What Are the Pros and Cons of Living in Houston?

Houston Texas

by Matt Lyons Posted on February 29, 2024

If you’re ready for a change of scenery, the thriving city of Houston, TX, may have just what you’re looking for. Houston is one of the fastest-growing metropolises in the U.S.. In fact, between 2021 and 2022, H-Town welcomed more than 124,000 new residents. That says a lot! And with a median age of 33.7, it’s perfect for young professionals and families alike — not to mention the city prides itself on its diversity. But like all cities, there are pros and cons of living in Houston. Before making the move, you’ll want to take everything into consideration. Here’s our list of what we think you should know.

Planning a move to Houston? Start by getting a quote from PODS.

Fun Facts About Houston

  • H-Town is the 4th most-populous city in the U.S. with 2.3 million people
  • The city is named after Sam Houston, who led Texas’ battle of independence from Mexico
  • Texas Medical Center in Houston is the largest life sciences destination in the world
  • The Galleria is the largest shopping mall in Texas
  • There are 14 major colleges and universities in Houston
  • The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the biggest rodeo in the world

Pros and Cons of Living in Houston — FAQs

Q: What are the benefits of moving to Houston, Texas?
A:
Houston has a lower cost of living, plenty of jobs, and a great entertainment scene — just to name a few perks. 

Q: Why is Houston so cheap to live in?
A:
The overall cost of living in Houston (e.g., housing, food, transportation) is lower than the national average and the average in many other major cities.

Q: What is a comfortable salary to live in Houston?
A:
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, if you live alone, you would need around $43,300 annually before taxes to live comfortably in Houston.

Q: What's the safest area to live in Houston?
A:
The Woodlands and Sugar Land are considered to be two of the safest places in the Houston area. 

These Are the Essential Pros and Cons of Houston, Texas

White and cream townhomes in Houston, Texas, with the skyline of the city in the background and the light reflecting off the buildings.

Pro: Low Cost of Living

One of the biggest pros of living in Houston is that it has a relatively low cost of living, especially when you consider that it’s the 4th largest city in the U.S. It has a 96.9 cost of living index score, compared to the national average of 100. 

Dallas is a nearby Texas city that’s smaller than Houston; however, it’s more expensive to live there, with a cost of living index score of 100.2. Another popular city in Texas is Austin, which has a population of 974,447 but a cost of living score that’s much higher than Houston at 129.1. The average home in Austin costs around $525,500, and in Dallas it’s around $303,100, while in Houston, the average home value is around $262,600. That’s a lot more bang for your buck!

Austin vs. Houston Pros and Cons

If you’re specifically curious about the Austin vs. Houston pros and cons, the major one is the cost of living difference. If you want to make your salary go further and find a more affordable home, then Houston is definitely the way to go. However, if you want to be a part of a thriving music and cultural scene, then Austin may be your go-to city. Both cities, however, deal with extremely hot summers with high heat indices and humidity levels. 

Con: High Sales and Property Taxes

While the overall cost of living is low and there may not be any state income taxes, there are higher sales and property taxes in Houston. The sales tax for the state of Texas is 6.25 percent; however, counties and cities can also add in sales tax, and for Houston, that ends up being 8.25 percent total sales tax. Most food items are exempt from sales taxes; however, items like pet products, paper products, clothing, books, and personal care items, among others, are taxed. What’s more, property taxes in Harris County are at 2.13 percent, compared to the almost one percent national average.

Pro: Lots of Jobs in All Kinds of Fields

Not only does Houston have a lower cost of living than cities like Austin and Dallas, but it also has a thriving job market with lots of opportunities. There are lots of oil and gas industry jobs available, and this is one of the major employment industries in Houston. Companies like Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, NRG Energy, and Occidental Petroleum are all headquartered in Houston. However, it isn’t just about the oil! There are plenty of engineering, research, and other science-related jobs in Houston, thanks to companies like NASA, Hewlett Packard, and Sysco. Additionally, there are plenty of service industry jobs, as well as opportunities in the hospitality sector, thanks to the popularity of Houston as a tourist spot. 

Con: Extreme Weather

One of the worst things about living in Houston is the chance for extreme weather. Houston is on a flood plain, and that means that when there are heavy rains, there’s the chance of severe flooding. Hurricanes and tropical storms along the Gulf Coast can bring the chance of rain and flood damage like it did during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — the last time it happened, though, was in 2008. Other than during severe storms and flood damage, Houston does not experience the threat of tornadoes like Dallas. 

The summers can be very hot and humid, and for some folks with respiratory issues, this can be difficult to deal with. From June to September, the temperatures can reach into the 90s and 100s with high levels of humidity. 

However, most of the year, you can enjoy warm weather in Houston — including mild winters with only small chances of ice precipitation. And while the summer season has intense heat, the remaining part of the year from October to May is very mild, with highs in the 60s and 70s, and lows that don’t hit below the 40s. If you don’t mind a little rain and some intensely hot summers, the mild Houston winters might be a great trade off for you. 

A crowd of young adults is gathered for the Free Press Summer Fest concert in Houston. There is a stage with the skyline off to the side.

Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, TX
Source: Ernesto Becerra via Greater Houston Partnership

Pro: Amazing Entertainment Scene

Another one of the major pros of living in Houston is that there’s always something fun to do. Because the city is so diverse, it means there’s a variety of activities that appeal to all kinds of people. You’ll find fun Texas activities like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and cultural attractions like the Theater District with options like the Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts, Bayou Music Center, and the Houston Grand Opera. The kids will especially love the Houston Zoo and the Children’s Museum Houston

Catch live music and other community activities like yoga and Zumba in one of Houston’s many parks, such as Hermann Park, Sam Houston Park, and Eleanor Tinsley Park along Buffalo Bayou. And you’ll easily find events to explore Houston’s variety of cultures, like the Black History Month Culture Fest, the Indian Film Festival, and the Houston Latin Fest

Con: Expensive Healthcare 

Although Houston is home to the world’s largest medical center (the Texas Medical Center), healthcare can still be very expensive. Compared to state and national averages of government expenditures for healthcare, facilities in Houston come up short. This means that you may be required to pay more out of pocket for services, or find that they are not covered at all under government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Insurance policies vary, of course, so this might not apply to everyone.

Pro: Proximity to Other Major Texas Cities

While there’s lots to do and see in Houston, it’s nice to know you have options when it comes to day trips or extended weekends in a new city. One of the most popular places for folks to visit, especially in the hot summers, is the coastal city of Galveston, which is only about an hour away. You can be on the Gulf shores in no time and enjoy a change of scenery at the beach.

Additionally, Houston is close to Austin (3 hours), San Antonio (4 hours), and even Dallas (4 hours). That means you can visit any of these fun cities (as well as check out smaller towns along the way) in just a few hours and explore what they have to offer. 

Con: Not Very Walkable

One of the major cons of a city the size of Houston is that it isn’t very walkable outside of the central business district and the city center of downtown. Different Houston neighborhoods and suburbs themselves are very walkable, with green spaces to enjoy, but it’s hard to walk anywhere in between. Because the city was set up to accommodate drivers and cars, there are lots of well-designed interstates that connect the various parts of the city, but it’s just not feasible to walk. There are buses and a rail system, but residents find that their routes are limited. If you’re moving to Houston from a very walkable city like New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago, this may take some getting used to — especially the traffic congestion that comes with all the cars. 

Pro: Great Areas To Call Home

Houston has a lot of vibrant neighborhoods and safe suburbs to call home. No matter what you’re looking for, Houston is bound to have an area you can call home. If you want a safe suburb that has a slower pace of life and lots to offer retirees, you can’t go wrong with DeCordova or Hollywood Park, both ranked by Niche as some of the best places to retire in Houston

If you want to settle down and raise a family, or if you’re moving to Houston with the kids in tow, you want to definitely check out all the amenities that places like The Woodlands and Cinco Ranch offer — whether it’s A+ schools, outdoor activities, or fun places to explore on the weekends. 

Moving to Houston for a job and want to be at the heart of all the action? Young professionals have been flocking to neighborhoods like Fourth Ward, Museum Park, and Neartown-Montrose, where they’re close to coffee shops, parks, and some fantastic bars and restaurants.

Con: More Expensive Utilities

Keep in mind when you move into a new place in Houston, you’ll not only have to worry about your rent or mortgage but utilities, as well. Houston is also known as the Air Conditioner Capital of the U.S. (no joke!), which means Houstonians spend a lot of money cooling down their homes in the summer. You’ll need to make sure you budget appropriately for this, as keeping your space cool in the summer is important. High electricity bills are easy to rack up — especially if you’re heating a large home.

Houston Texans Wide Receiver Noah Brown in mid-air making a catch between two Cleveland Browns players.

Houston Texans Football 
Source: Thomas Shea via USA Sports Today

Pro: Awesome Sports Scene

If you’re a sports fan, or coming from a sports-centric city, chances are you want to root for your new hometown’s teams. In Houston, you’re in luck, because you have a lot of choices when it comes to sports:

You’ll find it’s easy to start following any of these professional sports teams, but don’t forget about the college teams like Rice University and the University of Houston, with lower ticket prices and even more sports to watch!

Con: Lack of Affordable Housing

While the cost of homes in Houston is lower than the national average at around $262,600, there are recent trends in the real estate market that make it harder to find affordable housing. It’s still considered a seller’s market in Texas, with high interest rates and a high demand for homes. And this high demand can make it more difficult to find affordable housing, especially if there are buyers that are willing to outbid you. Affordable housing can be found, you just may have to wait longer for something you can afford to come on the market.

Pro: Great Foodie Scene

Residents of Houston rave about the food scene, and it really is one of the best in the country. Because there are so many different cultures that call Houston home, you can find new restaurants popping up all the time. You’ll not only find Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Indian restaurants all around you, but they’re also incredibly affordable. But don’t forget about Texas BBQ, as Houston is home to some of the best around. Whether you want to find a hole in the wall restaurant, a food truck, or a five-star, sit down restaurant, you can expect that the quality of food will always be top notch. Our favorites include:

Students walk through the campus of University of Houston on a bright summer day

University of Houston 
Source: Michael Stravato via The Texas Tribune

Con: Expensive Private Education

There are a lot of private schools you can choose to send your kids to, but it’s important to note that they can be expensive. The tuition costs will vary depending on what suburb or neighborhood the school is in, but if this is something you’re interested in, be prepared for a high bill. 

There are also lots of places of higher education in the city, with higher tuition rates, including private schools like Rice University, Houston Christian University, and the University of St. Thomas.

Pros and Cons of University of Houston

Instead of going to a private school, you could always attend the public University of Houston. Some of the pros of going to this school include its highly ranked education program, research centers, and city campus. Its cons are that parking can be difficult, classes tend to fill up fast, and some neighborhoods around campus are prone to flooding.

There are a lot of pros and cons of living in Houston, but in the end, you need to do what’s right for your situation. Houston certainly has a lot going for it, like warm weather, lots of cultural cuisine, and a thriving job market. And while there are disadvantages to living in any city, Houston’s pros outweigh the cons, especially if you’re looking to find an affordable place to live where there’s always something fun to do. 

When you’re ready, use PODS to move to Houston. Pack up your storage container on your schedule, and PODS will deliver it to your new Houston home. And the best part? One month of storage is always free. 

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.
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