Tennessee’s population grew by 82,988 people in 2022, the most in a year since 2007. People who have recently moved to the state cite its affordability and slower pace of life as draws. Four recent movers share the positives and negatives of living in the southern state. Something is loading.
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James Ballard did some quick math and realized he couldn’t afford to live in Clearwater anymore.
The 50-year-old Florida resident decided to pack his bags and move to Memphis, Tennessee, for a more manageable mortgage payment while enjoying a fixed income.
“There’s a Tom T. Hall song called ‘That’s how I got to Memphis,'” Ballard told Insider.
“I never thought this would happen to me, but it did,” he joked of his new state of residence.
Ballard, 66, had an $800 mortgage payment for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Clearwater, Florida. He cut it nearly in half by moving to Memphis, where he’s paying $480 for a similar-sized home.
Housing affordability and low taxes attract many people who choose Tennessee, where there is no income tax and the median annual property tax is about half the national average at $1,317, according to SmartAsset.
Realtor Brenna Foster, who was born and raised in Knoxville, also pointed to the great weather and southern hospitality as reasons people flock to the area from across the country. Foster said clients had recently moved to Tennessee from New York, New Jersey and California.
“It was crazy last year,” she said. The numbers back it up. Tennessee ranked seventh out of 50 states in population growth from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2022, adding 82,988 residents, according to the US Census Bureau.
Cities in Tennessee continually find themselves on lists naming the best places to live in the United States, for a variety of reasons. With its developing labor market, particularly in the tech sector, and house prices remaining below the national median, value for money seems like an easy choice.
The median selling price of homes in Tennessee was $356,100 in January, according to Redfin, while the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis cites the national median selling price of homes in January at $427,500.
Four people who moved to Tennessee shared some of the pros and cons — from affordability to loads of litter — of moving to the southern state.
Longtime Florida resident is happy in Memphis – although he thinks it could be cleaner James Ballard only visited Memphis once, 20 years earlier, before moving there in 2022 Getty Images
Ballard only visited Memphis once before deciding to move there in November 2022. The visit took place about 20 years ago, when he and a friend drove from their Florida home to Graceland, the former estate of Elvis Presley.
His latest fascination with Tennessee came from watching YouTube videos while looking for a place to move, he said.
“It turned out to be a great choice,” he said. “Memphis has a lot of charm.”
Ballard paid $150,000 for a newly renovated home in the Raleigh neighborhood of Memphis, property records show.
But he has one major complaint about the city of about 628,000 people: litter.
“People throw stuff out of their cars like it’s nothing,” he said. “To say Memphis has a litter problem is to say Moby Dick was a small fish. That’s more than a problem.”
Still, Ballard is happy with his decision and thinks Tennessee is right for him. Ballard joked that with his southern accent he wouldn’t fit in a city like Detroit and knew he wanted to stay southern.
“Memphis turned out to be a great landing spot for me,” he said. “I’m really happy here.”
He traded Snowy Buffalo for the ease of living down south Michael and Danielle Ekstrum moved to Tennessee after becoming empty nests in 2018. Courtesy of Michael Ekstrum
Michael Ekstrum, CFO of a medical device company, moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Buffalo, New York.
While a number of northerners moving to Tennessee complain that the summer months are getting too hot, Ekstrum, 55, welcomed the changing climate.
Ekstrum has multiple sclerosis and told Insider that the challenges posed by the snowy weather — shoveling, blowing and scraping — were hard on his health.
“Strangely, the heat is supposed to be a problem for most people with MS,” he said. “In my case, the cold really hurt me.”
Ekstrum and his wife Danielle moved from a 1,300 square foot home in Buffalo to a 5,300 square foot home in Tennessee in October 2018 after becoming empty nests. According to public records, they sold the Buffalo property for $251,000 and purchased the Chattanooga home for $430,000.
Now they don’t have to worry about cleaning the driveway. Average snowfall in Chattanooga comes in at 3.6 inches, according to weather.gov, while Buffalo recorded 64.7 inches in December 2022 alone.
“I wake up here any time of the year, walk to my door and leave,” Ekstrum said. “I don’t have to worry about the weather at all.”
The warmer weather didn’t shock Ekstrum, but another thing he liked about the change of scenery was the surprising amount of diversity.
“There’s a stereotype about the South — especially the Deep South — that it’s not diverse and very backward,” he said. “There’s a wide range of diverse opinions, diverse personalities, and diverse experiences. It’s refreshing to be in a more racially diverse field.”
A retiree tired of California overcrowding bought a house in Tennessee without thinking twice Michael and Bonnie Tyler moved from Sacramento, Calif., to Jonesborough, a historic town in eastern Tennessee. Paul Harris/Getty Images
Michael Tyler and his wife Bonnie made frequent trips to Tennessee before choosing to settle there.
Tyler, 69, has lived in California all his life but said he saw Sacramento get worse over the years.
“There’s too much traffic, too many people, it’s way too expensive and there’s no water,” Tyler told Insider.
Content with having settled away from the West Coast, Tyler and his wife narrowed their decision between The Villages – a retirement community in central Florida – and Tennessee. In June 2021, Tyler, his wife and two friends traveled to both destinations to finalize a decision.
On their way to lunch in the town of Jonesborough, in eastern Tennessee, the foursome stopped in a neighborhood to visit a few houses. The two couples have booked accommodation on the spot.
“My wife and I looked at this house and it was in a nice neighborhood and it was still under construction, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll take it,'” Tyler said.
Tyler sent the homebuilder a check for $2,000 to reserve the 2,700 square foot home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. He then paid $400,000 to buy it. They sold their 1,200 square foot California condo for $415,000 — in just six hours, Tyler said.
Tyler and his wife were thrilled to make the trip and even more excited when they got there.
“We were very happy – giddy is almost the word for it,” Tyler said. “We love this place. The people are nice here. And of course it’s a lot cheaper than living in California.”
California mover sees Nashville as next big tech hub Nashville’s live music scene has long drawn visitors and movers to the city. Robert Alexandre/Getty Images
Bruce saw more than charm in Tennessee.
The 63-year-old, who works in the startup industry and asked to only use his first name for privacy reasons, moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Nashville in 2021.
He thinks the capital of Tennessee could very well be on its way to becoming the next Austin, Texas. Its technology sector is flourishing with the arrival of Dell, Oracle, Amazon and others.
“I came to Nashville a few years ago and met a lot of what I call smart 27-year-olds,” Bruce told Insider. “They’re here because they see it’s a good place to start, and I think that bodes well for a place.”
Bruce thinks Austin is “overcooked” with its exorbitant real estate prices and the invasion of transplants. He said he no longer had the same sense of a future as Nashville.
As for why he left the Bay Area, housing prices no longer made much sense to him.
“It’s become a very different place from 40 years ago when people could afford to live there,” he said. “Now it’s unaffordable and an unreachable type of place.”
Bruce came for the more laid-back lifestyle that Nashville offers — and, he told Insider, he also came for the live music.
“I was expecting a country music scene, but it turns out there’s almost every type of music you want to listen to,” he said. “On a Friday afternoon, I’m just going down to a live music venue that I can walk to from my house.”
Bruce swapped a house in suburban Palo Alto for a top floor apartment in downtown Nashville with a view of the city.
But there’s one thing in particular Bruce lacks in California that Tennessee will never lack.
“The biggest thing I miss is the ocean,” he said. “I just like to listen to the sound of the ocean – it’s very zen for me.”