability for many of these smaller markets may be short-lived. 

And demand is growing.

To find out which small cities across America currently outshine the rest, personal finance website WalletHub compared more than 1,200 US cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 based on 43 indicators of livability, from  restaurants per capita to housing costs. The data collected, depending on the metric, ranges from 2018 to September 2020.

With three of the top towns ranking in Massachusetts, these were the top seven to make the list. 

7. Brentwood, Tennessee

Median household income as of 2018: $160,597

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 90.78%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 10.47%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 7.5%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 16.04%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: 5.9%

6. Milton, Massachusetts

Median household income as of 2018: $127,448

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 83.99%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 4.99%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 1.34%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 12.7%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: N/A

5. Sugar Land, Texas

Median household income as of 2018: $122,233

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 83.12%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 41.7%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 43.39%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 15.97%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: 6.9%

4. Needham, Massachusetts

Median household income as of 2018: $153,032

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 83.12%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 2.03%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 4.05%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 18.49%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: N/A

3. Carmel, Indiana

Median household income as of 2018: $116,867

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 77.12%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 13.12%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 8.01%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 8.29%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: 5.4%

2. Lexington, Massachusetts

Median household income as of 2018: $172,750

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 82.06%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 7.64%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 3.63%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 25.68%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: N/A

1. Sammamish, Washington

Median household income as of 2018: $165,318

Home ownership rate as of 2018: 85.79%

Job growth from 2014 to 2018: 37.84%

Population growth from 2014 to 2018: 30.51%

Income growth from 2014 to 2018: 14.19%

Unemployment rate as of July 2020: 5.3%

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