RICHMOND -- A personal finance website released a list Monday ranking the best markets for first-time homebuyers, and some Bay Area cities found themselves at or near the bottom of the list.

Of the 300 largest U.S. cities measured by WalletHub.com, Richmond came in dead last, Oakland clocked in at 295th, and Berkeley and Vallejo were ranked at 282 and 283, respectively.

In its report, WalletHub said it used 17 key metrics, including real estate taxes, crime, median home prices in comparison with median income adjusted for cost of living, and average home-energy costs.

High prices, high crime rates and small homes make Oakland and Richmond rank low on a new list of best cities for first-time homebuyers.
High prices, high crime rates and small homes make Oakland and Richmond rank low on a new list of best cities for first-time homebuyers. ( (LiPo Ching/Staff file photo))

"It's how the math turns out," WalletHub financial writer Richie Bernardo said of the low rankings of Richmond and Oakland. "In those cities, you have home values that are too high for the income of the average resident, high crime rates and relatively small houses, which are all challenges to first-time homebuyers."

Bernardo said Oakland ranked slightly higher than Richmond in part because of better recreation scores and job growth numbers; both cities joined Vallejo and Berkeley in enjoying low home-energy costs thanks to the mild Bay Area weather.

Cities in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado dominated the top 10, thanks to growing economies, low-but-rising housing prices and good community environment scores.


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"The top cities generally share excellent affordability scores," Bernardo said.

Bernardo said Richmond's adjusted household median income of $36,417 and median housing price of about $264,000 was among the worst imbalances of cities studied.

Berkeley, which has seen real estate values soar, owed its poor ranking mostly to low affordability scores. Vallejo was hurt by low community environment measurements, which take crime and recreation into account.

The source data for the report came mostly from the U.S. Census, the FBI and the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Some local real estate agents contacted Monday said the report failed to take into account other metrics that help make Richmond and Oakland good long-term investments for homebuyers.

"The report is contrary to what I'm seeing because the market has been robust, as an influx of buyers priced out of San Francisco and other areas has poured in," said Jeffrey Wright, managing broker of Wright Realtors in El Cerrito. "Oakland, especially, has become a culinary mecca and a dynamic cultural community that's attracted a wave of buyers who wouldn't have considered living there just a few years ago."

"I'm a little surprised at the ranking," said Steve Kendall of Security Pacific Real Estate in Richmond. "The prices are very good in comparison to the surrounding areas, and you have a waterfront community with access to transportation."

Kendall said Richmond is a large city with significant differences among neighborhoods -- something not taken into account by the new survey -- but continues to be dogged by negative media attention and perception.

"People often say they hear nothing but bad things about Richmond but then are surprised at all the good things going on once they look closer," Kendall said. "It's a good long-term investment to buy here."

To review the report, go to wallethub.com/edu.

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/sfbaynewsrogers.