Located in the Deep South, Mississippi is where cotton was king, where the Blues was born and where a catastrophic natural disaster reared its ugly head in 2005, killing more than 230 people and impacting more than one million residents. Along with neighboring Louisiana, Mississippi was one of several states along the Gulf Coast to be slammed by Hurricane Katrina. The storm caused billions of dollars in damage in the state, with at least some damage to every county. The 35-foot-high storm surges, 11 associated tornadoes and resulting flooding demolished much of the southernmost tip of the state, and rebuilding has been underway ever since.
Yet Mississippi’s appealing geographic features remain, including the state’s 44 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and its majestic namesake river along its western border. The state also enjoys mild winters, with an annual low temperature of 53.6 degrees in Jackson, its capital and largest city with a metro area population of over 577,000. Important attractions include the casinos and beaches of Biloxi, MS, a popular vacation destination on the Gulf, and the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway, which connects Natchez, located on the banks of the Mississippi, with Nashville.
With more than 500 antebellum buildings and mansions on the National Register of Historic Places, stately Natchez once claimed the second-highest number of millionaires after New York City. This tremendous wealth stemmed in part from Natchez’s slave-based cotton economy at the time, and accordingly, the city was home to the country’s second largest slave market in the 1800s, named Forks of the Road.
Mississippi has a population of over 2.9 million people, of whom more than 37% are African American, the largest percentage of blacks in the nation. A number of famous black musicians, entertainers and actors were born in Mississippi, including Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Morgan Freeman. Roughly 20% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree, the second-lowest percentage of any state, and the median household income as of early 2016 was $39,031, the lowest in the country. More Mississippi residents live below the poverty line (20.1%) than anywhere else, with the exception of Washington, D.C. (20.7%).
In tandem with the low incomes, Mississippi also has some of the most rock-bottom inexpensive real estate in the U.S. The median home value statewide as of early 2016 was $100,176 – more than $80,000 less than the national average. To put that into perspective, Madison, MS, a suburb of Jackson and the most expensive city in the state, had a median home value of $252,079, a veritable bargain in many other states.
Thanks to the housing affordability and snow-free winters, Mississippi officials have been touting the Magnolia State as a warm, low-cost place to retire, and it’s working, given the statewide total real estate appreciation of 12% between 2006 and 2016. Smaller cities such as Natchez, Vicksburg and Starkville have been attracting a significant number of retirees. Oxford, MS, in particular, has seen a major increase in retired folks because of its low cost of living, low crime rate, good medical care and the cultural and recreational opportunities of Ole Miss - the University of Mississippi. The median home value in Oxford as of early 2016 was $229,195, with an enviable ten-year total appreciation rate of 30% between 2006 and 2016.
In addition, real estate taxes in Mississippi are relatively low compared to the rest of the nation. In 2015, the average property tax bill was $1,350, putting Mississippi at #15 for the lowest rates.