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This Texas City Is Beating Austin and Dallas As a Hotspot for Movers

Anna Lagos and her husband moved to New Braunfels, Texas, in 2021.
Courtesy of Anna Lagos

  • Texas has become a popular destination for those relocating within the US.
  • Smaller cities like New Braunfels are attracting movers, compared to Austin and Dallas.
  • New residents and locals told Business Insider how the city was winning people over.

Anna Lagos, 38, moved to Texas from California in 2014 with her husband and two children, joining her parents and most of her siblings who had already relocated to the state.

Lagos, a realtor, said she believed Texas would offer her family a better chance at realizing the homeownership component of the often expensive American dream.

“The opportunities were much greater for us in Texas than they were in California,” Lagos told Business Insider. “We always wanted to own a home. It was pretty evident that we’d have to work for many years before we’d be able to purchase one in California.”

During the early years after their move, Lagos and her husband lived in San Antonio and Austin. But in 2021, driven by a desire for greater affordability and to be even closer to her parents, who had already established themselves in New Braunfels, the couple moved to the small city in Central Texas.

The Lagos family.
Courtesy of Anna Lagos

Lagos, who bought a 2,700-square-foot home in New Braunfels for $325,000, said she fell in love with its “small-town” charm.

“I wouldn’t say that it is a small town anymore, but somehow it still manages to retain the feeling of a small town,” she said, adding it was one of those places “you won’t find anywhere else.”

Over the past few years, hundreds of thousands of people have moved to the Lone Star state, drawn by its affordable housing, political environment, and abundant job opportunities. According to Census Bureau data, Texas welcomed 670,000 new residents between 2021 and 2022, ranking second to Florida.

While big cities such as Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio have traditionally been real-estate hot spots, recent Census estimates from 2020 to mid-2022 suggest that smaller places, such as New Braunfels and Katy, have experienced significant population growth, while their larger counterparts have seen minimal growth — or in some cases, population declines. It’s a trend that may persist as Americans continue to reassess notions of affordability and community.

BI interviewed homebuyers and real-estate agents to explore the factors contributing to New Braunfels’ rising popularity. Residents said its rich German heritage, tight-knit community, rapidly expanding business sector, and affordable real-estate market made it an ideal place to raise a family and settle down.

One of the fastest-growing cities in America

New Braunfels has emerged as one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. Census data shows that its population has surged by more than 15% since 2020. As of July 2022, the city’s population has reached 104,707.

Its growth is as remarkable as its origin story: evolving from a humble settlement founded by a German prince to a thriving and rapidly expanding city.

In 1844, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, a German prince and military officer, was appointed the commissioner of the Adelsverein, a group of aristocrats united with the singular aim of creating a “new Germany” on Texan soil.

Although New Germany was never realized, the colony succeeded, and to this day, New Braunfels retains much of its German heritage.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

The city, which is home to the famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark, hosts the annual Wurstfest celebration — a 10-day German cultural festival dedicated to sausages and Oktoberfest. Drawing hundreds of thousands of attendees from around the world, it has become an internationally famous event.

The city’s economy and job sector are booming

New Braunfels’ economy is growing rapidly alongside its population. A 2023 report from the New Braunfels Economic Development Foundation showed the city’s gross regional product — a measure of an area’s economy — reached $2.8 billion in 2021, nearly double the amount from a decade earlier.

The EDC also reported that since 2003, the city had created 16,434 new jobs. In 2022, New Braunfels welcomed a $110 million automotive-manufacturing plant by Continental, a tech company serving major car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, and Porsche, which is set to create more than 500 new jobs. Additionally, the business-outsourcing company TaskUs increased its operations in the city, adding 750 new positions.

“When I was growing up here, you worked at the mill, or you worked for local government, and there were ancillary jobs to those, but there weren’t many opportunities for employment,” Mayor Neal Linnartz told the San Antonio Express-News in July. “Nowadays, there are so many opportunities that when kids get out of school, they don’t have to leave New Braunfels to find good employment. We have good jobs here.”

According to the Texas Economic Development Corporation, key industries in New Braunfels encompass financial services, information technology, aerospace, and aviation, as well as military and tourism.

The homes are attractive to homebuyers

The software and data company Payscale says the cost of living in New Braunfels is 15% below the national average.

Easton Smith, the founder of the Emerald Haus Group with Keller Williams, moved from Oxnard, California, to New Braunfels in 2016. He told BI the area’s affordability was really what was winning people over.

“What I can speak of, on behalf of our clients and ourselves, is that the affordability here is greater,” he said. “What you’ll find is people want to come here and spend less and have more freedom.”

Regan Bender/Shutterstock

Take Janelle Crossan, a 44-year-old single mother who moved to New Braunfels in 2020 for a fresh start with her son.

Having faced financial challenges as a divorcée in Costa Mesa, California, she sought an affordable place to buy a home and a stable environment for her family. After moving to the city, she purchased her first home for $240,000.

“I paid $1,750 for rent in a crappy little apartment in California,” Crossan told BI’s Erin Snodgrass earlier this year. “Now, three years later, my whole payment, including mortgage and property taxes, is $1,800 a month for my three-bedroom house.”

The city is experiencing growing pains

Crossan told BI she’d been amazed by New Braunfels’ growth since moving there in 2020 but believed the expansion had strained the local infrastructure.

“We have construction everywhere,” she said. “I really can’t complain because I’m one of the people who are helping the area grow bigger, but there’s so much traffic.”

Donna Cowey, a real-estate broker with Keller Williams who moved to New Braunfels 32 years ago, told BI the city’s growth was pushing some locals out.

“At the time I moved here, the town had a population of 19,000,” Cowey said. “The dynamics have changed now that we have at least 100,000 people in the surrounding area. We get people that are moving here because it’s a small town, and we also have people moving away because it’s gotten too big.”

Lagos, who now runs a Facebook group for newcomers moving to New Braunfels, said there had been some tension between locals and transplants.

“A lot of people, especially those that grew up here, feel like all the people coming in have ruined the small town that they were used to and have driven up prices,” she said. “A lot of them are priced out of their homes right now, unfortunately.”

Janelle Crossan and her son moved from Costa Mesa, California, to New Braunfels in November 2020.
Courtesy of Janelle Crossan

Despite the tension, Crossan said she remained optimistic about New Braunfels, emphasizing that it was a safe and ideal place to live.

“It still has, I hate to say, but the American dream, in a timeframe when people feel like they can’t afford to buy houses and don’t have the same privileges of older generations,” she said. “This is an affordable, fun, cute, nice place to raise kids. I didn’t think that still existed anymore.”

Correction: January 1, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misspelled Donna Cowey’s name.

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