Home to three Fortune 500 companies, one King of rock ‘n’ roll, and the largest pork barbecue-cooking competition in the world, Memphis is also coming into its own as a desirable housing market.
Real estate in the so-called Bluff City, so named because of cliffs on the nearby Mississippi River, has “surged” during the pandemic, reports Realtor.com.
Home values in this city of 1.3 million have appreciated by over 39 percent in the last four years, according to Burns Real Estate Consulting, which reports that home values climbed 16.8 percent in 2021 alone.
But even after a pandemic-era climb in values, homes cost less than in other capitals of the South. John Burns Real Estate Consulting reports that the existing median home price is just $214,200 as of May. The median single family home is renting for $1,211, according to Burns.
That means Memphis is a far less pricey alternative to the state capital, Nashville, where the median home price is $407,700, according to Burns.
The city has a diverse economy, and specializes in logistics, owing to the fact that it is centrally located on the Mississippi as well as on several major train lines. FedEx has its headquarters here, employing some 30,000 workers and making the city’s airport the busiest cargo airport in the world.
Memphis is also home to noted healthcare facilities that draw clients from throughout the area, such as the nation’s top specialty hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
And while the pandemic allowed some workers to go fully remote, the experts at PwC and the Urban Land Institute predict that hospitals won’t lose their primacy to telemedicine, saying that “demand is likely to resume its ascent as the pandemic eases.”
Their “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2022” report calls Memphis a “city to watch.”
The film industry has discovered Memphis, too. Films including The Silence of the Lambs, The People vs. Larry Flynt, 21 Grams, and Hustle & Flow were shot here. The Bluff City also serves as the setting for a number of John Grisham’s novels, such as The Client, The Rainmaker, and The Firm.
And while some say Nashville has become too corporate, Memphis retains an offbeat sensibility, with author and historian (and Memphis native) Hampton Sides calling it “pleasingly off-kilter” and characterizing it as “the anti-Atlanta.” (And it remains much more affordable than Georgia’s capital, where John Burns puts the existing median home price at $342,600.)
“In downtown and midtown, investors are purchasing properties and renovating them and renting them out, some as Airbnbs,” says Ivana Johnson, affiliate broker with the city’s Coldwell Banker Collins Maury, located in Collierville.
Rising rents make Memphis a promising place for those investors. According to Burns, median rents have increased in each of the past three years: by 8.2 percent in 2019, 5.5 percent in 2020, and 6.2 percent in 2021.
Johnson named five areas in Memphis as especially promising for investors.
Statistics are from May 2022 from the Memphis Area Association of Realtors.
The cultural attractions sited in Memphis’s midtown are many. They include the city’s famous zoo, the iconic Sun Studio, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Lafayette’s Music Room, Elmwood Cemetery, and the Broad Avenue arts district.
There are also restaurants like Central BBQ and the Soul Fish Café and breweries such as Memphis Made, Crosstown, and High Cotton.
“A lot of people don’t know about the Midtown area,” says Johnson. “There are a lot of homes from the ’30s and ’40s that have kept their value, and there’s low turnover, because people love their homes. It’s close to Overton Park and Overton Square, and you feel like you’re in another city.
“I don’t know if they all talk to each other or what,” Johnson added, “but the homes all look so different, and this part of town has a homey, Southern feel.”
The average home price went up from $223,000 to $229,000 over the last year.
One perk of the locale: “That’s the only area that I know of where you can have a home with a basement,” says Johnson.
Median price: $220,000
Change year-over-year: +1.4 percent
Less than 20 miles from downtown, Cordova is defined by Wolf River to the south and I-40 on the north, Whitten Road on the west to Pisgah Road on the east.
“Cordova is a very, very popular neighborhood,” says Johnson, noting that the city’s only Ikea store is sited there, as is a well-trafficked Trader Joe’s and the city’s biggest mall, the Wolfchase Galleria.
“If you’re trying to avoid traffic,” she admits, “it’s not the best area to go to.”
One advantage of Cordova is its accessibility.
“It’s a real neighborhood,” says Johnson. “In some areas you have to drive to get anywhere, but here you can walk to your neighbor’s house if you need to borrow a cup of sugar.”
Median price: $290,000
Change year-over-year: +28.9 percent
The independent city of Bartlett is adjacent to Memphis’s northeast boundary. Its population is growing fast, from about 40,000 at the turn of the century to about 57,000 today.
“Bartlett is very close to Cordova,” says Johnson. “This is a great area if you don’t want to hustle and bustle of Cordova but you want to be close to what it has to offer.”
People also love the school district, says Johnson, and the numbers bear that out: nearly half the population has kids under 18.
Median price: $290,000
Change year-over-year: 0 percent
“Downtown is always going to be really good for investors,” says Johnson. It’s at the center of the action.
For example, if you want to go to the blues clubs and restaurants along touristy Beale Street, or see the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies play at the FedExForum, you’re headed downtown.
“It feels like a small New York City,” says Johnson, with a lot of Airbnbs and investment rental homes.
“There are a lot of apartment complexes here too,” says Johnson. But they’re expensive, she says, so there’s an assured market for single family homes at reasonable rental prices.
Median price: $260,000
Change year over year: -8.6 percent
5. East Memphis
East Memphis has a number of attractions. The University of Memphis, with more than 22,000 students, is here, just a few steps from the city’s botanical gardens.
Shelby Farms Park is one of the country’s largest urban parks and home to an unlikely sight: a herd of buffalo.
“I’ve been here since I was 16,” says Johnson of where she lives. “It’s not as fast as downtown, but it’s family-oriented and very lively. We have Target and a Kroger [grocery store], and we’re close to Germantown, Memphis’s second-oldest neighborhood. It’s probably the safest part of Memphis.”