Perhaps best known as an idyllic college town that’s home to the University of Michigan, it’s soon to be your new home: Ann Arbor, Michigan. Located 45 minutes west of Detroit and four hours east of Chicago, Ann Arbor is the sixth-largest city in Michigan. Tree Town boasts low crime rates, excellent public schools, and a vibrant music and arts scene. Each summer, the Ann Arbor Art Fair, one of the biggest outdoor fairs in the country, draws over 40,000 attendees to enjoy street performances, original artwork, food treats, and sidewalk sales.
If you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll love exploring the city’s abundance of parks, trails, and other outdoor recreational spaces. Go hiking in scenic Gallup Park, canoeing on the Huron River, or biking in Olson Park. Biking is also an excellent way to get around town, which is walkable and serviced by excellent public transport. Whether you’re moving here to study, take a position at the University of Michigan, work at one of city’s technology firms, or are just hoping to enjoy the Midwest, you’ve made a great choice: Ann Arbor has topped lists of the best American small cities to live in for years, and you’re about to experience firsthand why that is.
Living in Ann Arbor, MI: What to Know Before Moving to Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a classic small city with a population of 119,303 in the city proper and 344,791 in the metro area. It’s in Washtenaw County in southeastern Michigan, a region known for agriculture, especially fruit-growing. The city covers 28.70 square miles, including part of the Huron River, which runs through town. Ann Arbor is nicknamed “Tree Town” for its densely forested parks and residential areas, and it consistently ranks among the best American cities in which to live.
Pros and Cons of Living in Ann Arbor
- The University of Michigan provides jobs, business opportunities, and cultural attractions
- Proximity to Chicago, Detroit, and other midwestern metropolitan areas
- Highly-rated public schools
- A mix of tree-filled urban and suburban residential areas
- It’s a walkable city, which means you could get by without a car
- An abundance of nature trails, hiking, and parks
- As a college town, much of city revolves around the University of Michigan’s students and sports
- Expensive housing compared to the rest of Michigan
- Heavy traffic
- Cold and snowy midwestern winters
- The nearest airport is in Detroit, close to an hour away
- Property Tax: For a home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, assessed at the median home value of $375,100, you’ll pay a 1.93 percent property tax rate anywhere in Washtenaw County. This rate is higher than both the Michigan rate of 1.833 percent and the national rate of 1.211 percent.
- Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate in Ann Arbor currently stands at 6 percent based on the Michigan sales tax rate of 6%, with no added sales tax for the county or city. This rate is lower than the US average sales tax of 7.3 percent and is among the 15 states with the lowest sales tax rates.
- State Income Tax: Michigan has a flat income tax of 4.25 percent, which is lower than the average US rate of 4.6 percent.
As of July 2019, the median home value in Ann Arbor was $375,100, an increase of 3.1 percent over the preceding year. Zillow forecasts values to continue to rise into 2020. Ann Arbor is a college town, which makes it unsurprising that 50.8 percent of the population rents their homes, rather than buys. The median rental price in the city, as of October 2019, is $1,166. The national median rent is $949 monthly.
Rents throughout most of Ann Arbor are expensive. If you’re looking to keep your spending on housing within budget, consider living just outside of the city proper, such as the east side near or in the bordering town of Ypsilanti. The Old West Side is also more affordable, but not many rentals are available. The south side of the city can be most affordable for those looking to purchase a home.
Cost of Living
The website bestplaces.net calculates cost-of-living indices based on a US average of 100. Ann Arbor’s cost of living index is 127.1, which means living there is more expensive than the US average. Michigan, as a whole, has a cost of living of 96.7. Housing, with an index of 190.3, is the biggest factor in the increased cost of living, and transportation is also higher than average at 114.5. Other costs, however, are slightly lower than average, with grocery at 90.7, health at 89.5, utilities at 99.3, and miscellaneous expenses at 95.4.
The median household income in Ann Arbor is $61,247, slightly higher than the US average. According to the Economy Policy Institute’s budget calculator, a family of four needs an income of $89,186 to have a “modest yet adequate” standard of living in the city.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Ann Arbor has a midwestern climate and experiences four distinct seasons. Winters are cloudy, snowy, and cold, and summers are hot and humid. Spring and fall are gorgeous times of year – an ideal time to take advantage of hiking, biking, and other outdoor adventures. The city’s location near the Great Lakes means that it experiences lake effect weather, including precipitation.
The hottest month of the year in Ann Arbor is July, which has an average high temperature of 83 degrees Fahrenheit and low of 62, followed by August, with an average high of 81 and low of 61. The coldest month is January, with an average high of 31 degrees and a low of 18. December and February see average high temperatures of 35 degrees and lows in the low 20s. Ann Arbor has an annual average rainfall of 37.55 inches, with rain most frequently falling in summer and fall. The average annual snowfall totals 57 inches, with the highest amounts accumulating between December and March.
Michigan is relatively safe from most natural disasters. According to a map based on data from the American Red Cross and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that showed where natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods were most frequent, Michigan was the only state on the map without any of these major risks. Of course, that doesn’t mean disasters never happen, but those that do are often less severe and less frequent. Residents of southeastern Michigan are most at risk of weather-related power outages, floods, and severe weather such as thunderstorms, hail, or blizzards. Read the city of Ann Arbor’s Emergency Preparedness Guide for tips on how to prepare and what kinds of hazards to be especially aware of in the area.
Economy & Job Market
The University of Michigan, which is Ann Arbor’s largest employer, shapes the local job market. It employs about 30,000 workers, including 12,000 employees in its medical center. Other major industries include technology companies, health services, and laboratories drawn to the university’s research infrastructure. Car manufacturers, including General Motors, are also major employers in the area.
The unemployment rate in Ann Arbor is 3.50 percent, slightly lower than the national average of 3.70 percent. Although recent job growth in the city has been slower than the national average – 1.33 percent compared to 1.59 percent nationwide – job opportunities in the future are predicted to outpace the national average, with a rate of 38.06 percent compared to 33.51. If you’re planning a move to Ann Arbor, it’s a great time to start searching for jobs.
Employers in the technology sector include JSTOR, ProQuest, Duo Security, Arbor Networks, and Barracuda Networks. Google’s Adwords program has its headquarters in Ann Arbor, and many research centers are located there, including those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and General Dynamics. The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory and the Toyota Technical Center are also located in the city, as is the non-profit NGO National Sanitation Foundation International.
Because of the presence of the university, there’s a multitude of job opportunities for workers in a variety of sectors, whether as a professor or lecturer, librarian, staff member, or service industry worker. Those with experience in IT, web services, and online media, and academia may have the best chances of landing a job. Start your job search at the University of Michigan’s Careers web page, which lets you search across a multitude of disciplines. Job opening aggregators like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are great ways to search for relevant companies in the Ann Arbor area. Once you have a list of potential companies, polish up your resume and reach out directly about job openings or informational interviews.
Traffic and Transportation
Ann Arbor has a walkability score of 51/100 overall. Downtown, South Main, and West Park are the most walkable neighborhoods, and many residents prefer to walk or bike in these areas to avoid traffic. The city’s bike score is 68/100, and a multitude of biking trails are available, as well. The city has a transit score of 48/100, and residents praise the extensive and usable public bus system. A full fare costs $1.50, with reduced fares available for some groups, and transfers are free.
Traffic can be a hassle, especially during university events like commencement or home football games. Main Street is the major north-south thoroughfare, and Stadium Boulevard and Huron Street are major east-west streets.
Although one can navigate the city itself without a car, if you live in Ann Arbor, you may still prefer to own one for travel outside city limits. Whether you’re going to the nearest airport in Detroit or to other parts of the Midwest, a car is the easiest way to navigate the interstate highways. Buses and Amtrak trains are also available but operate on an infrequent schedule.
What to Do
There’s always something to do in Ann Arbor. If you’re a sports fan, attend the University of Michigan’s football team home games, which draw huge crowds, or grab tickets for a hockey game at the Yost Ice Arena.
If you’re looking for a culture fix, attend the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair with over 40,000 other art lovers. Shop at small stores and boutiques on Main Street or listen to a concert at a world-famous performance arts venue that has played host to greats like Elton John, Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead, and the New York and Vienna philharmonic orchestras. Spend an afternoon at the Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, or the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
Hungry? Try local cafes or eat at renowned restaurants like Zingerman’s Roadhouse or Slurping Turtle. Try of flight of craft beers at one of the many microbreweries like the Ann Arbor Brewing Company, or savor apple cider at Dexter Cider Mill, the oldest continually operating Michigan cider mill.
And if you’d like to get outdoors, enjoy one of the many parks, both within the city limits and just outside them. Gallup Park’s 69 acres provide running and biking opportunities. Go kayaking or tubing in the Huron River, visit the University of Michigan’s Arboretum or bike in Olson Park.
Schools and Universities
The Ann Arbor Public Schools District, a top-rated district enrolling 16,909 children, serves most of the city. Ninety percent of students graduate high school within four years, and the SAT college readiness rate is a whopping 70 percent. The district includes three preschools, 20 elementary schools, 2 K-8 schools, five middle schools, three comprehensive high schools and three alternative ones, and one adult education program. Highly rated schools include Community High School, Northside Elementary School, and Tappan Middle School. The city’s great public schools make Ann Arbor a popular home for families raising children.
Post-secondary options include the huge University of Michigan, which consistently ranks as one of the top public universities in the country. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a range of doctorate programs. Other college options include the Washtenaw Community College, offering a variety of associate degrees and certificate programs, as well as Concordia University Ann Arbor, offering 4-year degrees. Eastern Michigan University is located just 6 miles east of Ann Arbor in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Ann Arbor boasts low crime rates below national averages. The rate of violent crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, is 15/100, compared to the S. average of 22.7. The rate of property crimes, which includes crimes such as burglary, arson, and motor vehicle theft, is 29.4/100; the US average is 35.4.
Most residents report feeling safe in Ann Arbor, although as in all cities, some pockets of crime exist. The City of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Observer both have an online resource map that can provide more information. The maps show all reported major and attempted crimes.
- Gas service: DTE Energy provides natural gas to the Ann Arbor area.
- Electric service: DTE Energy keeps the lights on.
- Water service: Contact the city government’s water services about rates and billing.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service: The city government provides weekly trash collection, as well as recycling services and compost pick-up.
- Internet/Cable service: Sites like HighSpeedInternet.com can help you figure out what the most affordable options are.
Best Neighborhoods in Ann Arbor, MI
Although Ann Arbor, MI, is a small city, it’s home to neighborhoods with distinctive characters and attractions. Here are some of the communities you may consider moving to, and some of the most important info about each.
Kerrytown, located just northeast of Downtown, is a historic district that was part of the original village of Ann Arbor. In the late 1960s, the historic buildings were converted into markets and shops, and have been maintained and preserved as a historic district. The community bounds Main Street to the west, Depot Street to the north, Division Street to the east, and Huron Street to the south.
In addition to historic buildings, the area is known for charming tree-lined brick streets and sidewalks, as well as vibrant culture. It plays host to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and is a hub for LGBTQIA+ residents. The Kerrytown Concert House, Kerrytown Market & Shops, the Community High School, and the Michigan Central Railroad Depot are all located within its boundaries, providing ample cultural attractions.
Students in this neighborhood attend Bach Elementary School, Slauson Middle School, and Skyline High School, all of which highly rank on GreatSchools.org. The neighborhood’s Community High School is a magnet school with a blind lottery process.
- Population: 4,864
- Median home price: $360,419
- Median rent: $1,266
- Something to try: Attend a jazz or classical concert at the Kerrytown Concert House.
Centered around South Main Street, this neighborhood stretches from the boundary of Downtown south to E Eisenhower Pkwy and the Briarwood Mall. Within walking distance are a variety of University of Michigan sports facilities, including the Michigan Stadium; Crisler Center, the indoor home arena for the university’s basketball and gymnastics teams; the University of Michigan Gold Course; and Yost Ice Arena.
South Main is a popular area among UM’s student population because of the many apartment complex rentals. But you can also find condos and single-family residences. In addition to the university’s green spaces, you’ll find Cranbrook Park and Ward Park in the southern section of the neighborhood. Lots of shopping and chain dining options are available, not only at the Briarwood Mall but also along E Eisenhower Pkwy.
Popular local spots include Craft Breww City, which has Ann Arbor’s largest beer selection, as well as Grillcheezerie, a casual restaurant serving gourmet grilled cheese variations. Students in South Main attend the highly-rated Bach Elementary School, Slauson Middle School, and Pioneer High School.
- Population: 541
- Median home price: $549,000
- Median rent: $993
- Something to try: Hit the links at the University of Michigan Golf Course, a course designed by world-renowned golf architect Alister MacKenzie.
West Park is just northeast of Downtown, centered around a large urban park for which the neighborhood was named. It’s a community with expansive green spaces, including West Park’s bandshell for outdoor concerts. Bound by W Washington Street to the south, N 7th Street to the west, Miller Ave to the north, and Chapin St/3rd Street to the east, West Park rates among the most walkable neighborhoods in Ann Arbor, with a walk score of 73/100.
Among the beloved local neighborhood spots are Tasty Bakery, which offers gluten-free sweet treats, Mighty Good, an Ann-Arbor based café that roasts coffee beans in-house, and the Heidelberg Restaurant, which has served fine German food since 1961. Students in West Park attend Bach Elementary School, Slauson Middle School, and Pioneer High School.
- Population: 656
- Median home price: $1,216,003
- Median rent: $1,023
- Something to try: Attend a concert at West Park, or try a slice of pie from Big City Small World Bakery.
Burns Park is considered one of Ann Arbor’s most desirable neighborhoods. Trees line the streets, and classic old houses are home to families who are drawn to the area’s historic park and school. Located southwest of Burns Park itself and near the University of Michigan Golf Course, the Burns Park neighborhood is immediately south of Ann Arbor’s Downtown.
Subsections of Burns Park are among the parts of the city with the highest median household incomes, including Ives Woods and Washtenaw. But there is more budget-friendly housing available too: the South University business district sits in the Burns Park neighborhood, including the University Towers, Arbor Blue, and other apartment high rises. The area rates as highly walkable and highly bikeable.
Children attend Burns Park Elementary School, Tappan Middle School, and Huron or Pioneer High Schools.
- Population: 5,025
- Median home price: $588,300
- Median rent: $2,192
- Something to try: Attend a football game at the Michigan Stadium, or an ice hockey event at the Yost Ice Arena.
Old West Side
Directly southwest of Downtown, Old West Side is one of Ann Arbor’s 12 historic districts. The mostly residential area is mostly made up of single-family homes on streets lined with beautiful mature trees. Most of the homes date from 1850 to 1925 and were constructed in a variety of styles. The Old West Side Association exists for the conservation and improvement of the community’s character.
The neighborhood borders South Main Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks to the east, West Huron to the north, Crest, Soule and South Seventh on the west, and Pauline on the south. The south part of the neighborhood is within walking distance of Allmendinger Park and the Michigan Stadium.
Popular spots in Old West Side include the Washtenaw Dairy, known for its extra-tasty ice cream and homemade donuts, the Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery, famous for its truffle fries and craft beer, and Wurster Park, a 5.5-acre area with a sledding hill, picnic areas, and a historic oak tree. Students in the neighborhood attend Bach or Eberwhite Elementary School, Slauson Middle School, and Pioneer High School, all of which are known for their quality education.
- Population: 3,372
- Median home price: $412, 246
- Median rent: $1,074
- Something to try: Visit Sweet Gem Confections to taste their premium, hand-crafted chocolates and confections.
Named after Haisley Elementary School, this neighborhood sits about 10 minutes west of downtown. Ranch houses and picturesque Cape Cod-style homes line the streets. It’s a family-friendly locale also popular with senior citizens.
The area is excellent for nature and recreation lovers who enjoy Wildwood Park and the Miller Nature Area. Families with kids can play at Wildwood Playground. Veterans Memorial Park includes a skate park, pool, ice arena, and tennis courts.
The east part of the neighborhood borders Miller Ave, Maple Road, Jackson Ave, and Revena Place, while the west part borders I-94 to the north, Staebler and Zee Roads to the west, Park and Liberty Roads to the south, and Wagner Road to the east. Children attend Haisley Elementary School, then go on to either Forsythe or Slauson Middle School and Skyline High School.
- Population: 6,466
- Median home price: $374,400
- Median rent: $925
- Something to try: Take a stroll through the Miller Nature Area, or visit Veterans Memorial Park to swim or play tennis.
Dicken is a small residential neighborhood popular with families who raise kids in the one and two-story homes that line tree-shaded streets. Several apartment complexes are available if you prefer to rent. The neighborhood is approximately 12 minutes southwest of Downtown and is contained roughly between S Wagner Road, Scio Church Rd, W Liberty St, Stadium Blvd, and Main St. It includes a variety of lovely natural areas. Dicken Woods Nature Area hosts school and community nature programs. Mushroom Park features quirky mushroom-shaped sculptures. Las Vegas Park boasts a soccer field and playground. Finally, Greenview Park has areas for dog walkers and picnickers.
A popular local hangout, especially among UW students, is Wolverine State Brewing. A wide variety of amenities are conveniently located right in Dicken, such as an urgent care center, childcare center, art gallery, banks, and grocery stores.
Interstate 94 runs north-south through the western side of Dicken. Students in the neighborhood attend Dicken Elementary School and go on to attend Slauson Middle School and Pioneer High School, both of which are highly rated.
- Population: 2,433
- Median home price: $234,966
- Median rent: $1,308
- Something to try: Attend Wednesday Night Trivia Night at Wolverine State Brewing Company on W Stadium Boulevard
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If you’re ready to start planning your move to Ann Arbor, Great Guys Moving will help you find the most affordable moving services which are vetted, licensed, and insured. Contact us for your free quotes, and you’ll be settling into your new home in Ann Arbor before you know it!