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A few years ago, remote work was a perk. If your company gave you the opportunity to telecommute, occasionally, you were one of the lucky few.
But in a post-pandemic world, the majority of workers who can do their job from home now expect some kind of remote work option, whether it’s a few days a week or full-time. No longer tethered to a traditional commute or work schedule, many have remade their lives with the expectation that they won’t go into the office again.
Suddenly, jobs that once required living in major metro areas like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago may no longer have a grip on employees. And for prospective home buyers who may be priced out of their preferred markets by investors, or unable to move into the homes still occupied by older generations, finding an affordable place to buy a home may mean looking toward new horizons.
If you’re one of the many Americans starting a new life as a remote worker, and you’re seeking a new place to put down roots, we’ve compiled a list of the best cities to move to for a remote career.
These metro areas, all of at least 100,000 residents according to the U.S. Census, have robust job markets, lower costs of living, excellent home values relative to earnings, lots of entertainment and culinary options, and many homes with enough space to turn a spare bedroom into a home office.
Let’s check out the best cities for a remote career.
Top takeaways from the data
1. The South rules this list: Cities in Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina take the top three spots, and southern metro areas make up eight of the top 15 — owing mainly to lower costs of living and lots of two-plus bedroom housing stock.
2. A mix of high-profile cities and under-the-radar surprises: Cities like Nashville and Durham are at the top of many rankings for highly livable areas with lots of amenities and vibrant communities. But two cities in overlooked Western New York (Syracuse and Rochester), and lesser-known metro areas outside of major cities (such as Augusta and Akron) also made the cut.
3. Cities on the edge, on the bottom: The worst five cities in our rankings have something in common: They are in coastal states or off the mainland entirely. The bottom five of the 100 largest metro areas we studied are Los Angeles, CA (#96), Honolulu, HI (#97), Fresno, CA (#98), Miami, FL (#99), and Lakeland, FL (#100).
The best cities to move to for a remote career
1. Chattanooga, TN
Nestled along the Tennessee River amid the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Chattanooga is number one on this list thanks to solid-to-great performance in nearly all of our factors. A low unemployment rate, a top-25 self-employment rate, and low cost of living all buoy the “Scenic City” into the top spot.
2. Winston-Salem, NC
An emerging tech city, particularly for women, Winston-Salem leaps into the second spot in large part due to a high percentage of occupied homes with at least two bedrooms, along with a low cost of living.
3. Greenville, SC
The metro area of Greenville-Anderson, in Upstate South Carolina, rounds out the top three thanks to a very low unemployment rate and a large percentage of two bedroom homes.
4. Syracuse, NY
The hub of central New York, Syracuse makes a surprising entrance in the top five thanks to a high density of arts and entertainment venues and food and accommodation services, and an excellent home value-to-earnings ratio.
5. Oklahoma City, OK
The western-most city on our list, OKC has a sub-2% unemployment rate, a top-15 self employment rate, and a solid home value-to-earnings ratio. Nearby Tulsa is also gaining press for a program that encourages remote workers to move there for $10,000 and additional perks.
6. Nashville, TN
It’s not just for hot chicken aficionados and bachelorette parties: Nashville’s high density of amenities combined with a top-10 self-employment rate makes Tennessee's capital city a top-flight destination for remote workers.
7. Akron, OH
Could part of Akron’s post-Rust Belt future be as a remote work hub? The state of Ohio is hard at work looking to attract businesses to the low-cost, low-tax state, and Akron’s excellent home value to earnings ratio catapults it near the top of our list.
8. Omaha, NE
Omaha is a working city, with a sub-2% unemployment rate and 4.7% self-employment rate. The city is also top-20 in terms of rent as a percentage of monthly income, which means it’s highly affordable as well.
9. Charlotte, NC
Though less affordable than the other cities in our top-10, Charlotte is bolstered by a relatively high percentage of homes with two bedrooms, plus the highest percentage of homes with high-speed internet (76%) in the top-10.
10. Augusta, GA
In the shadow of southern hub Atlanta, Augusta has a chance to make a name for itself as a remote worker haven, thanks in part to much of its housing stock having multiple bedrooms and a surprisingly high density of places to eat and accommodation. Maybe you’ll learn to love golf there, too.
11. Raleigh, NC
Part of the research Triangle, Raleigh and some of its surrounding metropolitan areas made this list thanks to an existing self-employment scene (a 5.2% rate, second only to OKC in the top-15) and a high percentage of high-speed internet in many homes.
12. Rochester, NY
Another city on this list seeking a rebirth after its boomtown years, Rochester (like nearby Syracuse) is an affordable city with an emerging remote work scene. You won’t need to shovel out during the winter if you don’t have a commute.
13. Des Moines, IA
If you’re seeking to work remotely but remain close to the U.S. insurance or financial services industry, consider setting up shop in an affordable but vibrant city like Des Moines.
14. Durham, NC
Like other North Carolina cities on this list, Durham is getting a lot of shine lately as a tech worker hub that is also affordable and thick with food and accommodation options.
15. Cincinnati, OH
Rounding out our list, Cincinnati has the lowest percentage of rent as a percent of monthly income in the top-15 (20%) and a high percentage of homes with high-speed internet. Just don’t eat too much Skyline Chili in the middle of your day, or you’ll have to take remote work naps.
To compile this list, Orchard pulled information on factors for the 100 largest metro areas in the country by population, via the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those factors are:
- Unemployment rate (based on 2021 BLS data)
- Home value to earnings ratio (based on 2019 Census data)
- Rent as a percent of monthly income (based on 2019 Census data)
- Self employment rate (based on 2019 Census data)
- Density of arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses (based on 2019 Census data)
- Density of places to eat and accommodation (based on 2019 Census data)
- Homes with at least two bedrooms (based on 2019 Census data)
- Homes with high speed internet — DSL, cable or fiber optic internet (based on 2019 Census data)
Each factor was weighted equally, except for density for density of arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses and density of places to eat and accommodation, which were given half weight each. These factors combined create the Orchard Remote Score, which is rescaled to give the top city a value of 100.