Considering of Transferring to Tennessee? Relocators Share the Professionals and Cons

Michael Ekstrum, left, moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Buffalo, New York in 2018. Courtesy of Michael Ekstrum

  • Tennessee’s population grew by 82,988 people in 2022, the largest amount in a year since 2007.
  • People who have recently moved to the state cite its affordability and slower pace of life as draws.
  • Four newcomers share the ins and outs of life in the southern state.

James Ballard did a quick calculation and found that he could no longer afford to live in Clearwater.

The 50-year-old Florida resident decided to pack up and move to Memphis, Tennessee, to get a more manageable mortgage payment while still earning a steady income.

“There’s a song by Tom T. Hall called ‘That’s How I Got to Memphis,'” Ballard told Insider.

“I never thought this would happen to me, but it happened,” he joked about his new immigration status.

Ballard, 66, had an $800 mortgage payment on a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Clearwater, Florida. He almost cut it in half by moving to Memphis, where he pays $480 for a similar-sized house.

Housing affordability and low taxes are a big draw for many people who choose Tennessee, where there is no income tax and the median annual property tax is about half the national average of $1,317, according to SmartAsset.

Real estate agent Brenna Foster, who was born and raised in Knoxville, also pointed to the great Southern weather and hospitality as reasons people from across the country flock to the area. Foster said clients have recently moved to Tennessee from New York, New Jersey and California.

“It was crazy just last year,” she said. The numbers confirm it. Tennessee ranked seventh out of all 50 states for population growth from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2022, adding 82,988 residents according to the US Census Bureau.

Cities in Tennessee consistently feature on lists of the best places to live in the United States for a variety of reasons. With the job market evolving, particularly in the tech sector, and property prices remaining below the national median, bang for your buck seems like an easy choice.

According to Redfin, the median home selling price in Tennessee in January was $356,100, while the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis put the national median home selling price in January at $427,500.

Four people who have moved to Tennessee shared some of the pros and cons — from affordability to a lot of junk — of moving to the southern state.

A longtime Florida resident is happy in Memphis — though 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 was about 20 years ago when he and a friend were driving from their home in Florida to Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley.

His latest fascination with Tennessee came from watching YouTube videos while looking for a place to change clothes, 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 Memphis’ Raleigh neighborhood, property records show.

But he has one major complaint about the city of around 628,000: the garbage.

“People throw things out of their cars like it’s nothing,” he said. “To say Memphis has a garbage problem is to say Moby Dick was a small fish. It’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 into a city like Detroit, and knew he wanted to stay south.

“Memphis turned out to be a great place to land for me,” he said. “I’m really happy here.”

He traded the snowy Buffalo for the ease of southern living

Michael and Danielle Ekstrum moved to Tennessee after becoming empty nesters in 2018. Courtesy of Michael Ekstrum

Michael Ekstrum, finance manager at a medical device company, relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Buffalo, New York.

While some northerners moving to Tennessee complain that the summer months are getting too warm, Ekstrum, 55, welcomes climate change.

Ekstrum has multiple sclerosis and told Insider that the snowy weather’s challenges – shoveling, blistering and scraping – took a toll on his health.

“Oddly enough, heat is said to be a problem for most people with MS,” he said. “In my case, the cold really hurt.”

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 vacant nests. According to public records, they sold the Buffalo home for $251,000 and bought the Chattanooga home for $430,000.

Now they don’t have to worry about clearing the driveway. The average snowfall in Chattanooga is 3.6 inches, according to, while Buffalo recorded 64.7 inches in December 2022 alone.

“I wake up here any time of the year, go to my door and start driving,” said Ekstrum. “I don’t have to worry about the weather at all.”

The warmer weather didn’t come as a shock to Ekstrum, but another thing he enjoyed about the change of scenery was the surprising amount of variety.

“There’s a stereotype about the South — particularly the Deep South — that it’s not diverse and it’s very backward thinking,” he said. “There is a wide range of different opinions, different personalities and diverse experiences. It’s refreshing to be in a more racially diverse realm.”

A retiree fed up with California’s overcrowding bought a home in Tennessee without thinking twice

Michael and Bonnie Tyler relocated from Sacramento, California to Jonesborough, a historic town in eastern Tennessee. Paul Harris/Getty Images

Michael Tyler and his wife Bonnie made frequent trips to Tennessee before deciding to move there.

Tyler, 69, had lived in California all his life but said he’d watched Sacramento deteriorate 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 settling far from the West Coast, Tyler and his wife narrowed their choice between The Villages — a central Florida retirement community — and Tennessee. In June 2021, Tyler, his wife and two friends visited the two destinations to make a decision.

On their way to breakfast in Jonesborough, east Tennessee, the quartet stopped in a neighborhood to look at a few houses. Both couples reserved homes on site.

“My wife and I looked at this house and it was in a nice area and it was still being built, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll take it,'” Tyler said.

Tyler mailed the home builder a check for $2,000 to reserve the 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home. He later 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 excited about the move and were even more excited when they arrived.

“We were very happy – vertigo is almost the right word for it,” Tyler said. “We love it here. People are nice here. And of course it’s a lot cheaper than living in California.”

A California mover sees Nashville as the next big tech hub

Nashville’s live music scene has long drawn visitors and travelers to the city. Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Bruce saw more than charm in Tennessee.

The 63-year-old, who works in the startup space and asked to only use his first name for privacy reasons, relocated to Nashville from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2021.

He believes the Tennessee capital could very well be on the way to becoming the next Austin, Texas. Its technology sector is thriving with the arrival of Dell, Oracle, Amazon and others.

“I went to Nashville a few times a few years ago and just bumped into a lot of what I call smart 27-year-olds,” Bruce told Insider. “They’re out here because they see it’s a great place to start and I think that bodes well for a place.”

Bruce thinks Austin is “overcooked” with its sky-high real estate prices and transplant invasion. He said it no longer has the same up-and-coming feel as Nashville.

As for why he left the Bay Area, real estate prices didn’t make sense to him anymore.

“It’s become a very different place than it was 40 years ago when people could afford to live there,” he said. “Now it’s priceless and an inaccessible place.”

Bruce came for the more laid-back lifestyle that Nashville offers — and, he told Insiders, he also came for the live music.

“I was expecting a country music scene, but turns out there’s just about any type of music you could want to hear,” he said. “On a Friday afternoon, I just go to a place that has live music that’s walking distance from my house.”

Bruce traded a house in suburban Palo Alto for a loft in downtown Nashville with city views.

But there’s one thing Bruce misses in particular that California has and that Tennessee never will have.

“The biggest thing I miss is the sea,” he said. “I like to just listen to the sound of the ocean – it’s very zen for me.”

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