At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.
Maybe you currently live in one of the United States’ most expensive cities and you’re craving a slower pace with access to urban living and entertainment. That’s exactly what you’ll find in the vibrant city of Memphis. The city’s affordable housing, entertainment venues, amenities, and cultural attractions also make the local real estate market a competitive one. It’s still possible to find the perfect home as you craft the best possible offer.
We talked to local real estate professionals, then looked through East Memphis, Binghamton, Midtown, and South Main Arts District neighborhoods to come up with recommendations that fit your income levels and lifestyle. We also did research on everything you need to know about things to do, termite, and weather issues you should know about, and strategies to help you craft an offer so you can find your new home in Memphis.
Budgeting for your Memphis home
Buying a home anywhere in the country is a big deal, but you can rest assured that a modest budget will take you a long way in Memphis. Just for comparison, the median sale price for a home in Los Angeles in late 2019 was $620,000. Meanwhile, homes in nearby Atlanta cost an average of $241,800 around the same time frame.
Now, as for the average sale price for a home in Memphis? $154,000 as of 2019. This is great news for buyers who don’t have five digits to put away for a down payment. Many lenders offer FHA and other special programs that require a down payment as low as 3.5%. If you were to qualify for such a loan, you’d theoretically need to scrape together an estimated $4,620 for a down payment on an average Memphis house.
However, you can expect to find more competition and possibly higher costs in Memphis areas that are in high demand, such as Midtown, Downtown, Poplar Pike, and nearby suburbs such as Cordova and Germantown, because their school districts make them a desirable location for families.
Other factors will determine your eligibility for obtaining a home loan for your mortgage, but essentially, the low cost of living in the city of Memphis means that buyers moving into the area can expect to find a great deal that conforms to their current financial situation.
You may want to consult with an attorney that specializes in real estate before you close the deal. Neal Harkavy, Esq. with Harkavy, Sheinberg, and Kaplan says, “You should hire someone that knows what they are doing. Often times you will have attorneys that are not at the closing — it’s an hourly employee or assistant.”
Harkavy also says buyers need to look at the title of the home they’re interested in buying and see whether or not they need to make any surveys, especially if you’re interested in a home in Midtown or Downtown Memphis. He says most lenders don’t require these anymore, and most properties in Tennessee are subdivided, so surveys may not be necessary but it’s a good idea to check the property and assess the need for one.
A real estate lawyer can also help you sift through title issues. These are uncommon in Memphis, but if you’re interested in a home that belonged to a family for a generation or two, it’s a great idea to check for any title issues and make sure you’re negotiating with the right person.
Costs to consider once you make an offer in Memphis
Buying real estate implies forking over money long before you actually move in, and some of those fees begin as soon as you make an offer for the home.
It’s important to get a professional home inspection. An inspector can take a look at various things you haven’t been trained to look for, and many of them offer add-on inspections that look for mold, termite damage, and radon — items that are not a part of a regular inspection.
Lisa Archer with the Memphis office of the Buyer’s Protection Group explains that you should look for inspectors that work with ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) standards. They look at the roof, structure, exterior, ceilings, walls, doors, floors, windows, fireplaces, appliances, and garages in every home.
Archer also mentions that termite, radon, and air quality inspections should also be made, even though they’re not always required. Per the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conversation (TDEC), radon has the potential to enter any home in the state, increasing the risk of cancer.
Radon testing can tell you a bit more about potential cancer risks. Archer also says mold testing is especially important if you’re interested in an older home. “There may have been previous leaks — either plumbing or roofing — where there’s no disclosure statement,” she says. Even if the seller has no ill intent, mold that is present might not be disclosed because some owners aren’t aware they have any.
In addition, “Eastern subterranean termites are very prevalent,” according to Archer. She also suggests ensuring that the seller has a termite contract on the house or making sure you get one as soon as you move in.
Getting to know your new town and the many neighborhoods of Memphis
Memphis has a distinctive character thanks to its proximity to the Mississippi River, access to lovely outdoor spaces, and its historic role in American music history. Memphians are proud of their town while embracing newcomers. It’s a perfect blend of the old and the new, so wherever you decide to live, you’ll have access to delicious barbecue and homemade burgers, and Mexican, Thai, and Arabian food — just to name a few cuisines.
Each neighborhood has a distinctive feel without sacrificing comfort and entertainment. Here are some places where you might find listings or want to hang out in.
University District: Home listings here are uncommon because this part of the city is near the University of Memphis. It’s still a great place for younger buyers to hang out.
Binghamton: Home of the Crossroads Arts District. This area is inexpensive, close-knit, and has access to bike paths as well.
South Main Arts District: Area residents tend to be well-off millennials or former suburban residents who are new to city life. It’s a bit upscale and known for its art galleries and restaurant scene. Most home listings here will consist of new condos that have replaced warehouses.
Harbor Town: Located in front of the Mississippi River, this is a quieter area with excellent sunsets. It’s actually within walking distance of Beale Street and the Grizzlies stadium whenever you’re in the mood for some fun.
East Memphis: This upper-middle-class area consists of larger homes and tree-lined streets. East Memphis connects to popular outdoor area Shelby Farms via the Greenline. This is a 10.8-mile trail you can bike or walk through where you can enjoy peace and quiet without having to leave the city.
As you search for a home, you may consider the suburbs, but Danny Freeman, an agent with 34 years of experience in the area, says Memphis is appealing to live in because of its prime location. “If you’re living in Midtown, you can be out east to do things, or if you work downtown it’s really convenient.”
Popular types of homes in Memphis
Common architecture you can find in Memphis includes Southern architecture, also called Georgian style. Materials vary, but the style typically includes pillars, shaded porches, and symmetrical designs. You can expect a lot of bricks to be used, and driveways or car entrances may be lined with brick as well.
Craftsman-style homes that feature visible wooden elements, gardens, and spacious porches are common in Memphis. Stucco accents are also common, and some homes have stone accents. Earth tones are popular in this style, and homes are known for having cozy, intimate rooms.
“Country style” typically refers to ideas copied from French country towns. These homes can be modest-looking or fairly large, depending on your neighborhood. Like Craftsman-style homes, they focus on wooden materials, but they more prominently exhibit stone. They may include a gated entryway and big windows that capture more natural light. You are likely to see all of these styles all over the city, but you can expect more Georgian or Southern homes in East Memphis.
Home foundations across Memphis typically consist of slab, and single-family homes are the most common. Newer Memphis homes usually don’t have a basement because the soft soil in the area is impractical or hazardous to dig into. Rainfall can keep soil damp in the summer, which can attract mold. You’ll have an easier time finding a home with an attic, and many Southern homes typically have an outdoor storage shed instead.
Staging can also play a role in how much you pay for a home. Freeman says you can watch for rugs in every room, but “we don’t see too many things that we really feel are staging ploys.”
Memphis-area staging professional Adrienne Marchant says that staging can have benefits for buyers. “I make each one of those spaces very attractive and make it where the new buyer can use it.”
Seasonal real estate trends in Memphis
May through November is a busy time for real estate in Memphis, while August and September are the slowest months of the year.
Freeman mentions that Memphis goes through periods of strong seller’s markets, “If a house comes on the market and it’s correctly priced, the seller gets multiple offers, and that may even drive the price up above the list price.” But he also says there are instances where buyers can obtain a reduction in cost, such as when a home has been listed for 60 or more days.
Finding the right real estate agent in Memphis
A great buyer’s agent can save you an average of $32,190 on a new home in the Memphis area; you should look for agents that want to know your preferences and sell more than 100 homes per year.
Freeman says that an experienced agent who knows what they’re doing is “worth their weight in gold.” They can help you figure out disclosure agreements, the things a seller is allowed to do, and help you figure out who is writing and proofreading the contract. Above all, you should look for someone you feel comfortable with, and Freeman advises you to interview at least three people before choosing someone.
Header Image Source: (f11photo/ Shutterstock)