As the capital of Alabama, Montgomery is at the center of it all – figuratively and almost literally! Just over 200,000 people call The Gump home, making it the 2nd largest city in the state. This slice of Alabama rose to prominence in the early 1800s as the hub of Alabama’s Black Belt, an area with rich soil ideal for growing cotton and other commodity crops. Though it was named the first capital of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, less than a century later, the city served as the backdrop for key events in the Civil Rights Movement. Sites like Old Alabama Town, a neighborhood that’s home to fifty restored 19th-century buildings, and the Civil Rights Memorial nod to Montgomery’s past, though this is a city with its eye on the future.
For decades, downtown Montgomery fell into disrepair, gaining a reputation as a seedy part of town. In the early 2000s, the city began the process of revitalizing its once-thriving core. Projects included the construction of a stadium to house the Montgomery Biscuits, a Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, beautification of the Riverfront, and millions of dollars of private investment in new development. These downtown improvements have had a compounding effect on the city’s growing economy. Today, Montgomery still serves as a crucial processing center for Alabama’s agricultural exports, but it also offers employment across a variety of sectors, including the government, military, manufacturing, healthcare, and education. With an inviting downtown, a thriving economy, low living costs, and more, Montgomery has a lot to offer.
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Living in Montgomery: What to Know Before Moving to Montgomery
Wondering what life is like in The Heart of Dixie? Here’s what to know before you pack your bags to move to Montgomery, AL:
Pros and Cons of Living in Montgomery
- Centrally located within the state of Alabama
- Easy access to several industries and government agencies
- Long-distance interstate options to other areas in the Southeast
- Great private schools, entertainment venues, and sports
- Revitalized downtown area
- Higher than usual temperatures
- Busy traffic patterns at certain times of the day
- A sprawling suburb feel
- Public schools are not highly rated, but there are many private school options
- Lack of air transportation with no large-scale airport
As with anywhere you go, the tax rates are a significant factor. Montgomery, Alabama, is no different, of course, but does have relatively low property taxes when compared to metropolitan cities of its size or larger.
- Property: The average property tax rate for Montgomery County is only 0.393%. A typical residence with a value of $250,000 would result in about $983 in property taxes per year.
- Sales: Montgomery, like much of the rest of the state, has been trying to fund its public schools with voter-approved sales tax increases over the years. The current sales tax is 10%, comprised of state, county, city, and special allocations.
- Income: Alabama’s income tax is broken up into three tax brackets based on income. Depending on your earnings, you’ll pay 2%, 4%, or 5%.
The Montgomery housing market is a bit of a conundrum. Like far too many large, older cities, the downtown area, despite recent revitalization efforts, can feel abandoned in places, while much of the new development is pushing outward into the suburbs. As of September 2019, Montgomery’s real estate market is red hot – home prices have gone up over 5% in the last year, though they still haven’t returned to pre-recession levels. Despite being a seller’s market, for a city with a population of over 200,000 people and a median household income of only about $43,500, there are some great property deals to be had.
- Median home price: $84,300
- Median rent: $712 per month (1 BR)
- Own vs. Rent: Approximately 63% of residents own, while 37% rent
Cost of Living
In almost every category, the cost of living in Montgomery is lower than that of the rest of the state and the country. Housing, groceries, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses, for example, all came in well below average. Healthcare and utilities were negligibly higher or within a few decimal points.
Out of its nationwide standard ranking of 100, BestPlaces.net ranks Montgomery at 80.1 for the cost of living. A family of four living in the metro area can expect their monthly expenses to total $6,731, while that same family elsewhere in Montgomery County can expect a total of $6,662, according to EPI.org’s Family Budget Calculator. Compared to the rest of the US, Montgomery’s cost of living is a breath of fresh air. Healthcare is only slightly higher, as is the cost of utilities. Otherwise, every other category was around ten points lower than the national average, while housing was less than half that of the national average.
Weather & Natural Disasters
The weather in Montgomery is surprisingly mild, considering its Deep South location. The average annual high temperature is only 76.5, while the average low is only 53.5. Of course, those are just the averages. The two hottest months of the year—July and August—both average 92 degrees, while the two coldest months of the year are December and January, which both dip down to around 36 degrees.
If you don’t love the cold, this might be your new favorite city: Montgomery’s average snowfall is so minimal that it doesn’t even register on the US Climate Data site. However, that’s not to say the city is without precipitation. With an abundance of warm, moist air floating in from the Gulf, Montgomery gets 51 inches of rain annually, compared to the U.S. average of 38 inches. The wettest months of the year are February, March, and August, which each get an average of five to six inches of rain per year.
As far as natural disasters go, the entire South is mindful of tornado weather. This city is far enough inland that even the wild hurricane season doesn’t make much of an impact, other than to send some much-needed rain. Spinoff tornadoes have been a concern in some major storms over the years, but it’s not common.
Economy and Job Market
Montgomery’s economy lags a little behind the rest of the country, but it has experienced an upward trend over the past couple of years. There’s definite spending power for new arrivals who come in to fill open jobs.
As of July 2019, the unemployment rate is only 4.1%, and the median household income is around $44,000 a year. These statistics mean it’s a little behind the rest of the country, according to BestPlaces.net. Nationwide, the July 2019 unemployment rate was down to 3.7%, and the median household income was $57,000 per year. However, with lower living costs and low tax rates, you can expect your paycheck to go further in The Gump.
Where do locals work? Most of Montgomery’s population works in the manufacturing, retail, hospitality/restaurant, and education industries. The largest employer, though, is in public administration. The city and state governments employ 24% of workers or over 12,000 employees. Montgomery is also home to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and a Hyundai manufacturing plant, both of which keep thousands of Montgomery residents on their payrolls.
Traffic and Transportation
Getting around Montgomery is somewhat less challenging than most cities of this size. While certainly a car-dependent city, the options to reach other parts of the state or the region are very accessible. I-65 (which links to Mobile in the South and Birmingham in the North) and I-85 (which takes commuters to Atlanta and beyond) both cross through the city but do so in out-of-the-way locations, which won’t interfere with your morning commute. A certain state highway, Hwy 231, also provides easy north-south access to other parts of the state.
WalkScore.com rates Montgomery as a “car-dependent” city, with a score of only 27 for getting around on foot. Its transit score drops to a 16, which is surprising considering the city’s long history of offering public transportation to some of the neediest neighborhoods. Its bike score of 32 makes it a “somewhat bikeable” city, despite the convergence of several major state highways and interstates. Essentially, to live in an around Montgomery, you’re going to need a reliable vehicle for even the most basic errands.
Schools and Universities
One of the more surprising and encouraging things about Montgomery, Alabama, is its focus on education. In addition to the public school system and the many private schools, the city offers numerous higher education choices. Some of these include Huntingdon College, Faulkner University, Alabama State University, Auburn University-Montgomery, Virginia College (a well-known trade and technical school), and more.
In the lower grades, Montgomery Public Schools operates the school system for the city and the outlying Montgomery County area. This school district serves some 29,500 students across 53 K-12 campuses. Though district-wide schools have greatly divergent ratings, some of the city’s public high schools have been ranked the best in the state in recent years, as well as ranked in the Top 20 in the nation according to US News and World Report. The system operates several magnet schools, while numerous private and religious schools are in operation to meet different residents’ needs.
What to Do
When it comes to activity, Montgomery is no stranger to putting on a show… literally! It’s the home of the world-renowned Alabama Shakespeare Festival, numerous museums, Civil Rights historical sites, the State Capital, several critical Confederate history locations, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The White House of the Confederacy is located in the city, as are several commemorative sites that honor the Montgomery bus boycott, the march to Selma, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and much more.
Of course, sports reigns supreme in much of the South, and Montgomery is no different. A Montgomery Biscuits minor league baseball game is a great way to pass a summer afternoon, and ice skating at Eastdale Mall no matter what time of year is a lot of fun.
The city has a crime rate of about 51 incidents per 1000 residents per year, according to NeighborhoodScout.com. That data means it’s safer than just 5% of all US cities, which doesn’t sound very appealing until you consider that the overwhelming majority of crimes are non-violent offenses. In 2018, experts ranked it as the state’s safest large city.
For violent crimes, Montgomery ranks about double that of the entire US, but there’s an important note to understand: while Montgomery has about 4.22 violent crimes per 1000 residents, the entire country has around 2.49 violent crimes per 1000 residents.
Nothing is worse than moving into a new home that doesn’t have running water or power. Make sure to schedule the turn-on of your utilities before your move!
- Gas: For natural gas, most Montgomery residents rely on Spire, formerly Alagasco.
- Electricity: One of the most common electric companies across the region is Southern Company, and its Alabama Power serves Montgomery.
- Trash collection: For trash pickup, the city’s Sanitation Department might serve your address, or you may have to arrange a private contract with a company like Amwaste.
- Water & Sewage: Montgomery Water Works provides residents of Montgomery with water and wastewater services. New applications are subject to a $100 minimum deposit. Request new service online here.
- Internet, phone, and cable services: As for internet and cable service, there are many options to choose from, and some new residents find they can transfer their old nationwide provider account to their new address. While there are local options, many people contact a larger company like Charter/Spectrum Cable, AT&T DirecTV, or Dish Network.
Best Neighborhoods in Montgomery
Wondering where to put down roots in this part of the South? We’ve scoped out some of the top neighborhoods in Montgomery to call home:
This suburb to the southeast of the city—nestled just outside the bypass that rings Montgomery—was once barely more than a sleepy, country road in a very rural part of the county. Now, Pike Road is a thriving community that ranks as Montgomery’s top suburb with an A- rating from Niche.com.
It was recently ranked #15 of Top Places to Buy a Home in Alabama, which isn’t surprising since 88% of residents own their homes. The median income is well above that of the rest of the state at about $102,500 per year, though depending on where you’re moving from, you’ll likely find this median very reasonable.
The public schools in the area are not well-ranked, and many residents choose nearby private schools. However, residents who are zoned for Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School attend one of the best schools in the state.
- Population – 8,417
- Median home price – $261,300
- Median rent – $1,139 per month
- Things to do – Do your shopping at the SweetCreek Farm Market and explore nature at nearby Thompson Park. Bring the kids to Newtopia Fun Park and take in a dose of art at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Wynton M Blount Cultural Park.
Something to try – Believe it or not, Pike Road is home to a local grower who specializes in propagating different species of saltwater corrals. Stop by Budman’s Corrals and see these beauties for yourself.
Variety is certainly the word that comes to mind when visiting Blue Ridge. Situated just north of the city along Hwy 231 between Montgomery and Wetumpka, this suburb has something for everyone… except for rental properties, that is! Home values might be $48,000 on one street and well over $300,000 on the next, which gives Blue Ridge and upscale feel without any hint of pretentiousness.
This small section of Montgomery was ranked #7 of Best Places in Alabama to Retire, and as such, you will find a larger retiree population. Of course, that tends to mean accessible shopping, dining, and family entertainment. Crime is so low in Blue Ridge that Niche.com has no crime data to report for this area.
Despite its somewhat older population, the median income is $97,619, which well above that of the rest of the city. Its schools have a very solid B rating in nearby Wetumpka.
- Population – 1,603
- Median home price – $261,300
- Median rent – n/a as only 2% of residents rent
- Things to do – The most interesting things to do in Blue Ridge probably involve getting out… just kidding! But its location directly above Montgomery on Hwy 231 means you get all of the entertainment the city has to offer without any of the traffic.
Something to try – From Blue Ridge, you are minutes from taking in a play at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, one of the premier, world-renowned venues in the country for live theater.
While Prattville does have its own mailing address, this Montgomery suburb is so close to the fun and function of the city that most consider it just another branch of the city’s family tree. This community is the place to live if you’re raising a family on a budget-conscious income. With well-ranked schools and reasonably priced mortgages and rent, there’s plenty to do without having to make painful sacrifices.
Of course, the fact that it’s located just northwest of Montgomery along I-65 means you can avoid the city when you want to but still get to work on time. Being so close to the interstate might have something to do with the area’s C rating for crime, though.
Perhaps the most alluring part of living in Prattville, though, is its focus on getting back to nature. A limitless supply of green spaces and nature trails await every resident, human and canine alike!
- Population – 35, 286
- Median home price – $157,900
- Median rent – $991/month
- Things to do – A trip to NaturePlex and Doster Road Artesian Well House, followed by playtime at Spinners Park, a tour through Buena Vista Mansion, and the Wilderness Park/Bamboo Forest.
Something to try – Tour the eerie sights at an abandoned movie set, The Town of Spectre.
On the other side of I-65 from Prattville sits the suburb of Millbrook, just northwest of Montgomery. With more of a focus on young adults and new professionals—considering that 25- to 54-year-olds are the largest age range and more than one-third of the residents rent their homes—Millbrook is perfect for people who work in the city but want to play in the country. Working in Millbrook is feasible due to its location along a major interstate, which will mean plenty of retail and dining options, but the median household income is only $57,980.
Families in Millbrook are divided along zoning lines when it comes to the schools. Some of the residents will attend the A-rated Prattville schools, while the remainder will go to the solid B-rated Holtville school system.
As one of Montgomery’s newer suburbs, Millbrook is both exciting and still growing, so this is an ideal place to get in on the ground floor before values increase and more options open up. Traffic can be a little heavy in the evening as Millbrook and Prattville residents take to I-65 to get out of the city, but with some planning and willingness to navigate the backroads, you’ll be home in no time.
- Population – 14,994
- Median home price – $145,700
- Median rent – $883 per month
- Things to do – Jackson Lake Island, Barber Berry Farm, Alabama Nature Center, and Mulligan’s Irish Pub are some of the area’s favorite attractions.
Something to try – Skip down I-65 just south of Montgomery to the Alabama Safari Park, where exotic animals dip their heads in through your vehicle’s windows for a quick snack!
This Montgomery suburb is located right across the county line in Elmore County, which can mean tweaking your utilities and school plans a little bit. For some residents of this highly rural micro-town, though, the tradeoff is well worth it.
Just northwest of Montgomery, much of Coosada sits on the Alabama River. As such, some properties can carry a hefty price tag. However, if you love scenic views and waterfront property while still being within easy access of Montgomery, though, this is worth a look.
Everything about Coosada—at least as far as outsiders are concerned—is a solid B rating. The schools, the nightlife, the diversity, even the crime rate all measure up to above-average scores from the residents, though.
- Population – 1,169
- Median home price – $156,300
- Median rent – $766 per month
- Things to do – Coosada is close enough to both Millbrook and Prattville that the shopping, dining, and entertainment options are within easy reach. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to get back to nature in the area.
Something to try – Head to downtown Montgomery to take a ride on the historic Harriott II riverboat and see if you can spot your house as the boat glides down the Alabama River.
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If a move to Montgomery or its outlying areas is in your future, don’t worry about relocating. Let the team at Great Guys Moving help you find everything you need!