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20 Best Cities for First-Time Buyers

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WHERE THE HEAT IS

These are tough times for first-time homebuyers. The median price of a home in the U.S. jumped nearly 7 percent in March, to $236,400. And there's no end in sight to the increases, with home prices having risen year over year for 61 straight months, the National Association of Realtors reports. By contrast, the median price of homes bought by first-time buyers comes is well below that at $182,500, The New York Times reported after crunching NAR data. Fortunately, there are a number of markets across the country -- cities and their suburbs -- where prices are friendlier for first-time buyers.

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TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

Median Home Price: $193,000
This 189,000-population state capital is a big college town, home to Florida State University and Florida A&M, as well as to great sports teams and lively nightlife.

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ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

Median Home Price: $189,000
Nestled in the mountains, this city of 559,000 is the state's largest. A reasonable climate, lots of sunny days, and an economy increasingly driven by high-tech are big draws that keep Albuquerque growing and thriving.

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DES MOINES, IOWA

Median Home Price: $184,000
This capital city of 210,000 has a lot to offer. It has a pleasant Midwestern feel with an array of family-friendly parks, zoos, museums, historic sites, and the annual Iowa State Fair, where the nation's leading politicians campaign every four years.

Atlanta
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ATLANTA

Median Home Price: $182,000
Spring comes early here, a plus for those used to dreary winters in the Northeast and Midwest. The business headquarters of the Southeast, the Atlanta metro market is the fifth-largest in the U.S. and has a thriving job market.

Daytona Beach, Florida
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DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

Median Home Price: $180,000
Home to the Daytona International Speedway, this city of 64,000 on the Florida coast has lots of white sandy beaches. The city also boasts a number of cultural and arts attractions.

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KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Median Home Price: $179,000
This city of 475,000 is fast shedding its grittier, agricultural past as it attracts new business and industries, including telecommunications, publishing, and car manufacturing. New development is taking place downtown and city's pro teams, the Chiefs and the Royals, have done relatively well in recent years.

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COLUMBUS, OHIO

Median Home Price: $171,000
The state capital and in particular its downtown has been in a major revival, with a bevy of luxury apartment towers and parks taking shape. The city of 850,106 is also home to Ohio State University. Despite it all, median home prices remain down to earth.

Pensacola, Florida
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PENSACOLA, FLORIDA

Median Home Price: $170,000
Home to the Blue Angels and Pensacola Naval Air Station, this Panhandle city of 53,000 has a significant military presence. There are also lots of nice, white sandy beaches on Santa Rosa, a barrier island.

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OMAHA, NEBRASKA

Median Home Price: $168,000
Nebraska's largest city may be best known for its most famous -- and by far richest -- resident, Warren Buffett, known as "the Sage of Omaha." This nice and tidy Midwestern city is also home to the Strategic Air Command's Offutt Air Force Base and SAC museum.

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HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

Median Home Price: $161,000
For the capital of Pennsylvania, one of the nation's largest states, Harrisburg, at 49,000, is more of a small town than a big city, with scenic stretches along the Susquehanna River.

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INDIANAPOLIS

Median Home Price: $159,000
The median home price here is a bargain considering this city of 853,000 is home to drug giant Eli Lilly as well as an array of financial services, software, and publishing firms, and downtown has seen a dramatic revival.

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MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Median Home Price: $158,000
This city of 655,000 on the Mississippi has a rich musical tradition. Legendary artists such as Elvis, B.B. King, and Otis Redding have played here, giving the city flavor alongside an economy based in shipping and transportation.

Columbia, South Carolina
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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Home Price: $157,000
While it may be the state capital and a business hub as well, Columbia is on the small side, with a population of 133,000. The University of South Carolina's campus is downtown, giving some collegiate feel.

El Paso, TX
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EL PASO, TEXAS

Median Home Price: $152,000
To get away from the rest of the world yet live in a sizable city, El Paso could be a dream destination. While its population of 681,000 is about the size of Boston, El Paso is hundreds of miles from any other major metro area. Despite its relative isolation, it has the University of Texas at El Paso, Fort Bliss, and a respectable downtown business district.

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LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

Median Home Price: $152,000
The second-largest city in Kentucky at 314,000, Lexington is a center for the worldwide horse racing industry, surrounded by miles of picturesque bluegrass farmland. There is a historic downtown and pleasant suburbs, and the University of Kentucky's campus is nearby.

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OKLAHOMA CITY

Median Home Price: $152,000
The capital city of Oklahoma is also its largest, and a major center for the oil industry. The downtown has bloomed with a range of new buildings and attractions, while the median home price remains humble.

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GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN

Median Home Price: $151,000
This city of 105,000 has the feel of a small town, with dairy farms and manufacturing remaining the big businesses. The city is also home to one of the consistently best franchises in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers.

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TULSA, OKLAHOMA

Median Home Price: $151,000
This city of 403,000 in the middle of oil and farm country in Northeast Oklahoma offers a mix of Southern charm and Western ruggedness, Sperling's Best Places says.

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BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA

Median Home Price: $147,000
There are 14 colleges and universities within 50 miles of this town of 78,000. The campuses of Illinois Wesleyan, Illinois State University, and Heartland Community College are all nearby, and contribute to a downtown full of restaurants and entertainment.

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CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS

Median Home Price: $140,000
Home to the University of Illinois, this city of 86,000 is also proud of its agricultural roots. This university town offers lots of college sports, restaurants, museums, and other attractions.