Thinking about a move to Dallas, Texas? You’re not alone:
- Over 528,000 people moved to the region between 2010 and 2014.
- The explosion of suburbs like Frisco and McKinney has helped push the Dallas/Fort Worth region into the top 10 fastest-growing metros in the United States.
- Dallas is not even the fastest-growing city in its own state! Houston, Austin, and San Antonio are also bursting at the seams.
What is the Dallas job market like? How are the schools? Can I get around using public transportation? What do people do for fun (besides root for the Cowboys, of course)?
If Dallas is on your short list of places to relocate, you’ll want to keep reading.
10 Things to Know Before Moving to Dallas
1. Dallas is very, very big.
“As the ninth-largest city (in the U.S.) and part of the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the nation,” notes VisitDallas.com, online home of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, “Dallas covers approximately 343 square miles and has a population of 1,241,162.”
Chicago, by comparison, covers 234 square miles; Manhattan sits on a relatively minuscule 34-mile tract. That’s smaller than the land mass covered by the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) alone.
2. Public transportation is readily available (but do your homework).
The good news: The DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) system allows you to successfully navigate Dallas via 72 miles of light rail and 120 bus routes (see the section on commuter traffic below and you will appreciate this note even more).
The Trinity Railway Express (TRE) connects downtown Dallas with downtown Fort Worth and includes stops at DFW and what are called the Mid-Cities — places like Grapevine, Southlake, Trophy Club, Irving, Grand Prairie and more — between the two metropolises.
If you’re interested in taking in a show, having dinner or doing a little exploring, the D-Link is a free DART service to downtown Dallas and the Oak Cliff area. D-Link buses run on Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
More free public transportation: the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority runs free vintage trolleys (the M-Line) through the hip, trendy Uptown neighborhood.
The bad news: DART can be a pain in the neck.
“DART’s bus routes are impractical, inefficient, difficult to understand, and dissuade broader ridership,” Peter Simek grouses in D Magazine. “DART has the dubious honor of being one of the most inefficient public transit systems in the world. A big part of the problem is that the public transportation system is incomprehensible unless you are forced to sit down and decipher its routes. Even then, routes tend to be inefficient.”
Harsh! Keep that warning in mind if you plan to make DART the backbone of your transportation plans — you may need to take some test runs before committing to DART when you’re on the clock.
3. Traffic is a part of life in Dallas.
Don’t take our word for it. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s annual list of congested highways calls Dallas’s Stemmons Freeway the fifth-most clogged traffic artery in the state — and that was just the warm-up.
“Much of the top 40,” Dan Solomon of Texas Monthly writes, “is a trading of blows between DFW and Houston.”
Jeffrey Chu of NerdWallet.com proclaims that “workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have longer commute times than the national average,” adding that DFW motorists “waste 45 hours in traffic delays (annually), which is more than the average U.S. driver, who wastes 33 hours.”
The toughest commute? Royse City, a small town of roughly 2,600 residents, located 34 miles east of Dallas. The average one-way commute time is nearly 36 minutes!
4. The cost of housing in Dallas is going up.
According to Zillow — the popular digital real estate and rental marketplace — the median home value in the Dallas/Fort Worth region is $162,200. Overall home values have increased by 11.7% in the past year.
The trend is expected to continue with another seven percent spike by the end of 2015.
Plan to rent? Be prepared to open your wallet — RentJungle.com reports that the rent on a one-bedroom Dallas apartment runs roughly $1,241 per month while a two-bedroom pad averages $1,725.
Rent is Dallas is the 18th highest among the country’s 50 largest cities, Zumper.com notes.
While rental prices are higher in Dallas than in-state rivals Houston and Austin, the costs pale in comparison to rental hellscapes in places like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, where $2,000 is not uncommon. Yikes!
5. There are a lot of cool places to live in and around Dallas.
Researching neighborhoods can be overwhelming — so many opinions, so many numbers! You want to find someplace relatively affordable while enjoying the benefits of life in one of the coolest cities in the U.S.
Laurie Fox of The Dallas Morning News recently compiled a helpful list outlining neighborhoods (and suburbs) of note in the Dallas and Mid-Cities area. We also enjoyed Suzanne Marta of Great American Country’s picks of five great places to live in the city.
Here are some of the Dallas neighborhoods that sounded most enticing to us:
- Colleyville. Homes with yards, a plummeting crime rate and an eye towards smart development — no wonder retirees and families are taking a closer look at this city of 24,000 just outside of Fort Worth and near DFW.
- Grapevine. “Parks, low taxes, and a solid school system keep residents happy,” Fox writes. “More than 20,000 visitors each year flock to the city’s many festivals and events. And aggressively attracting business long has been Grapevine’s approach.” Grapevine, unsurprisingly, is home to many wineries.
- Trophy Club. Cool name, first of all. Trophy Club has great school and parks systems and a reputation as a golf haven. The town is growing quickly — 200 new houses a year — but the community (which is less than 45 years old!) on the outskirts of Fort Worth maintains its small-town feel.
- M Streets. “With its leafy, tree-lined streets and darling homes dating as far back as the 1920s, the M Streets continues to be a popular neighborhood for couples and young families who want to be close to downtown (Dallas) and near White Rock Lake,” Marta pens. “Greenville Avenue, which forms the M Streets eastern border, is the primary artery for the neighborhood, with shops, patio bars, and restaurants within easy walking distance.”
- Uptown. A little bit hipster with a good mix of parks, bars, restaurants, cafes and clubs. It’s the kind of cool urban lifestyle you’d imagine in a movie or a sitcom (in the best possible way).
6. You can find great schools in and around Dallas.
Let’s start by noting that this is not a shot across Dallas’s bow — every city has its public education success stories and struggles. I’ll pull off the Band-Aid and note that GreatSchools.org gave Dallas schools a rating of 4 out of 10.
A July 8, 2015 article by Dallas Morning News writer Matthew Haag also noted that several schools in West Dallas and southern Dallas are struggling to improve despite additional state funding.
But rather than focusing on the negative, let’s look at a few of the many neighborhoods where you can find high-achieving schools. Laurie Fox, our friend at The Dallas Morning News, reports that school districts in suburban Plano (20 miles northeast of Dallas), Southlake (northwest Dallas/Fort Worth metro), Frisco (northwest of Plano) and Highland Park (due north of Dallas) all offer exceptional public education opportunities.
For a deep dive into performance statistics, check out realtor Dave Downs’ 2014 list of the top 10 Dallas/Fort Worth public school districts.
7. Taxes work a little differently in Texas.
If you’re not from Texas, you may be surprised to learn that residents of the Lone Star State don’t pay state or local personal income taxes. Nice!
However: you DO pay property taxes and sales tax. Dave Downs explains how this system works:
Texas property taxes are calculated by multiplying the assessed value of the property by the total combined mil rate levied by the taxing authorities that have jurisdiction where the real estate is located. Texas state law defines the assessed value of real property as the market value of a property on January 1, the first day of the tax year. Property taxes typically are paid in a single annual payment that is due on or before December 31, the final day of the tax year.
You may experience a little sticker shock when you see your first property tax bill. Carol Christian of The Houston Chronicle writes, “While Texas has no state income tax and no property tax on vehicles, its residents pay one of the nation’s highest rates when it comes to taxes on real estate…Texans this year are paying an average of $3,327 in real estate taxes. It’s the fifth highest amount in the United States and 59 percent higher than the average American household’s real estate tax bill of $2,089.”
The state of Texas currently charges a 6.25% sales tax “on all retail sales, leases, rentals of most goods and taxable services,” explains the Comptroller of Public Accounts website. What are taxable services? You can see the entire list here.
Municipalities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts are also able to charge up to 2% in additional sales tax — and in the Dallas metro area, they do.
Sorry! If you thought you were moving to Texas to escapes taxes, you’re out of luck.
8. The job market in Dallas is reliable; incomes are projected to rise.
Although the historically significant oil industry has struggled, job growth in Texas has been steady.
The state added 33,200 new jobs this past May, the most in the U.S. behind New York and California. The Dallas market saw the creation of 4,700 new jobs in leisure and hospitality, government and education and health services, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The median household income in Dallas in $59,926. But get this: University Park, Colleyville, and Southlake, all included in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, are three of the top 10 cities in the U.S. with the highest percentage of households earning over $100,000, according to NerdWallet.com’s Courtney Miller.
Miller adds that “Dallas is projecting a $53 billion increase in personal incomes from 2014 to 2019.” That’s great news!
Need a job? The five largest employers in the Dallas/Fort Worth region are:
- AMR Corporation. Roughly 24,700 people work for the parent corporation of American Airlines and US Airways, which is headquartered in Fort Worth.
- Bank of America. A cool 20,000 residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex are employed by the second-largest bank holding company in the U.S.
- Texas Health Resources, Inc. Healthcare is big business in Dallas, and THR — with over 19,000 employees — is the largest faith-based, nonprofit system in North Texas.
- The Dallas Independent School District. From teachers and administrators to the folks who scrape the gum off the chairs, over 18,300 people get their paychecks from Dallas ISD. The system is responsible for the education of 157,000 students in 220 schools.
- Baylor Health Care System. Most people outside of Dallas know Baylor as a college football powerhouse. The Waco, Texas-based institution also has a university medical center in Dallas that is considered one of the nation’s finest, employing over 17,000 people.
Other employers of note: AT&T, J.C. Penney, Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan Chase and Texas Instruments.
9. Crime can be an issue in Dallas.
…which, in a city of this size, is a bit like saying that there are some tall buildings in New York. Of course, there is crime in a major urban area.
NeighborhoodScout.com’s data shows that 8.05 Dallas city residents per 1,000 are the victims of violent crime and 42.48 residents per 1,000 are property crime victims.
Both of these numbers are well above the national median of 3.8 and 27.3, respectively.
10. Arts and culture play an important role in Dallas.
The AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas is a veritable cornucopia of theatre, music, opera and dance. Venues like Trees, Prophet Bar, Club Dada and the South Side Music Hall bring in a mix of local and national indie and pop acts. The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the nation’s finest hubs of visual stimulation. The list could go on for days: there’s a lot in Dallas to get your brain cells firing.
Now tell us your story!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on Dallas, other cities on your moving list, or someplace where you’ve recently relocated.
What do you love? What would you change? What are some tips you would share with other people who may soon go through the same situation as you?
Let us know in the comments below.