As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston has some of the most enviable natural and manmade resources on the planet, from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to its oil and gas reserves and bayous that connect to shipping channels in Galveston Bay. Houston has capitalized on these riches to build a city of diverse commercial interests, powered by an even more diverse populace.
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and the fifth-largest metro area. It’s also one of the fastest growing in the country. This early railway town was built on cotton, oil, lumber and trade, but it’s made itself a stronghold in the aerospace industry with NASA’s Johnson Space Center; a healthcare and life sciences giant with the Texas Medical Center; and a destination for tourists the world over. New residents are pouring into Houston for the jobs and lifestyle .
The Bayou City has many of the cultural amenities of Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, but it has an attitude all its own. Hot and humid, Houston is lush, lively and likeable — and its residents are friendly and outgoing (unless they’re stuck in traffic). There is an unhurried spirit to the city that sometimes makes you forget it’s the biggest in the state and the entire Southeast.
Learn more about this Southern metropolis below to see if H-town could be your next residence.
Living in Houston
Cost of Living in Houston
Houston may be the country’s fourth-largest city, but among the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S. like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, it’s the second-most affordable. In 2022, the cost of living in Houston was 7.9% below the nationwide average, beating out Atlanta, Tampa, Minneapolis and even Detroit — and you don’t even have to suffer through a Michigan winter!
In the wake of the pandemic, real estate prices in Houston had picked up rapidly, but with rising interest rates and prices, the market has now slowed. The median home price in Houston in March 2023 was $325,000 — a decrease of $10,000 from the previous year and also lower than home prices in Dallas. Between 2017 and 2021, the U.S. Census calculated the median home value of single-family homes in Houston to be just over $200,000. Meanwhile, rents averaged $1,136 over the same period.
Another possible advantage of living in the Houston metro area is that Texas imposes no state income taxes — either personal or corporate. However, there is a 1.66% state property tax. Houston also has a sales/use tax rate of 8.25%. At $56,010, the median household income in this energy capital is far lower than the U.S. average of $69,021 and the poverty rate is nearly eight points higher.
Houston commuters will find that, while transportation costs are lower here than in other regions, the average commute time of 27 minutes is only modestly faster than in the nation’s most congested cities like L.A., Chicago and Atlanta. There are also an ever-increasing number of so-called “super-commuters,” who spend 90 minutes per leg of their daily journey to and from work.
With so many oil companies in the city, it’s no surprise that many Houstonians rely on their cars to navigate the region, though Houston does have public transportation that covers more than 1,300+ square miles in Harris County and 14 surrounding cities. Local fares on the bus, METRORail, METRORapid or METRO curb2curb costs $1.25 and commuter buses cost between $2 and $8. There is also a METRO Vanpool, for those who have limited bus access but still want to save money and reduce CO2 emissions.
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 Economy and Job Market
As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston is still very much an oil town, with Fortune 500 companies like Phillips 66, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and — most recently — ExxonMobil, which it lured away from its northern neighbor, Dallas. But fossil fuels aren’t necessarily the energy source for Houston’s future. The city already generates 92% of its own power from renewables like wind and solar, and Houston seems poised to lead the charge on green energy for the nation.
In addition to its energy base, Houston is also a giant in aerospace and aviation, as well as in transportation and logistics and manufacturing. With a gain of 28,400 jobs between from 2022-23, the transportation, trade and utilities supersector saw the most growth in the metro Houston area, followed by professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
If you’re thinking of moving to Houston for career advancement or a change in careers, you’ll have a diverse range of companies to choose from. Though unemployment numbers remained stubbornly higher than the national average in March 2023 at 4.4%, Houston’s job growth has been some of the most remarkable in the nation over the past year, gaining over 200,000 jobs in a variety of industries, from technology to healthcare.
IT titans Hewlett Packard and Dell maintain corporate bases in Houston. Real estate colossus Transwestern, which manages $5.3 billion in assets, also operates out of the city. The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center — one of the nation’s leading treatment and research institutions — is based here as well.
H-Town is also a bastion for art and design, so if you work in a creative field, you will have a large, built-in audience of art enthusiasts and numerous outlets for employment in the region.
Another major asset of the city is its universities. Houston is home to Rice University, the University of Houston, the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth Houston), the University of St. Thomas and Texas Southern University, a historically Black institution. An impressive 34.7% of the Houston population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher — that’s nearly 795,000 people. This highly educated population supplies the booming Houston industries with a talented and capable workforce.
Weather in Houston
There’s no getting away from the subtropical climes of this Gulf Coast gem — expect a humid, hot summer and lots of rain. Summertime highs average well into the nineties, and it pretty much feels like summer from April through October.
The average annual rainfall in Houston is around 50 inches, but extreme weather from 2015-2017 upset all expectations for normalcy. Hurricane Harvey — the worst storm of its kind in U.S. History — dumped more than 60 inches of rain during the four days it held Houston hostage in August of 2017. In addition to hurricanes, flooding and thunderstorms have always been a concern in this low-lying area.
The upside of all this heat and humidity is a Houston’s nearly frost-free climate. Only from mid-December through mid-February will there even be a chance the thermostat will fall below 32 F. The average winter lows are in the 40s F and the average winter highs are in the 60s F. Really, Houston’s winter feels like spring to much of the rest of the country.
Top Neighborhoods in Houston
With 7.34 million area residents, Houston is the second-fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States, beaten out by its Texas counterpart, Dallas-Fort Worth. In the city proper, Houston has 2.3 million residents — that’s one million more city-dwellers than in Dallas.
The greater Houston area population — which includes cities like Sugar Land and The Woodlands — increased by 124,000 between 2021 and 2022, and newcomers to the area moved in response to the expanding job market, driving up housing prices and traffic. The area’s rising birth rate accounts for roughly 16% of the increase. If you are thinking of moving to this rapidly growing area, there are lots of interesting neighborhoods to choose from, including the three popular districts discussed below.
The Medical Center area, located east of Rice University, is packed with healthcare, science and research facilities. Anchored by the Texas Medical Center — the largest medical complex on the planet, which serves 10 million patients a year — this small district of 1,300 caters to young professionals who want to walk to work, like medical students, medical residents, healthcare workers and those who have not yet started families of their own. Housing here is affordable and convenient, access to public transportation is excellent, and restaurants and bars abound.
With artsy vibes and major arts destinations like the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel, the Montrose neighborhood of Houston is a culture-rich, LGBTQ-friendly district just west of Midtown. In sum, 11,000 residents call this eclectic enclave home, which is enlivened by boutique hotels, cool coffee shops and lots of hip, international bistros. At the northern edge of the neighborhood, the Buffalo Bayou Park and Eleanor Tinsley Park are true urban oasises, with miles of bike and pedestrian paths, boat rentals and great spots for picnicking. Housing in this highly walkable area is expensive, and income and educational levels are high.
The Memorial-Energy Corridor is a family-centric, live-work-play district in west Houston. In this thriving area, average home values are quite high — averaging over $690,000 by some estimates — and residents enjoy suburban conveniences without having to sacrifice city life completely. Memorial is right off I-10, with top-rated public and private schools. Not to be overlooked is the new pedestrian-friendly CityCentre, which has introduced a fun, new hang-out spot with shops and restaurants. To the east and west, there are terrific parks including Memorial Park, which has a fitness center, running trails, a golf course and an arboretum.
Note: If you’re thinking of moving to Houston, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods or areas in the city where you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Discover Where Houstonians Have Fun
Houston is one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in the country, with incredible performing arts venues like the Houston Grand Opera, and the Houston Ballet, and dozens of art galleries and museums, like the longstanding MFA Houston and newcomers like Seismique, which has entertaining, immersive installations.
Sport fans have seven pro teams to root for, including 2017 World Series-winning Houston Astros, the NFL’s Houston Texans, the MLS’ Houston Dynamo and NWSL’s Houston Dash, the NBA’s Houston Rockets, the fastpitch softball team the Scrap Yard Dawgs, and the MLR’s Houston SaberCats — that’s a rugby team, for those new to one of Texas’ favorite sports.
While lots of American cities have top-notch museums and restaurants, there aren’t too many that are also major bases for space exploration. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is a 1,620-acre research complex where the country’s astronauts are trained and where U.S. space missions are planned and overseen. At the Space Center Houston, visitors can learn firsthand about space travel on tour of mission control, see historic spacecraft up close and walk through an interactive exhibit of Mars, among other excitements.
Houston is also a health and life sciences capital of the globe, and at the Texas Medical Center’s Health Museum, you can learn about the human body, the history of medicine and the many advances Houston’s doctors, scientists and researchers are making in this vital field. In the Amazing Body gallery, you can stand eye-to-eye with enormous, interactive replicas of the heart, lungs, and brain, where you will be tested with — what else? — memory games. Additional exhibits on cell laboratories, disease outbreaks and scientific discoveries are fun and enlightening for all visitors.
You don’t have to be a cowboy to enjoy one of the Bayou City’s biggest attractions: the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This nearly 100-year-old event attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year to watch the world’s most fearless riders test their chops. Spectators can test their own courage on the carnival rides or just enjoy the music concerts, wildlife expo, archery and skeet shooting competitions and of course, indulge in all the fried food your bronco heart desires.
To enjoy the spoils of this Texan city, you don’t always have to pay admission — there are lots of free things to do in Houston. If you’re into the arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston shows some of the hottest artists practicing today and never charges admission. The same goes for the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.
The Miller Outdoor Theatre offers eight months of free entertainment for Houstonians, from classical music and jazz concerts to film screenings, Shakespearean plays and dance.
Daredevils looking to get outdoors can try out some of Houston’s famous (and free) skateparks, like the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark inside Eleanor Tinsley Park downtown or the North Houston Skate Park, which is the second-largest in the world and also features public art, walking trails and a shaded areas to chill out — perfect for those who are merely providing a free shuttle service to their shredding kiddos.
If you really want to cool off, why not take a beach day? Nearby Surfside Beach offers free parking for beachcombers, who can save their dollars for the delicious eats in town. If you’re willing to drop a Lincoln for a day’s adventure (that’s five dollars for those of you who only speak Venmo), you can treat yourself to a trip to Galveston Island State Park, where you can hike, fish, kayak, birdwatch and lounge without the crowds. Kids under 12 get in free.
Houston’s food scene is unrivaled in the state of Texas — barbecue, Tex-Mex, fried chicken and waffles, Cajun fare and tandoori delights are just the beginning of the delicious offerings in this Southern city.
Whether you’re moving here or just visiting, your first stop should be at the Houston Farmer’s Market, where you’ll find incredible local produce and meats for your own table alongside some of Houston’s favorite restaurants. At Wild Oats, you can sample the Medina County beef tartare (served with deep fried saltines!), spicy shrimp corn dogs and antelope loin with crispy rice.
Houston has a prominent Indian and Pakistani American community, and one of the best establishments to try is the upscale Amrina, which serves unexpected Indian delights, like ostrich seekh kebab with parsnip mousse and a satisfying jackfruit biryani.
In Montrose, Bludorn makes the most of the local riches with its Gulf Cioppino, prepared with locally caught red snapper, blue crab and shrimp. Their seafood tower is an impressive piece of edible architecture, and the crab rice — made with Carolina gold rice and spiced peanuts — is comfort food at its most elegant.
Prepare for the Big Move to Houston
If you’re planning to move to Houston, hiring a professional, long-distance moving company like United Van Lines can help simplify your cross-country move and make it a seamless experience. We can provide you and your family with a customized, full-service moving package to handle all your moving needs — from packing and unpacking to debris removal, car shipping, storage and more.
Planning a local move to Houston? If you’re moving in Texas to Houston — whether it’s from across town or from another city in the state, our interstate Texas movers and Houston movers can provide local moving services and local movers who will help you move within the state independently under their own businesses and brands.
Moving DIY to Houston? United Van Lines has all the moving resources you need to help plan your journey, including packing tips, regional guides and moving checklists.
If you haven’t yet settled on where you’re moving in the Lone Star State, United Van Line’s Guide to Moving to Texas can help you learn about popular cities in Texas and the pros and cons of living in the state.
The MyUnited Move Portal can help manage all the details of your move to Houston.