Moving to Memphis

Move to Memphis for awesome work opportunities or the low cost of living, then settle in to enjoy the perks of fantastic music, the best barbeque, and the relaxed pace of life. Home to Graceland, Beale Street, and Sun Studio, Memphis provides plenty to celebrate against a backdrop of deep-rooted history, southern hospitality, and the mighty Mississippi River. 

From blues and soul to rock ‘n’ roll, this is a city with a pulse. With patio restaurants galore, historic leafy neighborhoods with friendly neighbors, and a wide range of arts and cultural amenities, it’s easy to slow down and enjoy your Memphis lifestyle. And if getting out in nature is your thing, you’ll find lush landscapes and running rivers that invite you out into the open. Memphis is a city with something for everyone. Welcome to your new down-home hometown!

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Living in Memphis, TN: What to Know Before Moving to Memphis

Tucked into the southwest corner of Tennessee on the Chickasaw Bluffs, Memphis overlooks the grand Mississippi River. The 652,236 people who call Memphis home consider the city a southern gem. Thanks to its central US location, Memphis has a rich history in trade that continues today. Memphis is a major logistics and transportation hub, and while commerce forms the backbone of the economy, Bluff City is celebrated for its culture and music – evidenced by the massive influx of tourists that flock into the city each year. 

Pros and Cons of Living in Memphis

Pros:

  • Livability – It’s hard to top the Memphis mix of work and play. Memphians seem to know how to enjoy life more than those in other popular cities.
  • Low Cost of Living – Quality of life is high, and the cost of living is low.  
  • Thriving Art Scene – With world-class music, a tapestry of fascinating history, low cost of living, and initiatives from the Urban Arts Commission, artists flock to the city.  
  • Great Housing Market – Buying a home is affordable, especially compared to many other similarly-sized cities.
  • Friendly Neighbors – This is a place that takes southern hospitality seriously. Expect a warm welcome you wherever you go.
  • The Great Outdoors – Memphis offers easy access to beautiful parks, trails, botanical gardens, forests, and rivers. 
  • Good Weather (Most of the Time) – Fall, winter, and spring are lovely, and outdoor activities are doable year-round.

Cons:

  • Transportation – Public transportation is slow, not always dependable, and the city is spread out. You’ll need a car to get around. 
  • Humid Summers – Summers are long, hot, and very humid.
  • Crime Rate – Memphis has struggled to get its crime rate under control over the years, but it remains fairly high. 
  • Tourism – Beale Street is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, attracting a lot of mischievous behavior and weekend traffic.
  • Severe Weather – Tornadoes and violent storms are just a part of living in Memphis. 
  • Lots of Bugs – From mosquitoes to chiggers, the tropical weather encourages every type of creepy-crawly to thrive. Screens and repellent are necessities. 

Tax Rates

  • Property Tax:  The local government assesses residential property taxes based on 25% of the appraised value. If you have a home valued at $100,000, you’re only taxed on $25,000.  There’s a separate tax levied for the county and each city so be sure to check with your realtor to find out how a property you’re interested in will be taxed. Generally, the farther a property is from the city center, the lower the property taxes will be.
  • Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate of 9.25% is one of the highest in the country – 37% higher than the national average. 
  • State Income Tax: The good news is that Tennessee doesn’t charge a state income tax. There is, however, a 6% tax on income generated from interest and dividends. Ultimately, this makes Tennessee a very good deal for the majority of residents who rely on salaries and wages for their income. 

Housing Market

With a homeownership rate of 46% and climbing, Memphis is one of the nation’s top destinations for millennials and others who wish to own their own homes. The median home value, as of July 2019, is $85,800. Home prices rose 4.1% in 2018, and according to Zillow, will rise another 1% in 2020. For homes that sold, the median list price was $107,800. The real estate market is hot, and inventory is low, meaning that many listings are seeing multiple offers

The median rental rate is $950, about 34% lower than the national average. Although you’ll be able to find affordable housing of all types in all areas of town, residents are snapping up homes and rentals quickly, and prices are on the rise. While all Memphis housing is on the affordable side, some of the best deals are in Berclair-Highland Heights, downtown, Midtown, and East Memphis. 

Cost of Living

Memphians enjoy a low cost of living at 17% below the national average. Using a scale of 100 as the national average, the cost of living in Memphis is 84.3/100. Food and groceries are cheaper than average at 90.3/100, but utility costs are a bit higher. You can expect to pay a bit more for healthcare and transportation, but less for miscellaneous (repairs, dining out, clothing, etc.) items.

Housing is the biggest contributor to low living costs, at 44.5/100. Based on Economic Policy Institute calculations, a Memphis family of four will need to make $5,983 per month or $71,800 annually to get by reasonably well. However, a single person can live reasonably well on $2,811 per month.

Weather & Natural Disasters

With its humid subtropical climate, Memphis is known for long, hot, humid summers; short, windy, cool winters; and beautiful springs and autumns. The four-season climate makes for almost endless patio-sitting and porch swing opportunities the year-round. 

July and August are the hottest months, with average highs around 91 degrees, and humidity wavering between oppressive – and for folks unused to it – miserable. Average summer lows drop to about 74°, which means July and August never cool down significantly. January and February are the coolest months, with highs around 50° and lows of about 34 to 40 degrees.

The city receives 51 inches of rainfall each year, and while rainy days happen throughout the year, December is when you’re most likely to see a lot of rain. Snow is scarce around these parts, but if by the rare chance it does fall, it’ll usually be in January and February.

The most common natural disaster threats are tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and occasional flooding. There’s the potential for earthquakes in the region, but none of any significance has been recorded in over a century. The county has a system of tornado warning sirens, and the Shelby County Emergency Management and Homeland Security website details risks, preparedness, and offers a guide preparing citizens for any disaster that could strike. 

Economy & Job Market

Memphis’ steady and generally healthy economy has benefitted from local programs that encourage business development. Memphis is, as of March 2019, one of the top three metro areas for job creation in the US. As of spring, 2019, unemployment is a record low of 3.9%. With a steady influx of companies relocating to Memphis and a core of Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, long-term economic projections are solid. 

Almost a third of the jobs in Memphis are directly related to the manufacturing and transportation industries, which include FedEx, AutoZone, and International Paper Company. FedEx alone employs 30,000 Memphians.

Government and education remain economic strongholds in the city, with Shelby County Schools and the University of Memphis providing a collective 20,000 jobs. Meanwhile, between the national, state, county, and city governments, another 32,000 jobs keep Memphis residents working.

Healthcare is also one of the strongest sectors in the economy, with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Hospital, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital providing over 21,000 jobs.

Job seekers should look for jobs in biotech, education, distribution, education, and health services. As you’re looking for a job in Memphis, check out online job postings at MemphisWorks, The Memphis Chamber Job Board, The Memphis Public Library’s JobLinc Page, or the Choose901 Jobs page. High-level positions are usually best found through headhunters, but the bottom line is that if you’re looking for work, you’ll be able to find it in Memphis.

Traffic and Transportation

Even though most Memphians rely on personal vehicles to commute, traffic in Bluff City isn’t so bad. Of course, there are bottlenecks here and there, but the most noteworthy blockage occurs at I-240, between SR385 and Perkins Road, during rush hour. Yes, you’ll find congested intersections during morning commutes when folks are getting the kids to school before work, but overall there are very few traffic jams. The city enrolled in the Waze Connected Citizen program in 2017, which gives commuters a chance to stay up to date with real-time driver-generated data.

Major interstates create a web of connection to other major cities. I-55 runs north to St Louis, Missouri, and south to Jackson, Mississippi; I-22 runs southeast to Birmingham, Alabama; I-40 runs west across the Mississippi River to Arkansas, east through Memphis, and then jogs northeast to connect with Nashville. 

Memphis has a fairly extensive bus system known as MATA. It runs from sunrise to sunset on 42 bus routes and two trolley lines, but there’s a complete lack of evening public transportation. Complaints abound concerning MATA buses, primarily centered around the fact that they struggle to stay on schedule and don’t operate in the evenings. The system is underfunded and overdue for an upgrade, which is why the majority of Memphians head to the roadways in their cars. 

Earning a walk score of only 37/100, you won’t be able to run many errands on foot. The bike score of 38/100 and a nonexistent transit score serve as reminders that cars are still the primary way to get around Memphis. Victorian Village, Idlewild-East End Historic, and Barry F. Homes are the most walkable neighborhoods.

Memphis International Airport (MEM) is seven miles southeast of downtown. As home to the FedEx Express global hub, MEM is the world’s second-busiest cargo airport. The City of New Orleans Amtrak trains service the downtown Memphis Central Station.

What to Do in Memphis

From extensive parks, sports, museums, and galleries to live music and soul food, Memphis dishes up huge servings of delicious entertainment and fun at every turn. For parents seeking activities for kids, the city offers numerous kid-friendly fun both free and fee. With over 9,100 acres comprising over 180 parks, it’s easy to escape to somewhere green. 

Shelby Farms Park is one of the nation’s largest urban parks, with 4,500 acres that include 40 miles of trails, 20 water features, two extensive playgrounds, a water park, and an adventure course. Cyclists can connect from Shelby Farms to Overton Park, located smack dab in midtown Memphis. Overton Park is home to the Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Zoo, and Levitt Shell – a place to enjoy free concert series throughout the summers. For a stunning vantage point over the Mississippi River, cross on foot or bicycle at the Big River Crossing Bridge. The nearby Ghost River is a spot for unforgettable canoeing and kayaking, and just 13 miles north of the city, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is an outdoor paradise with disc golf, birding trails, and camping facilities. The Mississippi River Greenbelt Park connects to downtown Memphis from Mud Island.

The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel where James Earl Ray shot Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., documents the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. Other historical landmarks include Megevney House, The Cotton Museum, and Confederate Park.

If your interests include live music and entertainment, check out free summer shows at Levitt Shell or Handy Park, or enjoy the gritty pleasure of a late-night beer at a juke joint. For stadium shows, head to the FedEx Forum or the Mud Island Amphitheatre. For more intimate musical entertainment, stroll on over to Lafayette’s Music Room, Young Avenue Deli, or the Orpheum Theater. Of course, BB King’s Blues Club, World Famous Beale Street, and Rum Boogie Café are must-sees for blues aficionados.

Sports lovers have plenty to cheer about in Memphis. The Memphis Grizzlies have been members of the National Basketball Association since 1995, and have been in Memphis since 2001. They play home games at the FedEx Forum. For those who can’t get enough basketball, The Memphis Hustle is the local NBA G League team that plays their home games at the Landers Center. For professional baseball, the Memphis Redbirds are a Minor League Baseball team who harken from Memphis and play their home games at AutoZone Park. Soccer fans will be happy to know that as of 2018, Memphis has a professional soccer team to call its own: the Memphis 901 FC. While their name isn’t particularly catchy, they play home games at AutoZone Park and have yet to prove their worth. We’ll be waiting. 

Foodies will love digging into the legendary barbeque of Memphis – it may sound a little Forrest Gumpesque – but be sure to try the BBQ shrimp, BBQ pizza, BBQ nachos, BBQ spaghetti, and more. You’ll also find amazing tacos, soul food, vegetarian, and fine dining fare. Choose from several breweries and taprooms that are open for tours, then enjoy a pint on the porch, perhaps with some live music.

Schools and Universities

Shelby County School District covers the city of Memphis and serves over 100,000 students in more than 200 schools. Despite struggles, many schools in the district area have shown dramatic improvement in recent years. To get a better feel for the rankings of schools in various neighborhoods, you may want to look at greatschools.org. Some public high schools are highly ranked, and Memphis also offers charter, magnet, and private school options. 

The Memphis area is home to a few four-year institutions, Christian Brothers University, the University of Tennessee Health Science, and the University of Memphis. There are also several two-year institutions such as LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis College of Art, Southwest Tennessee Community College, and Rhodes College. 

Crime

One thing all Memphis residents agree on is that the crime rates are off the charts. Overall, crime rates for the city are an astonishing 202% above the national average. The bright side of these rough numbers is that violent crimes are decreasing in the city. While some parts of the city such as Shelby Forest-Frayser, Parkway Village-Oakhaven, and White Haven-Coro Lake, have higher crime rates than others, living in Memphis increases your chances of being a victim of a crime considerably, to around 1 in 13.

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Best Neighborhoods in Memphis, TN

Memphis is a city that brims with soul while offering arts, culture, a thriving music scene, a good job market, and attainable homeownership. If you find yourself lucky enough to move to this southern gem on the Mississippi, you’ll find much to discover. We hope the following neighborhood suggestions give you a head start on your move.

Binghampton

At just five and a half miles east of downtown, Binghampton is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. Bound to the north by the CSX railroad, Holmes Street to the east, Poplar Avenue to the south, and North Trezevant Street to the west, this up-and-coming neighborhood is where families and millennials appreciate low housing costs. At 54%, the majority of the community is made up of renters, but many of the homeowners have been settled here for decades, and this is a tight community. 

This neighborhood was settled heavily by African-Americans, immigrants, and refugees in the late 19th and 20th centuries, creating a rich, ethnic tapestry. However, the neighborhood’s west side has been slowly developing into a higher-income area. Rental rates and property values are on the rise, and there is more development planned for the area in the coming years. Featuring a community garden, the Broad Avenue Arts District, and the Hampline bicycle path, there’s much to love about Binghampton. 

Along Broad Avenue, you’ll find many hip bars and eateries, including some excellent coffee, farm-to-table fare, and a brewery taproom. The neighborhood has four parks with walking trails and basketball courts, and MATA operates the #34 and #53 bus lines that connect Binghampton to parts of East Memphis and downtown. You’ll find a mix of single-family bungalows with yards, two-story brick colonials, and multi-story apartments in Binghampton. 

  • Population – 16,864
  • Home Price – Median home value $98,608
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $767
  • Employers – Amazon, AutoZone, FedEx, Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc., Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health, Shelby County Government, University Clinical Health, 
  • Schools – Lester Elementary School, Brewster Elementary School, Binghampton Christian Academy, Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, Lester School, Snowden School, East High School, and Douglass High School. 

Something to try: Visit Caritas Community Center and Cafe as a volunteer or to break bread with neighbors from all walks of life.

Central Gardens

Considered the most historic neighborhood in the city, Central Gardens has been named one of the best “Old House Neighborhoods” in the US. Bound on the south by York Avenue, Eastmoreland Avenue on the north, Rembert Street to the east, and Cleveland Street on the west, this is one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Memphis. The eclectic architecture includes Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Mission, Queen Anne, and Tudor, but the prevailing housing types are foursquare and bungalow. Central Gardens is designated a Level III arboretum, meaning that many of its more than 90 species of trees are more than 80 years old.

Only three miles from downtown, this relatively safe neighborhood is made up of 43% renters, but you’ll find a mixture of people ranging from artsy young professionals to high-rolling CEO types. The active neighborhood association works to preserve the look and feel of the area, and the safe, established reputation cements its position as one of the top places to live in Memphis.

Don’t expect much nightlife or entertainment here, though. This area is a quiet, upscale residential neighborhood where people mainly venture out to eat, drink, and be merry. 

  • Population – 23,594
  • Home Price – Median home value $280,000
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $973
  • Employers – First Horizon National Corporation, Memphis VA Medical Center, Regional One Health Medical Center, Smith & Nephew, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, XPO Logistics Supply Chain
  • Schools – Idlewild Elementary School, Peabody Elementary School, Rozelle Elementary School, 1st Class Montessori School, Bellevue Middle School, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, and Central High School

Something to try: Check out Dinner in the Gardens, a ticketed event hosted by Edible Memphis.

Cooper-Young

This historic district located in the midtown area of Memphis, named from the intersection of Cooper Street and Young Avenue, is known for its hip, eclectic scene and LGBT community. Only four miles southeast of downtown, the neighborhood is bound by Central Avenue to the north, Southern Avenue to the south, East Parkway to the east, and McLean Boulevard to the west. 61% of area residents own their homes, making for an established community with a neighborly feel.

Home to progressive young families, artists, and hip young professionals, there’s no shortage of coffee shops and restaurants that double as live music venues. Peabody Park offers a playground, walking path, and community center; and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center on Cooper Street helps LGBT folks and allies connect. Most of the neighborhood housing consists of historic single-family homes, many built before 1915, with some apartments, mostly historic buildings that have been partitioned. 

  • Population –  2,887
  • Home Price – Median home value $179,950
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $769
  • Employers – Amazon, AT&T, Cambay Consulting Services LLC, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Redbox, St Judes Children’s Research Hospital, University of Memphis, Veritas 
  • Schools – Bruce Elementary School, Idlewild Elementary School, Peabody Elementary School, Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, Snowden School, Bellevue Junior High School, Central High School, and Memphis Catholic High School

Something to try: Check out the lively Cooper-Young Festival in the fall.  

East Memphis

Bordered to the north by Walnut Grove Road, to the east by the I-240 loop, on the south by I-40, and to the west by Highland Street, East Memphis is a massive neighborhood encompassing multiple zip codes. Within this generally quiet community of 1950s ranch-style homes, you’ll find the only Whole Foods in Memphis, which should give you an idea of the flavor of the area. Expect a generally high and middle-income mix of families leaning more conservative than in some of the funkier areas of town. The majority of East Memphis residents are homeowners, at 56.6%

Bearing in mind that East Memphis is massive, you can expect every amenity under the sun, including tons of family-friendly fun including movie theaters, the Memphis Botanical Garden, and plenty of playgrounds and parks. Some of the best shopping in town is in the neighborhood, as well as a plethora of tantalizing restaurants headed by top chefs. 

  • Population – 107,753
  • Home Price – Median home value $133,731
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $775
  • Employers – AT&T, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation, Crye-Leike, Saint Francis Hospital, Shelby County Government, Southwest Tennessee Community College, University of Tennessee
  • Schools – Richland Elementary School, White Station Elementary School, Cherokee Elementary School, White Station Middle School, Colonial Middle School, White Station High School, and Overton High School

Something to try: Ride your bike along the Shelby Farms Greenline from East Memphis to Shelby Farms Park. 

Harbor Town

Less than two miles north of downtown, on a 132-acre sandbar along the Mississippi River, you’ll find one of the most charismatic neighborhoods in Memphis. Bound by the dimensions of the peninsula it sits upon, Harbor Town is a distinctly walkable community dotted with nature trails, ponds, and a marina where residents have access to boat slips. Just over half of the residents in this upscale community own their homes.

 This mixed-use development is popular with millennials, young families, single professionals, and empty nesters. Expect a young, vibrant population and a lower crime rate than the majority of the city. Amenities are all within reach without ever having to get in your car, and while limited, options for dining and drinks are well-curated and a short distance from your front door.

  • Population – Just under 1880
  • Home Price – Median home value $220,000
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $980
  • Employers – AB Jets, ALSAC, Brewer Company, Buckman, Cornerstone Systems, Delta Medical Center, Indigo, Liberty Mutual Insurance, VIPKID, University of Tennessee
  • Schools – Downtown Elementary School, Carnes Elementary School, Memphis College Preparatory, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, Gordon Science Art Academy, St. Patrick Catholic School, and St Jude School Program

Something to try: Visit Mud Island Park and ride paddle boats to the “Gulf of Mexico.”   

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