Should I Move to Houston?
Woven by a network of natural waterways connecting the cosmopolitan culture of the city to the wild shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is a coastal city all its own. Founded in 1836 by the Allen brothers, this aqueous terrain has alternately been a battlefront and a beacon of hope. The metropolitan roots of this Southern city run deep — as a hub for railways, cotton and oil — and its story isn’t one that’s quick to tell or easy to unravel.
The city’s shipping port solidified its global economic import early on, and that, along with the area’s natural beauty, has always beckoned new residents, who still move to the city in droves for good jobs and short winters.
Houston is now the nation’s fourth-largest city: more than 2.3 million people reside in the city proper and more than 7.1 million live in the greater metro area. Only Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago have more residents. As the largest city in the state and in the American South, Houston occupies a unique place in the fabric of American life.
26 Fortune 500 companies are now headquartered in the Bayou City, and its economic dominance in energy, aerospace and trade has made it a cultural epicenter for the region. Houston’s rapidly growing citizenry is also remarkably and increasingly diverse. More than 300,000 people have moved to the Bayou City in the last ten years, and nearly 30% of Houstonians are foreign-born — this constant influx of new people and ideas makes the city thrive.
With a population this large, the city can also afford the best cultural attractions. World-renowned art collections. The Houston Opera, Symphony and Ballet. State-of the stadiums for soccer, baseball and football. The best culinary experiences, from homegrown talents to international star chefs.
If you think Houston might be your next home, learn more about this fascinating city below, and check Mayflower’s Moving Guide to Texas to get the inside scoop on the Lone Star State.
Reasons for Moving to Houston
Wondering what the pros and cons of living in Houston are? We’ll look at the best and worst aspects of living in the Bayou City, including the low cost of living, the steamy weather, the booming economy and the most popular neighborhoods.
Houston’s Cost of Living Is Actually Low
Because Houston is a coastal city and one of the nation’s largest metro areas, it may surprise you to learn that Houston’s cost of living is relatively low.
In 2023, the cost of living in Houston was actually 6.1% lower than the national average and the city had the third-lowest cost of living of all major metros, falling far below the nation’s most populous coastal hotspots, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle and inland, Southern titans like Dallas and Atlanta. For comparison, San Francisco’s cost of living is nearly 70 points over the national average and New York City’s is more than double the U.S. rate, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research.
Housing is one of the areas where Houstonians save the most. The median home value in the city proper was a hair over $200,000 in 2022, and the median gross rent averaged $1,136. By contrast, Dallas residents spend markedly more for single-family residences — their median home value averaged $230,000 between 2017-2021. Home sales in Houston spiked in 2021 and 2022, and rates have fallen off only slightly in 2023, still topping levels from 2014-2020. Thankfully, real estate prices seem to have peaked in June 2022, when the median sale price for a single-family home was $353,995. Between May 2022 and May 2023, sales of single-family homes dropped 10.4%, and median home prices fell by $10,000; sales of townhouses and condos fell more than 26%, and prices fell by $14,000; and sales of high-rise apartments were nearly cut in half, with prices dropping by nearly $25,000.
Like other cities in the Lone Star State, Houston collects no income tax — personal or corporate — from its residents, but there is an additional 1.66% state property tax that all Texans must pay, which is one of the highest rates in the country.
Please note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
Houston Has a Stable Job Market
Houston isn’t just the nation’s fourth-largest city, it also had the fourth-highest rate of job growth in the country last year. Since April 2022, the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area has gained over 100,000 new, non-farm jobs — an increase of 3.5%. Houston also has a diverse job market, ranging from energy to aerospace to finance, so if you are moving to the city for your career, you should find plenty of options to suit your skillset. The city also has the third-highest number of Fortune 500 headquarters in the nation, almost all of which are energy-based, from ExxonMobil to Halliburton.
Since April 2022, the Professional & Business Services sector saw the most growth in the Houston area (+26,900/+5.1%), with Professional, Scientific & Technical Services comprising more than half of those new jobs. Trade, Transportation & Utilities is still the Houston area’s largest sector, and last year it grew even larger, gaining 22,300 jobs (+3.1%). Education & Health Services saw similar gains, adding 22,500 jobs, a 5.3% increase over 2022 numbers. Leisure & Hospitality, Manufacturing and Financial Activities all saw substantial gains. The only sector that lagged noticeably behind was Construction, which lost roughly 5,000 jobs in the past year.
As an oil and gas giant, Houston is one of the most important engines in the global economy. More than a third of U.S. jobs related to oil and gas extraction are in Houston, and more than 4,700 energy-related companies are based in the city, including BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips.
But the Energy Capital of the World isn’t counting on only ancient energy reserves — it’s investing in a green future. The Bayou City now has 150+ solar energy-related firms, 40+ wind-related companies and 15+ battery storage companies, among other cleantech investments.
Houston has long been Mission Control for NASA, but the Johnson Space Center is just one of the city’s 500+ aerospace institutions, and more than 23,000 people work in Houston’s aerospace/aviation industry. Intuitive Machines, United Airlines, Oceaneering, Boeing, Southwest and Lockheed Martin all have operations in Houston.
One of the biggest assets of Houston’s job market are its institutions of higher education. 34.7% of Houston residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — that’s nearly 800,000 people. With excellent schools in the area, including the University of Houston, the University of St. Thomas and Rice University — one of the nation’s most prominent institutions — students need not travel far to jumpstart their career.
Commuting in Houston
Getting around in the Energy Capital of the World is still largely done by car, and while work commutes average 27 minutes, the real feel of the morning rush is 53 minutes — if you’re driving solo — and 181 minutes if you first have to drop off a screaming toddler at daycare on the way. The best way to avoid traffic in Texas’ largest city is to ride the Metro.
Houston has a robust public transportation network, and while it’s not nearly as extensive as Chicago or New York, the fares are affordable: $1.25/ride or $3.00/day pass for all local services, including the bus, METRORail, METRORapid (express bus) and METRO curb2curb services. In lieu of a commuter rail line, Houston offers a Park & Ride Commuter Express Bus service, which has tiered fares, ranging from $2-$8, depending on the zones you’re traveling between.
Expect Year-Round Warm Weather
Houston may be one of the coolest cities in America, but it is also one of the hottest. When people speak of brain fog in Houston, it’s often just the humidity. “Heat dome” may be your baby’s first phrase. Houston’s humid, hot summer begins in April and winds down in October, with highs well over 90 F from June-August. If sharing this subtropical environment with species who are best equipped to live here — armadillos, alligators and bats — isn’t enough of a hook for you, there is one plus side to the weather in Houston: the winters are amazing.
Put those parkas you packed from your last place in New Jersey in deep storage because you will never, ever need them in Houston. Unless you are in the freezer aisle at Whole Foods, where it always feels like February. Thermometers rarely creep below 32 F here, and wintertime highs are usually in the 60s F.
What you will need in this coastal city is a great raincoat and some cute wellies. Houston receives around 50 inches of rain per year, on average, and hurricanes can drop devastating amounts in short periods of time. Storms pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and deposit it on shore in buckets. If it rains cats and dogs elsewhere in America, it’s all bobcats, cottonmouths and coyotes in the Bayou City. Make sure that new mackintosh has a hood. Or, better yet, a helmet.
Popular Neighborhoods in Houston
Houston has a diverse array of neighborhoods, from lively, in-town communities to spacious, far-flung suburbs. If you’re thinking of moving to Houston, here’s a closer look at some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods.
Within the city proper, the East Downtown area — better known as EaDo — is a highly walkable area, packed with restaurants and galleries, and it’s a stone’s throw from the city’s biggest destinations, like the convention center and Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play.
If you’re wanting a little less hustle and little more history, the Houston Heights/Timbergrove area just north of the city has 19th-century homes and even neo-Victorian styles that embrace a small-town pace with big-city style.
One of the busiest areas of downtown Houston is the Medical Center district. The Texas Medical Center is a research colossus, providing cutting-edge healthcare for 10 million patients each year, employing over 100,000 people and forming the eighth-busiest business district in the country. But there are plenty of cultural attractions in the neighborhood, too, including the jaw-dropping, 445-acre Hermann Park, which has a Japanese garden, pedal boats and even its own railroad. You’ll also be close to Houston Zoo, the Museum District and Rice University. Naturally, this area is inundated with out-of-towners and visitors from other areas of the city, but you will have the benefit of having a short commute, if you work downtown, along with access to oodles of restaurants, coffee shops and nearby bars.
West of downtown, Montrose is an LGBTQ-friendly arts haven, peppered with dynamic building murals and loaded with great bars and restaurants. This area is also home to two world-renowned art destinations: the meditative Rothko Chapel and the Menil Collection. When you’ve overloaded on high culture, there are vintage boutiques and quirky bistros to reset and refuel. Housing-wise, you’ll find quite a range of styles, from clapboard and brick bungalows to ultra-contemporary condos and loft-style single families. Prices are steep for properties on Montrose’s lush, tree-lined streets, which have a neighborhoodlike but offbeat vibe.
In West Houston, Memorial is a popular district along I-10, especially convenient for those working in the Energy Corridor. This rapidly growing suburban area is bound on the southern end by the Buffalo Bayou Bike Trail and Terry Hershey Park, and the community has lots of family-friendly attractions to recommend it. The Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary has wonderful hiking trails for birding and a log cabin hand-built with local pine timbers by the original residents in the 1930s. If your family prefers non-woodland adventures, try the Memorial CityCentre — a wildly popular live-work-play destination where you’ll find upscale shopping and dining, spas and salons, a bowling alley and even a ceramics studio. You’ll never want to leave unless you get stuck in The Escape Game.
Before you move, we encourage you to thoroughly research neighborhoods in Houston to see which location has the right amenities and resources for your family. Consider the area’s commute time, tax rates, cost of living, safety statistics, schools and any other factors that may be relevant to your needs.
Explore Houston Like a Houstonian
Houstonians really know how to enjoy their own city like an out-of-towner. Whether they’re at the museums on Saturday morning, or enjoying their season tickets to the Dynamos game, this is not a city that stays at home.
One spot you may not think of as a destination (because it’s also, um a hospital) is Houston’s Texas Medical Center (TMC). More than just an advanced research center — the TMC is a multi-campus life sciences hub that combines top-of-the-line medical care with bioscience manufacturing and collaborative research facilities. But this revolutionary institution isn’t just for scientists and patients. The public can visit the TMC Library and will soon be able to stroll through the exquisite grounds of the Helix Park Gardens. But the prime public attraction is the Health Museum. At this science-centric institution, you can see a skeleton riding a bicycle, stand eye-to-eye with a giant eyeball and see real organ dissections! You can also choose not to see real organ dissections and, instead, wait in the lobby with your head between your knees next to the other paper-bag breathers.
Speaking of specialized breathing apparatuses, the Space Center Houston is a must-see destination for anyone who has ever dreamed of blasting off from the blue planet. You can take a tram tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center, where you’ll see a Saturn V rocket, the astronaut’s training facility and the historic mission control center. Aspiring space explorers will definitely want to sign up for Breakfast with an Astronaut, and families can even do an overnight experience, where you can camp out under the stars (and giant aircraft), build your own rockets and really prove that you love each other to the moon and back.
The night sky isn’t the only arena in Houston to see the stars, though. The Astros, who play at Minute Maid Park, are one of the hometown favorites, but football fans still love their Texans (who play at NRG Stadium), even if they were the losingest team in the AFC in 2022-23. There are the NBA’s Rockets for basketball fans, and Houston’s pro soccer teams — the Dynamo and the Dash — tear up the turf at PNC Stadium. For those looking for a little more grit in their game, Houston also has the pro rugby SaberCats, and the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will certainly put a spur in your saddle each spring.
If you’re hoping to lighten the load on your wallet but don’t want to sell yourself short on experience, Houston has tons of great free attractions and events. The Menil Collection is always free to visit, and you can see thousands of years of amazing human creations at this incredible art museum, from ancient Iranian funerary vessels to mind-blowing light installations by Dan Flavin.
In Hermann Park, the Miller Outdoor Theatre puts on dozens of free concerts throughout the year — you can see Macbeth one month and the Houston Jazz Festival the next. There are also special (and especially fun) performances for kiddos, too, like the “Dance of the Insects.” Fair warning — your child may really embrace Phantom the Flying Cockroach, which becomes considerably less cute when it’s time to put your cockroach to bed.
Want to explore outdoors? The Buffalo Bayou can take you all around the city on heels or wheels. This meandering greenspace contains a variety of parks, native gardens and play areas. Bikes and boats are available to rent, and food trucks make for an easy alternative to home-packed picnics, if you’re crunched for time. At dusk, the human crowds will gather at the Waugh Bridge to see the enormous colony of bats take flight in search of their evening meal. We heard they like food trucks.
Bat or human, when it’s time to eat, Houston is a special place to be. You’ll find excellent provisions from right here in the Bayou City to around the globe, and the cuisine of the city is really a celebration of its international culture. There are upscale indulgences like Uchi, which serves artful sushi and sashimi. And there are humble heavens of BBQ like Burns that will bring you to tears, both from the fire and the flavor. Of course, you may already know that Houston invented fajitas, and if you want to dine at the restaurant of their conception, head to Ninfa’s to sink your teeth into the original.
February through April is crawfish season in the Bayou City, and if you’ve never been to a crawfish boil you are in for a real treat. If you are a vegetarian, just steer clear of the mudbugs and stick to sweet corn, potatoes and hush puppies instead. You won’t be disappointed. Hot and Buttered does nothing but boils — from shrimp to mussels to crab — it’s a shellfish purist’s paradise.
When you just want to stick close to home, you’ll find lots of great neighborhood joints to haunt. Common Bond Bistro & Bakery is a Montrose original that satisfies the tooth for sweet and savory. The personal baked brie indulges your deepest, dinner party desire to run away with the hors d’oeuvres platters while their blackened shrimp & grits gives you true local flavor. It’s also the destination for French pastries. Please save us a morning bun.
MAD is a Spanish-inspired, small-bites delight. The tapas are expertly prepared and plated, from the miniature ice cream cones of Cucurucho de Foie to the Lobster Carpaccio. A pitcher of the famous house sangria will satisfy your whole table, but there are plenty of single-serve elixirs to tempt you. The “Not a G&T” is a sparkly, herbal adventure with chartreuse, ginger and lavender smoke, and the Fruito Prohibito is a bourbon-calvados-Benedictine concoction pulled straight from the forbidden tree, spiced apple, cherry bark bitters and all.
How to Move to Houston
Are you ready to move to the Bayou City? When you choose Mayflower, our trusted team of movers will be here to help you Every Step of the Way®. We can help simplify your move to Houston, whether you’re moving locally or long-distance. All the details of your move will be well-organized in the Mayflower Move Portal.
Planning a cross-country move to Houston? Mayflower’s long-distance movers will help you move to Houston from anywhere in the country. Our agents can provide you with custom moving packages and full-service moving services, which can include packing and unpacking, storage services, car shipping, debris removal and more.
Moving to Houston from a city in Texas? Our Houston interstate agents perform local moves in Texas independently under their own brands and business names.
Moving to Houston by yourself? Check out Mayflower’s helpful moving checklists and packing tips to help keep you on track and on budget.
Still deciding where to move in Texas? Mayflower’s Moving Guide to Texas can give you the scoop on the Lone Star State’s most popular cities and attractions, and you’ll get helpful insider tips on living in the Bayou State.