If you're thinking about moving to another state, chances are Tennessee has at least crossed your mind. You've probably heard about its ideal weather, energetic cities, and diverse attractions that keep generations of visitors coming back. On their way home, they often find themselves thinking they should just move to Tennessee for good. But it's a big decision that we don't take lightly, which is why we've put together your all-inclusive guide to The Volunteer State complete with a list of pros and cons, cost of living statistics, and the best places to live. It'll help you decide if moving to Tennessee should be your next adventure, and provide insight into the best spots to call home.
What Are The Major Cities In Tennessee?
Tennesseans aren't ones to brag, but they have more than their fair share of cities to be proud of. Unlike towns in some other areas of the U.S., each of the state's population centers has its own distinct character, landscape, and appeal. From Memphis along the Mississippi to Knoxville in the Appalachians, Tennessee offers a nearly unparalleled combination of unique cities.
There are a number of reasons that Nashville headlines Tennessee's urban lineup. The capital city is right in the middle of the state and has the highest metro population, of nearly 2 million residents. It's not just the hub of Tennessee, but also one of the Southeast's cultural centerpieces. The nightlife, whether on Broadway, at Five Points, or any of the city's other social hotspots, is unparalleled. Apart from that, Nashville's collection of colleges (including Vanderbilt University), and historical icons like the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, lend the city a nearly endless inventory of attractions. Perhaps that's why it's one of the fastest-growing cities in the entire U.S. If you're thinking about moving to Nashville specifically, check our guide on what makes the music city a great place.
This valley town, nestled between the Smokies and the Cumberland Plateau, has been a nucleus of Appalachian life for generations. From its location along the Tennessee River, a town that began as a clearinghouse for the mountains' natural resources, evolved into a regional center for tourism and Appalachian culture. Today it's home to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the state's flagship university, and many landmarks, like the Tennessee Theatre and the "Sunsphere" from the 1982 World's Fair. And even though the fair may have left town, Knoxville remains one of Tennessee's great destinations.
Nashville may have the shiniest music scene, but Memphis, along the banks of the Mississippi River, will always be the ancestral home of the blues. The neon lights of Beale Street still illuminate live music played in the same places where names like Elvis, Cash, and Aretha got their start. To this day, millions of Elvis Presley's admirers make their way to Graceland, his mansion, to pay tribute to The King of Rock N' Roll. Yet, Memphis is about more than just music. FedEx calls the city home, thus continuing Memphis's long-standing reputation as a transportation hub. And the National Civil Rights Museum is also there, in recognition of the town's tragic past (Memphis is the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination) and hopeful future.
This railroad town has always been notable for its contributions to the Southern manufacturing economy and its key role in the Civil War, but lately, it has also evolved into a haven for tourism. Destinations like Ruby Falls, Rock City (have you seen it?), and the Tennessee Aquarium make Chattanooga one of the best visits in the state. It also doesn't hurt that its position along the Tennessee River, right at the foot of the Appalachians, is about as picturesque as it gets. Since the TVA created a reservoir system to keep the valley from flooding, Chattanooga has been able to develop into a city worthy of its beautiful location.
What Is The History Of Tennessee?
Tennessee started out as part of North Carolina but gained statehood in 1796. It didn't get its nickname, "The Volunteer State", until the War of 1812, when droves of the state's residents fought to defend the young United States. This sense of duty continued during the Mexican-American War and the Civil War when Tennessee had the paradoxical distinction of supplying the most Confederate and Union regiments of any Confederate state. Tennessee has historically been known for its diverse natural resources and economic landscape. Until the early 1900s, when railroad development rendered steamboats mostly obsolete, Memphis was the premier stop along the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, the eastern part of the state was functioning as a hub for marble, iron, coal, and other natural resources provided by the mountains. During the Great Depression, when the TVA started turning Tennessee into the nation's largest supplier of public utilities, the state really started to take off economically. The Manhattan Project even created a research facility in the state that used the ample power for missile development. Alongside all this, Tennessee gained a reputation as an artistic and travel hub that is still drawing many visitors today.
What Is Tennessee Know For?
Tennessee's reputation, frankly, defies summarization. It's a music-loving, football-crazy, history-filled state with more attractions and features than one could see in a lifetime. Its system of rivers and lakes rivals any in the country, and its mountains boast some of the highest peaks east of the Rockies. On top of that, four distinct cities each provide a different way to experience the state. However, if we have to choose, Tennessee is probably most notable for...
The Smoky Mountains
Since The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934, it has put Tennessee on the map as a place of accessible natural beauty. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the park along the TN-NC border and offers just a taste of the unbelievable hiking the area has to offer. It's the most-visited national park in the country, and the state has done a wonderful job complementing the natural world with some beloved entertainment options. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are both prime mountain tourist destinations just outside the park's borders. Gatlinburg is essentially a carnival in the Appalachians, with its own aquarium, huge ropes courses, and SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Pigeon Forge, its neighbor, and tourism rival, has its own long list of attractions headlined by Dollywood, the theme park based on the state's own Dolly Parton.
Tennessee may be the home of the Blues, but country music defines its reputation today. Some of the earliest country music, with its signature fiddle, came out of the state's mountains. Now, the genre calls Nashville home. Dozens of stars, like Taylor Swift (we still count her!), Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton, reside in and around Nashville, with more moving in every day. The Ryman Auditorium, the Bluebird Cafe, and the Grand Ole Opry are just a few of the signature spots for live shows. With modern venues like the Ascend Amphitheater and the Country Music Hall of Fame popping up seemingly every year, country music isn't finding a new home any time soon.
How's The Cost Of Living In Tennessee?
Like any large area, the cost of living will vary based on the city. In general, though, Tennessee is quite reasonable compared to most of the country.
Which parts of Tennessee have a low cost of living?
In general, your dollar goes further in smaller towns. In fact, eight Tennessee towns rank in the top 100 for best places to relocate to. When there are fewer residents and more space, housing costs tend to be lower. That's why places like Johnson City and Clarksville boast living costs well below the national average and have positioned themselves as pleasant, inexpensive places to live. Lucky for Tennessee, even more-populated areas are still very affordable. Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis, for instance, are relatively cheap mainly because of their reasonable housing costs. This makes Tennessee one of the rare states where you can get cosmopolitan living without high-end prices.
Which parts of Tennessee have a high cost of living?
Just about the only locale in Tennessee where the cost of living slides above the national average is Nashville. This isn't some huge surprise. Nashville has some of the nicest neighborhoods and homes in the entire country, with entertainment and amenities to match. Considering everything it has to offer, it's remarkable that the Nashville-metro area's overall living costs are just barely higher than the national average.
How's The Economy In Tennessee?
Tennessee's economy was in the midst of an unprecedented upswing when the pandemic hit. The unemployment rate was at a record-low 3.3%, corporations were flourishing, and tourism was thriving. Even as those economic indicators take a hit, though, Tennessee's economy has still gracefully withstood the pressures of 2020. As we move into the new year, the state's unemployment is around 5%, and job creation has continued. Many aspects of life over the past 12 months may have changed, but Tennessee's overall economic outlook has remained strong.
What are the pros of Tennessee's economy?
Corporations are catching on to Tennessee for its favorable labor laws and exceptionally low state tax rates (including no state income tax!). A range of companies, including FedEx, International Paper, Dollar General, and Cracker Barrel have made the state their headquarters. Many more, like Tyson Chicken and Nissan, operate massive plants and other facilities within the state's borders. Besides its reputation as a corporate haven, Tennessee also draws millions of visitors every year. Nashville, Memphis, and the mountains combine to create a statewide swath of tourist attractions that draw lots of money into the state's borders.
What are the cons of Tennessee's economy?
Like everywhere, Tennessee's small towns have seen their fair share of decay as money and talent clusters in the more urban areas. Out of all the state's big cities, Knoxville has shown limited job growth. While this may be a little troubling, the university and consistent tourism still give Knoxville a favorable economic floor.
How Are The Schools In Tennessee?
Top school districts in Tennessee
Considering Tennessee's diversity and size, the state maintains an impressive system of public education. Germantown, a suburb of Memphis, is considered the best overall school district, while just outside Knoxville, Maryville takes the second-place spot. The Arlington and Kingsport school districts are also top-notch, and various Nashville suburbs, like Franklin, Brentwood, and Spring Hill, have outstanding public and private schools.
Top public schools in Tennessee
The state's best public high schools tend to belong to big city suburbs, particularly the ones that surround Nashville. US News ranks Merrol Hyde Magnet School in Hendersonville, a suburb of Nashville, as the top high school in the state and a top-three school in the entire nation. High schools in and around Nashville take the first seven spots in the rankings, followed closely by specialized high schools from other areas, like Knoxville's L&N Stem Academy.
Top private schools in Tennessee
Most private schools are clustered around Memphis and Nashville, but nearly every major metropolitan area offers a great private school option for your child's education. According to Niche.com, the University School of Nashville and Memphis's St. Mary's Episcopal School receive the top marks. Chattanooga's Baylor School and the Webb School of Knoxville are great options in the state's slightly smaller locales. If you're looking at boarding school options, McCallie School just outside of Chattanooga is also a famous institution for all-boys education.
How Is The Real Estate Market In Tennessee?
It may have been a difficult year for the overall economy, but that hasn't stopped Tennessee's booming real estate market. People attracted by Tennessee's forgiving taxes, affordable living costs, and ample space are fleeing other states, and their presence is helping to drive the market higher across the boards. Every major metropolitan area has seen a considerable increase in average sale prices over the last year, and even smaller towns are starting to show nice upticks in home prices.
Are homes expensive in Tennessee?
In most towns, inexpensive homes are the primary reason that the state maintains such an accessible economic threshold for living. Home values in areas like Knoxville or Chattanooga, even though they've lately been rising, are still some of the best you'll find in a city. Many people find suitable homes for around, or even under, $200k. Those who move to Tennessee might be a little less thrilled by the 'big city' Nashville market, where average home prices hover just under $350k, with numerous areas reaching values considerably higher than that. This may not be music to your ears, especially if you're considering a move, but there's simply not a more desirable area in the state. Also, Nashville home values have consistently increased over the years, so despite the price, it remains a good investment.
How much are property taxes in Tennessee?
Tennessee's property taxes are famously low. Residents usually pay around half as much in property taxes per year as the average United States citizen. Exact property tax rates depend on the county (0.5% of the assessed value is a good estimate), but regardless of the location, property taxes make moving to Tennessee a particularly promising proposition.
Moving To Tennessee Pros And Cons
Over the last 20 years, Tennessee has enjoyed an impressive rate of population growth. Low tax rates, living costs, and high quality of life have kept people on the move to Tennessee. It's not a perfect place, but for the price, Tennessee is about as good as one can get.
Top 5 Pros to moving to Tennessee
Low property taxes
We'll say it again: Tennessee has one of the lowest property tax rates in the country, which makes it one of the best states to own property. If you plan on staying for a while, Tennessee's property tax policy will keep money in your pocket for years to come.
No state income tax
That's right, there's no state income tax, so you get to keep as much of what you earn as possible. That's why your income goes as far in Tennessee as just about any other area in the country. The state compensates for this income tax break with a higher-than-average sales tax (around 7%). This ensures that Tennessee's visitors help the residents cover a large chunk of their living costs.
Low cost of living
Low taxes tend to mean low living expenses as well. Between this favorable tax structure and reasonable real estate prices, the result is a place where you know your income and savings work hard for you. Wherever you're living in Tennessee, chances are your daily expenses are well below the national average. And even if you're looking to move to Nashville, you won't be paying much more than the average American.
Tennessee mountains and lakes
Tennessee is home to dozens of large and beautiful lakes, some of which are situated close to urban areas. The Nashville suburbs, for instance, are home to Old Hickory Lake and the Percy Priest Reservoir. While these lakes are distributed across the state, a multitude of them are nestled amongst the beautiful Appalachians, where multiple peaks rise well over 6,000 feet. These offer some of the best hiking and scenery in the entire United States.
Tennessee's climate is one of the most comfortable in the country. Although average temperatures rise as you move farther west toward the Mississippi River, the entire state enjoys cool winters and long, warm summers. Most places, and especially the mountains, get the occasional snow and ice storm, but spring generally arrives quickly once March comes around.
Top 5 Cons to moving to Tennessee
Country music (unless you're a fan!)
Country music is just a given in most parts of Tennessee. Live music is everywhere from hotels to bars to parks, and this isn't changing any time soon. If country music is what you want, then you're in the right place! Those who aren't fans of the genre, though, might not be so thrilled about the state's preferred soundtrack.
Cost of living is rising
Tennessee's cost of living is incredibly low, but it may not always stay that way. A few desirable areas, like Nashville, are slowly becoming more expensive. In fact, Davidson County's property taxes increased 34% recently. That said, most areas are unlikely to break your bank, but if you're looking to save money it's best to avoid the trendiest spots.
If you're all about coastal living or you have a "Salt Life" sticker on the back of your car, then Tennessee might not be what you're looking for. Tennessee may have its fair share of rivers and lakes although it's hours from sandy ocean beaches.
Let's just say that the term "dry heat" isn't something a lot of Tennesseans are familiar with. Tennessee's relative humidity is around 70%, which is middle of the pack within the U.S. However, combine that humidity rate with Southeastern summers and, well, it's not most people's idea of comfort. Luckily, those summers are still fairly mild for the Southeast, and over the years you'll appreciate how the extra moisture in the air keeps the drought risk minimal.
Slow to change
We don't need to go through all the stereotypes, but generally, the South has a tendency to move a little slower. This is sometimes a good thing, like when it comes to tinkering with your favorite hot chicken recipe. Sometimes though, it can be frustrating. New ideas take time to find a cultural foothold, whether they're as important as creating a more inclusive society, or as trivial as wishing you had a closer Chipotle. In fact, Tennessee is one of only ten states in the country where it is illegal for a real estate buyer's agent to offer their client a commission rebate (although Felix Homes has a way around this). That doesn't mean, however, that Tennessee isn't trying to get with the times. Especially in urban areas, new types of people are coming to stay and bringing a fresh perspective with them. Tennessee is as open to change as ever and becoming more flexible in meeting every need...just don't mess with the hot chicken recipe.
Is Moving To Tennessee A Good Idea?
We don't know if living in Tennessee is your next step, but plenty of people have answered this question with a resounding yes! Job prospects are great, living costs are limited, and you'll never run out of things to do. Visitors often come for a weekend and realize immediately after leaving that they want to make Tennessee their home.
Where is the best place to live in Tennessee for young professionals?
It's no secret what young professionals are looking for: nightlife, restaurants, convenience, and plenty of other young people to get to know. There are neighborhoods in cities like Chattanooga and Memphis that cater to this demographic, but for the ultimate young professional lifestyle, nothing compares to Nashville. The city's unparalleled neighborhood bar scene means that you don't have to venture downtown for a good night out, and plenty of chic rental properties make for accessible urban living. Then, if you want to hit the music and bar scene downtown, it's an easy 5 minute Uber ride. The Nations, Green Hills, Germantown, East Nashville, and The Gulch are just a few entries on the extensive list of convenient neighborhoods. Or you could just live downtown with all the action right outside your window.
Where is the best place to live in Tennessee for families?
We hate to keep going back to the old standby, but yet again we have to give the nod to Nashville's Suburbs. It simply offers the most enticing combination of location, activities, schools, and properties. The best part is, there's a suburb for every budget. Neighborhoods like Green Hills, Brentwood, and Franklin are some of the best communities in the Southeast, but can be prohibitively expensive. Luckily, areas like Spring Hill, Nolensville, and Mount Juliet offer plenty of family-friendly features in a more affordable real estate market.
Where is the best place to live in Tennessee for retirees?
There are plenty of areas in Tennessee where retirees can stretch their dollars without sacrificing space and amenities. Which one you choose depends on the retirement lifestyle you would like to pursue. If you'd like to while away the years in the mountains, we suggest communities along Tellico Lake just south of Knoxville. Plenty of nice shoreline, large lots, and forgiving tax laws will keep you as comfortable as possible. For more urban-centric retirees, Franklin really can't be beat. Living costs are high, but it's a cultural hub with an astonishing restaurant and arts scene that certainly never gets old.
Is Tennessee A Safe Place?
No area is perfectly safe, but we have to admit that some are safer than others, and perhaps no other factor is more important when considering where to move. Fortunately, Tennessee offers plenty of low-risk residential options that will tax your nerves about as much as they'll tax your income (a.k.a not at all).
What are the safest places to live in Tennessee?
From a safety perspective, you can't go wrong with Nashville's premier suburbs. Brentwood, Nolensville, Spring Hill, and Kingston Springs are all havens situated around Tennessee's largest city. If you're thinking you'd like to go rural, though, then you'll have to see the vast tracts available in Watertown, just 40 miles East of Nashville. In the town of 1,700, crime is almost nonexistent.
What are the most dangerous places to live in Tennessee?
Just because you want to move to Tennessee doesn't mean there aren't places in the state you'd rather not live. Over the years, Memphis has developed a less-than-pleasant safety reputation. Unfortunately, it keeps proving that the rumors are true. There are safe places to live around Memphis, like Collierville and Germantown, but overall, Memphis sees considerably more violent crimes than any other location in Tennessee.
Conclusion–Should You Move To Tennessee?
Well, it's time to deliver the verdict, and it looks like you should seriously consider moving to The Volunteer State. Living in Tennessee may not be for everyone, but if we're talking pros and cons, the advantages are staggering. Between the low cost of living, natural beauty, and endless activities, there has never been a better time to call the state home. If you're thinking about becoming Tennessee's newest member, feel free to make contact with Felix Homes at 615-354-5731, or email@example.com to discuss residential options. We'd love to see you join us in the great state of Tennessee!