7 American Cities and States That Will Actually Pay You to Move There

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado | Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images
Denver, Colorado | Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images

Real talk, you average American, this might be the year you make a big move. For one, your commute is too long, and you’re fresh out of murder-mystery podcasts to get you through it. Your job sucks, and you’re tired of slinging your business card across standing tables at happy hours to try and find a new one. Your rent is too high, and yet it makes your student loan payments look like beer-and-burgers money.

Then there’s that gnawing sensation at the back of your mind: Somewhere, out there in America, a different version of you is saving more money (maybe even buying a place!), seeing more of the country, and having way more fun doing it.

Everyone daydreams about moving -- but crazy thing, the Census finds that record-low numbers of people are actually moving these days, held in place no doubt by an inertia that includes the words “it’s too expensive.” You can shop cool small cities or cities where you can buy a home on a reasonable salary. But nothing beats these cities and states that are ponying up to get you to pack up the hatchback and scoot on over -- especially if you want to buy your first home. We’ve dug up the best housing incentives, business investments, loan reimbursements, and so on to find the places where you’ll be on your way to new adventures you can actually afford.

Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs, Colorado | Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images


Get you a mountainous home without those mountainous loans.
If you’re between the ages of 12 and 70, you have already thought about moving there, either to climb boulders or shralp the gnar on heavy powder days or start a rad craft brewery tour or just get rich growing kine bud in your basement grow-op. The country’s least-square square state draws in outdoorsy types, retirees, space cowboys, and enough young professionals that Forbes rated Colorado the No. 1 state for labor supply. You know what that means: startups and venture capitalists and kombucha galore, in addition to the legal weed. Also, bonkers housing prices, especially in and near Denver, which is quite figuratively exploding.

Good thing, then, that Colorado offers dozens of homeownership assistance programs. The simplest one to explain: Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) covers up to 4% of your first mortgage, so long as you meet income requirements. Worry not -- you can afford the kombucha.

Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland | Carolyn Cole/Getty Images

Baltimore, Maryland

The Charm City seriously wants to give you thousands of dollars to buy a house there.
You already know Baltimore for the plucky drug dealers, puritanical police, functional City Hall, and definitely-not-failing public schools that made The Wire such a barrel of laughs. But you also should know it as a rising arts and tech hub that is attracting droves of college grads -- that population went up 32% in B’more from 2000 to 2012. Like other Rust Belt cities, the overall population of Baltimore has steadily eroded in recent decades (down more than a third since 1950, in fact). But where others have left, houses remain. Sweet, sweet houses, at fractions of the prices you’d pay elsewhere in the region.  

“We often hear from people now who are very young,” says Annie Milli, the executive director of Live Baltimore, a group that aims to get people to buy homes in Baltimore. “They’re interesting customers that are really pursuing their passions, finding these incentives, getting a roommate, living for little, and accessing the great amenities we have to offer.”

The median-priced home in Baltimore is $238,000, a bit more than half of what you’d pay in DC, Boston, or the New York metro. But you can get much cheaper, and on the lower end you can qualify for a bushel of discounts. (Baltimore really wants to help you find a place you can legally splatter paint.) Pen ready? Here come numbers:

The Buying Into Baltimore Program offers first-time homebuyers $5,000 toward buying anywhere in the city. The Live Near Your Work Program, also for first-time homebuyers, a $2,000-$5,000 grant or conditional grant (half from City of Baltimore, and half from employer) to be used toward down payment and closing assistance; to that end, city employees can receive up to $5,000 toward buying a home. And if you want to move into one of Baltimore’s abandoned homes, the city’s Vacants to Value Program will give you $10,000. Half of which you’ll probably spend at Home Depot in the first six months, but still.

Palouse, Washington | Prisma by Dukas/Getty Images


Pay off your student loans while living in nature’s living room.
Washington State is more than one kickass, tech-fueled metropolis careening into the future. Get outside of Seattle, and you’ll find easily one of the most beautiful states in the country. You can spend a lifetime gawking at the bold Columbia River carving through ash blonde sedimentary rock, scope out the hills of the Palouse like a bubbling pot, and the purple assault of Jardin du Soleil lavender.

Believe it or not, a state this sexy is still so vast that many parts don’t have great health-care access. If you’re paying down a student loan in certain health-related fields and are willing to dig in for three years, the Washington State Loan Repayment Program is offering up to $75,000 in loan reimbursements. There are stipulations, of course. For starters, you can’t take too many sick days, or work too few hours, or be a Past Life Regression Therapist.

Downtown New Haven
Downtown New Haven, Connecticut | f11photo/shutterstock

New Haven, Connecticut

Free money makes it easier to buy a home in the Ivy League's pizza capital.
Yale is the big dog in town, a swell neighbor if you’re into art galleries or library tourism. The city’s architecture is absolutely dynamite for a city its size, it rocks a bunch of annual festival, and supports park-loads of natural beauty throughout the city. And its vibrant restaurant scene includes enough excellent pizzerias to make it perhaps the best pizza city in the entire dang country.

Now that you’re stoked to move there, aren’t you piqued to hear that RE: New Haven, the city’s three-part incentive program, will loan first-time homebuyers $10,000 interest-free (plus another $30,000 in free loans toward energy improvements). Slap on an extra $2,500 if you’re a city employee, teacher, police officer, firefighter, or member of the military.

Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan, Alaska | Kimberly Brotherman/Getty Images


Handing out checks just for living there, since 1976.
A certain kind of person moves to Alaska and is never bored: snowmobiling, dog sledding, stargazing, crabs, nodding to a moose on your walk to the grocery store. Another type of person probably wonders what in the hell is so wrong with moving to San Diego. But everyone can agree that receiving a slice of oil money each year just to live there, Norway-style, has its perks. Since 1976 Alaska’s Permanent Fund has doled out dividends to Alaska residents that get as high as $2,000 a year. There’s no telling what next year will bring, but free money is free money, and little taste of Scandinavia right in America.

Castle Rock
Castle Rock, Western Kansas | marekuliasz/shutterstock


When your craving for brisket is as overwhelming as your student debt.  
The band Kansas was first named “The Reasons Why.” Fitting, as there are reasons why Kansas is attractive to move to, even for a serial coastliner. There’s a ton to explore: the Great Bend Wild Refuges, to the Swedish culture of Lindsborg, or just Wichita, a stealthy-cool American city.

If you want some free money, though, find your own patch of prairie. Settle into one of 77 designated rural zones scattered all over the map, and Kansas will wave hello by waiving your income tax for five years. Once you’re employed, you can secure student loan repayments of up to $15,000.

In order to qualify, you must complete the grueling task of living outside of Kansas for five years. Once that is accomplished, as long as you have an associate’s or bachelor's degree, you can buy some boots and settle in.

Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine | Portland Press Herald/Getty Images


Cheap business loans means lots of startups to go with the coastal beauty.
Anyone who fancies whale watching, hiking, beaching, and snowboarding should consider listing Maine above “cheesing in front of the Hollywood sign.” The state is also a great place for entrepreneurs. Portland in particular is humming with startups and coworking spaces, and the state is dedicated to keeping the dream alive. The Maine Venture Fund (MVF) was put in place to provide capital to the sorts of small young companies -- such as Chimani (apps for the outdoors) and Gelato Fiasco (which speaks for itself) -- unlikely to get funding from traditional venture capitalists.

“Maine has an awesome ecosystem for entrepreneurship,” says Rich Sales, president of Abierto Networks, which makes digital signage and kiosks, and which moved from New Hampshire to York, Maine a few years ago. “There are resources in Maine for every level of business activity -- whether you are trying to figure out how to get started, to actually raising millions of dollars -- there are people that want to help and resources that you can leverage in Maine.”

After going through a thorough loan process, which Rich called “a validating process for possible future investment,” your business can earn its well-deserved riches from both the Maine Venture Fund and, hell, maybe other venture types. You’re not the only one invested in this new life of yours, after all.

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Ruby Anderson is an editorial assistant at Thrillist and, impressively, a direct descendant of someone who reads Sherwood Anderson.