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The Lone Star State is home to some iconic cities like Austin, Dallas, and Houston. But are these three metropolitans the best Texas cities to live in? Perhaps they aren’t as desirable as San Antonio, a Texas city that is climbing the ranks fast. So many people are relocating to San Antonio that it was the 7th fastest growing city in the country in 2016 according to the US Census Bureau. It is also the 7th largest city in the US and the 2nd largest city in Texas (trailing only Houston). With thousands of people migrating to the home of the Alamo each year, you may be wondering, is moving to San Antonio for you?
First, consider why you might live in Texas in the first place. No state income tax is a huge draw for many relocating here. There’s also a wide range of job opportunities that vary from city to city. As far as San Antonio goes, it is one of the most family-friendly metropolitan areas in Texas and in the country. If you’re relocating with your family in tow, living in San Antonio may be ideal.
Find out why moving to San Antonio is a great choice, learn about hurdles you’ll face, and figure out how to coordinate your move with this comprehensive guide. Not sure what to expect or if San Antonio is a good place to live? We’ve got you covered.
Guide to Living in San Antonio, Texas
Housing Cost Breakdown
First off, is it affordable to buy a home in one of the best neighborhoods in San Antonio? Yes, unless you’re downtown, it’s relatively easy and very affordable to buy in most areas. The median home price in the San Antonio market has been on a steady incline over the past few years. But, housing costs are still much more attainable than they are in cities like Sacramento.
The San Antonio Board of Realtors released a report showing a median home price of $199,400 for the first quarter of 2017. Also, more than half the homes listed in San Antonio were priced under $200,000 during this period. This average price point makes it easy to find a home below the state of Texas’ median home price of $215,000.
Looking to live a little more lavishly? With 44.9% of the housing market including homes in the $200,000 – $500,000 range, there are definitely San Antonio neighborhoods to fit every budget.
San Antonio Neighborhoods to Consider
Broker and owner of M Stagers Realty Partners, Missy Stagers confesses why she loves living in San Antonio, “I’ve lived here for almost 25 years. I wouldn’t move anywhere else, and I’ve lived on the East Coast, West Coast, and overseas. It truly is the small town that’s a big city. No one knows a stranger here, and your neighbors like to know you. When the grocery store attendant says hello and asks how you’re doing, they mean it, and they take the time to care. This is primarily a Texas thing, but when you’re here, you get doors held open for you.”
Stagers also explains why she’d rather live here than other large Texas cities: “San Antonio is very family-centric. So unlike Dallas or Houston that are so big and what I call somewhat disjointed, San Antonio is not. And even as we’re growing, we haven’t lost that charm yet at all.“
As an expert in her field, Stagers talked to us in depth about some of her favorite San Antonio neighborhoods and suburbs. Here’s where she thinks you should start your house hunt:
Neighborhoods in the City
This section of San Antonio is positioned just north of Downtown. The neighborhood, similar to an area call Terrell Hills, is home to a lot of old money. According to Stagers, what makes this area not so stodgy is the large military presence. You’ll find older homes and an eclectic mix of very expensive housing.
Being family driven, many people move to this area for the coveted Alamo Heights School District. Home prices range from the low $300,000’s and go well up over $1.5 -$2 million. You’ll find some of San Antonio’s most expensive and historical real estate in Alamo Heights.
Stone Oak is a family-friendly section of San Antonio that is located just outside the 1604 loop and west of 281. The area has many boutique shops and gated subdivisions and is home to many Mexican nationals. Stone Oak is served by the North East Independent School District and coveted Regan High School.
Home prices start around $250,000 and go over $1 million with the bulk of houses sitting between $350,000 – $500,000.
If you want to be in the action, join other city dwellers in some of the most walkable downtown areas. Because of the massive growth, the city has been reinvesting in its downtown areas like the Pearl Brewery District and the River Walk. With that renovation comes more millennials that want to live here.
Since single family housing is not affordable, more apartment complexes and condos are being built. Due to housing costs and less than ideal funding for public schools, you’ll find a lot of young and old families without children that are renting in this area. New homes start around $300,000 and go up from there.
San Antonio Suburbs
Located about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio, Boerne is a rural town that has undergone some major commercial development in the last 10 years. Homes start around $250,000 and include some of the most expensive real estate as far as suburbs are concerned.
Recent developments include a Home Depot and Starbucks, which some small town residents might not like. Because of this development, this area maintains that small town feeling with newer suburban conveniences. Many people move here for the schools that are much smaller than the San Antonio city districts.
This San Antonio suburb is located on the northwest side of the city and is small but growing. One of the biggest draws to Helotes is that there is still land available. You can get a small city feel with new homes or opt for one of the older homes with acreage. This area is home to the Northside ISD school district, housing a premier high school, O’Connor.
Home prices range from $200,000 – $1 million with a mix of old and new architecture.
Like other suburbs, this area is a very fast growing small town. People move to Schertz for schools which are also a little bit smaller in size and offer families the option of a quality education. Another advantage to this suburb are the housing costs. The area is affordable and you can still buy a home for under $200,000. Basically, Schertz offers more house for less money.
This suburb is also very popular for military families as well as commuters. One family member might commute to San Antonio and the other could just as easily commute to Austin. It’s easy to get around, and there is easy access to I-35.
How Lower Income Taxes Really Impact Cost of Living
San Antonio residents get to enjoy a cost of living that is slightly below the national average. This is due in part to lower housing costs as well as no state income tax.
Before you move to San Antonio thinking you’re free from taxes, remember that there are higher sales and property taxes. Expect to pay approximately 8.25% for sales tax and 2% for property tax. While that may seem like a lot, it is still less than states like New York.
How does the San Antonio cost of living compare to other major Texas cities? San Antonio is 2% less expensive than Dallas and 26% less expensive than Austin. Housing and utility costs make up the largest spending gap.
Find the Best Places to Work in San Antonio
San Antonio has an unemployment rate below the national average and below the state average. This thriving city is also expected to see job growth of about 3% from 2016 to 2017 (approximately 30,000 more jobs added), which is higher than other Texas cities.
The Alamo city maintains a large military presence and caters to their success through various health, schooling, and work programs. Many active and retired military personnel make their home at and around the Joint Base San Antonio, providing jobs throughout Fort Sam Houston, Randolph Air Force Base, and Lackland Air Force Base.
Other industries of note are manufacturing, renewable energy, bioscience, healthcare, and education. What does San Antonio have that other Texas cities don’t? Being a tourist destination creates thousands more tourism and leisure jobs here than other parts of Texas.
What It’s Really Like to Live Here
Quality of life in San Antonio is as desirable as can be expected for a large scale metropolitan in Texas. The weather can be crazy at times, but it is beautiful most of the time. Weather generally includes hot summers, mild winters, and a wet spring. If you’re terrified of tornadoes or allergies are a chronic problem, San Antonio weather may not be for you.
However, if you love being able to enjoy the outdoors all year round, San Antonio boasts some incredible green space like Brackenridge Park, a nearly 350-acre park founded in 1899. Some other places to enjoy a relaxing day outside include:
- The River Walk — The San Antonio River has been at the heart of San Antonio for hundreds of years. Take a stroll for free down the expansive 30-mile river walk to enjoy fine dining, scenic boat rides, and plenty of outdoor activities. Spend approximately $12 for a water taxi to see as much of the River Walk as possible before you pick a destination to relax.
- Eisenhower Park — Bring your family, dog, or just a pair of jogging shoes to Eisenhower Park. This family-friendly destination is as ideal for children as it is for an active individual looking for a hiking workout. The park is located north of the city and acts as a quiet rural escape.
Just How Good are Schools in San Antonio?
While some San Antonio public schools aren’t highly rated, there are a number of private institutions and school districts in outlying areas that offer families options to fit their needs. For instance, one of San Antonio’s premier school districts, Northside ISD, offers students a Two-Way Dual Language Immersion program that promotes bilingual and bicultural education in both English and Spanish.
Sending a child off for higher education? San Antonio is home to 29 different universities and colleges, educating more than 100,000 students a year. Popular and affordable options include the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M University-San Antonio that makes a point to help military students succeed.
Transportation: A Nightmare or Tolerable?
Like other thriving cities in Texas, traffic can be a headache due to rapid growth and insufficient existing infrastructure. In San Antonio, traffic exists, but it is not nearly as congested as cities like Houston and Dallas. In a report showing the most congested roadways in Texas, San Antonio contains only 8 of the 100 most gridlocked roads in Texas. Compare that to Austin that contains 14 of them or Houston that contains a whopping 45 of them.
San Antonio highways to avoid during rush hour:
- US 281: Ranks the 26th most congested in the state
- IH 35: Ranks the 47th most congested in the state
- IH 401: Ranks the 72nd most congested in the state
Transportation in San Antonio isn’t limited to cars. If you live close to work in a downtown area, commuting by bike or public transportation is a viable option. With so many bike trails in the city, many San Antonians enjoy biking for leisure, too. There are plenty of designated bike paths including Mission Trail that runs roughly 20 miles. There are also various B-Cycle stations located throughout the city.
If you need to travel for work, don’t expect many direct flights. The airport in San Antonio is small and limited on the number of large hubs it flies to. One bonus, you can get relatively inexpensive direct flights to Chicago.
Places You Need to Eat and Drink
Eating in Texas is not something to take lightly. In San Antonio, like other parts of Texas, you can typically expect some phenomenal Tex-Mex and Texas BBQ.
Wendy, acclaimed food blogger and owner of The Weekend Gourmet, gives us her take on the San Antonio food scene: “San Antonio has been synonymous with authentic Tex-Mex and margaritas. You can definitely still find that here, but the local food scene has really evolved over the past few years. Today, you’ll find a wide range of cuisines and some truly creative food offerings.”
What sets San Antonio food apart? According to Wendy, it’s restaurants that make food the priority. “There’s been a greater emphasis on chef-driven restaurants that focus on cooking with artisanal, local, and seasonal ingredients. From casual taquerias to four-star gourmet dining, San Antonio truly has it all!”
Looking to explore some of the best food San Antonio has to offer? Here are some of Wendy’s favorites:
- Signature by Andrew Weissman
- Bakery Lorraine
- Dough Pizzeria
Also, unique to the San Antonio area are newly developed wineries, breweries, and coffee roasters.
Visit These Popular Shopping Destinations
- Alamo Quarry Market — This industrial quarry turned shopping center shows how old and unused historic sites can be transformed for modern conveniences. Do some shopping and grab a bite to eat at one of the many dining destinations like Canyon Cafe. You can even pick up some groceries at Whole Foods on your way out.
- Pearl Brewery — Don’t be fooled. This brewery is no longer just a brewery. After closing its doors in 2001, the Pearl Brewery and the surrounding district received a massive overhaul. There are now tons of independent shops, restaurants, and taprooms to explore nestled close to the River Walk. We suggest visiting the Boiler House Texas Grill, Botika, or Hotel Emma. Have chef aspirations? The Pearl Complex is also now home to the Culinary Institute of America.
San Antonio Honors Its Past: History & Culture
There’s no doubt that San Antonio has a bustling city feel that is modern and with the times. But the city is also known for its Old West history, most notably including the legend of the Alamo. Get to know how this city embraces its past as well as its current culture. You might be surprised to find out that the city celebrates cultures from around the globe in a meaningful way.
Historical Places to Visit
- The Alamo — Remember the Alamo? Most of us learn about this battle in grade school, but if you can’t recall, the Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836. The Mexican siege left the few Texians defending the site dead, ultimately inspiring the remainder of the Texas Revolution and Texas’ subsequent victory. The battle has been recreated in many films and adaptations, and while primarily a tourist destination, this most-visited landmark in Texas is the pride of San Antonio.
- The San Fernando Cathedral — As one of the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedrals in the US, this cathedral is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was founded in 1738 under Spanish Rule and remains a central hub for Catholic parishioners in San Antonio with over 5,000 people attending masses each week.
- Spanish Governor’s Palace — Claimed as the most beautiful building in San Antonio, the Spanish Governor’s Palace is the last adobe structure standing from the 18th century when Texas was under Spanish rule. With various renovations over the years, visitors can still enjoy a history lesson or two inside its walls.
Cultural Events to Attend
- Fiesta San Antonio — This seven-day event started in 1891. In their words, the festival promotes a safe, educational, annual celebration of diverse heritage, culture and spirit of San Antonio for its residents and visitors. Thinking of attending? Check out the Battle of Flowers Parade that is produced entirely by women!
- Texas Folklife Festival — Want to learn more about what it means to be a Texan? Enjoy this three-day event honoring Texas heritage and diversity that showcases more than 40 different cultural groups.
- Diwali — San Antonio may not be known as the most culturally diverse city in the country, but it is home to the only city-sanctioned Festival of Lights. Each year, thousands gather to celebrate this Hindu festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
Don’t Forget Your New Favorite Sports Teams
Everything is bigger in Texas, and sports are no exception. Despite football’s popularity in Texas, we are sad to report that no, the Raiders are not moving to San Antonio. That leaves San Antonio as the largest city in the nation without an NFL team’s backing.
Fear not, the San Antonio sports scene isn’t completely lacking. Here are some professional sports teams and events you can get behind.
- San Antonio Spurs — Cheer on these NBA Champions and hometown heroes. Don’t worry, there are still two players from the Big Three remaining.
- San Antonio Missions — Grab a hotdog and catch a game featuring this Minor League baseball team.
- The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo — There’s more than just rodeo here, trust us. Join nearly 1 million spectators and find out for yourself every February.
Ready to Relocate to San Antonio?
If you’re relocating to San Antonio, Texas for the first time, don’t forget to check the following off your moving to-do list:
- Officially change your mailing address with the USPS.
- Apply for a Texas driver’s license at the Texas Department of Public Safety within 90 days of your move.
- Update your car insurance policy with your new address. Use this time to shop for a better policy and make sure this is done prior to registering your vehicles.
- Register your vehicles at Bexar County Registration & Titling within 30 days of your move.
- Register to vote in Bexar County at least 30 days prior to upcoming elections after you can prove residency.
- Find a Life Storage location near you to store excess belongings during your relocation.
Are there any San Antonio features we forgot to mention? Why do you love living in San Antonio? Let us know in the comment section below!