California Mass Migration: Moving from LA to HTX

People from all over the United States are flocking to our home state of Texas in record numbers. In fact, according to a study by Uhaul.com, Texas was the number one state for inbound, one-way rental trucks in 2021. One of the most common origins of these new Texans is from the great state of California.

In fact, the U.S. Census data has indicated over 690,000 Californians have relocated to Texas within the last decade. Additional data from StorageCafe.com suggests that those who are relocating from Los Angeles look to Houston as the ideal spot to start anew. If you are considering a move to Houston from LA, you’re in good company!

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss LA and Houston as complete opposites. From the varying topography to the cultural norms, most people think a move from LA to Houston would result in major culture shock. However, LA and Houston actually have more in common than one may realize. Both are bustling cities with a strong Latino influence, great weather, and an abundance of employment opportunities.

Still, there’s a one reason that seems to pop up the most frequently to explain why so many people are moving from LA to Houston: affordable living. In this blog post, we researched and broke down some of the core differences that will help you better understand what to expect should you make the move from LA to Houston.

LA to HTX: Employment and Income

One of the most important things to consider when deciding where to live is the potential employment opportunities. At the time of writing this article, (Q1 2022), the unemployment rate in LA County is at 6.4%, while Harris County sits at 5.1%. Both of these come in above the national average of 3.9%. Both cities are home to a myriad of large, multinational companies.

Houston, the energy capital of the world, obviously offers an abundance of employment in the oil and gas industry, but it is also home to one of the largest medical centers in the United States. LA also has a large medical center as a major source of employment, but the entertainment industry shines out as the leading employment industry in the county. Despite their differences, both LA and Houston have a strong employment force, making either location attractive to those seeking a job.

When it comes to employment, the biggest difference between LA and Houston is the income taxes. One of the most attractive parts about living in Houston is the lack of state income taxes. California has one of the highest state income taxes in the United States, with a sliding scale of 1-12.3% deducted from each paycheck. We have to admit, not having a state income tax is one of our favorite perks of living in Texas.

Los Angeles County features a slightly higher median household income compared to Harris County, coming in at just over $68,000 verses just over $61,700 for Harris. However, as we will see in the next section, the average dollar stretches much further in Houston.

LA to HTX: Cost of Living

Those who move from LA to Houston often cite one very simple reason for the trek: the low cost of living in Houston. While we know from experience the average dollar stretches further in Houston, it wasn’t until we compared the cost of real estate in both areas that we realized just how much so. According to the Zillow Home Value Index report, the median price of a home in LA County comes in at a whopping $921,494. Meanwhile, the Zillow Home Value Index lists the median home value in Houston at $241,052, over half a million dollars less than the median of LA. If you’re not ready to buy a house, Houston will still be friendlier on your budget in the rental market. The median monthly rent in Houston sits at $1078, compared to LA’s median of $1460.

If you like shopping (and who doesn’t), then Harris County also comes in on top. With a sales tax rate of 8.25%, you’re definitely able to get more for your money in Houston, compared to the nearly 9.50% rate in parts of LA County. Houston also offers tax-free incentive weekends for school supplies, sweetening things even more.

LA to HTX: Environmental and Topography

Residents of Houston and Harris County are able to spread out quite a bit more than those in LA.  As the second largest city in the United States, the city of Los Angeles covers a total area of 507.7 square miles, while LA County as a whole comes in in at just under 4058 square miles of land area. The city of Houston comes in at 665 square miles, but Harris County as a whole comes in at around 1703 square miles. What exactly are you getting with all that land in either location? LA County features over 63,000 acres of parks, lakes, trails, gardens, and natural areas. Harris County offers a slightly higher ratio of park-to-land ratio, maintaining over 52,912 acres of park space.

LA County offers a much milder climate compared to the extreme heat and humidity Houston residents face. August is the hottest month in LA, with an average temperature of 74.7°F, and January is the coldest, coming in at an average temperature of 55°F. Houston’s hottest month is in August, with an average temperature of 94.5°F and coldest month is also January, with an average temperature of 44.2°F. LA is a city of sunshine, offering more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year while averaging around 14.67 inches of rain per year. Houston, while offering its fair share of sunshine, at an average of 2578, it sees a whopping 49.77 average inches of precipitation per year.

Both cities are near large bodies of water. LA is near the Pacific coastline, offering convenient beach access and stunning views of the crystal blue Pacific Ocean. With dozens of famous and beautiful beaches, residents can enjoy water activities nearly any time of year. While Houston proper is not on a coastline, it is a short drive from the Gulf of Mexico. Galveston is a short drive away and offers an escape from the city life with fine restaurants and fun shopping experience.

The city of Los Angelas is both hilly and flat. The eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains stretch from the downtown area to the Pacific ocean. Surrounding the city are the much higher San Gabriel Mountains, offering hiking and outdoor recreations for Los Angeles residents. Los Angeles is prone to earthquakes and is located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.  Speaking of fires, the entire city is at risk for wildfires, a disaster seeing increasing attention in the past several years.

The city of Houston sits at 50 feet above sea level and remains relatively flat in all areas.  Affectionately known as the “Bayou City”, Houston has multiple slow-moving swampy rivers that help reduce the risk of flooding during the city’s common heavy rain flows. The risk for flooding in Houston is extremely high, with over one in five residential properties facing some risk of water damage. In addition to flooding from rainstorms, Houston residents face additional dangers from hurricanes, like high winds and property damage.

LA to HTX: Lifestyle

It’s clear that it’s cheaper to live in Houston, but just what are you getting for your money? Not only are the homes significantly cheaper, they’re also significantly larger in size. The median home size in LA came in at 1709 square feet, versus the median home size in Harris County adds over 550 square feet to come in at 2402.

As outlined above, both LA and HTX have an abundance of employment opportunities, but those living in Houston will find themselves spending less time in the car. The average commute time in LA sits at 31.8 minutes, verses the average commute time in Houston sits at 29.5 minutes. That means LA workers sit in traffic an extra 10 hours per year compared to Houstonians.

A larger city and home to studios, movie stars, and more, it’s easy to find things to do in LA. Between the many different amusement parks, museums, and tours, LA offers everything one could want in forms of an entertaining lifestyle. While smaller, Houston is home to the Space Center,  the rodeo, and more unexpectedly wonderful things to do in the city of Houston.

LA to HTX: A Summary

It’s clear that the a primary driver for most folks moving from LA to HTX is the financial benefits. While we outlined these figures in the post above, we thought it would be helpful to include a summary chart of these figures.

  Los Angeles / LA County Houston / Harris County Difference
Median Household Income $68,044 $61,705 -$6,339
Population per Square Miles 2419.6 2402.4 -17
Zillow Home Value Index $921,494 $241,052 – $680,442.00
Median Home Size (square feet) 1709 2260 551
Unemployment Rate 6.40% 5.10% -1.30%
State Income Tax Rate 1 – 12.3% 0.00%  -1-12.3%
Property Tax Rate 0.72% 2.03% 1.31%
Land area (square miles) 4057.88 1703.48 -2,354
Sales Tax 9.50% 6.25% -3.25%
Mean Travel Time to Work 31.8 minutes 29.5 minutes -2.30 minutes
Median Rent 1460 1078  -$382.00
Monthly mortgage 2498 1649 – $849.00

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