The housing market heats up, the housing market cools — this is the natural order of things. But one thing that stays consistent, no matter how quickly homes are being bought and sold, is that everybody wants a deal.
This is especially true in a state like Texas, which boasts some of America’s most popular cities to live in. And since not everyone looking to buy a house in Texas can afford a mansion in Dallas or a bungalow in Austin, we decided it was time to update our ranking of the best under-the-radar cities in the Lone Star State.
Heading into 2023, Orchard analyzed a list of Texas’ biggest cities and came up with a list of 15 places where the quality of life is high, the home prices are relatively low, and the market for homebuying isn't as competitive as in other parts of the state — giving homebuyers more options and leverage. This ranking features the most recently available Census data and market statistics as of writing.
The city of Amarillo leaps into the top spot in our rankings thanks to a low median home sale price ($242,350), a low price per square foot of $137, above-average schools, and less competition than in the metro areas surrounding Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. It may be time to consider the charms of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Longview has the second-highest DOM (“days on market,” which is shorthand for the number of days a property has been listed for sale) of all the cities on our list, and with low home prices and quality schools, folks who are looking to live just a day trip away from both Dallas and Sabine National Forest should consider home shopping here.
Just south of Houston proper, Pearland rises one spot from last year’s rankings. Though Pearland has a lower DOM than Houston, you’ll get more bang for your buck with $155 per square foot. You may want to consider a remote job, though: Pearland residents report a commute of over 30 minutes, one of the highest on our list.
→ Check out home listings in the Houston area
The first of many border cities in our rankings, McAllen rose from #8 to #4 in this year’s list. Low prices, excellent schools, and above-average internet infrastructure help McAllen stand out among its neighbors.
Rounding out the top five, Lubbock is much more than the birthplace of Buddy Holly. The median home price is $249,445, commutes are easy and relatively short, and the population has a healthy employment rate. Nearby Texas Tech University contributes to the city’s cultural and educational milieu.
One of two cities on our list along I-20 on the way out of Texas, Midland is a highly employed, highly connected, and low competition place to buy a home. Its biggest knock is the dearth of higher quality schools.
Odessa clocks in at 7th on our list. With even lower median home prices and price per square foot than nearby Midland, Odessa may be best suited for folks not looking to send children to school nearby, as school rating ranks near the bottom here.
Border city Brownsville is undoubtedly buoyed by a very high median DOM (114 days, far and away the highest on our list), but low home prices and above average schools also helped vault it into the top-10.
A short drive from Houston, Beaumont makes the list thanks to having the lowest price per square foot of all 50 cities at $122. Internet access is high, but school ratings are on the low side.
Rounding out the top-10, Mission is another border city with low prices, quality schools, and easy commutes. This city is seeing a lot of the same economic development that nearby McAllen is experiencing.
Pharr continues the run of Hidalgo County cities in our list with low prices and quality schools, albeit with slightly fewer employment opportunities than higher-ranking cities nearby.
The largest city on this list, El Paso sits right on the border of New Mexico (not to mention Mexico) and boasts a median home sale price of just $249,750. El Paso is often recognized as one of America’s safest cities, with lots of civic engagement among its residents.
Our final Hidalgo County city, Edinburg drops from the top-spot in last year’s list but still makes the top-15 thanks to a price per square foot of just $144 and an above-average school rating.
Just outside Houston proper, League City makes the top-15 despite long commute times and average employment rates due to above-average scores in every other category.
The final city on our list, Laredo’s median home sale price of $238,675 and above-average schools make it an intriguing border city option.
Here are the under-the-radar scores for all 50 Texas cities that we measured. You’ll notice that Texas cities with higher home prices and more home buying competition, and/or lower quality schools and less employment opportunities rank near the bottom.
5. College Station
7. New Braunfels
10. El Paso
11. Sugar Land
13. League City
14. Wichita Falls
15. Corpus Christi
Thanks to rising interest rates and a decline in buying power, the housing market in Texas isn’t as red-hot as it was in 2021 and the first half of 2022. That being said, as we live through a constantly shifting market in a post-pandemic world, it’s important to know the best cities to buy a home to live comfortably while still getting great value. These under-the-radar cities in Texas are perfect for that.
To find cities that fit the description of under-the-radar, we created a proprietary score that combines a variety of home sale data and quality-of-life factors. We then applied these metrics to Texas’ 50 biggest cities by population.
Here’s what we looked at and how much it accounted for:
Orchard is a real estate brokerage that helps simplify the process of buying and selling homes. We operate in major markets throughout Texas (and around the country).
Dennis Lin and Winnie Ng contributed to data collection and analysis for this report.
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