We may be compensated if you purchase through links on our website. Our Reviews Team is committed to delivering honest, objective, and independent reviews on home products and services.More

The Best Cities for a Fresh Start (2024)

Default Author Icon Written by Taelor Candiloro Updated 01/02/2024


If you aspire to change your job and surroundings for a completely new start, you’re not alone. Many Americans are looking for change in the new year because of high inflation, economic uncertainty, and general job dissatisfaction. 

We surveyed 1,000 Americans to determine their interest in a fresh start and what qualities they want in a new location. We combined their responses with data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Zillow to determine which of America’s most populous metro areas are the best places to start fresh in 2024.

Key Findings
Our survey found that 82% of Americans are interested in a fresh start, including changes to their career, lifestyle, relationships, and personal development.
Of those interested in a clean slate, the majority would consider relocating or moving.
Low prices, low unemployment, and lots of fresh air make Raleigh, North Carolina, the best city for a fresh start.
High prices, high unemployment, and poor air quality make Los Angeles, California, the worst city for a fresh start.

Why Start Fresh?

More than four in five Americans want a fresh start in at least one aspect of their lives. Financial freedom was overwhelmingly the top reason across all demographics, but meeting new people was also a main interest.

Both men and women cited financial freedom as the top reason for wanting a fresh start. However, women more often craved change due to unhappiness or disliking where they live. Men were more motivated by the prospect of reinventing themselves or meeting new people.

New Place, New Me: What Do Americans Want in a New City?

Starting over in a new city feels like hitting a reset button. Undiscovered opportunities paired with new surroundings can reignite your passion. So, it’s not surprising that among those interested in starting fresh, 82% would consider relocating to start their next chapter.

When choosing where to move, respondents value a city’s affordability, job opportunities, and air quality the most. Weather and walkability were also top considerations.

Fresh Starts by Demographics

What does a fresh start look like? We compared responses between genders and generations to see what people want. 

Ninety percent of men would consider relocating, while only 81% of women would do the same. Women were also more concerned with city affordability: 90% of women ranked it a top concern, compared to 78% of men. Alternatively, 23% of men cared if a city had many single people, compared to 12% of women.

Millennials and Gen Xers overwhelmingly agreed they would consider relocating for a fresh start, with 89% of millennials and 87% of Gen Xers willing to move. However, they disagree on where to live: Millennials were nearly twice as likely as Gen Xers to opt for a highly populated area.

The Best Cities for a Fresh Start

Most respondents were willing to move for a fresh start, but where’s the best place to go? We compared the 50 most populous metro areas in the United States, ranking them on respondents’ most important factors. This includes affordability, air quality, weather risk, and job availability.

The 10 Best Cities for a Fresh Start

Raleigh, North Carolina, is the best city for a fresh start. It has a booming job market, plentiful walking trails, and great air quality.

Raleigh is a top option for anyone who enjoys spending time outside but still wants to live near a city. Of the 50 metro areas we compared, it has the second-highest number of walking trails per capita and third-highest number of good air quality days. Prices in Raleigh are lower than those at the national level, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

On average, the top-rated cities had better air quality days more frequently, more green space, and a lower risk of climate hazards compared to the lowest-ranked cities. Our highest-ranking cities also saw an average rent increase of 10% from 2021–2023, compared to an average 15% increase in the bottom 10 metros.

The 10 Worst Cities for a Fresh Start

Los Angeles, California, is the worst city for a fresh start. Of all our reviewed cities, it had the second-highest unemployment rate and the fewest good air quality days. 

Higher costs and fewer employment opportunities can make it difficult for new residents to establish themselves in a city. Our worst-ranked, fresh-start cities have higher living costs, rent increases, and unemployment rates than the best-ranking metros. They also ranked lower overall for air quality and green space and have a higher average risk of climate hazards.

Honorable Mentions

See which cities ranked well for affordability, livability, and job opportunities:

Tips for Relocating

If you’re relocating to a new city, consider the following tips: 

  • Create a moving budget with room for unexpected expenses: Hiring movers, purchasing furniture, and fueling your car are just some expenses to factor into your moving budget. Consider the time of year and travel distance to help make accurate calculations. 
  • Write a to-do list with a concrete timeline: Create a list of everything you must accomplish before moving day. Determine “due dates” for your tasks to help you stay on track. 
  • Ask for help: Moving to a new city can be challenging. If you don’t have the help of family or friends, it may be worth hiring a top-rated moving company or long-distance moving company to ease the burden.

Full Data

You can review our full list of the best and worst cities for a fresh start in the table below. We considered factors such as climate risk score, regional price parity, and walkability.


The research team at This Old House Reviews surveyed 1,000 Americans about their desire to start fresh and the qualities that they think make a city good for a fresh start. Once we established the qualities Americans prioritize, we ranked the 50 most populous metro areas according to those qualities while adding additional important metrics:

  • Environmental Protection Agency’s Walkability Index
  • Percentage change in Zillow Rent Index from 2021–2023
  • Percentage of city area dedicated to parks for each core city in each metro area
  • Percentage of good AQI days in 2022
  • Regional price parities
  • Total change in the civilian labor force from September 2022–2023
  • University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative’s overall risk score
  • Unemployment rate for September 2023
  • Violent crime rate
  • Walking trails per 100,000 residents

Sources: U.S. Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Environmental Protection Agency, Trust for Public Land, University of Notre Dame’s Urban Adaptation Initiative, Neighborhood Scout, and TrailLink.

Questions about our study? Please contact the author here.

Fair Use Policy

We encourage journalists and reporters to share our findings on the best cities to start fresh. If you choose to do so, please link back to our original story to give us proper credit for our research.