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The Lone Star State is one of the most rapidly growing states in the country. Its population increased by more than 4 million people between 2010 and 2020. While many factors drove this growth — like job opportunities, weather and sizable, sophisticated cities — the Texan cost of living is also one of the top draws for transplants.
Housing prices may have soared across the U.S. in recent years, but the median cost of a home in Texas remains well below the national figures — homes in the state cost around $326,800 in the first quarter of 2023, according to Texas Realtors data, while the national median currently sits at $388,800.
Housing isn’t the only living expense that’s cheaper in Texas. Food, transportation and healthcare costs are all lower than the national average, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.
What is the cost of living in Texas?
Like anyplace else, the cost of living in Texas varies depending on which section of the state you are talking about. The most expensive city by far is Plano: The cost of living here is 31 percent higher than the rest of the state and 21 percent higher than the rest of the country. Other cities are much more affordable than you might think: Houston and San Antonio are 8 percent lower than the national average, while El Paso is 10 percent lower. Even popular locales like Dallas and Austin are still just 2 percent and 1 percent higher than national averages, respectively.
Whether you’re buying or renting in the Texas housing market, you’ll find it more budget-friendly than many other places in the country. Still, Texas is not entirely immune to the forces that have been driving up real estate costs across the country. Housing prices are a core part of inflation, which has been high enough for the Fed to hike interest rates steadily over the past year.
The median sale price of a home in the state increased 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same time a year ago, putting the price at $326,800. Despite the year-over-year increase, that’s still more than $50K cheaper than the nationwide median.
Rental costs are also well lower than national averages. You can expect to spend an average of about $1,446 per month on an apartment in the state, compared to $1,967 nationally, according to data from Rent.com.
Utility, transportation and grocery costs
Utility bills are also below average in Texas. According to data from EnergySage, the average monthly electricity bill in the state is $155, which amounts to about $1,860 annually — 7 percent lower than the national average.
Cars are essential for most Texas residents, unless you live in one of the state’s big cities, where public transportation may be available. According to the MIT living wage calculator, a single adult will spend about $5,477 annually on transportation in Texas. For a family of four, that amount jumps to $14,484. The average cost of gas in Texas was about $3.06 per gallon as of mid-May, per AAA, which makes it one of the least expensive states in the nation for gasoline (perhaps not surprising given the state’s oil industry).
As for food prices in Texas, MIT data shows that a single adult spends about $3,926 a year on food, which amounts to about $327 per month. For a family of four, the annual expense is $11,564.
The good news on the local-tax front is that Texas is one of a few states that does not charge residents a state income tax.
However, property taxes here are far steeper than the majority of the country. The property tax rate is 1.6 percent, making Texas the sixth most expensive of the 50 states, according to the Tax Foundation. One piece of good news for older homeowners: State tax code allows taxpayers 65 years of age or older to defer their property taxes until their estates are settled after death. And in 2022, a measure passed to essentially cut school district property taxes for homeowners who are 65 and older or disabled.
Cities and counties add additional sales taxes onto the base state rate of 6.25 percent. For example, in Houston there is an additional city tax of 1 percent and transit tax of 1 percent, for a combined total of 8.25 percent. In San Antonio, the city tax is 1.25 percent and the transit taxes are 0.75 percent, for the same combined total. The combined state and local average sales tax rate for Texas overall is 8.20 percent, per the Tax Foundation.
Texas’s job market
Texas is famously home to a booming oil and gas industry, and major employers include BP and ExxonMobil. The tech industry is also well represented, especially in the Austin area.
This robust job market may be partially due to a huge population boom: According to a recent Census report, the state gained more than 9 million new residents between 2000 and 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing states in the country and helping it become only the second state in the U.S. with a population of more than 30 million.
However, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.0 percent as of April 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is above the national rate of 3.4 percent.
Next steps: Moving to Texas
Whenever you’re considering a move to a new state, it’s a good idea to spend some time there first, exploring the various cities and even individual neighborhoods. From big cities like Dallas and Houston to more rural regions in Texas Hill Country, there are many different ways of life and styles of living in the Lone Star State.
It’s also important to consider your budget. Analyze your income and spending to make sure you can afford the cost of living in the state. Though it varies widely depending on local markets, MIT’s living wage calculator estimates that a single adult with no children would need to earn around $35,000 to make ends meet in Texas.
Finding a local real estate agent who knows the area you’re interested in well is a great first step. A buying agent’s job is to help you navigate the options — put their expertise to work for you.
Texas is actually one of the more affordable states in the country. Compared to national averages, living expenses here tend to be cheaper — though how much cheaper varies based on where you choose to live in the state. Even in big, popular cities like Dallas and Austin, the cost of living is right on par with the national average, while Houston, San Antonio and El Paso, as well as less well-known areas, are 8 percent or more lower than the national average.
As of the first quarter of 2023, the median home price in the state was $326,800, according to Texas Realtors. That’s well below the nationwide median price of $388,800.