The 10 Best Places to Live in New Hampshire

“Live free or die.”

New Hampshire does try to live up to the philosophy of its famous motto. The Granite State is one of nine states with no income tax and one of just five with no sales tax. Its citizens highly value individual freedoms over a larger government reach.

New Hampshire also has some of the most beautiful natural scenery the Northeast has to offer. Mountains, forests, lakes, beaches and classic New England cities all exist within a relatively close distance of one another, making New Hampshire an enjoyable place to live.

Since the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken hold, many people have been looking to relocate to ease their living expenses. While the New England region’s cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, New Hampshire remains relatively affordable.

Nearby states like Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and New York make New Hampshire look like a cost-of-living haven. Many towns and small cities in New Hampshire have proven to be affordable and desirable places to live.

I. The 10 Best Places to Live in New Hampshire

We’ve taken a look at the five most important issues for people looking to move to a new place: housing, employment, safety, health care and schools. Based on these metrics, below are the 10 best and safest places to live in New Hampshire.

1. Berlin

Berlin

Those who prefer a quiet, rural lifestyle may want to give Berlin a closer look. The northernmost city in New Hampshire, it has a very small population and some of the most affordable housing in the entire state. With a median home value of just $106,358 and monthly average rent of just $938 per month (as of June 2022), Berlin could be the right place to settle in order to cut down on your cost of living.

While unemployment rates in the city are higher than in much of the rest of New Hampshire, they are still lower than the national average, at 4.7%. The once-thriving manufacturing industry is now long gone, but there is still a good mix of blue- and white-collar jobs available in the area.

One tradeoff of the low cost of living is that household income is lower than average, at $39,091. In recent years, however, the local government has partnered with the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center to create more opportunities for residents.

Like most of New Hampshire, Berlin has relatively low crime, but rates vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Locals consider the northern part of the city to be the safest.

For health care, residents have access to a number of family health providers as well as the Androscoggin Valley Hospital, which has departments across all major health services.

The public schools in Berlin invest in their students at a higher rate than most of the country, and for anyone looking to boost their education after high school, White Mountains Community College is also in the area.

One interesting thing about Berlin is that, due to the city’s proximity to Canada, many of the residents speak French.

2. Newport

Newport

Newport is nicknamed the “Sunshine Town” and boasts an unparalleled quality of life, according to locals. Median home values are a moderate $246,545, and renters can expect to pay $1,934 per month. Those who decide to live here enjoy the natural splendor of the southwestern New Hampshire hills, with beautiful walking and hiking trails along the rivers and covered bridges that bring out the classic Northeast aesthetic.

Like much of the region, Newport has many workers employed in sales and office jobs. The town enjoys a very low unemployment rate of 2.8%. The average household income of $58,193 puts Newport ahead of the national average and allows its citizens to live a comfortable and peaceful lifestyle.

The welfare of the people is an emphasis in this community. Crime rates here are lower than New Hampshire’s overall rate, and far lower than the national average. For health care, many residents turn to the Newport Health Center, which is run by New London Hospital and offers services in primary care, pediatrics, gynecology, occupational health, laboratory, x-ray, mammography and rehabilitative services.

Families with young children have multiple options for schooling. The town invests strongly in its public school program. And for families seeking an alternative to public education, Newport’s private Montessori school offers a unique approach.

3. Franklin

Franklin

Franklin is a place where value meets variety. With median home values around $276,175 and rentals at $1,458 per month, residents can stay financially comfortable while still enjoying easy access to some of New Hampshire’s most popular attractions. This is a place that’s conveniently located between the capital city of Concord and the popular shopping outlets in Tilton, and just a short drive away from the Lakes Region.

Although unemployment numbers are a tad higher in Franklin than in most other places on this list at 4.6%, the city has undergone a sort of renaissance in recent years. The local government has dedicated itself to creating a business-friendly community with a revitalized downtown area that still maintains its quaint and classic feel. The median household income in Franklin is $42,720.

The neighborhoods here are quiet and safe. According to U.S. government statistics, Franklin is notably safer than most other communities of similar size across the country. The downtown area and the public spaces offer lots for people to do. Boating, fishing, hiking and shopping are all favorite activities of Franklin’s residents.

The city boasts numerous primary care offices as well as a satellite location of Concord Hospital. It is also within an easy drive to hospitals around Concord and the Lakes Region.

Franklin’s public schools tend to lag in test scores compared to the rest of the state, so parents may want to do some research before choosing Franklin as a place to settle down. Overall, though, the amenities and convenience make this community a desirable place to live.

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4. Somersworth

Somersworth

Located on the border of Maine along the Salmon Falls River, Somersworth has median home values around $317,613. Rentals average about $2,088. Citizens can often be found kayaking, spending time in the city’s public parks, or enjoying the well-maintained river walk. You can also find them in the chic and trendy downtown area enjoying modern restaurants and entertainment.

The median household income here is on par with most of the country at $53,094, and the unemployment rate is 3.6%. The Hilltop City bills itself as business-friendly, and the convenient commercial area has everything from manufacturing facilities to commercial businesses to locally owned boutiques.

Violent crime in Somersworth is quite low, coming in at 57% lower than the national average, and the people who live here feel their community is safe. Relative to the rest of New Hampshire, however, the city is not considered one of the safest.

For health care, locals know to look along the uniquely named “medical mile” on Route 108 if they need a physician or a dentist. There are two hospitals that flank that stretch of road as well.

Somersworth Middle School has been recognized for academic achievement in recent years, and the district as a whole strives to invest in all its students. The school facilities are fairly modern and well maintained. Just a 20-minute drive away is the Durham campus of the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the largest public university system in the state.

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5. Laconia

Laconia

Laconia’s biggest draw is that it is the most affordable city in the highly-sought-after Lakes Region. For a community that borders both Lake Winnisquam and Lake Winnipesaukee, a median home value of $319,696 is very affordable. Renters will find reasonable prices, too — around $1,333 per month on average.

Manufacturing is still a significant industry in Laconia, with facilities that produce textiles, leather and metal products and electronics. There is also a fairly large tourism industry. Households here make an average of $55,814, and unemployment is around 4.7%.

Like the rest of the communities on this list and in New Hampshire in general, Laconia is considered relatively safe. The downtown area is mostly walkable and provides all the necessities for everyday life. Attractions like the famous Weirs Beach area keep people busy and active around town.

Laconia’s most famous event of the year is Motorcycle Week, when riders from all over New England congregate to enjoy the lake and the attractions around the area while sharing their love of bikes. The event is a major draw for the community.

Concord-Laconia General Hospital is within walking distance of downtown. It has departments in many areas of medicine to fully serve the people. Health First Family Care Center is also nearby.

While Laconia spends an above-average amount per student, it tends to perform behind the state average in standardized test scores. There are multiple private schools to choose from as alternatives to the city’s public schools. Laconia Christian Academy and the Holy Trinity School are popular choices for religious families.

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6. Keene

Keene

Keene is perhaps best known for its unique cultural traditions. It boasts a strong reputation as a nice place to live. A bustling downtown area and a state college campus provide plenty of excitement, while the small population of 22,699 and the locally owned businesses lend the city a comfortable sense of small-town community.

The median home value in Keene is $258,894, and the average rental is $1,380 per month. This makes Keene an attractive option for people looking for a place with an urban vibe that’s still affordable.

There is no shortage of professional opportunities in Keene. Unemployment sits at a low 3.1%, and the median household income is $57,393. Workers in the city are most commonly employed in sales, education and management, but diverse industries provide employment opportunities for most types of workers.

Safety is a big factor in Keene’s quality of life. Overall crime rates are low, about average for New Hampshire. Most importantly, the violent crime rate is nearly eight points lower than the national average. As in most cities, crime rates in Keene can vary greatly among neighborhoods, so potential residents may want to consider factors like how close they are to the college campus.

There are plenty of options for health care in Keene — most notably the Cheshire Medical Center, which offers a wide range of departments and services. It is partnered with the reputable Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system.

The city’s public school system consistently ranks in the top 20 in New Hampshire, which is a point of pride for the state’s sixth-largest city. Parents can be confident sending their children to the highly rated elementary and secondary schools. Keene is also home to Keene State College. It is part of the University System of New Hampshire and typically enrolls just over 3,000 students per year.

7. Concord

Concord

Concord is New Hampshire’s capital, and it is bisected by Interstate 93, giving it the most city-like vibe on this list. Home values are moderate for a place that’s considered its state’s central hub. The median value is $341,692, and rentals go for about $1,548 per month.

As the third-largest city in the state and the seat of government, Concord offers residents convenient amenities, public transit and a bustling cultural scene.

The state government is the largest employer in the city, but many others find jobs in manufacturing and construction, retail and education. The unemployment rate is low, coming in under 3%, and the median household income is a robust $70,000.

While Concord isn’t quite as safe as some of the other cities on this list, it does feature a sizable selection of quiet neighborhoods that contrast with the exciting downtown area. Violent crime is still well below the national average, especially for a city of this size.

An advantage of being located in the capital is that hospitals and doctors’ offices abound in the area, and citizens enjoy the affordable, accessible health care. The average cost of health care in the Concord area is lower than the average cost in the country as a whole.

The public schools are strong, typically meeting or exceeding state averages on standardized tests. Higher education is available in Concord, too. UNH has a satellite campus here, and the city is also home to Granite State College and a highly regarded technical school.

Concord is a great place to live for those who like the excitement of the city with a reasonable cost of living.

8. Plymouth

Plymouth

Having a popular college really helps to maintain Plymouth’s economy, and being close to many of New Hampshire’s most popular ski resorts doesn’t hurt, either. Median home values in Plymouth sit at $309,173, lower than in other desirable areas like Peterborough and Concord. Renters can expect to pay around $1,411 per month.

The employment in Plymouth is disproportionately white collar. Education makes up a large share of the job opportunities, with Plymouth State College leading the way. Unemployment is only 2.9% here, making Plymouth a great place for white-collar workers to hunt for jobs.

Crime here is about average for New Hampshire. In addition to the local police department, Plymouth State employs a very active force that keeps order around the campus area. The town takes good care of its public spaces, employing a beautification committee for upkeep.

Students can find health care on campus, but the general populace has access to Speare Memorial Hospital and various medical facilities for general practitioners. One of the highest-rated hospice services in the state, Pemi-Baker, is also located in Plymouth.

It is no surprise that Plymouth is one of the most educated cities in New Hampshire, based on the number of residents who hold a college degree. The youth here also excel. Plymouth’s public school performance is consistently rated in the top half of the state. Families looking for a good educational atmosphere should definitely consider Plymouth for a new home.

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9. Canterbury

Canterbury

Just to the north of Concord is the town of Canterbury, which many consider to be a quieter, quainter alternative to the busy capital. Home values here are comparable to others in the area. Home buyers can expect a median value of $333,200. Renters will actually pay significantly less than they do in Concord. Their monthly costs average $1,189.

Canterbury is for people who like the rural lifestyle with the convenience of being close to bigger cities and attractions. Production here includes small farming and agricultural communities, and of course there is a short commute to the city center for educational and white-collar work. The unemployment rate is already low at 2.6%, and the latest trends indicate increasing opportunities in the region. Growth is projected in the next few years.

One advantage to living outside of the Concord area is that Canterbury has lower crime rates and is considered safer. The people here tend to look out for each other in their quiet neighborhoods. They also put a high value on the health and wellbeing of the citizens. The air is clean and the town has voted to make recycling mandatory. The health centers of Concord are just a short drive away from this small community.

Children in town attend Canterbury Elementary School, but when they get older they travel to nearby Belmont High, which is one of New Hampshire’s higher-performing schools. Concord’s institutes of higher education are also close by.

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10. Peterborough

Peterborough

Hillsborough County is one of the most desirable areas to live in New Hampshire. Peterborough itself is a haven for artists, designers and other creative minds. The median home value here is $330,969, and rental homes average $1,234 per month.

Compared to other cities on this list, Peterborough is very prosperous. The average household income is north of $95,000 per year. In addition to the creative community, the town also has lots of opportunities in construction and manufacturing. The retail industry in Peterborough employs many locals as well.

In terms of safety, Peterborough has a terrific reputation. Its overall crime rate is a full 7% lower than the state as a whole, and out of all the affordable communities, you won’t get much better than that. People describe the area as quiet and beautiful. The most common trespassers are the local wildlife.

The citizens of Peterborough can choose from a number of family medicine practices, including Hearthside Family Health. They can also go to the Monadnock Regional Hospital in the northern part of town.

Peterborough residents also care about the health of the environment. It was the first town in New Hampshire to become 100% reliant on renewable energy sources.

Schools in Peterborough are well respected. The public system boasts some high scores relative to the rest of the state, and the town allocates more spending per student than most other places in the county.

For a real balance of affordability, employment and safety, Peterborough takes the cake.

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II. Important Things to Consider About Living in New Hampshire:

Important Things to Consider About Living in New Hampshire

A. Taxes

While it’s true that New Hampshire does not collect income tax from workers or a state sales tax, property taxes are relatively high. It is important to do your research when looking at homes in the state. Additionally, New Hampshire does collect taxes on interest gained through investments, although there is a plan to phase that out in the next few years.

B. Job Market/Pay

As the COVID-19 shutdown receded over the course of 2021, New Hampshire’s economy made a large comeback. From the spring of 2021 to today, the unemployment percentage dropped from 3.8% to 2.3%, according to the New Hampshire Employment Security branch of the state government.

According to Forbes, the biggest industry in the state is real estate and rental leasing, due to the highly successful tourism industry. Manufacturing, health care and technology are also notable industries in the state. Of course, education is also a big draw here, owing to the prestige of the Northeast region as a whole.

C. Commute/Traffic

Because of the large expanses of open space in New Hampshire, commuting takes a bit longer than average. According to Index Mundi, the average commute in New Hampshire is 27.3 minutes, making it the 14th longest in the nation. Commuters can take solace in that the drives tend to feature nice scenery.

D. Childcare Costsy

World Population Review ranks New Hampshire as the 16th most expensive state to raise children, with an estimated annual average cost of $12,791. This is toward the middle of the pack when it comes to overall cost, and it is far less than Massachusetts, which is by far the most expensive state in which to raise children.

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E. Education

U.S. News and World Report ranks New Hampshire the fourth best state in the country in education for Pre-K through Grade 12. The state invests in students, spending an average of $19,000 per pupil, well above the average for the country and on par with other New England states.

Many colleges and institutes of higher education also call the Granite State home. Dartmouth University is the most recognized, as an Ivy League school, but other popular choices include the University of New Hampshire, Keene State College and Plymouth State College. There are also a number of community colleges located throughout the state.

F. Crime

While the cities on this list vary a bit in terms of crime rates, New Hampshire is overall one of the safest states in the nation. U.S. News has ranked New Hampshire second in the nation when it comes to safety, just behind its neighbor Maine. The high safety ranking means that people can feel safe choosing most any of the communities on our list or around the state.

G. Region

New Hampshire is located in the center of New England. Boston is extremely close, and New York is just a few short hours away. The convenient location makes smaller cities like Portland, Maine and Burlington, Vermont very accessible.

H. Climate

As does the rest of New England, New Hampshire typically experiences warm and humid summers, along with cold snowy winters that last longer than average. Folks who are used to warmer climates may be shocked by the amount of cold and snow the region can get in the middle of winter, particularly in the northern part of the state. One of the biggest draws related to climate is the beautiful foliage that appears during the autumn months.

Due to its location, there are very few natural disasters in New Hampshire. Large nor’easters and blizzards can create problems during the winter months. Hurricanes can occasionally reach the area, and flooding may happen during years where the precipitation is far above average. In recent years, small tornadoes have become slightly more frequent when turbulent weather systems travel through.

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I. State Motto/Emblem

Famous for being printed on all vehicle license plates, the motto “Live free or die” was spoken by Revolutionary War hero John Stark, who was from the town of Nutfield.

The state’s emblem is an image of the Old Man of the Mountain, a famous granite cliff face that vaguely resembles the profile of an old man. Unfortunately, the rocks eroded and collapsed in 2003, saddening the population to the point that people left flowers at the base of the hill.

J. Politics

In contrast with its neighbors Massachusetts and Vermont, New Hampshire is quite moderate when it comes to politics. It is considered a swing state in national elections. Typically, state control tends to shift back and forth between Democrats and Republicans. In general, the people of New Hampshire are highly invested in their local governments because they care deeply about their home communities.

K. Notable History

Many people do not know that New Hampshire was actually the first of all the colonies to draft its own constitution and declare independence from Britain. It officially became the ninth state to join the union in 1788. The history of being first continues to this day in presidential primary elections. New Hampshire famously holds the first presidential primary every four years to kick off the election season.

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III. Frequently Asked Questions About New Hampshire.

Frequently Asked Questions About New Hampshire

A. What can I do for fun in New Hampshire?

There is a lot to do for fun, owing to the natural landscape of New Hampshire. The mountains are great for winter sports like skiing, tubing and snowboarding. The 93 state parks have various hiking, walking and biking trails open to the public. Most famously, the Lakes Region is a popular destination year-round. Vacationers enjoy swimming and fishing in the summer, beautiful foliage in the fall and snowmobile rides in the winter.

Though New Hampshire’s coastline is only 13 miles long, it has some of the best beaches in New England. Places like Hampton Beach are popular for beachgoers looking for a fun day of seafood, amenities and a clean coastline.

Local communities typically provide plenty of entertainment, too. Summer concert series and autumn fairs can be found around the state. The Sandwich Fair, named for its tiny host town, is a huge draw for the region every October. The annual pumpkin festival in Laconia is another fall favorite.

Across the state tourists can find hidden gems like the Kancamagus Highway, the Conway Scenic Railroad and Clark’s Trading Post. For kids, theme parks like Storyland and Canobie Lake Park keep families coming back year after year.

B. Is there public transit in New Hampshire?

The public transit system is fairly sparse here compared to more urban areas. According to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, there are a total of 12 local bus systems, a few intercity bus routes, and some Amtrak service, mostly concentrated in the southern part of the state connecting to the Boston area. Most people rely on their cars to get around.

C. What is New Hampshire’s population?

As of the 2020 census, there were 1.35 million people living in New Hampshire. It is relatively sparse and ranks as the 42nd most populous state.

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D. What are the highest-paid professions in New Hampshire?

The highest-paid professions in New Hampshire are concentrated in the medical field. Doctors, physician assistants, nurses and dentists tend to have the highest salaries. After that, engineers and people who work in sales also tend to do well.

E. Is New Hampshire really tax free?

There is no income tax or sales tax. Homeowners do have to plan to pay local property taxes, which tend to be somewhat high. There is also tax on interest earned on investments. Overall, though, the Granite State is known for having a lighter tax burden on its populace than almost anywhere else in the nation.

F. What is the cost of living in New Hampshire?

The cost of living is higher on average compared to the rest of the country. It is 6% more expensive than the average and is considered the ninth most expensive state, mainly due to its location in the Northeast.

Factors that go into this include overall housing costs as well as transportation, since it is necessary for most people to own their own car.

G. What is the infrastructure like?

New Hampshire has 17,000 miles of roads, turnpikes and highways. It also has 3,795 bridges. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these roads needed repair. The federal government’s infrastructure bill, passed in 2021, is slated to send the state over $1 billion to make these repairs.

Recently, the state adjusted its 10-year plan to divert more resources and attention to get this necessary work done. Residents can expect big improvements in the coming years.

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H. Is the foliage really so nice?

From October to November, people come from all over the country to sightsee and take in the stunning foliage in New Hampshire. It is one of the most unique aspects of the area.

I. Does New Hampshire have a lot of diversity?

Diversity is somewhat lacking in New Hampshire. According to World Population Review, 92.88% of the people are white, 2.68% are Asian, 1.60% are Black and 2.10% identify as two or more races. This puts New Hampshire near the bottom of all states for diversity.

J. How would you describe the people of New Hampshire?

In general, the people here are considered friendly, well-educated and moderate in their views. They take great pride in their home state. Even though there is not a lot of diversity, people tend to be open and accepting. They are also known as careful and courteous drivers.

Conclusion

The New England region has long been considered a desirable place to live. This remains truer than ever as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have motivated more and more people to relocate to new areas. While most states around the Northeast tend to come with a higher cost of living, New Hampshire remains affordable and accessible for young professionals, families and retirees. From the natural beauty of its forests, lakes, rivers and beaches to the quaint, friendly cities and towns, New Hampshire has something to offer everyone.

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HOMEiA is a city living guide site where visitors can find detailed information about communities of interest. HOMEiA’s City Living Guides, created in partnership with local writers, are curated lists of the best, safest, and most affordable places to live. The guides feature the HOMEiA Score, a proprietary index that rates communities on such factors as housing costs, education and employment.

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