People still leaving California for Texas despite COVID-19 surge

Andy Uhler Jun 26, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Demonstrators call for the reopening of Texas at the state Capitol in April. Politics is one reason some Californians relocate to Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images

People still leaving California for Texas despite COVID-19 surge

Andy Uhler Jun 26, 2020
Demonstrators call for the reopening of Texas at the state Capitol in April. Politics is one reason some Californians relocate to Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images
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Marie Bailey grew up in Orange County, California, and moved to Dallas a little more than three years ago.

“We moved because of cost of living,” Bailey said. The home she and her husband owned in Orange County was fine but not what she had always pictured.

“I wanted a dream house, you know? It didn’t have to be a mansion, but we worked so hard. I worked, he worked, and I was like, ‘What are we working so hard for?’ ”

After Bailey moved to Texas, she got her real estate license and found her niche relocating people from the Golden State. 

She said lots of folks are reconsidering where they’d like to live, particularly as they continue to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“That right there is really pushing people to move,” she said.

Bailey moderates an 18,000-member Facebook group called “Move to Texas From California!

As cases of coronavirus spike in both states, she said, nobody in the group she’s communicated with has expressed regrets over having left California for Texas or their plans to do so soon. She said her business of helping people make the move is thriving now more than ever.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas is home to five of the 10 fastest-growing cities in the country.

More than 86,000 people moved to the state from California in 2018, according to the property management firm Yardi Systems.

Kevin Snow is a member of Bailey’s Facebook group. He and his wife, Debbie, moved from Cypress, near Los Angeles, to just outside of Waco, Texas, three years ago.

They chose Waco because they were romanced by that HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” where the hosts, Chip and Joanna Gaines, rehab homes in their hometown.

“[Debbie] got hooked on that and we started watching it, and next thing she’s like, ‘Well, what do you think about driving up to Waco to do an exploratory trip?’ And we did and fell in love with this area,” Snow said.

The Snows are retired and figured they could get more for their money if they left California. 

According to MIT, last year housing costs in California were nearly 60% higher than in Texas. And residents of Texas spend about 5% less on everything else than their counterparts on the West Coast. 

“We sold our house in Orange County, and we bought three in Texas,” Snow said.

One to live in, two to flip.

But the move has had its challenges. Debbie Snow has a 32-year-old son, Cameron, with cerebral palsy, who moved with them. He’s blind and can’t speak or walk. 

“One of the first things we did on our first visit was we went to the social services department and started asking a bunch of questions,” Snow said. “And they’re like, oh yeah, we have everything he’s used to that he got in California, you can get here so just come on down. That was a big, fat lie.”

Texas is a low-tax state, but it is also a low-spending state, which means the social safety net is limited.

Snow said it took more than a year to get everything in place for Cameron. 

“I think if we would have known what we were going to run into, we would have thought twice for sure,” he said.

The Texas social safety net is likely to get even smaller as the pandemic continues to hammer the state budget.

Despite the surge in cases over the past few weeks, Andy Stevens of Riverside, California, doesn’t have any doubts about moving with his wife and two sons to the much cheaper Weatherford, Texas — just outside of Dallas-Fort Worth — in early July. He said there’s nothing he can do about the virus, so he’s full steam ahead with the move.

Stevens said politics played a big role in his family’s decision to leave California. He and his wife, Michelle, consider themselves conservatives.

“We were definitely feeling like the odd man out here in California,” he said. “And my wife’s a teacher, so she was seeing it at work as well as in our home life. We didn’t feel at home here any longer.”

His only concession to the dramatically worsening pandemic is to consider alternate driving routes for the family’s move to avoid virus hot spots along the way.

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