The best cities to buy a home

For sale sign with sky in background

Stable markets like Houston and Austin top this list from Forbes magazine.

They are among the handful of cities where home prices are still rising, there are relatively few vacant homes and it costs less to buy than to rent.

They are, as Forbes puts it, "places where buyers are investing in homes in order to live, not just make a quick buck."

The average vacancy rate across the 40 major metro areas Forbes studied was 2.88%, and the average price appreciation was just 0.07% between 2005 and 2007.

Now compare that to Forbes' picks:

1. Houston, Texas. Home prices have grown 6.6% and vacancies have declined by 11.3%.

2. Austin, Texas, can brag that 98.5% of all homes are occupied, and median prices have gone up from $163,800 in 2005 to $183,700 in 2007.

3. St. Louis, Mo., enjoys a strong job market, and home values are rising from the current median price of $145,400.

4. Philadelphia, Pa., has seen median home prices rise $19,900 to $234,900, and the area has a vacancy rate of just 1.9%.

5. San Antonio, Texas. A low cost of living and jobs from corporations like IBM have helped prices grow from $133,900 to a still very affordable $150,900.

6. Dallas, Texas. Median home prices -- currently about $150,000 -- are on the rise, and only 2.5% of Dallas homes are vacant.

7. Charlotte, N.C. Median prices rose by $24,500 from 2005 to 2007, and there's a solid supply of housing, thanks to the slightly-above-average 3.1% vacancy rate.

8. San Francisco, Calif. Homes aren't cheap, but they've retained and even added to their value, with median prices increasing by $52,800 since 2005.

9. Jacksonville, Fla., has seen its population grow by 8% since 2000, pushing median home prices up 14% to $189,200.

10. Atlanta, Ga. An affordable median home price -- about $170,000 -- is a huge draw.

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