I think the question I get asked most frequently has nothing to do with real estate. Well, at least not on the surface. So for those of you who wonder why would someone who lived in Austin, TX — arguably one of the best cities to live in the country for lots of reasons — move to the southern most tip of Texas and start over in Mission, TX, I thought today was a good day to try to answer that question.
I moved to Austin in 1990. It’s a wonderful city and I still love it. Lots of great restaurants, parks, golf courses, shopping, and of course the music. I had a nice house in a wonderful neighborhood with lots of friends and connections. I was also self-employed, first as a business / customer service consultant and then as a Real Estate Consultant. I was happily selling real estate when the housing bubble burst in late 2008. Most of you remember that. Not only did real estate prices crater, but the stock market took a nose dive.
The downside of being self-employed is that I didn’t have one of those handy pension plan things. All my retirement funds were/are in investments. While I didn’t really panic — after all, retirement still seemed centuries away — it did make me start looking at my future plans a bit more carefully than I had in the past.
With Austin being as popular as it was/is, the cost of living is also relatively high for a Texas city. Housing prices never really took as much of a downturn as they did in the rest of the country. Property taxes are high and with housing prices strong, those tax bills get higher every year. As I started figuring in earnest I came to the conclusion that I would never be able to afford to retire in Austin and live the way I wanted to live.
About the same time I saw an advertisement where a builder was looking for a sales representative in Mission TX to sell new homes in a 55+ community. At the time, I’d never heard of Mission, but since I was exploring options I decided to check it out. Time to do some research.
Since being able to consider retiring at some point was my motivating factor, I started with looking at the cost of living. According to Sperling’s Best Places, the cost of living in Mission is 25% less than it is in Austin. And housing cost is 58% less! Good news was I could afford a nice house. Bad news — I’d have to sell more to make the same money. Good news — didn’t have to make as much money. 🙂
Next I looked at crime rates. Looking at the map told me Mission was right on the border with Mexico and we’ve all heard those news reports. I was really surprised to find that violent crime rates for Mission are actually less than both Austin and the United States overall. Property crime rates are lower than Austin and just slightly higher than the US average. Since I always felt safe in Austin, I was pretty comfortable with this.
Having grown up in North Dakota and live in the south for over 20 years, weather was important. One of my criteria was that I wanted to live someplace I could wear sandals all year round if I chose to. That was easy to check off. Warmer year round than Austin, but with less humidity so I could deal with that.
So now it was time to come for a visit. I came down to Mission and interviewed in early January. The weather was beautiful. Flowers were blooming and things were a lot greener than in Austin. And there were palm trees! Everyone I met was really friendly. I was a little surprised that so many people didn’t seem to speak much English, but they really tried to communicate and we made things work. Being here in January, one of the things that made me feel immediately at ease was the number of North Dakota license plates I saw on vehicles. Other people who grew up in similar conditions to me were spending time here. That was a good sign.
A bonus is I found out I’m only an hour and a half from the beach. So I can go for the weekend, the day or even just for dinner. Close enough to visit, far enough away not to worry about hurricanes.
So, to bring a long story to a close, I was offered the job and took it. Fell in love with the community and people here. Met a guy from Indiana, we fell in love, built a house, got married and went back to selling real estate independently. Turns out I still prefer being self-employed…
Do I miss Austin? Yes, mostly I miss my friends. I lived there for longer than I’ve lived anywhere to date so I have lots of ties there. But I can still visit. And we can fly most anywhere in the US from a small airport with one plane change — even our families in North Dakota and Indiana.
Is retirement on the horizon? Not even close. But that’s okay. I love living here in the Rio Grande Valley and helping others find their perfect place here, whether it’s a full time home, a winter home or a spot to park the RV for a few months.