There are 10 most affordable cities in Tennessee that attract many people to move to the state. And for travel aficionados who are looking to fill up their bucket list with various visits to fun U.S. states should most definitely pencil in Tennessee as one of their destinations.
The people in the so-called Volunteer State (Go Vols!) are genuinely friendly folks who never fail to provide visitors with the utmost hospitality and that classic southern charm we always hear about.
People are normally surprised to hear that eastern Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the entire country, but those who have traveled there certainly know why. The majestic “Smokies,” as they are cleverly nicknamed, are known for their great hiking opportunities, breathtaking waterfalls and unique wildlife.
In addition, the renowned amusement park Dollywood is located in the same region. Another great local attraction is southern Tennessee’s Ruby Falls, which is the deepest commercial cave in America – it’s even deeper than New York’s infamous Niagara Falls!
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Most people know of Nashville as a major hub for country and blues music and Memphis is well-known for unbeatable BBQ food and for being the former home of Elvis Presley (AKA Graceland), but the state actually has so much more to offer. Not only does traveling through Tennessee provide road trippers with a vast, unforgettable landscape, it also has activities and amenities that entire families can enjoy.
While visiting the most popular attractions is a must-do for any traveler, Tennessee is also an affordable place to live. While you’ll find million-dollar mansions scattered throughout the state in places like Brentwood and Forest Hills, in most cities the median housing prices are reasonable. Newcomers can find affordable housing, beautiful weather, a low crime rate, job opportunities, and an overall great living experience.
Here are the 10 most affordable places to live in Tennessee.
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Chattanooga (AKA Nooga) may be the fourth largest city in Tennessee, but it is also very affordable and a great choice when deciding where to live in the South. Although the city offers some bustling nightlife due to The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the city’s own art district, most residents live in an area of the city that allows them to enjoy a more suburban feel while still being close to all of their necessities.
A Livability’s study of over 1,000 cities found that Chattanooga is in the Top 100 Cities to Live in America and the publication also named it one of the Top 10 Best Downtowns. Residents also enjoy the average commute time of about 18 minutes, which is much lower than the nationwide average. Healthcare is a popular career path due to Erlanger Hospital and Memorial Hospital, which have both been deemed Top 100 Hospitals.
There is no shortage of things to do around Chattanooga, either, seeing as it is right along the Georgia border and is surrounded by state parks and the little-known Chickamauga Lake which allows fishing, water skiing, boating, and swimming. Chattanooga and the areas around it provide great scenery for photographers and adventure lovers, and many move here for the glorious weekend escapes.
The median home value is around $150,000 and monthly apartment rentals are around $818 per month. For a bigger city, that is a pretty great deal.
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2. Johnson City
You may have heard of Johnson City already if you’ve ever listened to any version of the song “Wagon Wheel” (Darius Rucker’s version is the most popular today). Johnson City has been voted the best place to live in Washington County, Tennessee, and it isn’t hard to see why. With the comparatively small population of 65,600 the city features small, tight-knit communities that help make living there enjoyable.
The city is home to Eastern Tennessee State University, which offers the James H. Quillen College of Medicine – one of the top schools in the country for rural medicine – as well as a College of Pharmacy and a College of Public Health.
There are not sufficient words for how tasty Freiberg’s German Restaurant is, and patrons can always find refreshing beer and catch a Titans game at Numan’s Cafe and Sports Bar. There is also no shortage of outdoor activities, with stunning mountain views and popular destinations like Winged Deer Park, Tweetsie Trail, and Watauga Lake.
The median home value in Johnson City is $148,800 and the median rent price is an attractive $733 a month.
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Clarksville has consistently been chosen as one of the best cities in Montgomery County to live in. With a population of 150,000 the city is home to Austin Peay State University, which was once the stomping grounds of famous TV fitness trainer Bob Harper (i.e. The Biggest Loser) and several professional sports figures.
The renowned Army base Fort Campbell is located on the Kentucky-Tennessee border between Hopkinsville and Clarksville, so many residents consider it a military town and the base provides employment for many of them.
Many of the schools in the area are given high ratings which makes Clarksville a solid choice for families. Job growth has spiked in the past few years as well with the addition of a new LG manufacturing plant and an epic Google data center, so unemployment has fortunately dipped there.
The median home value in Clarksville is about $159,300 and the median price of rent is approximately $950 per month.
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4. Oak Ridge
Also located in eastern Tennessee, Oak Ridge is another excellent place to live. Situated about 25 miles away from the busy city of Knoxville, this quaint little suburb is home to 30,000 residents, many of whom are young professionals although it’s family friendly as well. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory there is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and employs many of the people who live in the city.
Oak Ridge has one of the greatest historical presences in the area, as it was initially a secret site built by the government as part of the Manhattan Project, which aimed to create the first atomic weapons in the world. After World War II, Oak Ridge was deemed a “military town” and eventually became a self-governing independent city in 1959.
Current residents enjoy local activities such as pickleball, basketball, and the large swimming pool at the Oak Ridge Civic Center Recreation Building. The city also has 16 parks, a disc golf course, and many biking and running trails available, so there are plenty of outdoors activities, too.
Oak Ridge boasts a reasonable median home price of $135,400 and the median rent price is about $720 per month.
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Murfreesboro is about 30 miles southeast of Nashville and has been one of the fastest-growing areas of the state during the last ten years. The city is home to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and has plenty of outdoors activities and amenities including a 12-mile greenway that residents walk, run, and bike on daily.
Thanks to the growth, the unemployment rate in Murfreesboro is much lower than the national average. As with much of Tennessee, the city is rich in history, most notably for the Stones River National Battlefield which was the site of an iconic 1862 Civil War battle in which 81,000 soldiers fought to win control of middle Tennessee.
Batey Farms has been open for over 200 years (yes, 200!) and offers a wide variety of pork products as well as a seasonal strawberry patch where visitors can pick their own berries for just $3.75 per pound.
Murfreesboro is a great city for families, as the public schools are rated higher than surrounding areas and the nightlife is bustling without being too over-the-top like nearby Nashville can be. Residents of Murfreesboro enjoy a wide range of delicious cuisines including the Tandoor Indian Restaurant, Cathay Asian Bistro, Ginger Thai Bistro, and Ahart’s Pizza Garden.
The median home price is $246,000 and renters pay an average of $970 a month.
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Collierville is definitely an unmissable suburb of Memphis. Potential home buyers and families are normally thrilled with how many parks and outdoor recreation centers there are, and the town has also been ranked “Best Main Street” in America by Parade magazine due to its quaint and welcoming downtown.
A massive attraction in the city is the Avenue at Carriage Crossing, which is a major shopping center spread out over 800,000 square feet. Collierville is also known for its churches, which include a non-denominational church that has an impressive 6,000 members as well as Catholic churches, Methodist churches, LDS churches, Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, and more.
The median home value is around $332,700, and the median household income is $106,783. Monthly rentals are around $1,230 a month.
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Originally a train depot back in the 1800s, Bartlett has become one of the greatest places to live in Tennessee. Located just outside of Memphis in Shelby County, this little nook is close enough to the big city yet far enough for the peace and quiet people are looking to live in.
CNN and Money Magazine have previously deemed Bartlett one of the top 100 places to live because of its safety, respected public schools, and various faith communities. The city hosts a seasonal Farmer’s Market where residents gather to socialize and buy everything from fruits and vegetables to coffee and flowers.
The city also puts on annual events such as the Fireworks Extravaganza for the 4th of July, a children’s fishing rodeo, a Christmas parade, and the Bartlett Festival in September, which is home to a fierce BBQ Fest competition.
While the median home price and rent is a bit higher than some of the other most affordable places at $206,200 and $1,338 per month, respectively, the median household income is $80,240 which is higher than other areas and therefore keeps the city affordable.
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People looking to move to a tight-knit, small town community that has reasonable access to plenty of bigger cities if needed including Bowling Green, KY and Nashville should look into moving to Portland.
Portland is best known for its agricultural contributions in the past, especially because its strawberries once supplied a whopping twenty percent of the nationwide strawberry market. (Of course, the town celebrates this every May when it hosts the Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival).
Although the town is home to only around 12,000 people, many parents choose to raise their kids here and people from surrounding areas come for the great live music and the eclectic Sumner Crest Winery. The Family Restaurant 109 serves up some of the best “meat and three” southern home-cooked meals in the county and the locals are some of the most welcoming people you’ll find in the U.S.
Portland’s median home value is $173,800, with a median household income of $51,027. The average apartment rents for $834 a month.
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Farragut is known to be one of the best options for retirees due to its laid-back vibe and distance from all of the hustle and bustle of a big city. With a population of about 2,200, this small suburb is praised for its small-town rural feel despite being less than 20 miles away from the heart of Knoxville.
Moving to Farragut is a great choice for families, too. While all levels of education in Farragut offer excellent schooling, Farragut High School and L&N STEM Academy have been recognized for their high graduation rates and above-average testing scores. Farragut is perfect for nature lovers because it is also right on Fort Loudon Lake, which features excellent fishing, boating and one-of-a-kind birdwatching.
While the median home value in Farragut may seem higher at $376,300, the median household income is $104,715 and options range from low prices to those in the millions of dollars. Apartments rent for an average of $1,222 per month.
If we look beyond the best-known cities, we will find many communities where you can own a piece of the Sunshine State and stay within our budget. Many of these offer not only affordability, but also low crime rates, good employment opportunities, housing availability, recreational opportunities and educational facilities…
Fifteen miles south of Knoxville lies the great city of Alcoa. Alcoa is situated near the base of the impressive Appalachian range and has easy access to various highways, so living there is very convenient. It is also home to the McGhee Tyson Airport, which offers flights to and from several major cities.
It doesn’t get much more retro than Hot Rod’s 50’s Diner on Hannum Street and many like to enjoy the warm weather and play a round of golf at the Green Meadow Country Club. Perhaps the greatest landmark in Alcoa, however, is the awe-inspiring Millennium Manor Castle that William Andrew Nicholson built from 1938 to 1946. He created it with sturdy Roman architecture in mind because he held the strong belief that Armageddon was imminent and he wanted to be prepared.
The median home value in Alcoa is about $146,500 and renters pay a median price of an attractive $700 per month.
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