They say everything is bigger in Texas, but that doesn’t mean that your cost of living has to be. Texas has been in a real estate boom in recent years with such a high demand for housing in some areas that renting is the only option.
Whether you’re planning on purchasing a home eventually or plan on being a life-long renter, here are some things to consider when calculating the cost of rent and living in Texas.
Consider the Area
As with any state, some areas will be significantly more expensive than others. Dallas has been in high demand in recent years, and the economy is starting to reflect that. It’s also a driving city, rather than one where people regularly take public transit. These subtle differences ultimately impact where your money goes.
For example, both Houston and Dallas have similar average rent costs. However, the cost of living in Houston is 2% lower than the national average, whereas Dallas is 2% higher. Within that, the average cost of utilities in Houston is 11% higher than the national average, and the cost of groceries is 13% lower. Meanwhile, Progresso is 33% below the national average and more affordable across the board.
Choose an area that fits both your budgeting and employment needs, so that you can justify the cost of renting in Texas.
Compare the Energy Options
One of the best things about renting in Texas is that it’s a deregulated state. That means that there’s a competitive market for energy providers, driving costs down for the consumer. In regulated states, the cost of utilities tends to be significantly higher as the energy industry becomes monopolized.
Depending on the city or town you choose in Texas, you’ll have different options for energy providers. For example, you can find cheap electricity in Laredo, TX based on usage thresholds– the more economical your usage, the better your rate will be.
Take time to evaluate your current usage and determine what program would work for you. If you know you’ll be relocating to either a smaller or larger rental than you’re in currently, make an estimate based on those changes. You can also ask your landlord for guidance regarding previous tenants’ usage to make an informed decision.
Know the Tax System
One of the perks of living in Texas is that there is no state income tax collection. No income tax means that more of your hard-earned money stays in your pocket.
There is, however, sales tax, ranging from approximately six to eight percent, depending on the product. Property tax in non-income taxed states tend to be higher, and Texas is no exception. While the higher property tax won’t be an obvious concern as a renter (many landlords will work this cost into your rent), it’s especially important to consider if you plan on buying eventually.
Know Your Rights
In Texas, there are laws and regulations put in place to protect the interests of renters and landlords. Knowing your rights and responsibilities ahead of time will help you avoid trouble down the road. For example, while a landlord can set an arbitrary number for a security deposit, they have to give clear reasons why they refuse to give it back. If they fail to do so, they may have to pay for your legal fees and a fine that’s triple the worth of the original deposit.
Another right to be aware of is that by law, there are specific security features that must be included and operational in your rental. Some of these features include deadbolts and view holes, as well as security bars for sliding glass doors. Fire alarms must be functional, but the renter is responsible for replacing batteries.
As a renter, you also have a right to ensure that the locks have been changed since the last tenant left. In Texas lease agreements, you and your landlord are both required to provide a month’s notice before moving out (or being asked to leave). If you fail to pay your rent, you have a right to three days notice before your eviction date.
You can break your lease if you are an active member of the military and get reassigned or deployed. Also, if you are the victim of a sexual assault or if your landlord denies your rights to privacy, health, and safety.
Texas is a great place to call home, with a vast, diverse landscape worth exploring. Do your due diligence to determine which part of the Lonestar state is right for you.