There's something about that "Open House" sign that acts like a magnet. Whether you're looking for a new place to live, keeping tabs on real estate in your neighborhood, or just angling for a sneak peek at someone else's private domain, the lure of an open door is strong indeed.
This week, we delve into 24/7 Wall Street's list of the best-run states in America. Pretty houses are one thing, but if you're in it for the long haul, knowing how well your community can weather the financial storm could save you some major headaches down the line. Based on an assessment of government services, standard of living and financial health, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most well-oiled states in the union -- and we're taking you on a tour of the best homes they have have to offer.
Open house: Sat., Dec. 3 Location: Richmond Price: $849,950 Property details: This European-inspired brick includes 4 bedrooms, 5 baths and 4,472 square-feet of Southern decadence. Pricy as the home may be, sleep easy knowing that Virginia was the highest ranked Southern state in the Union. And if that doesn't do the trick, maybe a tour of the ultra-swank interior will soothe your wallet. See inside this property.
Open house: Sun., Dec. 4 Location: Westford Price: $315,000 Property details: For buyers looking for that Colonial-style finish without the costly renovation, this 3-bedroom home, built in 2000, is just the ticket. But the best feature may be in the back of the home -- a spacious patio space overlooking the family swimming pool.
Open house: Contact agent Location: Salt Lake City Price: $2.9 million Property details: Cutting-edge modern design might not be the first thing that comes to mind with Utah, but after touring this 8,100-square-foot stunner, you might never see the Beehive State the same way again. To top it off, Utah has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation.
> Pct. without health insurance: 9.3% (6th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.9% (tied for 14th lowest)
> Unemployment: 6% (8th lowest)
Open house: Sun., Dec. 4 Location: Des Moines Price: $209,900 Property details: Dollar for the dollar, this 1.5 story brick home is one of the best deals on our list. Iowa boasts fantastic health-care and education rates, which should translate to healthier, better employed homeowners. And with choice options like this 4-bedroom home, what's not to love?
Open house: Sun., Dec. 4 Location: Edina Price: $2.095 million Property description: Pity the homeowner that bought during the housing bubble burst of 2008-09. On the other hand, for house hunters with the means to buy in today's market, the world is their oyster. Take this 6,000-plus square-foot home in Edina, for instance. If you're going to plop down millions on your home, it might as well be in a state with some of the best health insurance coverage in the nation.
> Pct. without health insurance: 9.8% (9th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.3% (17th lowest)
> Unemployment: 3.5% (the lowest)
Open House: Sun., Dec. 4 Location: Fargo Price: $223,900 Property description: Coming in with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, the advantages to living in the Roughrider State are obvious. What may not be so apparent to out-of-towners is just how many great real estate deals there are to be had. This 4-bedroom slice of Americana includes a huge backyard patio, over 2,500 square feet with new hardwood floors, and even a white picket fence in front.
> Pct. without health insurance: 11.5% (14th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.9% (tied for 14th lowest)
> Unemployment: 4.2% (2nd lowest)
Open house: Sat., Dec. 3 Location: Omaha Price: $149,900 Property description: If your only frame of reference for Nebraska is Springsteen's downer record, rest assured, things have changed. It has the second lowest unemployment rate, and one of the lowest rates of foreclosure in the nation. But you don't see any folk crooners singing ballads about how great the state's doing lately, do ya? This charming 4-bedroom has a lot of character without the hassle of major repairs -- the owner did a major renovation last year, including a new roof, HVAC and baths.
Open house: Contact agent Location: Cheyenne Price: $650,000 Property description: And finally, the crème de la crème. Wyoming took 24/7 Wall Street's top spot this year for a number of reasons -- the highest rate of high school graduation, one of the lowest rates of violent crime, and a thriving job market. So how do they do it? Wyoming has the lowest population in the entire country. (No wonder we couldn't find an open house this weekend!) But fret not, interested buyers need only contact the agent to inquire about this 4-bedroom looker. Meanwhile, take a virtual tour of the home at the listing below.
The Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metropolitan area’s greatest strength for those without an automobile is the prevalence of dense, easily manageable communities. This makes it exceptionally easy for residents to reach amenities such as groceries, restaurants, shopping and schools. The metropolitan area’s primary city, Boston, has the third-highest walk score in the country. The area’s public transit also has a relatively high service frequency rate, making its use that much more convenient for the city’s residents.
> Transit coverage: 96 percent (second highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 6.2 (second lowest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 25.6 percent (69th highest)
> Walk score: 65.9 (14th highest)
> Commuters who bike: 0.87 percent (14th highest)
Los Angeles is the second largest city by population in the United States, and its metropolitan area is fairly spread out. Due to its extensive public transit system the area has avoided a complete automobile-based culture. The metro area’s 19 transit systems have more than 500 bus routes. As a result, 96 percent of neighborhoods are within 0.75 miles to a transit stop -- the second highest rate in the country. Better still, commuters can catch a form of public transportation from their nearest stop every 6.2 minutes.
> Transit coverage: 89 percent (eighth highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 8.5 (11th lowest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 58.9 percent (2nd highest)
> Walk score: 57.6 (29th highest)
> Commuters who bike: 0.78 percent (17th highest)
Utah’s population is expected to grow from 2010’s approximately 3 million to 4.4 million in 2030. Salt Lake County accounts for more than one-third of the state’s population. To accommodate this growth, the Utah Transit Authority has plans to add four more lines to its light rail system, TRAX, up from its current three lines. This investment is meant to improve transportation for the suburban and exurban population to the city. In the winter, the UTA runs ski transit lines in addition to its rail and bus services.
> Transit coverage: 83.7 percent (12th highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 8.1 (10th lowest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 47.5 percent (10th highest)
> Walk score: 60.4 (23rd highest)
> Commuters who bike: 0.79 percent (16th highest)
Denver has bus service, light rail lines and an airport shuttle service. The city is currently undergoing a multibillion dollar expansion of its transit system, called the FasTracks Expansion. This plan is meant to increase light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid-transit lines. The project, which is expected to be completed in 2019, currently faces a $2 billion shortfall.
> Transit coverage: 95.6 percent (third highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 6.9 (fifth lowest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 58.4 percent (third highest)
> Walk score: 54.5 (34th highest)
> Commuters who bike: 1.56 percent (seventh highest)
The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan area’s public transportation is overseen by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Like Los Angeles, the area relies heavily on buses, running about 100 routes. Public transit covers 95.6 percent of neighborhoods, the third greatest in the country. Public vehicles also run under seven minutes apart, the fifth smallest frequency. The metro area also has the seventh highest rate of commuters who travel to work by bicycle.
> Transit coverage: 85.3 percent (11th highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 8.8 (15th lowest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 33.4 percent (35th highest)
> Walk score: 73.6 (sixth highest)
> Commuters who bike: 1.07 percent (ninth highest)
Seattle’s public transportation system not only includes bus and rail transit, but a monorail in the city center, as well as ferries. The city also has the sixth highest walk score in the country, due to its high number of easily accessible amenities. According to Bicycling magazine, Seattle is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country and “has a 10-year, $240-million bike master plan that seeks to triple the number of journeys made by bike and add 450 miles of bike paths.”
> Transit coverage: 97 percent (the highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 9 (18th highest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 59.8 percent (the highest)
> Walk score: 63 (19th highest)
> Commuters who bike: 0.95 percent (12th highest)
Honolulu currently does not have an urban rail system, but its bus system helps cover 97 percent of neighborhoods — the highest rate in the country. Additionally, almost 60 percent of jobs are accessible within 90 minutes to those who live in neighborhoods covered by transit. This is also the highest rate in the country. Nevertheless, the city is planning a $5.5 billion rail project called the Honolulu Rail Transit Project. This will include 20 miles of track, connecting East Kapolei with the Honolulu International Airport and downtown Honolulu and will end at Ala Moana Center.
> Transit coverage: 89.6 percent (seventh highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 4.5 (the highest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 36.6 percent (25th highest)
> Walk score: 85.3 (the highest)
> Commuters who bike: 0.52 percent (32nd highest)
New York City and its surroundings rank first in the nation for total number of passenger trips and government spending per capita on public transit, according to U.S. News. It also has the highest rate of service frequency. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 2010 operating budget was $13.4 billion. The average weekday ridership for the city is estimated to be over 8.4 million trips. The city also has the highest walk score on this list, thanks to the ability of city dwellers to reach just about any amenity on foot.
> Transit coverage: 83.5 percent (13th highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 7.4 (eighth lowest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 39.9 percent (16th highest)
> Walk score: 66.3 (13th highest)
> Commuters who bike: 2.23 percent (second highest)
Portland is such a good place for people to live without a car due to both its public transit system and the ease of walking and biking around the city. The metropolitan area is served by TriMet, which in addition to other services offers a Free Rail Zone — a region that includes most of downtown Portland and where light rail and streetcar rides are always free. The city has a number of benefits for bike riders, including designated bike-only areas at traffic signals and free bike lights. It has the second highest rate of commuters who ride bikes to work in the country.
> Transit coverage: 91.7 percent (fifth highest)
> Service frequency (minutes): 8.5 (12th highest)
> Jobs reachable in 90 minutes: 34.8 (30th highest)
> Walk score: 84.9 (second highest)
> Commuters who bike: 1.65 percent (sixth highest)
San Francisco is held in high regard for its many successful transit systems, including the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority and the Bay Area Rapid Transit district. These systems cover nearly 92 percent of neighborhoods -- the fifth highest rate in the country. San Francisco also has the second highest walk score and is excellent for bicyclists. Commuter rails within the city allow bicyclists to mount with their bicycles, and there is a bike shuttle across the Bay Bridge to help cyclists during rush hour.