Moving to Mobile

What makes Mobile, at the head of Mobile Bay, so special? At its founding in 1702, Mobile was valued for its protected location where three rivers entered the bay – perfect for transporting goods from the seaport to inland parts of the country. Today, with the 21st-century innovations of a modern-day port city and international employers, Mobile attracts new residents every year.

Mobile – not pronounced as ‘mobile’ phone, but rather rhyming with ‘for real’ – is Alabama’s third-largest city. Seven charming National Register Historic Districts define the soul of downtown and midtown, covering 600 blocks with 6,000 notable homes.

New Orleans might get all the credit, but Mardi Gras was born in Mobile. As a thriving Gulf city, Mobile festivals and events are especially creative and inviting. From Arts Council children’s exhibits to LGTBQ family dinners, special things are happening in Mobile 24/7.

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Living in Mobile, AL: What to Know Before Moving to Mobile

With an enticing history and modern business innovations, Mobile’s 192,085 residents enjoy the best of old and new. Residents live in a culturally rich and ethnically diverse city with the added benefit of a low cost of living. The greater Mobile metro area has a population of 414,000, and when you include the 60-mile radius surrounding Mobile’s city limits, you’re looking at well over one million people. 

Pros and Cons of Living in Mobile

A lot of great things are going on in Mobile and the surrounding areas, but of course, there are some downsides. Take a look at some of the good and the bad of this bustling Southern city.

Pros:

  • Culture: Mobile is a cultural gem with numerous arts opportunities that include a professional symphony, opera, ballet, and multiple museums.
  • Beaches: Beautiful beaches and resorts are no more than an hour’s drive south of Mobile.
  • Accessibility: Interstate 10 runs through the eastern edge of the city, making travel accessible and convenient.
  • Diversity: The area is rich in history and has a lot to offer people of every age, demographic, and income level.
  • Affordability: Mobile boasts a low cost of living that’s well below the US average.

Cons:

  • Hurricanes: They’re not a common occurrence, but they can be significant. More on that in the Weather section.
  • Humidity: Mobile’s summers are sticky and hot with a dose of hungry mosquitoes.
  • Homeowner’s woes: Due to the potential for severe storms, housing codes can be stricter, and homeowner’s insurance can be higher the closer you get to the bay and the Gulf.
  • Rain: Mobile has the distinct honor of being the Rainiest City in the continental US, based on 66 inches of average annual rainfall.
  • Weak economy: Unemployment is higher than the US average, and job growth was slow in 2019.

Tax Rates

  • Property Tax: Alabama’s property taxes are some of the lowest in the nation. Mobile County taxes property at a rate of 0.545% on assessed home value. According to Zillow, the median home value in Mobile is $121,100. The property taxes on a home valued at $121,000 would be $659 annually.
  • Sales Tax: Mobile has a combined sales tax of 10%. This rate includes the city’s own 5% rate, as well as the state’s 4% and the county’s 1%.
  • Income Tax: Alabama’s income tax rate is one of the lower rates in the country at 5%. Ranked 37th by TaxFoundation.org, the per capita income tax collected by the state is about $743 per person. 

Housing Market

As of October 2019, Zillow.com reports the median home value in Mobile is $121,100 and the market is “very hot.” Home prices rose 3.9% in 2018-19 and are forecast to go up another 1.7% in 2020. The median list price is currently $169,900. The majority of houses in the city were built between 1970 and 1979, and 56% of residents own their homes. The median rent price is $900 both in the city and throughout the metro area.

If you’re looking for a home on a tight budget, the cheapest place to find a property is probably Mobile’s Greenwich Hills neighborhood. Zillow lists the median home value in Greenwich Hills at $69,300.

Cost of Living

Mobile’s cost of living is significantly lower than in the rest of the United States. BestPlaces.net assigns 100 as the average US cost of living index. The cost of living in Mobile is 87.6, while the rest of Alabama is ranked 88.6.

Grocery at 92.9, Housing at 60.9, Utilities at 97.5, and Miscellaneous expenses at 96.3 are lower than average US costs. The health cost index of 106.7 and transportation at 102.5 are slightly higher than the US average. 

For an average family of four in Mobile, total monthly expenses would average about $6,713, according to EPI’s family budget calculator. Expenses are broken down into different categories, such as $840 per month for housing, $779 for food, $1,144 for childcare if it’s needed, $1,219 for healthcare, and more.

Weather & Natural Disasters

As mentioned before, the weather in Mobile can be a little bit challenging. Ranked as the wettest city in the continental US for annual rainfall, expect to pull up the hood on your poncho when 66 inches of rainfall every year.

Fortunately, between the wet stuff, Mobile usually has beautiful weather. According to usclimatedata.com, the hottest months of the year are July and August at 91 degrees with lows of 73. The coolest months are December and January with highs in the low 60s and lows in the low 40s.

July and August are the wettest months of the year with average rainfall totals of about seven inches, but each month gets at least four to six inches of rain. Snow? Nope – Mobile is too far south and too close to the Gulf to see any snow.

Now, about those hurricanes – let’s just say that “Hurricane” is a popular name for businesses of every type, from restaurants to bail bonds. From Hurricane Camille to Katrina to Andrew to Michael, if a hurricane made news for hitting New Orleans, it slammed into Mobile on its way past. For the weather curious, the National Weather Service posts this page of severe weather events to hit Mobile. It’s important to note that severe weather can result in higher homeowners’ insurance rates. The Mobile County Emergency Management Agency has information that will help you stay prepared for natural disasters.

Economy and Job Market

According to BestPlaces.net, Mobile’s unemployment rate is 5.1%, significantly higher than the national average of 3.9%. The job market has grown 1.5% in the last 12 months. Over the next ten years, experts believe future job growth in Mobile will be about 27% whereas the US average is predicted to be 33.5%. The US average median household income is $53,482 annually, and in Mobile, it’s quite a bit lower at $39,241.

Like much of the rest of Alabama, the major industries are in the healthcare, education, shipbuilding, steel, aviation and aerospace, port, and retail sectors. According to businessalabama.com, Mobile leads much of the country in attracting new manufacturing and saw a 33% increase in manufacturing jobs from 2012 – 2017.

Some of the area’s major employers include Austell (shipbuilding), CPSI (Information Technology), and Mobile’s city government. The largest overall employer, with 7,500 jobs, is Mobile County Public Schools.

Monster, GlassDoor, and CareerBuilder all offer great resources for finding a job in Mobile and the surrounding area, but statewide news outlet AL.com/jobs is also an excellent source for hiring info.

Traffic and Transportation

Two major interstates run through Mobile. I-10 runs east-west and stretches from Florida to California.  I-65 runs north-south, connecting Mobile with Gary, Indiana, just south of Chicago. A handful of significant highways also run in and around Mobile, including Highway 31, which connects the city to Birmingham without having to face interstate traffic.

Residents have a few public transportation options. The Wave Transit system operates buses throughout the city and has a user-friendly app. WalkScore.com gives Mobile a score of 33 for both walking and biking due to the lack of great walking routes and bike lanes. The most “walkable” parts of Mobile are the neighborhoods of Lyons Park, Central Business District, and Hannon Park.

According to GeoStat.org, most of the residents of Mobile have commute times of 15 to 19 minutes compared to the national average of 26 minutes. However, with its proximity to major interstates and resort traffic, residents need to be mindful of traffic delays during holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

What To Do

Whether your interests are in history, science, nature, or the arts, Mobile will keep you busy with tons of exciting things to do. 

Visit the USS Alabama battleship, anchored in USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. The Mardi Gras Museum has elaborate displays of festival costumes and floats as well as information on Mardi Gras history. The famous 65-acre Bellingrath Gardens and Home sit on Fowl River in south Mobile County. The Fort of Colonial Mobile is on the original early 1700s site that protected Mobile for over 100 years. For patrons of the arts, the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, Mobile Opera, and Mobile Ballet will keep your calendar full.

Of course, Mobile is all about history. The region was founded by the French but later owned by both England and Spain, and there’s evidence of rich history on every corner. The famous Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception still stands, and several sites that were key during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War are worth visiting. Attractions and things to do are almost unlimited, so be sure to check out mobile.org after you’ve settled in and are ready to explore.

All of this art and architecture is great, but you sports fans haven’t been forgotten. Apart from the numerous college teams that play in the area, Mobile specializes in unique sports opportunities. Two well-known college football events happen each year in the city, and 25 golf courses host tournaments and championships throughout the year. With the coast nearby, Mobile also hosts a well-known deep sea fishing rodeo. The Los Angeles Angels baseball team also operates an AA division minor league team in Mobile, the BayBears.

Schools and Universities

The Mobile County School District serves most of the greater Mobile area; the Baldwin County School System and smaller city districts serve some of the nearby suburbs. While Niche.com gives the schools an overall C+ rating, GreatSchools.org ranks schools individually. Schools rated 10/10 are WH Council Traditional School, Clark Shaw Magnet School, Old Shell Creative Performing Arts, and Phillips Preparatory Middle School. 

Mobile is also home to several colleges, universities, and professional trade schools. The most widely recognized are the University of South Alabama and Spring Hill College. Coastal Alabama Community College, Virginia College, and Fortis also have campuses in the area.

Crime

Crime in the Mobile area is higher than the US average for both violent and property crime. The violent crime rate, according to BestPlaces.net, ranks at 30.8 while the US average is only 22.7; for property crimes, Mobile scores a 67.5; the US average is 35.4.

Loxley, Prichard, and Summerdale have significantly higher crime rates than other Mobile areas. Nearby Bayou la Batre, long ranked as one of the poorest cities in the state, also has a notably higher crime rate than in the main city limits.

Utility Providers

The city’s website maintains a convenient directory of providers at this link, which is handy for newcomers who need to set up their services. This one page has all of the necessary links and phone numbers.

  • Gas service Formerly known as Mobile Gas, this service is now under the name Spire.
  • Electric service – Like many other cities in the state, Alabama Power provides electrical service to Mobile.
  • Water service MAWSS, or Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service, operates as the local water authority. 
  • Trash pick-up/recycling service – The city government maintains both standard trash removal and other garbage services, like large items or yard waste pickup.
  • Internet/Cable service – Check out https://www.highspeedinternet.com/al/mobile for internet, phone, and cable service options. Just enter your new zip code, and then you can see which providers service your area. AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Mediacom, and Viasat serve the Mobile area.

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Best Neighborhoods in Mobile, AL

This guide features five top communities in the Mobile metro area and two downtown neighborhoods. We hope the key data points like home values, rent prices, school ratings, and crime stats will help you decide on the best neighborhood for your lifestyle.

Fairhope

This quiet suburb across the bay from Mobile city limits is an ideal getaway if you don’t like bringing your work home with you. Far enough to feel like you’re outside of town but still close enough for a manageable commute, Fairhope offers a lot of great shopping, dining, and access to other parts of the state along Highway 98. If you travel frequently, you’re also a lot closer to the local airport in Fairhope.

The median household income is $66,074, and Niche.com gives Fairhope an A rating for employment rates and job growth combined with the total cost of living.

  • Population: 19,561 people
  • Median home value: $239,000
  • Median rent price: $1,078 per month; only 24% of residents rent
  • Schools: Almost all of Fairhope’s nine public schools have A or A- ratings
  • Crime: All crimes in Fairhope rank below the national average except theft, and the city has a B- rating for violent crimes and property crimes

Something to try: Bring your picnic basket and your fishing rod to the Fairhope Municipal Pier and enjoy a day watching the waves from this landmark boardwalk-style pier out over the water.

Point Clear

This small town ranks as the #1 ‘Best Place to Live in Baldwin County’ and one of the best places to live in Alabama. It’s a hidden gem of a suburb located on the east side of Mobile Bay. If you plan to commute to Mobile, you’ll be crossing the water on I-10 each day.

Although Point Clear does have a large retiree population – for obvious scenic beauty and access to a big city when needed – it also has a lot to offer families and young working professionals. However, it only has a C+ rating for job and business growth combined with the cost of living.

  • Population: 2,761 people
  • Median home value: $288,600
  • Median rent price: $840 per month; only 12% of residents rent
  • Schools: Served by the A-rated Fairhope School System
  • Crime: Niche.com ranks violent crime in Point Clear slightly above the national average at 23.1 on a scale of 1 to 100, as opposed to 22.7 across the US. Property crime ranked 39.4 as opposed to 35.4 nationwide

Something to try: Mark your calendar for the annual Waterway Village Zydeco and Crawfish Festival, held every April in Gulf Shores. Can’t make it? Don’t worry; seafood festivals are a regular occurrence in this part of the state!

Daphne

Daphne is a well-known Mobile suburb on the east side of the bay that draws working professionals, families, and residents who are looking to get out of the city. With more than 24,000 residents, there’s always a lot going on with plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining, working outside of Mobile, and more. If you’re working in Mobile, your commute will be fairly easy since Daphne is directly south of I-10. That means a somewhat shorter commuter than other Mobile east bay neighborhoods, plus easy access to other parts of the state or country.

  • Population: 24,685 people
  • Median home value: $189,700
  • Median rent price: $1,027 per month; about 35% of residents rent
  • Schools: Daphne is served by Fairhope City Schools or Baldwin County Schools, depending on your address
  • Crime: Crime and safety only have a C+ rating from Niche.com, but almost every category of violent and property crime is less than half that of the national average

Something to try: With the city just a short drive away, take in Mobile’s Mardi Gras Museum and visit the USS Alabama for a walk-through tour. If you’re lucky, one of any number of cruise ships might pull up to dock while you’re there, and you can get an appreciation of the sheer size of these vessels.

Spanish Fort

Sitting on a hill overlooking Mobile Bay, Spanish Fort is about ten miles across the bay, east of Mobile, and north of I-10 and Daphne. That means easy access to the I-10 bridge if you’ll be commuting to the city for work. 

This small town is rich in history and played crucial roles in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  Spanish Fort changed hands several times – from the French to the British to the Spanish then to the US – and those influences can still be found throughout the area today.

  • Population: 8,017
  • Median home value: $259,200
  • Median rent price: $1,097 per month; 42% of residents rent
  • Schools: 10 Baldwin Co public schools serve Spanish Fort, and the University of South Alabama is very close
  • Crime: Niche.com rates this suburb B- for Crime, but assault and theft – largely due to reports from nearby U of SA – are the only categories that are higher than the national average 

Something to try: Plan a visit to the Revolutionary War battlefield and burial ground to learn more about how a British “sneak attack” that emerged from the south in Pensacola was defeated. The site of the original 1712 trading post that began the town’s roots is still accessible.

Saraland

While Saraland ranks as the #5 ‘Best Suburb to Live in the Mobile Area,’ niche.com also ranks it as the #1 ‘Best Place to Live in Mobile County.’ This mid-sized small town sits on Hwy 43 about 12 miles north of Mobile, on the same side of the bay.

Saraland promotes a variety of annual events and get-togethers, like the nearby Witches Ride – yes, an evening bike ride where you dress as a witch – and the Wine on the River tasting event. There’s an active community theater scene and a lot of non-profit events to support awareness and fundraising. You’ll have plenty of outdoor activity options in Saraland’s eleven parks. 

  • Population: 14,026
  • Median home value: $136,200
  • Median rent price: $886 per month, about 29% of residents choose to rent
  • Schools: Saraland Board of Education serves the area. Local students attend Saraland Elementary School, Saraland Middle School, and Saraland High School 
  • Crime: While violent crimes are below the national average, property crimes in Saraland are somewhat higher. It has a B- rating for crime from niche.com

Something to try: Hike and bike in Chickasabogue Park’s 1,100 acres. Then visit the park’s museum to see Native American and Colonial artifacts.

Parkhill

If you’d prefer to live right in Mobile, check out the beautiful Parkhill neighborhood. Bordered by Zeigler Blvd on the north, N University Blvd on the west, Old Shell Rd on the south, and Tuthill Lane on the east, Parkhill is just 15 minutes west of downtown.  Not only is the job market strong, with a 2% unemployment rate that’s 49% lower than the US average, but it’s highly rated for schools and amenities. Mobile Museum of Art, Azalea City Golf Course, Langan Park, the Charles Wood Japanese Garden, plus Mobile Botanical Gardens are all located in Parkhill. 

Gorgeous homes, many built of brick with white columns, are dotted throughout the neighborhood, however more affordable one-story, ranch-style homes are also available. The median household income of $81,085, according to areavibes.com, is 47% higher than the national average.

  • Population 4,601
  • Median home value: $307,633
  • Median rent price: $900 per month; 77% of residents own their homes
  • Schools: WH Council Traditional School PK-5, 10/10; Mary B Austin Elementary School, 7/10; Phillips Preparatory Middle School, 10/10, Murphy High School, 5/10
  • Crime: Violent crime is well below the national average, and property crime is equivalent to the national average

Something to try: Enjoy a late morning at the Mobile Botanical Gardens, marveling at the variety of extraordinary plant life.

Oakleigh Garden Historic District

Centered on Washington Square, OGHD is on the National Register of Historic Places. Located in Midtown Mobile between Selma, Broad, Rapier Ave, and Texas Streets, the district is just ten minutes west of downtown. Stunning homes on old oak-lined streets were built between 1820 and 1940, and the architectural styles include Greek Revival, American Craftsman, Neoclassical, and Federal. 

The Oakleigh Historic Complex is a group of significant buildings that includes the Oakleigh House Museum. Most original OGHD residents were blue-collar Irish immigrants, but today, the district is full of terrific amenities such as Cream & Sugar Café, Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, and Kitchen on George. The community hosts annual holiday parties, meet your neighbor parties, concerts, and happy hours. Living in OGHD provides residents a true sense of neighborliness. Check out events on their group Facebook page.

  • Population: 2,716
  • Median home price: As of fall, 2019, homes range in price from $140,000 to $725,000
  • Median rent price: $900 per month; 59% of residents own their homes
  • Schools: Mary B Austin Elementary School, 7/10; Old Shell Creative Performing Art K-5 10/10; Phillips Preparatory Middle School, 10/10; Murphy High School, 5/10
  • Crime: crime rates are unavailable, but the community has an active crime awareness group 

Something to try: Join the Oakleigh Historic District walking tour and learn about this amazing area’s past and present.

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