Looking for the best places to live in Michigan? You’re in good hands. This group of locals sat down to discuss the best cities in Michigan to live in, factoring in everything from median home prices, amenities and access to the great outdoors.
Longtime readers of this website know we’re not keen on small talk, so without further ado, let’s get to it!
Best Places to Live in Michigan
5 Best Large Cities in Michigan
1. Grand Rapids
- Population: 197,146
- Median home price: $271,154
- Average age: 31
Grand Rapids is known as one of the best places to live in Michigan thanks to big city amenities oozing an irresistible small-town vibe.
The plethora of things to do in Grand Rapids spans the gamut, making it great for folks from all walks of life. From families with young children to career climbers and retirees.
The challenge? Brutal winters.
If you can stomach the cold, dark winters (and there’s plenty to do in winter), you’ll find one of the best communities in Michigan. U.S. News & World Report ranked it as the 16th-best place to live in the country and the second-best place to live in Michigan.
There’s a nice split in this community of owners versus renters, with the average rent being $1,595. Home prices have soared in the past five years by 53%, and the population has increased by 10,000 since 2010—a testament to the appeal of the town.
Be aware that when you cross into East Grand Rapids, the quality of homes and prices skyrocket to an average of $590,882. It’s one of the most expensive cities in Michigan.
Fun fact: A Grand Rapids man is credited with creating the now-famous Pop-Tarts.
2. Sterling Heights
- Population: 133,269
- Median home price: $284,092
- Average age: 41
Sterling Heights is known for being one of the safest cities in Michigan. Don’t just take my word for it, was ranked as the safest Michigan city in 2022, which is saying a lot in a state with some rougher edges.
While the majority of the community is families, it’s as accommodating for single professionals as retirees. The main thing is the lacking nightlife scene. It’s also a culturally diverse town.
With more than 20 parks and access to the Clinton River, with rainy activities including an Adrenaline Park and indoor playgrounds.
Rental rates are around $1,700, which is down from the August 2022 high of $1,900. Sterling Heights hasn’t seen the average home price above $300,000 in at least the past five years. If you’re looking for something similar but more affordable, you can consider nearby Warren, where the average home price is $190,000.
- Population: 108,420
- Median home price: $220,003
- Average age: 32
Dearborn is a community known for its high percentage of Arab residents, who initially came here to work in the auto industry in the 1920s.
The engineering and manufacturing sectors are still strong, and while the same can’t (necessarily) be said for the auto industry, this is a good place to live for working professionals.
Dearborn is one of the best places to live in Michigan to be close to Detroit without risking higher crime areas. It’s also home to The Henry Ford, by far the biggest tourist attraction in Michigan.
Housing prices are at the highest in the past five years. Rental rates come in at $1,650. Nearby Dearborn Heights is slightly less expensive for renters and homeowners, but you’ll lose the entertainment options and be in a sleepy bedroom community.
- Population: 94,422
- Median home price: $286,826
- Average age: 45
Livonia is one of the best cities in Michigan for those who love living in the suburbs but don’t want to be too far away from the city. It’s also perfect for those who need close access to the interstate but still want to have green spaces and upscale amenities.
The farther north you go in Livonia, the safer the neighborhoods are. You can expect that to reflect in housing prices as well. Rental rates are actually down $345 over the past year, with a median rent of $1,550.
Housing prices are 13% higher than the Michigan average, but you have all the shopping amenities you could want here, with historical attractions and outdoor spaces for four seasons of fun.
- Population: 90,758
- Median home price: $393,237
- Average age: 41
Macomb is one of the best places to live in Michigan to raise a family. It was ranked as one of the best places to live by Money Magazine in 2021. This is a tight-knit community with an average income of $106,000.
The average rental prices have dropped nearly $600 since 2022, with a median rent of $1,650. Meanwhile, home prices have gone up with the population increase.
Macomb has 15% more people in 2020 than in 2010. Housing prices have increased by 60% in the past five years.
Macomb is a great place for families who want excellent public schools and the protective solitude of a suburb near Lake St. Clair. Look for more expansion of this suburban area to the north in Ray, where new construction should be booming.
5 Best Mid-Sized Cities in Michigan
6. Traverse City
- Population: 15,559
- Median home price: $411,191
- Average age: 40
Traverse City is the proverbial “cherry on top” of Michigan and produces 40% of all cherries in the nation. It’s one of the best places to live in Michigan if you love the outdoors.
Fair warning when you’re looking for a home—the secret is out on Traverse City with a whopping 114% increase in prices over the past five years. Rental rates might sting a bit, with the median rent being $2,175. Homes are being scooped up here for rental properties, so come with your best offer and don’t hesitate to make a decision.
What’s so special about this place? It’s an outdoor playground with two prongs of Grand Traverse Bay to explore, wineries to the north, and several entertainment districts within the city. There’s a reason Kid Rock chose to sing about summertime in Northern Michigan.
The appeal of Traverse City is for families, singles, and retirees, but you’ll enjoy your time here much more if you’re athletic. Local sporting leagues almost replace happy hour, and you can enjoy land and water sports throughout all seasons.
- Population: 20,394
- Median home price: $280,599
- Average age: 28
You might visit Marquette and end up moving there. The city has a way of luring you in with all the amenities. It’s one of the best places to live in Michigan to be a tourist in your own city.
It’s located on the Upper Peninsula (U-P, as it’s called) and at just over 20,000 people, it’s the largest in the UP. Marquette is known for the college crowds of Northern Michigan University and a healthy dose of tourism that is more tolerable than places like Mackinac Island.
By now, you’ve seen a trend of housing prices in that $280,000 range, and Marquette falls in line. Prices were slowly rising before the pandemic but surged in 2020. Rental prices cater to the college crowd, coming in at $1,495.
On an average day, residents can tour the lighthouse, explore the updated Founder’s Landing Park, or experience the history of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. You’ll have superior water activities on Lake Superior and robust spring waterfalls. The community is known for events like the U.P. Beer Fest.
- Population: 86,836
- Median home price: $412,087
- Average age: 42
Troy is known as one of the best places to live in Michigan, but you’ll pay in housing for the great schools and upscale amenities than in other Detroit suburbs.
You might get better value on a home in Macomb County, but people who want the niceties in life choose Troy. One of the most upscale malls in Michigan is here, but budget-focused families will love the historic places and Stage Nature Center.
Rental prices are closing in on $2,100 a month, which is about average compared to the national rate. Home prices peaked in July 2022 at $417,489 and have dropped slightly since then.
You can keep busy at night or on the weekends in Troy, but the convenient access to I-75 makes the rest of the Detroit Metro Area easily accessible. That makes up for the lack of public transportation to Detroit.
- Population: 37,552
- Median home price: $163,293
- Average age: 35
At some point, people are going to figure out what a wonderland Muskegon really is, so enjoy living in one of the best cities in Michigan while it’s still affordable. Muskegon is known for many things, but it’s the beach that really stands out, and there’s even a special beach for dogs. This place is best for people of any age who want to live the lake life.
People love living in Muskegon for the easy access to Lake Michigan. There’s an added bonus of being 45 minutes from the larger city of Grand Rapids.
Before you even think about the gas money for that road trip, let’s look at housing costs. Rental rates are under $1,000, a rate that is hard to find in Michigan without sacrificing safety.
Don’t let that $163,000 sticker price be misleading—you won’t get a 2000-square-foot home on Lake Michigan for that amount. Looking at recent home sales in Muskegon on the lake, you’ll pay anywhere from $260,000 to $1 million. The city cradles the southern edge of Muskegon Lake, so water access is never a problem.
You might find some of the homes at the lower price point need some TLC, but when you’ve got such recreational opportunities, it’s worth the patchwork to still get a fantastic deal in a city that will eventually stop being a secret. For those looking at starter homes, you could eventually parlay it into a rental when you size up.
- Population: 20,113
- Median home price: $320,278
- Average age: 25
Ypsilanti (“ip-sill-ante”) is a college town and one of the best places in Michigan to enjoy the amenities that come with a college town and historic architecture. It’s best for college or postgraduate professionals, but families would be attracted to Ypsilanti Township, just south of the interstate.
Since the housing market here covers both Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, you’ll need to choose the neighborhood carefully. South of I-94 has lower crime rates but is also further from the robust food scene and nightlife. Residents can also enjoy the beauty of Ford Lake or the banks of the Huron River.
Rental rates are affordable, almost half the national average, at $1,149. It’s clear that it caters to a college town because the housing prices are north of $320,000. Housing prices have increased 77% in the past five years.
This up-and-coming town has a lot of energy, with a food and brew scene that fuels festivals throughout the year, including one of the largest Elvis celebrations in America.
5 Best Small Cities in Michigan
11. Sault Ste. Marie
- Population: 13,410
- Median home price: $151,496
- Average age: 34
Sault Ste. Marie in the UP is bordered by a Canadian city of the same name. It’s one of the best cities in Michigan to have a work/life balance or to purchase a summer home to soak in the St. Mary’s River and Lake Superior’s waters.
“The Soo” is ideal for people who are content (or happy) being more isolated and away from big box store shopping while still wanting to explore our Canadian borders. It’s also ideal for outdoor lovers of any age.
Rental rates in Sault Ste. Marie are appealing, making the second on our list to come in under $1,000. The affordable home prices are attractive, and that’s indicative of the general cost of living in The Soo. While the number of listed houses might not even be 50 at any given time, there’s a deal to be made with homes sitting on the market for an average of 50 to 150 days.
Summer days are spent on the water or the beach, but this area is perfect for those who love winter too.
- Population: 5,905
- Median home price: $350,949
- Average age: 42
Petoskey is known as a popular summer retreat in Northern Michigan, but the post-pandemic surge of people unleashed from the office has made the housing market so hot it could thaw even the coldest Michigan winter night.
Be prepared to use cash if you can because homes here sell quickly. This is one of the best cities in Michigan to have a rental home, summer home, or trade in the big city for shore life.
The rental prices are surprisingly reasonable for a resort destination, coming in at $1,400. Housing prices have averaged in the $350,000s since July 2022. You can also break the average barrier easily here. Petoskey made headlines in mid-2023 for having the most expensive house for sale in the state.
Petoskey’s average day includes walks along Little Traverse Bay, exploring in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and watching sunsets from Bayfront Park.
- Population: 5,193
- Median home price: $304,246
- Average age: 46
Frankenmuth is known as Little Bavaria and is one of the best places in Michigan to enjoy small-town living in an eclectic community. Whether you want to visit the World’s Largest Christmas Store or have the”World’s Best Chicken,” this themed village is perfect for retirees looking to stay active.
Rental prices come with a little sticker shock, averaging $2,200. That might be a tough nut to crack for the professionals working in the various retail and restaurant areas.
Frankenmuth also has one of the fastest-growing home values in the state, so don’t wait too long. It doesn’t seem like this bubble is going to burst any time soon.
The ideal part of getting a retirement home here is that your kids and grandkids have plenty of reasons to visit. From the Bavarian Christmas to the water parks of summer, there’s something waiting for everyone in Little Bavaria.
- Population: 7,622
- Median home price: $182,706
- Average age: 22
Houghton is almost as “Upper” as you can get on the U.P., and it’s one of the best places to live in Michigan and the nation for being affordable while still a robust tourist destination.
As home to Michigan Technological University and Portage Health Hospital, this is a great place for the post-graduate crowd or young professionals who don’t mind the average of 200+ inches of snow each winter. You’ll have about five ski resorts nearby to scratch that itch.
At $1,400, rental prices are reasonable and down by $600 year-to-year. You won’t have much wiggle room on pricing as the housing market is hot. The housing market prices over the past five years look much like one of those Black Diamond ski runs, but there’s been a nice dip through the middle of 2023.
Despite the popularity of the U.P., Houghton has kept prices down. If you want a home in one of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in America, jump in now before the market heats up even more.
15. Mackinaw City
- Population: 853
- Median home price: $241,588
- Average age: 57
Mackinaw City is known for being the gateway to the Upper Peninsula and also for its proximity to the ferry over to Mackinac Island. The island was ranked one of the Best Islands in America by Condé Nast Traveler. It’s one of the best cities in Michigan to enjoy every benefit of the Great Lakes State.
As a town of fewer than 1,000 people, there won’t be a lot of inventory on the market for buyers or renters. Rental rates are under $700. Home prices are reasonable for a tourist destination, but expect waterfront properties to go for much higher.
While you’ll deal with seasonal crowds, you do have the Headlands International Dark Sky Park nearby, where you can see the Northern Lights without having to plan a last-minute road trip. With the city surrounded by water on three sides, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Thinking of island life on Mackinac Island instead of Mackinaw City? You’ll pay an average of 36% more.
Best Cities in Michigan (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick list of the best cities in Michigan. Hope you enjoyed the post!
- Grand Rapids
- Sterling Heights
- Traverse City
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Mackinaw City
Map of the best places to live in Michigan