While you may know the region or state in the U.S. you're set on calling home next, you likely still have decisions to make when it comes to which city or metro area will be the right fit. If Tennessee is your place, you have no shortage of industrial cities, nearby suburbs and small towns to choose from in the long, thin, southern state that spans two time zones.
You may have called Tennessee home since birth or simply like the idea of being able to choose from the mountain, hill or plain landscapes that make up the state. Either way, your experience can vary widely based on where in the state you put down roots.
Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Tennessee is home to four. We’ve compiled the details from the Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking – based on information about the local job market, cost of living, access to health care and desirability, among other factors – to help you determine which major Tennessee metro area is the right fit for you.
Here are the best places to live in Tennessee:
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 117
Metro Population: 1,341,339
Median Home Value: $142,908
Median Annual Salary: $42,940
The second-most populous metro area in Tennessee, Memphis ranks No. 117 out of the 125 metro areas on the overall Best Places to Live list. Memphis area residents spend less than 30 percent of the median annual household income on housing costs, including rent and mortgage payments, utility costs and property taxes. However, property and violent crime rates in the area are above the national average, and a low average college readiness score among high school students – based on data from the U.S. News' Best High Schools ranking – contribute to Memphis ranking second to last in the Quality of Life rating after San Juan, Puerto Rico. Additionally, the Memphis area's population is slowly shrinking, with the population declining by 1.78 percent based on net migration between 2012 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
[Read: Your Guide to the Housing Market.]
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 72
Metro Population: 544,522
Median Home Value: $154,650
Median Annual Salary: $41,940
Just north of the state’s border with Georgia, Chattanooga is smallest of the four Tennessee metro areas on the Best Places to Live list and ranks No. 72 overall. Population growth is a significant factor for Chattanooga ranking ahead of Memphis, with Chattanooga growing by a modest 2.73 percent due to net migration between 2012 and 2016. While the median annual salary, at $41,940, is below the national average of $49,630, area residents benefit from a particularly low cost of living, spending just 26.9 percent of the median annual household income on housing expenses.
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 64
Metro Population: 857,111
Median Home Value: $156,325
Median Annual Salary: $42,540
Knoxville ranks No. 64 out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., with a cost of living that's slightly higher than in Chattanooga. Knoxville residents spend 27.28 percent of the median annual household income on housing costs. Knoxville also benefits from a more active job market: Its unemployment rate is just 3.6 percent, while Memphis and Chattanooga have unemployment rates of at least 4 percent. Knoxville residents also benefit from an average morning commute of just 23.4 minutes.
[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 11
Metro Population: 1,794,570
Median Home Value: $236,267
Median Annual Salary: $45,780
The most populous metro area in Tennessee is also the most widely visited, particularly because it’s considered the capital of country music. Nashville ranks No. 11 on the overall Best Places to Live list, thanks to its growth due to net migration, desirability and affordability. Between 2012 and 2016, the Nashville area grew by 6.7 percent due to net migration alone. Additionally, Nashville residents spend just 26.51 percent of the median household income on housing costs. The area also ranks 11th for desirability out of the 125 places on the list, based on a Google Consumer Survey of 2,000 U.S. residents.
Organize your move early.
Few people can escape heightened stress when it comes time to move. Despite it being a common occurrence – about 11 percent of the U.S. population moved to a new home in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – moving is undoubtedly an exhausting process. You not only have to pack up everything you own and relocate it, but you also have to clear out your former home and set up house in a new one. It’s easy to find yourself getting into arguments, losing items or running behind a deadline to be out of one place and into another. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for your move.Research professionals and prices.
Research professionals and prices.
The key to a stress-free move is organization, so you should start thinking about the process as soon as you know you’ll be relocating. Begin by researching moving companies, and take inventory of everything you’ll be moving with you. Then, reach out to a few companies to inquire about cost, availability and materials to move your home. “It’s not unheard of for people to be making inquiries for six months ahead of time,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association. “You don’t need to lock down a contract that early, but it doesn’t hurt to start doing some research.”Book a moving company.
Book a moving company.
Once you know your moving day, whether you’ll need movers to pack up your belongings, how much you’ll be taking with you and what your budget is, book a moving company or reserve a truck if you're moving yourself. You still want to book with as much advance notice as possible, with a minimum of a month’s notice in summer and two- to three-weeks' notice during the rest of the year, says Angela Gonzalez, operations and quality manager for Unpakt, an online marketplace that connects consumers with vetted moving companies.Buy packing materials.
Buy packing materials.
Boxes, tape and trash bags are a given when it comes to moving, so much so that they can easily be overlooked. Purchase or find moving materials early so you can begin packing the things you don’t need right away. You can order materials online, inquire with a local retailer or search Craigslist for used boxes. You can even ask your mover if it will include the cost of providing packing materials in the moving cost.Downsize and start packing early.
Downsize and start packing early.
The last thing you want is to find yourself paying more to move things you don’t want or need. Before you break out the moving boxes, sort through your belongings and determine what goes with you, and what goes away. Those rarely used items you decide to keep should be packed early so you can get a good estimate of how much will be loaded into a moving truck. “The stuff that’s been sitting in your closet for the last five or six months – donate it if you can, or pack it if you really need to keep it,” Gonzalez says.Donate what you don't need.
Donate what you don't need.
Whether it’s a couple bags of clothes the kids don’t wear anymore or a fully stocked pantry of canned goods, minimize the amount of things you take with you – and what you take to the landfill. “A lot of people that are moving have food items in their pantry that maybe they don’t really need anymore,” Michael says, noting moving companies often have contact information for local food banks and may even deliver the donation for you.Transfer your utilities.
Transfer your utilities.
The last thing you want is to arrive at your new home and realize you forgot to turn on the water, heat or electricity – or you didn't turn them off at your old place. Be sure to call in advance and set the start date for your utilities at least a day prior to your move day to ensure everything is on when you arrive. Gonzalez stresses that any utility installation such as cable or internet shouldn't happen on moving day.Change your mailing address.
Change your mailing address.
The U.S. Postal Service makes it easy to change your mailing address online – just go to moversguide.usps.com. You can set up the change of address as far in advance as you'd like so mail will begin forwarding to your new home the day of your move. You should also notify your bank, doctor's office, employer and friends and family of your new address, but you have extra time to do so once you’ve established the change with the post office.Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.
Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.
If your moving truck will occupy space on a city street with street parking, you’ll likely need to apply for a permit or request “no parking” signs to reserve space on your move day. In Chicago, for example, each ward offers free “no parking” signs for people moving, which must be posted 48 hours in advance. If your moving truck is 16 feet or longer, the Chicago Department of Transportation requires you to apply for a permit. Similar policies exist in other cities for permitting and obtaining signs to clear space. A moving company will often handle the permitting process for its own vehicles, but you should clarify that responsibility when scheduling the move.Take out the trash.
Take out the trash.
Never leave garbage in the home you’re vacating, and if you rented the place, the cost to clean or remove trash will be deducted from your security deposit. To save yourself some cash, pick up garbage in every room as you move items out. Once the home is empty, go back through with cleaning spray and a vacuum or broom. Checking each room will help you catch any small items you may have missed.Schedule with room for delays.
Schedule with room for delays.
There may be a snow storm, a foreign dignitary in town or a car accident that puts the highway at a standstill. Expect the unexpected, and give your itinerary some cushion for such events. Gonzalez says one of the most common mistakes people make is scheduling too much on a moving day. “Give some ample time,” she says. “When you’ve scheduled a move at 8 a.m., don’t schedule a flight for 1 p.m.”Read More
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.