With a low cost of living, plenty of employment opportunities, and a thriving brewery industry, Milwaukee is one of the best places to live. Just be ready to deal with their freezing winters and higher crime rates.
Milwaukee's blue-collar roots, inexpensive cost of living, and exciting new industries make it a major draw to prospective residents. The city offers a booming music and arts scene, award-winning restaurants, lakefront museums, and vibrant nightlife, so there’s always something to do around town.
What you need to know about Milwaukee before you move
Home to just over 592,000 residents, Milwaukee is perhaps most known for its cheese curds, its “Brew City” moniker, and its harsh, chilly winters. But it’s also home to the famed bratwursts and ice custard, the historic Third Ward, Harley-Davidson, and so much more. If you’re thinking about relocating to Brew City, here are some things to consider before you make the move!
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1. The cost of living is pretty affordable
The affordability of living in Milwaukee is one of its major draws.
Milwaukee has a cost of living index score of 84.9, which is lower than average for both Wisconsin and the U.S. To put this into context, the nationwide average is 100—so Milwaukee is definitely one of the most affordable major cities in the country.
Brew City also was ranked one of the most affordable metro areas for first-time homebuyers, with a median property price of roughly $162,600. The average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment is $1,168, while a two-bedroom is marginally higher at $1,155.
New residents should be aware that Milwaukee's property taxes are on the pricier side, with an average annual property tax of $3,707 in Milwaukee County in 2022.
Groceries are similarly on the lower end of the scale, with a score of 92.9. A gallon of milk costs around $3.08, a loaf of bread about $2.01, and a carton of eggs is about $2.75.
2. There’s a steady job market
If you're looking for a new job while relocating to Milwaukee, we've got good news! Brew City is one of the best areas in the country for job seekers and has been named one of the
top places in the country to start a business.
The city has a 5.5% unemployment rate and a median household income of $43,125, with finance, healthcare, and sales being prominent industries in the area.
There are also great job opportunities in manufacturing, where big companies like Harley-Davidson, Johnson Controls, and Rockwell Automation are top employers.
3. It has a very high crime rate
The high crime rate in Milwaukee is one of the most important things for people to think about before moving there. The
crime index gives Milwaukee a score of 8. For reference, 100 is the best, so Milwaukee's score of 8 is quite noticeable.
Motor vehicle theft, particularly, has risen in recent years, with a rate of 7.92 per 1,000. The U.S. average, comparatively, is 2.45 per 1,000.
Milwaukee has its share of crime, like other major cities, but it can still be pretty safe overall. The Fifth Ward/Walker’s Point are neighborhoods to be cautious of, especially at night, while Bay View, Eastside, and the Third Ward are consistently safer.
4. It’s a great place to raise a family; furry friends, not so much
Milwaukee not only offers one of the best downtown neighborhoods for raising a family, but it also has a plethora of kid-friendly activities! There are several
museums with interesting and informative exhibitions, as well as many public parks, trails, and
playgrounds where you and your family can enjoy the outdoors!
In terms of pets, though, Milwaukee ranked as the third-worst U.S. city to be a dog, thanks in part to low ratings in pet-friendly restaurants, hiking trails, and breed-restricting legislation.
5. Having a car will make your life easier
Milwaukee's well-planned and well-kept roads and two interstates make it easy for people to get around by car. The average commute time is 22 minutes, ranking it
third-lowest among America's metro cities.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has a commute time above 30 minutes!
Though it doesn't have its own subway system, Milwaukee does have a
large bus network—which is considered good, but not great, with a
transit score of 48.
It can take you to practically any place in the city in under an hour. If you don't plan on having a car, you should get used to using the bus because you'll be taking it to get to most places.
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6. You’ll have to get used to some freezing-cold winters
If there’s one thing Milwaukeeans can agree on, it’s that their winters are nothing to scoff at. Throughout the year, the temperature normally ranges from 18 °F to 81 °F, with temperatures in winter occasionally dropping below zero degrees.
Winter begins in November and lasts until March—or even later. The average snowfall in December, January, and February is roughly a foot, but you'll quickly discover that Milwaukee weather is anything but typical. On Halloween, it could be 80 degrees, but it could also snow. At the St. Patrick's Day parade, you may be wearing shorts or your parka.
7. It’s called “Brew City”
Milwaukee's beer-making (and drinking) culture dates back more than 175 years, earning it the moniker "Brew City." Before Milwaukee was incorporated as a city and before Wisconsin was a state, the area was home to a number of beer giants who are now revered in the city’s lore.
Milwaukee's rich beer history and culture live on, from the early days of the famed German brewers Blatz, Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller to the 30+ breweries currently found in the city and surrounding area.
Finding a place to live in Milwaukee
If you decide to relocate to Milwaukee, you'll need to look at a few neighborhoods to narrow down your house hunt. Milwaukee has plenty of distinct neighborhoods, so be sure to do some research to see which one is ideal for you.
If you don't already have a neighborhood in mind, consider the following:
Most iconic neighborhoods: Historic Third Ward, Bay View, Brewers Hill
Best neighborhoods for families with kids: Haymarket, Green Moor, Heritage Heights
Best neighborhoods for foodies: East Town, South Second, East Tosa
Best neighborhoods for low crime rates: Juneau Town, Lower East Side, Northpoint
Most affordable neighborhoods: Hillside, Northridge Lakes, Avenues West
Moving to Milwaukee checklist
You might think that all the hard work is done once you've chosen a place to live, found a house, and made the arrangements to rent or buy it. But you'll need to take care of some important things before you leave and when you get there.
Before you go
Remember to do the following before your next move:
If you don't feel comfortable
driving a U-Haul by yourself, choose a reliable moving company for the big day
You should give notice to your current landlord, employment, utility company, and insurance company
If you are relocating across the country and plan on keeping your car, you should consider
shipping it to Milwaukee
Get some plane tickets, or map out the road trip of your dreams to get there
After you get there
After a long journey, you'll undoubtedly want to settle into your new location—but you're not done yet! There are a couple more tasks you must complete:
You should update your voting and medicalregistrations as well as your mailing address
Have fun with your new digs! Find out about the nightlife, where to eat, where to take your dog, and where to get the greatest late-night takeaway
How to save on car, renters, and home insurance in Milwaukee
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