Post overview: Going over the best places to live in New York State
If you’re thinking of moving to New York state, welcome! The state is a true beaut thanks to its fall color, snowy winters, cities and most of all: its people.
Now the question becomes, where are the best places to live in New York state? Most folks minds will go to the Big Apple, which is definitely an option but the state offers so much more than the concrete jungle.
You’ll want to narrow down budget, attractions and lifestyle when deciding where you want to spend the next few years living in New York. Once you do that, we’re here to help.
We’ve written this article outlining the best towns & cities in New York. We also include average rental cost and what the housing market looks like so you can crunch the numbers and find the best fit for you and your family.
We got a lot of ground to cover so I say we get right to it! Without any further ado, here’s our roundup of the best places to live in New York.
Best Places to Live in New York
5 Best Large Cities in New York
1. New York City
- Population: 8,468,000
- Median home price: $711,531
- Average age: 37
Is anyone really startled to see New York City gracing a list of the best places to live in New York State?
You know we couldn’t help mentioning the Big Apple when it comes to the best large cities in New York. Between the five boroughs, there’s a home for everyone from singles to growing families and retirees.
Rental rates come in at around $3,600, 138% higher than the national average. The city is also experiencing rent rage, with historically high rental rates.
For that $3,600, you shouldn’t expect much. You’ll need to get into the $10,000 a month to have the amenities you’d expect in a fancy apartment. Most renters aren’t looking for fancy. They just want to “be a part of it… New York.”
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a home for the national average of $346,270 if you want things like a kitchen, (small) yard, or more than one closet. New York’s housing market is going through its own galaxy in 2023.
If you’d like to delve into the details, here’s a helpful guide on living in New York City (with advice).
- Population: 276,897
- Median home price: $212,267
- Average age: 33
Buffalo is known for its culture.
The birthplace of Buffalo wings, it’d be a mistake to overlook this lively city ripe for exploration. Known for its vibrant culture, the city offers stunning architecture and a robust arts scene.
It’s often recognized as one of the best cities in New York for the beer and nightlife scene (outside of the Big Apple, of course).
The average rent is $1,300, a comparable rate to other popular cities like Syracuse and Rochester. Housing rates have stayed around $212,000 since July 2022. If you want to avoid the highest risk of the famous lake-effect snow, look to the northern part of Buffalo.
Living in Buffalo feels like living in a big city. You have sports, museums, a famous food scene, and plenty of parks with Lake Erie. Plus, Niagara Falls and Toronto aren’t that far away.
- Population: 210,606
- Median home price: $206,245
- Average age: 32
Rochester is a place where you go to enjoy the culture and tight-knit community, not the weather. With more than 200 overcast days, the warmth and friendliness of the locals tends to catch people off guard.
The kind locals are only half the draw — there’s many perks to living in Rochester and it seems like we’re not the only ones that think so. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Rochester as one of the best places to live in New York (coming in at #3).
Locals love having daily access to the great nightlife, outdoor recreation and culture. People love the activities around Lake Ontario and community festivals.
Rental rates average $1,250, which is comparable to other large New York cities outside of NYC. Most people here live in the suburbs, leaving the downtown for a place to play. The affordable homes for sale stay on the market for about a week, and 77% of those are sold over the asking price.
- Population: 146,103
- Median home price: $168,657
- Average age: 32
If there’s one thing people from Syracuse love, it’s Syracuse. It’s quite common for people who were raised here to keep their own families here.
It’s one of the best places to live in New York for affordability and quality of life. The one caveat is that you will have to accept and learn to enjoy the winters. In fact, Syracuse was named the snowiest city in America!
Rental prices hover around $1,400, up $200 from a year ago. If you can work out the financing, it would make sense with that rental rate to buy a home thanks to the affordability coming in well under $200,000 since 2015.
You also have the Finger Lakes vacation destination right in your backyard, making for affordable weekend getaways. In town, people love the walkability of the city.
Something to note: Syracuse is also home to the 683 acre campus of Syracuse University, go Orange!
- Population: 98,617
- Median home price: $276,823
- Average age: 31
Albany is ranked at the top of the best Places to Live in New York. You’ll get a nice blend of college students, young professionals, and movers and shakers, as this is the capital city.
That will make it a more transient town after elections and when the legislature isn’t in session.
The average rent is $1,380, which is down from the December 2022 peak of $1,500. Housing prices have been on an incline since 2015, with a 49% increase. The West Hill prices are much lower, but the crime rates there tend to keep demand low.
You’ll notice a lot of people will compare Albany to New York City, for better and worse, but that’s not really a fair comparison. Albany stands on its own as an influential city with pocket neighborhoods that celebrate culture, history, diversity, and community events.
5 Best Mid-Sized Cities in New York
6. New Rochelle
- Population: 81,587
- Median home price: $774,302
- Average age: 40
When you’re looking for a place close enough to New York City while still having breathing room at home, New Rochelle is one of the best places to live in New York.
It’s ideal for families who want to raise kids outside the city but still be close enough to make the 36-minute commute home from the big city job.
The closeness to New York and the excellent amenities of the town are reflected in the rental rates, with $2,400 being the average. Rental rates haven’t gone below $2,100 since at least 2015. Downtown’s surge of high-rise rentals will likely keep that price going up.
Since August 2022, home values have increased by 20%. Most homeowners live and stick to the suburbs but go downtown for fine dining or to get to the city.
7. White Plains
- Population: 59,526
- Median home price: $665,073
- Average age: 41
White Plains is one of the best places in New York to live to when you’ve had enough of New York City. Made up of an older crowd with families White Plains is about 30 miles outside of Midtown Manhattan.
The experience with NYC is helpful so the housing costs won’t be too much sticker shock. Rental rates are 23% lower than in New York City, with the average rent being $2,759.
The housing market is rich with homes, studios, and condos, suiting all lifestyles. You also get a great blend of urban and suburban living. Housing rates have increased by 27% since 2018.
White Plains is also a great option if you want to get a taste of a walkable city with a New York City attitude before taking a bite out of the Big Apple.
- Population: 46,954
- Median home price: $154,379
- Average age: 36
Binghamton is known for being one of the best places to live in New York thanks to its affordability. When you look across all New York cities, you’ll find it hard to beat the cost of living paired with the quality of life here for outdoor lovers, new families, and those who have ties to the town.
The rental rates have been volatile over the past few years. In May 2023, the rate was at $1,110, but it was just October 2022 when that price was over $2,300.
More than half of the homes in April 2023 were selling under the list price, making it all that much more affordable and giving more money to renovations.
This is also a great place for outdoor lovers since the Catskills and Adirondacks are nearby. You can also scratch the big-city itch with NYC and Philadelphia within driving distance.
- Population: 67,212
- Median home price: $268,235
- Average age: 37
Schenectady is one of the best cities in New York to retire, but there are neighborhoods that accommodate everyone from young professionals to growing families.
And before you ask – it’s pronounced skuh-neck-tuh-dee.
Rental rates are down from the peak in mid-2023, coming in at $1,250. Housing values have been on a steady incline since 2015, and there’s no sign of slowing down.
Retirees love the small-town community while still having access to great healthcare. It’s also an easy commute to Albany for those who want a slower pace of life but still love the booming job market. After all, this is where Thomas Edison founded what would become General Electric.
- Population: 44,199
- Median home price: $528,046
- Average age: 39
Freeport is a Long Island town known for its ethnically diverse population and celebration of cultures. It’s also near a New York public beach and within commuting distance of New York City.
Keep an eye on those rental rates since this is one of the best places to live in New York. In June 2023, they were at $3,000, but just two months before, the average was $2,100. Housing prices are 55% lower than the New York average, and finding a water view won’t be hard in this village of weaved-in waterways.
This is also a great place to enjoy the cultural festival and summer tourist season without having to leave home. Jones Beach is just seven miles away, making it a great spot to watch the sunrise with your morning cup of coffee.
5 Best Small Cities in New York
- Population: 31,422
- Median home price: $316,031
- Average age: 22
Ithaca is one of the best places to live in New York for access to the outdoors, as it’s situated in the Finger Lakes. It’s also an elite college town and home to Ivy League Cornell University.
You’ll pay nearly $2,100 for a rental here, but prices can fluctuate. For example, March 2022 saw rates closer to $1750. Like most New York towns, the housing values keep going up.
Also worth noting, the population has increased by 7% since 2010. It even had a 2.4% surge between 2020 and 2022.
Ithaca also offers housing for those who want to be close to Cornell or in the walkable downtown, with plenty of more open spaces on the periphery.
One of the biggest challenges locals say is meeting new people unless you’re directly connected to the university. You might get new neighbors every few years as people graduate and move on.
After exploring you will get a chance to tell all your new neighbors about the best hiking trails, waterfalls, and lake activities.
12. Saratoga Springs
- Population: 28,571
- Median home price: $524,646
- Average age: 41
Saratoga Springs does have a college, but it isn’t known as a college town. It is known for its idyllic Broadway, ranked as one of the best cities in to live in New York and for having a fantastic Main Street. This is also the very place the potato chip was invented!
Rental rates are higher than the national average, coming in at $2,510. Looking at the trends since 2022, it does appear the rate spikes in the summer and got as low as $2,200 in December 2022.
Saratoga Springs might have a great horse racing and natural wonder history behind it, but it’s popular for retirees and those ready to be done with city life and are looking for a quieter place to live in New York state. It has been ranked as one of the best cities for retirement and the best small towns in America.
The nearby lake complements the abundance of natural springs. Broadway is kept in exceptional splendor throughout every season. The food scene is strong, and you’ll never have to worry about traffic noise again.
- Population: 31,850
- Median home price: $415,692
- Average age: 39
You’ll want to focus on the Town of Poughkeepsie and not the City of Poughkeepsie, as they are confusingly in the same area. The city is surrounded by the town.
It is one of the best places to live in New York for technology and manufacturing, as IBM has a strong presence here.
Rental rates are $1,850, a number that is seeing the highest rental prices since at least January 2022. More than half of the homes here were sold under the listing price and averaged 30 days on the market. That gives plenty of time to shop around.
Locals love the suburban feel while still having easy access to the Hudson River, with a walkway across to a state park. Vassar College is also located here, which gives a younger presence and a comfortable young professional base for meeting new people.
- Population: 24,307
- Median home price: $379,823
- Average age: 36
Kingston is one of the best places to live in New York in a post-COVID housing market. Real estate agents say city buyers are looking to get more space which attracts millennials and young professionals, along with a healthy dose of GenX and Boomers.
Kingston’s home prices are up 1.7% over the past year. That hasn’t stopped nearly 60% of homes to sell for under the listing price though. Rental rates spiked in November 2022 but have remained relatively stable, around $1,775 in 2023.
The city is going through a transformation, delicately balancing the act of preserving its sense of history and community while creating a stronger place to thrive despite economic bumps. The initiative is led by Warren Buffett’s son, Peter.
The artsy and creative stronghold keeps Kingston from becoming a cookie-cutter town and encourages artists of all ages to showcase their work.
- Population: 16,921
- Median home price: $207,084
- Average age: 36
Oswego is on the shore of Lake Ontario and is known for being the Port City. It’s a place where generations of families have lived and is home to State University of New York Oswego. It is one of the best places to live in New York and the country for small-town lake living.
The rental rates here are reasonable, especially with so many recreational opportunities. Throughout 2023, the rate has held steady near $1,300. In August 2022, the home value went above $200,000 for the first time since at least 2015.
Lifestyles here range from the fast pace of the Oswego Speedway to a sunset view by one of two lighthouses, with a unique historic downtown and historic fort right on the water.
Best Cities to Live in New York State (Post Summary)
- New York City
- New Rochelle
- White Plains
- Saratoga Springs
Map of the best places to live in New York
And there you have it, folks! Our list of the best places to live in New York State. I hope you found the article useful, cheers.