• Texas is a magnet for California residents, with the Lone Star State attracting more than 82K move-ins in one year.
  • Homes in Texas are 59% less expensive compared to California, while also providing 14% more space.
  • Among the 25 most popular relocation routes, Santa Clara to Dallas features the biggest list price gap. Santa Clara median home prices are 72% higher than in Dallas County.
  • The Santa Clara County to Collin County move is the most lucrative, space-wise: a typical home in Collin County is 1,000 square feet bigger than a home in Santa Clara County.

Elon Musk is well on his way to being the first human on Mars, but he’s far from being a pioneer when it comes to moving to Texas. His recent move to the state is just one among the almost 190 daily moves from California to Texas that occurred from 2010 to 2019. The California to Texas moving trend has been holding up for over a decade, with almost 690,000 Californians relocating to Texas since 2010, according to our analysis of US Census data.

This continued migration trend is largely supported by the more affordable housing market and robust employment sector, with the lack of income tax also working in Texas’s favor. The job market in Texas is strong and getting stronger, with many of the nation’s top companies moving or relocating to the area. Among the most notable corporate relocations, Oracle moved its headquarters to Austin last year and Apple is setting up its second-largest campus here, while Tesla is building a new Gigafactory in the area. CRBE and Charles Schwab recently moved their headquarters from California to the Dallas area, while Hewlett Packard is building a state-of-the-art campus near Houston to serve as its new headquarters.

Switching California Dreaming for a place where “Everything is Bigger”: Top Texas Destinations for Californians

Texas has been flying high on outbound Californians’ preferences for a few years now, with California to Texas being one of the busiest interstate relocation routes in the US, only challenged by the New York to Florida moving corridor. But where in Texas do Californians land? And what do they get from the move in terms of housing?

In the last decade, 610K Californians left the state per year on average. 2019 was no exception, with roughly 650K people leaving the state and Texas standing out as the primary relocation destination for those moving out (82K).


To identify the 25 most popular routes for people leaving California for Texas we’ve looked into the latest county-to-county migration data from the US Census (2019). Additionally, we’ve explored housing stats to find out how America’s two most populous states compare in terms of home prices and the living space they offer. As it turns out, all major migration routes result in gains for Californians in terms of both home prices and square footage.

Los Angeles County is the originating point for about a third of the most popular moving routes to Texas

Out of the top 25 most popular California to Texas routes, the top seven originate in Los Angeles County, making it the “main supplier” of new Texans. Angelenos’ favorite destinations in Texas are Harris, Dallas, Travis, Collin, Tarrant, Bexar and Denton counties, in that order. Los Angeles County to Williamson County also lands in the 23rd position among the most popular CA to TX relocation moving routes.

Leaving Los Angeles County, California, for Harris County, Texasthe most popular route from California to Texas – results in more bang for the buck for those relocating. A typical home in Harris County, which is anchored by Houston, is 57% cheaper than in LA County, resulting in a list price gap of $482K. Moreover, living space is also on the larger side in Harris County, with homes offering more than 580 square feet in extra living space compared to LA County. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is lower in Harris County – 7.4% vs. over 10% in LA County, whereas the average annual pay is higher in Harris compared to LA County (almost $75,000 vs. $73,000).

Among the eight previously mentioned routes from LA County to Texas, the most advantageous from a financial standpoint is Los Angeles County to Bexar County. Homes in Bexar County, with San Antonio serving as its county seat, are 64% cheaper compared to LA County.

San Diego County residents are favoring Tarrant and Bexar counties when relocating to Texas

San Diego County emerges as the 2nd most common starting point of outbound moves headed to Texas. Many of those leaving the county are eyeing Tarrant and Bexar, but Dallas, Harris and El Paso also score high for attracting San Diegans.

Tarrant County, whose county seat is Fort Worth, features homes with median prices 53% lower than in San Diego. Space-wise, newcomers enjoy an extra 570 square feet of living space in Tarrant County. The unemployment rate is slightly lower in Tarrant County, by 0.7%, but the average annual pay, at around $61K, is about $11K lower compared to San Diego County.

San Diego County to El Paso County comes with the highest home price difference among these routes – 68%, or $500K.

Orange County heads four of the top 25 most popular California to Texas moving routes

Residents of Orange County in California who are moving to Texas prefer Collin, Tarrant, Denton, and Dallas counties. Homes in Collin County are 44% cheaper than in Orange County and 54% bigger (2,692 sq. ft. vs. 1,752 sq. ft.).

The unemployment rate in Collin County, at 5.1%, is also lower than that in Orange County, by 1.3%. In addition, Collin County trumps Orange County in terms of wages – the average annual salary in the former is almost $74,000, over $2,000 higher than the average annual pay in the latter.

The best route out of Orange County for those looking for lower home prices is to Tarrant – a move that might give them access to homes that are 61% less expensive and more spacious. Homes in Tarrant offer 380 square feet of extra space – the size of a very generous master bedroom – for those moving in from Orange County.

Moving from Silicon Valley to Silicon Hills comes with home price differences of ~$770K

Santa Clara County, which represents a good portion of Silicon Valley, is the starting point of three of the 25 most popular California to Texas routes. Santa Clara to Travis County (in other words, switching Silicon Valley for Austin, aka Silicon Hills) has the highest influx of moving population among those three – reaffirming Austin’s appeal as a tech hub.

Besides the giants Apple and Facebook, which have been calling Austin home for a while now, 2020 alone saw about 35 tech companies, including Oracle, moving to Austin. Texas’s tech and fintech scene is poised for further growth, potentially stimulating even more migration from Silicon Valley.

Besides access to good jobs that can generally rival what Silicon Valley offers, Santa Clara County residents relocating to Travis County enjoy median home prices that are nearly 60% lower, while homes are larger by 550 square feet. And, if unemployment is currently low in Santa Clara County, at 5.1%, it’s even lower in Travis County, at 4.7%. However, when it comes to wages, Santa Clara County significantly outperforms Travis County, with an average annual pay of more than double: $162K vs. $77K.

The second busiest route from Santa Clara County leads to Dallas County – and results in a median home price difference of over $930K, with movers also getting about 260 square feet of extra living space.

Alameda, Riverside and San Francisco counties are each the starting point of a moving route in the top 25 most popular ones from California to Texas

People leaving Alameda County for Texas are mainly attracted to Dallas County – a move that sets them up for homes that are 62% less expensive and also almost 330 square feet larger. The unemployment rate is similar in both counties – around 6.5% – but the average annual pay in Dallas County, at $75,000, is about $13,000 lower compared to Alameda County.

Riverside County residents prefer Harris County and its county seat Houston as their Texas destinations. The relocation brings not only savings in terms of housing costs, but also the opportunity for higher wages. The price difference between a median home in Riverside County and one in Harris County stands at almost $180K – and there’s also a space gain of 300 square feet. If unemployment rates in those two counties are pretty close, at 7.9% and 7.4% in Riverside and Harris, respectively, the wage gap is large. The average annual pay in Harris County, at almost $75,000, is almost $24,000 higher compared to Riverside.

San Francisco County to Travis County closes out the top 25 most popular moving routes from California to Texas, a relocation that entails access to homes that are generally 58% less expensive. Also, these newcomers are gaining about 800 square feet of extra living space. The average annual pay in Travis County, at $77K, on the other hand, is only about half of the equivalent figure in San Francisco County.

California has many aces up its sleeve, from great employment prospects and amazing natural landscapes to the laidback vibe of its cities – and that’s what has been attracting people from across the US – and the world for that matter – for ages. However, this same popularity has turned it into an overly competitive market that’s now sending people to other states. Texas is one of California’s biggest rivals in terms of both employment and quality of life. And Texas seems to be winning some extra points lately as it’s giving Californians more bang for the buck. Based on our research of the latest migration patterns in the 25 most common CA to TX relocation routes, residents swapping a place in California for another in Texas get more home space for less money. California is still ahead of Texas in terms of median pay – $79,480  vs. $62,872 – but several locations in Texas pay better than California. For example, the median wage in Travis County – a location that’s preferred by many former Angelenos – is higher than in Los Angeles County ($77,141 vs. $72,937).

What the experts say

To get an idea about why Californians might be moving to Texas, we asked academics who are experts on the latest trends.

Grigoris ArgerosGrigoris Argeros, Associate Professor of Sociology, Eastern Michigan University, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology

What’s the main migration driver sending people from California to Texas?

In brief, it’s not that easy to precisely pinpoint the reasons individuals/groups migrate – some migration patterns are easier to identify than others.

Based on my knowledge, a key factor is that the current analyses point to the housing market as an important, but not the only driver, of migration patterns from California to Texas. What I mean by that is that housing is cheaper in Texas than in California.

At the same time, however, it is still unclear, especially during the covid pandemic and its aftermath, as to how long this trend will continue, i.e., the high migration from CA to TX and housing market affordability in Texas compared to California.

William Fulton, Director at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice UniversityWilliam Fulton, Director at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University

What’s the main migration driver sending people from California to Texas?

I think there’s no question that the main driver is housing prices in California. When housing prices in California go up, so does migration to Texas. When housing prices in California go down, migration to Texas goes down as well.

Read more....
How does this CA to TX migration trend affect the housing market?

The Californians represent a relatively small portion of Texas population increase, so their impact on most housing markets is not great. In a few places, clearly they are driving prices up. In Austin, for example, a significant number of wealthy tech folks from California are driving prices up — even though, on a per-capita basis, Austin is building more housing than any other city in the nation.

Job Hammond, Adjunct Professor of Real Estate & Finance, Austin Community CollegeJob Hammond, Adjunct Professor of Real Estate & Finance, Austin Community College

What’s the main migration driver sending people from California to Texas?

Texas has grown the most in population of any state over the past decade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dallas grew 20%, Houston increased 20.3%, and Austin spiked 34% in MSA population growth. People are moving to Texas because of employment, lower cost of living, and to escape state income taxes. Texas has a 0% state income tax rate whereas California has a top income tax rate of 13.3% and even tried but failed in legislation to raise it to 16.8%. Many organizations are considering moving either their headquarters or divisions to Texas to take advantage of lower taxes, a higher quality of living, and lower housing prices for their workforce.

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How does this CA to TX migration trend affect the housing market?

The most significant weakness in the housing market is the lack of inventory for both resale and new home construction. We have a national housing shortage of 6.8 million houses, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. The new home builders are not building fast enough to meet demand. From the resale home standpoint, not enough people are offering up their homes for sale. Texas has strong demand with a relatively low supply of houses. Due to the demand, the cost of houses has continued to rise. Low interest rates, strong employment, and positive economic factors will promote Texas as a top pick for those considering relocation.

Christie Batson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Nevada, Las VegasChristie Batson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

What’s the main migration driver sending people from California to Texas?

State-to-state migration considers push and pull factors. What pushes those out and what pulls people in? A variety of things are pushing people out of California, most notably an increase in cost of living, affordable housing shortages, and liberal state politics that include high taxes and regulations. Other push factors that receive less attention, but notable nonetheless, include climate related events (i.e. increases in wildfires, flooding, etc.) and the movement of tech industries outside of California. We have seen Apple, Tesla, Nestle, and Oracle all leave California for Texas destinations. Austin has established itself as a Texas tech island, pulling businesses and their employees from California. The California movers get a city culture comparable to San Francisco without the exorbitant rents, metropolitan overcrowding, and intense reliability on public transportation.

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In a trend that has been taking place since the early twenty-first century, California is experiencing a disparity in its migration patterns. Those moving to California tend to have higher levels of education, higher incomes, and arrive with employment compared to those leaving, who tend to be less educated, have lower levels of income, and less likely to be employed than those arriving. More than half of those leaving report they left for jobs while a quarter report leaving for better housing. (Public Policy Institute of California).

Why Texas? Texas is an attractive destination state because it has multiple metropolitan regions that can support new industry, room for urban sprawl that allows for new affordable housing, and a tax structure that encourages business and personal relocation. Some might move to Texas for it’s more conservative politics, but it’s likely a combination of cost of living, housing, and family that draws people from California to Texas.

Michael Storper, Distinguished Professor of Regional and International Development in Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public AffairsMichael Storper, Distinguished Professor of Regional and International Development in Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

What’s the main migration driver sending people from California to Texas?

What the numbers show is that the people moving from California to Texas have somewhat lower wages and incomes than people moving from Texas to California. There is a slightly higher flow from California to Texas than Texas to California. This suggests that people are moving from California to Texas in search of lower cost of living, or — as we would put it academically — a different tradeoff between the cost of living (lower) and wages (slightly lower) in Texas as compared to California. Those who move from Texas to California, on the other hand, are probably attracted into California by the kinds of very high level/high skill/high wage job opportunities in California, especially in the Bay Area, which remains the world’s undisputed technology capital. However, Texas is adding to its high-wage job base, and therefore over time is offering more of the kinds of jobs that California has had to offer.

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Another group of people, those with less than college education, will be moving to Texas mostly because of a much lower cost of living, due to the huge differences in housing costs for middle-class people. Texas has more land to build on than California and this makes its housing cheaper.

Austin is probably a special case in Texas, because it is the most ‘California-like’ place in Texas, with a big university, high quality of life, liberal politics, and good jobs, and it’s still cheaper than California, but its living costs are rising rapidly.

How does this CA to TX migration trend affect the housing market?

The housing markets in Texas will probably continue to be dynamic, because around Houston, Dallas, and Austin there’s still a lot of buildable land, unlike California, where we are built out and up against mountain ranges, that limit low density spread. Texas has a lot of low density spread that is continuing. Texas, however, especially around Houston, has real challenges from expansion due to climate change.

Methodology

This analysis was done by STORAGECafé, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.

For this research, we analyzed California to Texas 2019 moving data provided by the US Census and identified the top 25 most popular county-to-county moving routes based on the number of people moving.

The median home prices and median square footages of homes in the Californian and Texan counties analyzed were taken from the Point2Homes active listings.

Unemployment data for June 2021 and the average annual pay for 2020 were taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We calculated the median price difference between homes in Californian counties and homes in Texan counties.

We also calculated the median square footage difference between homes in Texas and homes in California.

The percentage price difference represents by how much the home prices in Texas are smaller than those in California.

The percentage square footage difference represents by how much homes in Texas are bigger than those in California.

The unemployment difference represents the unemployment rate in Texan counties minus the unemployment rate in Californian counties.

The annual pay difference represents the average annual pay in Texan counties minus the average annual pay in Californian counties.

Fair Use and Distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

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Maria Gatea is a creative writer for StorageCafe and RentCafe with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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