Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State, so it’s in that same spirit that Movoto Real Estate is volunteering Tennessee as the next state to be featured in our ongoing series uncovering the best places in the country to live. We’ve previously discovered the best places in North Carolina, we have shown you the top 10 places in Missouri, we’ve even looked at some of the hardest-working cities in the U.S., but today, we’ll be putting in the hard work, as we explore the 10 best places in Tennessee.
As residents are likely to know, the Volunteer State got its name when more than 1,300 volunteer soldiers from Tennessee helped win the Battle of New Orleans and end the War of 1812. Well, we may not be setting out for war, but we do hope to change the face of history with today’s list—at least for some Tennessee residents. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 places in Tennessee to live.
If you’re looking at this list thinking, “This means war!” First of all, calm down. And then, keep on reading to find out the method behind our rankings and just what makes each of these cities so special.
How We Did It
While Tennessee clearly values hard work and selflessness, what with a nickname like the Volunteer State, we couldn’t exactly use these standards as the sole criterion to rank its places. So we settled on the following seven criteria:
- Cost of living
- Crime rate
- High school diploma attainment
- Median household income
- Median home value
- Median rent price
- Unemployment rate
With these seven things in mind, we looked at the U.S. Census data for 105 places in Tennessee with a population more than 5,000 people. Each area was ranked from one to 105 in each criteria, with one being the best possible score. Then, the individual rankings were averaged into an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the winner, Signal Mountain.
Each of our top 10 places are certainly unique, but in general, they made the list because they shared a low crime rate, cost of living, and unemployment rate; and a high median household income or rent price and high school graduation attainment rate.
To see where each of our top 50 places in Tennessee ranked, hop down to the end of this post. For now, let’s check out where each of our top 10 excelled.
1. Signal Mountain
With a population of just over 7,700, Signal Mountain is one of the three smallest places on our list; but this certainly does not mean it is lacking in benefits. In fact, the only area where Signal Mountain seems to be lacking is in its crime rate—just 708 per 100,000 residents. To put that into perspective for you, compare this to Crossville, TN, with 12,606 crimes per 100,000 people.
Signal Mountain came in at the top of its class in education, with a high school diploma attainment rate of 96 percent. It also has some of the highest rent in Tennessee, with an average price of $1,240 per month. This may not be great for renters, but it certainly indicates that people are willing to pay top dollar to live in this great location.
To top it off, just .3 percent of the population here is unemployed, making Signal Mountain No. 1 when it comes to a low unemployment rate—and this doesn’t even include all those Tennessee volunteers.
This suburb of Nashville is easily the most affluent on our list, with a median household income of $126,787, a median home price of over $481,000, and rent prices averaging around $1,741—the highest in the state.
But Brentwood isn’t all about money. In fact, Brentwood came in second overall with a high school diploma attainment rate of 97 percent, and was one of the safest places on our list, with just 1,046 crimes per 100,000 people.
It’s no wonder why people like Dolly Parton, Kesha, Garth Brooks, and Niki Taylor call Brentwood home. Of course to live in Brentwood you may need to be paid like a celebrity, because it comes with a price: The cost of living here is significantly higher than the national average.
While this city just outside of Memphis may not have quite the median household income or home prices of Brentwood, it still ranked high with rent prices over $1,110 a month, and more than makes up for its lower income with a much lower cost of living. The cost of living score is a 91 in Bartlett, making it the most affordable city in our top 10.
Bartlett is known as a cultural center in Tennessee. Residents can take a step back into the past, at the Davies Manor Plantation or the Nicholas Gotten House; or enjoy the much more modern Performing Arts and Conference Center, or the city’s (humungous!) Recreation and Fitness Center. Cultured, healthy, and affordable? Bartlett seems almost too good to be true.
Just east of Memphis, this city scored well in almost all of our criteria, but particularly when it came to education, median income, and median home values. Germantown had the highest high school diploma attainment rate in the state, with an impressive 98 percent. It also came in as a close second to Brentwood, with a median household income of $113,535. Of course with median home values of $284,400, residents probably need those earnings for their mortgages.
What else do the people of Germantown spend their hard earned money on? Well, the city is known all over the country for its annual horse shows and competitions, notably, the Germantown Charity Horse Show each summer. And if horses are not your thing, there is always the giant Germantown Festival each year, where hundreds of vendors gather to sell arts and crafts. Wunderbar!
Farragut ranked high in its median home values ($302,800), high school diploma attainment rate (95 percent), median income ($94,848), and unemployment (3.3 percent). Or rather, it ranked low in unemployment; so low that it came in third in this criterion.
This suburb of Knoxville is just minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains, and many residents use this proximity to their advantage—the area is dotted with hiking and biking trails, and for those who prefer water sports, there are tons of lakes. And if your sport of choice is shopping, consider the new Turkey Creek development your arena.
Of course such luxuries come at a cost—the cost of living in Farragut is 14 points above the average of 100, but compared to some of the other places on our list, this is still reasonably affordable.
Another suburb of Memphis, Lakeland took our No. 6 spot for its incredibly low unemployment rate of just 3.1 percent, its crime rate, 68 percent below the state’s average, and for its relatively low cost of living—just 5 points above the average of 100.
This city, located in scenic western Tennessee, prides itself on its beautiful, natural terrain and country living. And while Lakeland may be one of the fastest growing places in the county, the city has worked hard to preserve a number of lakes, ponds, streams, parks, and other outdoor areas for residents—both people and animals—to enjoy.
The smallest town on our top 10 list, Nolensville, came in at No. 7 for its high scores in almost all of our criteria—but particularly its high median rent of $1,577 and a crime rate of just 744 crimes per 100,000—that’s 81 percent lower than the Tennessee average.
Nolensville also scored well with a median household income of $92,143—118 percent higher than the state average—and a median home price of $285,300—that’s 121 percent higher than the rest of Tennessee.
Of course no place is perfect, and Nolensville is no exception. The cost of living here is 20 percent higher than the state’s average, and while it is great for the town, some longtime residents may not like how fast it is growing. Over the past 15 years, new developments such as Bent Creek, Winterset Woods, Silver Stream, and more have sprung up all over the area, plus the new multi-million dollar town hall, numerous business plazas, and restaurants. So, sure, no place is perfect, but Nolensville comes in pretty close.
8. Spring Hill
Spring Hill may be just 30 miles south of Nashville, but it stands just fine on its own. Spring Hill scored major points in our study for its low unemployment rate of just 3.7 percent, and a high school diploma attainment rate of 90 percent, making it one of the best educated cities in Tennessee.
Spring Hill also gained some points for its cost of living—a solid 100, neither higher nor lower than the U.S. average.
Spring Hill draws nature and history lovers alike with parks such as Harvey Park and Evans Park, and the Rippavilla Plantation. This historical site and museum was home to Nathaniel Frances Cheairs IV in the late 19th century. Not much of a history buff? Never fear; this building and its grounds are beautiful even without the lesson.
Another small town on our list, with a population of just 6,891, Oakland came in at No. 9. Among other things, Oakland scored well with its low unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent and a crime rate 73 percent below the state average.
These numbers in themselves are not remarkable; but combined with Oakland’s comparatively low cost of living—5 percent lower than the state average—it beat out the competition for this spot on our list.
It’s also beating out its competition when it comes to growth. Oakland may be much smaller in population than other Memphis suburbs, but it is also growing much faster. In recent years, it has had the highest number of building permits issued for any suburb in the area, and in 2010, the population grew at a rate of almost 420 percent.
Last but certainly not least is our No. 10 town, Collierville. Collierville made the list, mostly because of its impressive median household income of over $102,000, its high school diploma attainment rate of 93 percent, and its high median home values—over $270,000.
This affluent town outside of Memphis may technically be a suburb, but it is known throughout the area for maintaining its own unique community-feel, with its smaller, unique, old homes in the heart of Collierville, and the variety of retail options that make it unnecessary to venture outside of the community.
The Avenue at Carriage Crossing, for example, is an 800,000 square foot shopping center that makes taking a trip to Memphis to go shopping seem downright silly. No wonder Collierville was recently chosen as one of Relocate-America’s Top 100 Places to Live.
A Battle to the Top
While creating our list was no War of 1812, from which the state got its nickname, it certainly was a battle of sorts to narrow it down to just 10, with so many wonderful places. In the end, though, Signal Mountain came in on top, for scoring the best in all of our criteria. Agree? Disagree? Volunteer your thoughts in the comments below.