Thinking About Making the Move to Alabama? Read This Guide First.
Table of Contents
- Where Are The Best Places To Live In Alabama?
- How Is The Job Market In Alabama?
- How Much Does It Cost To Live In Alabama?
- How Is The Alabama Real Estate Market?
- Is Alabama A Good Place To Retire?
- What Are The People And Culture Like In Alabama?
- Some Of The Coolest Things To Do In Alabama
- The Pros And Cons Of Living In Alabama
- Alabama Fun Facts & Strange Laws
Considering a move to Alabama? So are many other Americans. The state has a lot to offer and although “Sweet Home Alabama” isn’t the ‘official’ state anthem, living there sure is sweet. Read on to learn everything you need to know before packing up and heading down south.
Introduction to This Southernmost Gem
Alabama, situated snuggly in America’s Deep South, is a state with a rich history that has aided in shaping the United States we know and love today.
The American Civil Rights Movement has its roots here; in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery. Birmingham, Alabama, also houses the 16th street Baptist Church, which was famously used as a protest headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement later down the line in the 1960s.
In addition to it’s rich and diverse history, Alabama has some of the most beautiful coastlines in the US, and luckily, year-round weather that allows residents to enjoy it. Although the climate can be hot and sticky during the summer months, this combination is perfect for spending time on the beach.
Alabama is often called ‘The Yellowhammer state’. This nickname dates back to the civil war, when the soldiers wore uniforms trimmed with a yellow cloth, mimicking the bright yellow flash of feathers on a Yellowhammer bird’s tail. While most states have just one nickname, Alabama has three… It’s also referred to as ‘The Cotton State’, and “The Heart of Dixie.
Now that the introductions are out of the way, lets’ take a closer look at why you might want to add Alabama to your shortlist of places to move…Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (May 25, 2020)
Where Are The Best Places To Live In Alabama?
The biggest and perhaps most famous city in Alabama is Birmingham. But, like so many states, the most populated and bustling city is not actually the capital. That’s Montgomery, which follows up as a close second in terms of population.
There’s much more to this southern state than just Birmingham and Montgomery though. The state boasts several other exciting cities to explore, as well as quaint small towns with a relaxed pace of life.
In no particular order, let’s take a closer look at some of the best places to live across the Heart of Dixie.
Montgomery, the state capital, is Alabama’s second largest city with a population of around 206,000. It’s famous for being the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement, and today there’re museums and monuments to commemorate this all over the city, as well as the Civil Rights Trail.
There’s also a strong arts and entertainment scene in Montgomery, including the annual Alabama Shakespeare Festival, one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the world. There’s also a fantastic outdoor mall that hosts a regular farmer’s market and concerts throughout the summer months.
It’s a really pretty city, with plenty of greenery and parks dotted around, and some beautiful suburban neighborhoods tucked away which are great to explore by bicycle.
Like most cities, Montgomery has a couple of areas that can be a little sketchy after dark, but on the whole, the crime rate here is much better than other parts of the state.
The average cost of a home here is slightly more than Birmingham, though still way below the national average, at $118k.
This is another one of Alabama’s cities with a lot to offer. There’s some really neat history in and around Mobile; the city was settled by the French in 1702, so there’s plenty of interesting colonial buildings around and stories from the past to be uncovered.
It’s a good looking city with a beautiful skyline, which really comes into its own in springtime when pink and purple azaleas are in blooms all over the city.
Mobile’s biggest claim to fame is being the site of the first-ever Mardi Gras. Although New Orleans usually gets all the credit, year after year the celebration here is still going strong, with parades all month long.
The city has a lot going on considering its size, with plenty of entertainment options, cultural attractions, and events. There’re also plenty of parks for outdoor pursuits, and a relatively good school system, so it’s quite a popular place with families.
The average cost of a home in Mobile is a little pricier than we’ve seen so far, at $121k, which is still super affordable compared to many similar cities in the nation.
Birmingham, named after the industrial British city of the same name, has a population of around 213,000 people. That number is has been soaring for decades now, in fact, Birmingham was nicknamed the ‘Magic City’ back in the manufacturing age as the population grew so quickly as people came to take up work. Today, people are moving from across the state and further afield, tempted by the super low cost of living and a school system that is above average compared with other parts of the state.
Birmingham is famous for its parks, in fact, there’s more green space per capita than any other city in the country. This pretty neat claim to fame is one of the reasons why Birmingham is so popular with families… there’s a great balance between the bustling excitement of city life, peaceful suburbia and tranquil pockets of nature.
It’s one of the cheaper cities to live in the US, with an average home value of only $87k, so moving here from many other parts of the country could be really affordable if you already own a home.
Huntsville is known as The Rocket City since it’s where the rockets that put “man” on the moon were developed. Today, the city’s past is commemorated by the US Space & Rocket Center, which is the world’s biggest space museum.
The city is enjoying a revival over the last few years, with some great restaurants, bars, music venues, and craft breweries popping up all over the place. Because of this, people are really starting to take notice of Huntsville and the population is steadily climbing due to newcomers moving in; there are currently around 188,000 people living here, and experts think that it will become Alabama’s biggest city within the next 10 years, so watch this space (excuse the pun).
Because Huntsville is seen as one of the trendier and more thriving communities in Alabama, the house prices reflect that, with an average home costing around $170k. It might sound cheap, but that’s the highest on our list so far.
This ritzy suburb of Birmingham is Alabama’s most upscale neighborhood. It’s got some of the most beautiful and sprawling properties in the state and access to some of the best public schools too.
The Birmingham Zoo is here, along with the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Birmingham itself is less than 4 miles away, so many people who live in Mountain Brook commute into the city.
The crime rates here are also some of the lowest in the state, making it an ideal place for families.
There’s an open-air shopping complex with fashion stores and a wide variety of eateries, as well as the more high-end Summit Mall, where there’s a big selection of upscale boutiques and designer label stores.
Since Mountain Brook is such a desirable area, it’s also a whole lot more expensive than the other places on our list, but residents earn a relatively large income to compensate, about 3 times more than the state’s average salary. Here, the average home costs around $480k.
Southside is a fast-growing city just 1 hour northeast of Birmingham, set on the banks of the Coosa River. This riverside location makes Southside easily one of the most picturesque cities in Alabama.
Back in the 1800s, it was a rural farming community, but these days it’s a thriving city with some beautiful parks, forests and golf courses dotted the area.
The crime rate here stands out as being much better than many parts of the state, while the cost of living is still much cheaper than the national average. A mean home price in Southside is around $154k.Need cheap moving supplies? Fast free delivery (May 25, 2020)
How Is The Job Market In Alabama?
To outsiders, Alabama usually isn’t the first state that pops into mind when thinking of bustling and vibrant business and industry. Yet, there’s a heck of a lot of growth going on within the state. In fact, Area Development magazine ranked Alabama as #4 in the nation for “Top states doing business”.
The job growth rate at the end of 2019 was climbing by 2.4%, much faster than the national average of 1.5%. There’s a strong economy here, and plenty of jobs available across most parts of the state.
Top Industries Across Alabama
Back in the day, Alabama’s main industries were coal mining, followed by steel and iron production. Nowadays, the major industries are automotive, forestry, tech, aeronautics and chemical production.
Alabama ranks as the 5th US city for car and truck production, with many big car manufacturers moving into the state. The likes of Mercedes, Honda, and Hyundai all operate here, and Alabama makes one-fourth of all passenger vehicles produced in the South.
The Forestry industry produces $13 billion in products every year, and is Alabama’s second-largest manufacturing industry. It’s also the number one pulp producer in the nation, and the third-largest paper producer in the nation.
Alabama has heavily increased its tech production in recent years through things like modeling products, simulation technology, data centers and cybersecurity. The areas of Huntsville and Madison County have over 300 companies alone, making it the tech hub of the state.
This is one of Alabama’s older industries, dating back over 100 years to 1910, when the famous Wright brothers set up a civilian flight school on an old cotton plantation just outside of Montgomery. That, combined with Alabama’s majorly important role in putting a man on the moon, means this is a proud Aeronautics state.
Nowadays, companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon all operate here, providing plenty of jobs to the local communities.
The second-largest export from Alabama is chemical manufacturing. There’re over 200 companies producing things like chlorine, emissions catalysts, oxidants and light stabilizers around the state, including companies like DuPont and Daikin.
Top Employers Across AL
So who’s hiring in Alabama? Let’s take a look at some of the top employers to see where your next job role could be.
This major US Army installation in Huntsville has a huge government and contractor workforce, employing over 36,000 people.
University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital
This is a big hospital, with over 1,150 beds serving over 35,000 patients a year, so it makes sense that they’re one of Alabama’s largest employers; they have over 18,000 staff on the books.
Located in downtown Huntsville, this hospital is another major employer; there are 941 beds here, spread across several buildings, and a large staff of over 7,000 people, including over 2,000 nurses.
An offshoot of Southern Company (one of the largest energy providers in the country), Alabama Power provides electricity to over 1.4 million homes and businesses throughout the southern areas of the state. At the moment they have over 6,500 employees.
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama
Honda produces its Acura MDX, Odyssey, Ridgeline and Pilot models here, and they churn out over 340,000 vehicles and engines a year. At the moment, they employ over 4,000 people to work at their site in Lincoln, Alabama.Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (May 25, 2020)
How Much Does It Cost To Live In Alabama?
Breakdown Of Living Costs As Compared To The National Average:
- Education: 7.52% higher
- Healthcare: 10.01% lower
- Groceries: 10.16% higher
- Housing (rent): 21.79% lower
- Housing (mortgage): 16.43% lower
- Electricity: 45.03% higher
- Gasoline: 9.6% lower
Renting vs. Buying
We already discussed that buying a home in the state is pretty affordable, but what if you’re not on the property ladder? You’re in pretty good company if you’re renting in Alabama, as around 46% of the population are renters.
Because of this, prices are rising a little too rapidly for comfort in some areas. That being said, you can still find some bargains, and if you’re coming in from more expensive parts of the country, you’ll probably still find it amazingly cheap.
You can rent a fully furnished home in a relatively upscale neighborhood for an average of just $1,550 a month.
For a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Birmingham, you’d pay an average of $970 per month, or $1090 for a 2 bedroom place.
So far, so good. But what about other living expenses?
Groceries and Transportation
Well there’s more good news to come. When we looked at both groceries and transportation, it seems that Alabama is generally much cheaper than the national average. Although some types of foods are more expensive, there are still savings to be had. For example, a carton of eggs in Alabama costs around $1.79, whereas the national average is $2.08. Cheap gas, (just $2.52 a gallon) as well as public transport services, mean that you don’t have to break the bank getting around.
Utilities, on the other hand, come in higher than the national average, which makes sense… Alabama is known for being one of the country’s more hot and humid states, so most people blast their AC during the summer months, meaning bills are a little higher. Still, with most other things being so affordable, it’s not going to break the bank.
Another money-saving bonus to living in Alabama is the low sales tax of just 4%. This makes Alabama one of the more tax-friendly states in the nation. State income tax is also pretty low at 2.5%.
How Is The Alabama Real Estate Market?
If you’re moving in from outside the state, then chances are you’re going to get some serious bang for your buck in Alabama. Even today, prices are at an all-time low, especially in cities like Birmingham, which has been declared one of America’s most affordable cities.
The average cost of a home here is well below the national average at just $140k. That being said, in the past year there’s been a 4.7% increase, so if you’re thinking of making the move, you’d better get your skates on…these super low prices won’t last forever.
Best Months to Close on a Home for the Best Deal
The following months represent those when home prices fell below the average sales price. Buying during the “off-season” can net you a savings of up to 2.11 – 6.84%.
Is Alabama A Good Place To Retire?
Financially, retiring in Alabama often makes a lot of sense on paper. As we’ve already seen, the cost of living is low here (13% below the national average overall). There’s also no need to pay tax on Social Security retirement benefits, and if you own your own home, Alabama has one of the lowest property taxes in the country.
As far as rankings go, the state is currently ranked at number 6 in the nation of top states to retire in. That’s pretty good if you ask us.
There’s plenty of other upsides to retiring in the Heart of Dixie. If you choose to live closer to the coast, you can find pretty much all the benefits of living in the retiree haven of Florida, but at a fraction of the cost. Think sunny gulf coast beaches, swaying palms, warm weather and plenty of opportunities for a good game of golf.
The winters are also pretty mild here (unless you’re in the mountains) so you won’t need to be digging out the driveway once you move to Alabama,
There’s so much beautiful nature that can be explored here, with plenty of retirees getting out on regular hikes and bike rides, as well as enjoying water activities such as kayaking and fishing on the more than 20 different river systems that snake through the state. As well as rivers, there’re also some gorgeous beaches, the incredible Appalachian Mountains and even canyons to explore, so it’s an easy place to keep fit and active in your golden years.Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (May 25, 2020)
What Are The People And Culture Like In Alabama?
There are quite a few misconceptions about Alabama, so let’s take a closer look at what the people and culture are really like in the Heart of Dixie.
- Undoubtedly, it’s a right-leaning state, with well over half of residents identifying as conservatives. In the 2016 election, 62% voted republican. That being said, there are pockets of liberal and progressive mindsets all around the state, particularly in cities such as Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville.
- Famously, Alabama is part of the Bible belt. According to statistics, about 64 percent of people are religious and regularly attend a place of worship.
- It’s not particularly uncommon to see a confederate flag still waving down in this neck of the woods, and there are pockets of communities who still hold some pretty strong opinions on the Civil War.
- Alabama has a rich African American heritage, with plenty of celebrated traditions in music and literature that can be found all over the state.
- In the past, there’s been some inherent racism around the state. While unfortunately this still exists to some degree today, it’s a very small minority and luckily most people from Alabama are open, warm and friendly to visitors and newcomers of all backgrounds.
- There’s a strong ‘southern hospitality’ culture here, and people still wave hello to each other in the street, they know their neighbors and they chat to strangers while they’re running errands.
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Some Of The Coolest Things To Do In Alabama
Alabama has a fantastic selection of things to do and see for the whole family. From some of the most important historical landmarks in the nation, to gorgeous national parks and beautiful beaches, Alabama has it all. We’ve put together a list of some of the coolest activities and days out in the Yellowhammer State.
US Space and Rocket Center
If you love learning about science and space travel then there’s probably no greater museum you could visit than the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.
You’ll learn all about the US space program, the mission to the moon and how the space race played out here in Alabama.
There are so many artifacts from all kinds of exciting missions, including the famous Apollo program and the Space Shuttle program. If you’re really keen, there are 2 different camp programs on offer, where people of all ages can take their fascination with space to the next level.
This is not just a regular zoo, but a vast, sprawling collection of enclosures covering 122 acres and containing over 200 species. Every year, the zoo gets over 470,000 visitors, making it one of Alabama’s best-loved attractions.
Some of the most impressive exhibits are the Predator Building, the ‘Kangaroo Kontry’, the Alligator Swamp, the Sea Lions Splash Show, and the Primate Building, but there’s so much more to see here. You could easily spend a day here, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore.
McWane Science Center
This huge 9000 square foot museum in Birmingham has tons of interactive, state of the art exhibits for both children and adults. Even if you’re not super interested in science, there’s something that everyone will enjoy here.
There’re over 500,000 artifacts, including objects of Native American descent, precious minerals and even dinosaur fossils. There’s also an 80-foot fossil whale, which is truly a sight to behold. While you’re there, check out the IMAX Dome theatre where you can see educational movies in 3D, as well as some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters.
Sat on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, the Gulf Shores are the perfect place for a day at the beach, or even better, a week’s vacation. The pristine coastline is enough to rival any beach in Florida, and if you get bored of chilling out on the sand, there are tons of attractions in the local area to explore. There’re some great shopping malls, interesting museums, golf courses and arcades, as well as endless opportunities for fishing, boating and water-sports along the beach.
The lodging options are plentiful here too, with high-end hotels, private condo rentals and some cute little B&B’s at relatively reasonable rates.
Cheaha State Park
Although there’s no shortage of great state parks across Alabama, Cheaha State Park is the oldest, created in 1933. It spans over 2800 acres and has some awesome opportunities for hiking, swimming, boating, fishing and picnicking.
You can also camp here at one of the 73 campsites that are scattered around the park. If you like a little more luxury, the Cheaha Lodge is a great place to relax in nature without sleeping wild. The hotel has 30 rooms and a swimming pool for guests.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
With Alabama’s history as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, you won’t want to miss a visit to Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute. It documents the struggles of the men and women leading social change in the 50s and 60s through a self-guided tour and interactive exhibition.
It’s one of Alabama’s most popular Civil Rights museums; over 25,000 visitors poured in during its first week of opening back in 1992. Today, the institute still pulls in crowds from around the country and beyond who come to learn more about the journey African Americans were forced to undertake for equality.
Little River Canyon
This national preserve has a pretty impressive claim to fame: it’s home to the longest mountaintop river in the United States. It’s located on Lookout Mountain (aptly named as the views from the top are incredible), near to Fort Payne. There’re all kinds of fun activities to enjoy here, including great hiking trails and some beautiful camping spots. If you’ve got the appropriate license, then you can also try your hand at hunting and fishing.
Rosa Parks Library and Museum
This museum commemorates Rosa Parks, the brave African American who stood up to a white man on a Montgomery Bus and refused to give up her seat, sparking the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
Located in downtown Montgomery, the museum houses many artifacts including a replica of the public bus Rosa was riding on, as well as original historical documents from the time. It’s a family-friendly place, with a special children’s wing designed to teach the younger generation about this amazing woman’s acts of bravery.Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (May 25, 2020)
The Pros And Cons Of Living In Alabama
So now that we’ve taken a look at what Alabama has to offer, let’s examine at the pros and cons of moving to the state.
- The cost of living – Alabama is one of the cheapest states in the nation, with an overall cost of living well below the national average. If you’re moving in from a more expensive state and city, then you’re really going to feel the benefit of lower bills and mortgage payments.
- The weather – If warm weather is your thing, then Alabama will suit you perfectly. Although it can get a little sticky during the summers, if you head to the coast, or the Appalachian foothills to the north, then the weather is wonderfully temperate for much of the year.
- The Beaches – There are over 60 miles of gorgeous coastline in the state. A surprisingly large amount of tourists come to enjoy these world-class beaches, with over 20 million visitors a year.
- The Food – The rich variety of classic southern dishes on offer down in the Heart of Dixie will get any foodie’s mouth-watering. Barbecue is almost a religion here, with locals claiming it to be the best in the world. Along the coasts especially you’ll find some incredible seafood, and don’t forget to try the classic southern staple of ‘grits’.
- Laid Back Way of Life – The slow southern pace of life here makes it the perfect place to move if you’re retiring, and also for those who’ve had enough of life in the rat race. Traffic isn’t even that bad, with the only exception being college football season, when everyone and their grandma are out watching the game at their favorite barbecue joint.
- Cockroaches and Critters – With this being a hot, humid, southern state, this, unfortunately, means you’re likely to run into the odd roach or two. Mosquitoes can also be a problem, especially if you’re living near water, so make sure to invest in some good insect repellent during the warmer months.
- Nothing is open on Sunday in Alabama – With this being the bible best, Sunday’s are kept pretty sacred down in the Yellowhammer State, so don’t forget to stock up on a Saturday to avoid being caught short.
- Alcohol can be hard to come by – If you like a drink, then choose where you live wisely in Alabama. Some counties in the state have actually banned alcohol sales entirely, with others putting restrictions on the days and times that it can be sold.
- Tornados and Hurricanes – Although Alabama has some beautiful weather, it can also turn pretty nasty at times. Both tornados and hurricanes are fairly common in the Yellowhammer State, so it’s important to have an emergency plan and an underground shelter or safe zone you can access quickly if the weather does take a turn for the worst.
Alabama Fun Facts & Strange Laws
Strange Laws Still On The Books In Alabama
Every state has a few weird and wacky laws that puzzle even their long time residents, and Alabama is no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the stranger laws from the Heart of Dixie…
It’s illegal to open an umbrella on a street in Montgomery because it might scare the horses. This historic law has since been repealed, to the relief of many residents in the sometimes rainy city of Montgomery.
It’s illegal to play Dominoes on Sunday. This is a heavily Christian state, and Sundays are taken pretty seriously.
It’s against the law to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church. As hilarious as it might be, it’s best to leave the disguises at home.
In Mobile, it is prohibited to howl at ladies. We can imagine that the ladies of Mobile probably appreciate this law
It’s illegal to dress up as a priest on Halloween. In another nod to Alabama’s Christian roots, if you choose this costume for Halloween the locals, and police, might not see the funny side.
Fun Facts About The State
To wrap up our overview of moving to Alabama, let’s look at some fun facts from the Yellowhammer State.
- Huntsville Alabama is the home of the first rocket that put humans on the moon.
- Back in 1936, Alabama was the first state in the nation to recognize Christmas as an official holiday.
- It was also the first state that celebrated Veteran’s Day, and had the first-ever Veteran’s Day Parade in Birmingham, back in 1947.
- The state constitution is the longest and most amended constitution in the country.
- The town of Aniston in Alabama has the world’s largest office chair, made from over 10 tons of steel!
- 43% of all the snails in the United States live in Alabama.
- Magnolia Springs is the only US city where mail is delivered entirely by boat.
- Shelby County Habitat for Humanity holds the world record for the fastest home ever built; a house in Montevallo that took just 3 hours and 26 minutes and 34 seconds to complete!
- The only recorded case of a human getting hit by a meteorite happened in Oak Grove, Alabama. It smashed through her house and hit her while she was napping on her couch. Luckily, she lived to tell the tale.
Ready To Make The Move To Alabama?
Sunny weather, inviting beaches, outdoor activities, lower cost of living and more are all reasons why you may be joining the droves of people seeking to move to Alabama. We hope that you found this guide helpful and that you take time to explore everything the state has to offer for yourself.
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About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com, the broker of Get LISTED Realty and an official member of the Forbes Real Estate Council. He actively writes about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, Fox News, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.