Where to buy a first home in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Miami

The West Coast of North America may be the melting pot of the tech scene with San Francisco and Seattle, the entertainment and cultural epicenter with Los Angeles, Portland and Vancouver, but the East still has ample attractions. From the media and finance capital in New York, to the political vitality of Boston, to the history and vibrant culture of Philly, to the lure of South Beach and all the fun in the sun of Miami.

Yet, just the same as the West Coast, buying a first home in these cities can be a real challenge amidst great demand and rising prices. So, where to begin when looking to get onto the East Coast property ladder?

New York


Buying a first home in New York can be a challenge, but some good value areas exist around town. Picture: supplied

Save for San Francisco and the Bay Area, New York is often ranked among the most expensive real estate markets in the US, and the world. Accordingly, buying a fist home here shall always be a challenge, but not one that in insurmountable. Despite its expense, one of the advantages of New York is it is widely recognised as a city of transplants and transients.

This means the real estate market can cater to those who may have recently moved here and/or be only planning to live here for a relatively short period of time (so that even if you plan to ‘go back home’ in years ahead, you can still buy a house to get beyond exorbitant rent). So, if looking for a first property purchase market looking among the entry level apartments is sage.

When buying within New York City proper an apartment looms as an attractive prospect over a home. The choice you are faced with in turn is whether to buy a co-op or condo apartment. A co-op sees you buy into a wider arrangement with the body corporate of the building. Whereas buying a condo sees you own your property outright.  When given the opportunity owning something outright is usually the better option. Yet, dependent upon the location and your long term residence plans.

Riverdale to the north of Manhattan is a fine starting point for those in New York looking to make a first purchase. Along  along W 239th St 2 bedroom 1 bath apartments can be found within between $250-$260,000. Surrounding streets will provide the opportunity to acquire a 2 bed and 2 bath from the low $300,000-$325,000,  or 3 bed and 2 bath from around $375,000-$400,000. A 29 minute commute from the neighbourhood to downtown Manhattan, Riverdale is an ideal spot for those who love hopping on the freeway and heading upstate for a week out out of town.

For those who love to spend their weekends in the city among the cafes and bars, Homecrest represents a good value neighbourhood to buy a first home and make the most of city living. A reasonable 29 minute commute into Manhattan via car. Commensurate with its bronx location and close proximity to Manhattan, Homecrest can represent a real challenge to find an affordable first home within the low $300,000.

This said, along having some luck to acquire a 2 bed and 1 bath in the northern reaches of the neighbourhood, if so far as a long term view is taken and budget allows, then beyond the $400,000 shall see the market open up with a number of 2 bed and 2 baths, and 3 bed and 2 bath homes widely available. The central question a buyer need ask if it city living would suit them now, and already/to have kids, provide a suitable lifestyle for family into the future. If yes, great! If not, looking further afield may be ideal.

Inwood in the South-west also firms as a great location for a first time home purchase. With Jamaica Bay to the north, and Long Island to the South, this scenic part of NY offers a number of 3 bedroom 1 bath houses within the $300-$350,000 mark. With a 44 minute commute from the local landmark Inwood Country Club to Manhattan, the local community offers a fabulous chance to still access the city while being able to enjoy the peace and calm of suburbia once the day is finished.
Also don’t forget outside of the city; look to Newark. Just across the river and a reasonable commute of around 40 minutes from the New Jersey capital’s train station to Grand Central station in Manhattan.



Boston enjoys a great seagoing tradition and love of water sports right by the city. Picture: supplied

A huge multicultural hub of long term residents and new transplants to Boston (both from around the US and around the world), Dorchester to the south offers some good value to those new to Beantown.

A good starting point is Mattapan. South-west of the Boston CBD, with Boston College High School, the University of Massachusetts-Boston,  Further, with Carson Beach, Malibu Beach (the non-Hollywood one), and the Neponset river all within close reach, this region represents the chance to combine amenities with lifestyle for a first home buy. Here a 3-4 bedroom 1 bath home can be yours for between $300-$350,000, and offers with it a reasonably good commute of 20 minutes from the neighbourhood into the Boston CBD.

Further out Walpole with 2 bed and 2 baths for between $330,000 and $350,000. Then, north of On the Orange line, it is an easy commute into town. 2 beds and 2 baths for around $300,000. The wide spread of Boston’s geography and affordable homes across a variety of neighbourhoods – coupled with the reality that the city is also among the most expensive real estate markets in the US – means willing to cast a wide net, and allowing the time where possible to find a good fit. Speaking of expensive markets…



The home of the Liberty Bell offers a number of areas to buy a first home in Philly. Picture: supplied.

Northeast of the Philadelphia CBD, Fishtown is right now a huge hub for growth and property in Pennsylvania. When seeking out a first home in Philly, looking to Fishtown is eminently worthwhile.  In the northeast of the district a 2 bed and 1 bath apartment can be had for around $220,000. Further south and closer to the city proper a solid family home can be found in the lower $300,000-$325,000 mark with 3 beds and 2 baths.

While Fishtown has much to recommend it to a first time home buyer – from proximity to the city to the rapid growth that is seen a slew of new bars, restaurants, and clubs come to feature in the neighbourhood – this growth may appeal to young home buyers keen to enjoy the cosmopolitan lifestyle, but less less for perhaps for a new family looking to settle down away from the busyness of the city. For the latter, looking towards Francisville is ideal

With Girard College to its northeast, Temple university to its northwest, and the Schuylkill river and art museum to its east, Francisville offers a solid set of amenities and attractions to go along with a vibrant neighbourhood. With 2 bed 1.5 bath homes available for between $300 and $325,000, Francisville has a similar price point to Fishtown, but does so removed from the rapid growth of the rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood to its east.

Both neighbourhoods are quality choices, and instead the foremost question for a buyer is lifestyle. When buying your first home do you anticipate living there and engaging deeply in your neighbourhood even if just for a few years until employment or an expanding family see you look further afield, or do you look to buy with a view to years to come. If the former, look to Fishtown. If the latter, look to Francisville.

Washington DC


Beyond the Beltway and along its lakes, the Washington area has some wonderful natural beauty. Picture: supplied.

As a hugely transient town – with so much of the city’s businesses dependent upon who has been elected and whether Congress is in session right now – Washington is very much a real estate market where casting a wide eye for a good value first home is worthwhile. This is especially true given the region also encompasses Virginia and Maryland – meaning potentially a market of 3 states and countless neighbourhoods in which you can look for a home within reach of downtown.

Within the city proper, while home prices can vary considerably, looking among the following neighbourhoods can render you a good deal on a family home between $350,000 and $450,000; Chillum in the north east, Edgewood also North East, and Fort Stanton just beyond the Washington Naval Yard and across the river in Anacostia river to the South East.

For those seeking to buy sooner, or who have done so with a view towards deciding their neighbourhood first and then the house they live in, the following locales further afield are worth exploring.

Further afield is Fredricksburg. 55 miles out of town, and about halfway between Washington and Richmond, VA. Within this neighbourhood a price point of between $300,000 and $350,000 shall see you spoilt for choice with a number of beautiful 3 bed and 4 bedroom homes.  Similarly, a modern 2 bed and 2 bath townhouse can be found here between $200,000 and $220,000. While 50 minutes is by LA standards a good commute, if keen on being closer to the city Woodbridge offers some great value in the South West with the rapidly growing market seeing an array of family homes with 3 beds or more for sale between $300,000-$400,000.  At around 28 minutes in the car from door to Constitutional Avenue is is a reasonably good commute (even allowing for traffic).



Sunshine and seaside prove to be huge draws for many who move to Miami. Picture: supplied.

East of the South Dixie Highway and Grand Avenue intersection is a number of homes found for good value in Coconut Grove, with a 3 bed and 2 bath easily found within the range of $350,000-$400,000 in close proximity to the Grove Gate Shopping Center, with quick transport into town via the South Dixie Highway, and the nearby Peacock Park on Biscayne Bay to the south representing a fantastic spot for a game of softball or kickball with the kids on weekends.

West Flagler is also a good option, with a number of 3 bed and 2 bath homes regularly found within the $300,000 to $400,000 price bracket. This range of this price scale is surely to be significant when buying a home, yet rather than approaching his area with some timidity, instead recognise there is truly excellent value to be found if ready to take the time and do your research. Doing so will mean if so able to budget in just $5,000 or $10,000 more, you can perhaps find a home you love in a location that suits with an extra bed or bathroom in tow.

Given the wide variety of properties available within the south-sast of Miami it is ideal for new home buyers to begin their search here – and if so able to do so with a view towards patience and waiting for an opening – there is much potential in finding a home that suits their budget and desires for proximity to transport, amenities, and lifestyle.

For those who’ve employment reasons or preference to be on the other side of the city, a look into a first home purchase in Miami Lakes is worthwhile. With an abundance of green space and waterways all in close proximity, a family home can be found here for between $350,000-$400,000. Further, with Miami-Dade College North, and St Thomas and Florida Memorial University all close by, the neighbourhood has strong educational offerings around it.

The bottom line

Ultimately wherever you buy it is a reality a first home purchase is a significant financial undertaking for an individual or couple. Yet, by setting a firm timeline in place, being ready to research and canvas wisely – and ultimately having the confidence to be ready and jump in with a bid when you’ve found a suitable home – you stand ready to minimise the pain and maximise you advantage when getting that first foot on the property ladder.




Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

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