The big state of Texas: Is this the place for you?

If there is one thing that Texas can provide you, it’s variety.  It is a very large state, and the land changes significantly between the high desert country in West Texas, the hill country and plains in central Texas and the Gulf Coast to the south, just to highlight a few.  You can spread out in wide open spaces, live in a densely populated city or anything in between.  Another tidbit we learned is that Texas is fast becoming one of the top 10 producers of wine in the country. 

What should you consider if you find yourself looking at this large state as a potential future home?  Climate, population density, traffic, taxes, cost of living, access to jobs, education, parks and more can all play roles in that momentous decision.  

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Climate is definitely a factor and varied widely across the state.  West Texas features a much drier climate, central Texas is more continental, giving you a bit of both dry and humid aspects, and the towns off of the Gulf of Mexico are very humid.  Northern Texas may experience tornadoes, while southern Texas may get hurricanes and tropical storms.  High heat in summertime is ubiquitous across the entire state, but winters provide milder climate compared to the Pacific Northwest, Midwestern, and Northeastern states; furthermore, if sun is what you’re after, all of Texas enjoys higher than average sun compared to the rest of the US.

Population and traffic are also considerations.  We observed first hand that Texas invests a lot of money in infrastructure, so we found it easy to travel on the roads all over the state, but as you get closer to the larger cities, traffic predictably gets more intense and never seems to cease.  Houston is the most populous city in the state, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin, all above or around 1 million people.  By contrast, many of the towns in West Texas and the Panhandle are less than 10,000 people.  

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Texas is considered more tax-friendly compared to most US states with no income tax, moderate sales tax, and higher property tax.  Most of Texas has cost of living (COL) at or below the national average as well.  I did find it curious that Cedar Park, a suburb of Austin, had the lowest COL of the places we visited at 20.1% below the national average, yet Austin itself had the highest COL at 19.3% above the national average.  Housing costs seems to be a big driver of this, because Austin had the highest median housing costs at $551,200 of all the places we visited in Texas.

Unemployment was below the national average of 6% in most places, though San Antonio was just above this at 6.6%, Galveston and Port Aransas were above 8%, and Marfa was a whopping 12.9%!  Smaller communities tend to have higher unemployment rates with more limited employment opportunities compared to large metropolitan areas; however, with more remote work opening up due to the impact of the pandemic, the affordability of housing and COL might be better indicators of livability.

If you put costs aside, there are many “x” factors, depending on what is personally important to you.  Most parts of Texas are more conservative politically, even the suburbs of Austin and San Antonio; yet, Austin, San Antonio, Marfa, and Fort Davis are all considered more liberal compared to their neighbors. If politics is of no consequence to you, perhaps the quality of education is.  Generally speaking, Central Texas has better quality education compared to other regions in the state, according to niche.com.  

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If you’re like me, having access to parks and finding areas where you can safely walk and bike is also important.  According to this site, Alpine and Port Aransas were some of the best bike- and walk-friendly areas, and this site shows that Cedar Park, Austin and Galveston had the best access to parks.  However, in my experience, you would still need a car in Alpine and Port Aransas, and the best park access we found was near Alpine and Fort Davis, but there are some bike/walk areas in the Austin and San Antonio areas as well.

 All told, Texas is a large and diverse state, so there is likely a spot you could call home.  It may be a polarizing place if you base your opinion on news headlines alone, but we met a lot of very nice people while traveling across this vast state.  I personally would love to come back to West Texas to visit again, but I don’t think Texas is the place we want to live permanently.  In my opinion, one thing that this state does not offer enough of is mountainous areas.  Yes, you can find mountains in West Texas, but not in combination with lush, forested areas.  It may not be our forever place, but perhaps the large variety of options it does provide could be of interest to you if you are considering a big move.

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