Located on the banks of the Rio Grande and segmented by the Franklin Mountains, El Paso, Texas, stands out for its immersive nature, storied history, unique architecture, the arts, and, of course, delicious food. As a border town, El Paso is known to its almost 842,000 locals as “The Pass,” and as “Sun City” to everyone else. Whatever you call it, this friendly city sees 300+ days of sunshine each year.
According to the Vision Next: 25 by 2025, El Paso is on a mission to develop a vibrant regional economy and safe, beautiful neighborhoods with exceptional recreation, while promoting cultural and educational opportunities. And these efforts are gaining notice. FBI data ranks El Paso among the safest cities in America, and U.S. News ranks it 130 on the list of 150 best metro areas to live, the 31st best place to retire in the U.S., and the 8th best place to live in the state of Texas.
At home in El Paso, you can take in the KLAQ International Balloonfest over Memorial Day Weekend or the Fiesta De las Flores in June, and enjoy spending time in the Franklin Mountains State Park, the largest urban park in the nation.
While you certainly aren’t alone in your desire to lay roots by buying a house in El Paso, you want to make sure you have all your great-tailed grackles in a row before you do. There are always challenges when it comes to buying a house, so we talked to top agent Priscilla Terrazas with Moreno Real Estate Group to help find out everything you need to know to successfully and happily buy a house in El Paso.
The first thing she shared will have you searching for homes in no time: “The people in El Paso are very friendly so anywhere you go, you will be welcomed. We have great weather and you will love the climate!” Sounds great, right?! And that’s just the beginning of what The Pass has to offer.
According to the Greater El Paso Association of Realtors®, the average estimated value and listing price of homes sold in the area have been well-aligned in recent years. Better still, average sale prices have consistently been just under asking price (around $188,000, or $108 per square foot) and selling in around 28 days, just a few days longer than the national average of 25 days.
We created this guide to give you the lay of the land and help you navigate potential pitfalls, so you’re as ready as you can be to buy a house in El Paso.
Know your budget
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homeownership in El Paso has historically been inexpensive, likely because the cost of living is 11% below the national average — meaning, very affordable. The majority of homes on the market in February 2020 sold for between $150,000 and $249,000. Whether you’re looking to buy a house in an upscale neighborhood or a more scenic neighborhood, knowing your budget should be your first priority.
Determine how much house you can afford by considering your average monthly income, your projected expenses, and your current debt (including student loans, credit cards, car payments, among others). These numbers will help immensely as you start the process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage.
There are also additional expenses to consider, including taxes, home insurance, home maintenance, and inspection costs.
Fortunately, Texas residents don’t pay a state income tax, but El Paso residents consistently pay some of the highest property tax rates. At above 2%, this is considerably higher than the national average of 1.1%.
You should also factor in the cost of home insurance when you create your budget. The average homeowners insurance rate in Texas in January 2021 is $2,589. As you might expect, rates in El Paso depend on the size, age, and location of the home. You should make sure to shop around for the best rates.
According to HUD, new homes are being built in El Paso, but the majority of that construction is concentrated in the eastern and central portions of the city. Elsewhere in the city, the median age of homes is around 37 years. While older homes can possess unique charm, they also can cause problems if buyers don’t allow room in their budgets for deferred maintenance (like the removal of asbestos), poorly done repairs, and the expensive replacement of materials that are no longer up to code (like updating plumbing fixtures and bringing electrical up to date).
It is dry and mostly clear year round in El Paso, but the summers are HOT and though the winters are short, they can get pretty cold. Throughout the year, temperatures swing from 34 to 97 degrees. On top of that, the area is known to experience drought and wind storms with gusts as high as 75 miles per hour. That said, you’ll want to ensure your potential home purchase has proper ventilation, a working HVAC unit, and a secure foundation. Issues like these and others can impact your insurance premiums and are important to uncover in a home inspection.
Terrazas advises anyone who wants to buy a house in El Paso to get a standard home inspection, and look at the roof and the electrical. It is also important to have a specialty contractor provide a true assessment of fixing any specific issues identified in the home inspection, because they can tell you if something really should be a deal-breaker or something that’s easier to remedy.
A good home inspection can save you money, and the best inspectors will take their time executing the inspection and encourage the client’s participation before providing a detailed inspection report with lots of pictures and graphics. Morgan Benson of ACE Inspectors advises looking for a qualified inspector with a lot of strong reviews who only does one home inspection per day.
In addition to a standard home inspection, don’t forget the termite inspection. El Paso has a lot of desert subterranean termites and they do what all termites do — damage. They can live anywhere moisture regularly collects inside the wall (ick!) and have acute survival instincts so you want to catch them early, or have them dealt with professionally.
Because of the age of homes, there are a lot of flat, non-sloping roofs in the El Paso market. Buildings with these types of roofs are more affected by extreme temperature changes, have less stability overall, and don’t drain as easily as pitched roofs. It is incredibly important these be thoroughly evaluated. If the roof is in great shape, though, it can be well utilized as an incredible outdoor space on a small lot.
Know the neighborhoods
El Paso is in an intentional growth mode, which means that the city is actively looking to expand its residential, recreational, and business offerings. This is good news for a buyer because it means a likely increase in home value and a strong return on investment. With 55 neighborhoods in the city, what you’re looking for — including amenities — will be one of the largest factors, outside of budget, influencing where you choose to buy your home.
Most people looking to buy a house in El Paso are making the decision based on proximity to good schools and their jobs. However, some regions of the city have distinct offerings.
Northwest El Paso
Northwest El Paso — locally known as West El Paso or the West Side — is to the west of the Franklin Mountains and home to some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city. It also has some of the most magnificent views. The 79911 and 79912 ZIP codes have better mountain views and homes ranging from $400,000 to $500,000. The 79922 and 79932 ZIP codes are more in the valley, and the homes around the Corindo Country Club and El Paso Country Club range from $500,000 to $1 million. Lots of high-paid professionals live in this area with their families.
Central El Paso
Central El Paso boasts some of the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods, along with numerous historic sights (mostly in the Sunset Heights district). The neighborhood has existed since the late 1890s and was designated a historic district in the 1980s. Because of this historical designation, you’ll find Tudor, Classic and Spanish Colonial Revival, and Queen Anne style homes. You’ll also find a lot of older homes that have not been well-maintained, but are ripe for remodel. Prices range from $180,000 up to nearly $800,000, depending on size and location. Fort Bliss, one of the Army’s largest military training complexes in America, is also located here. This area is popular with new couples and young families.
Downtown El Paso is lively and action-packed, perfect for young professionals just starting out and retirees ready to downsize. Check out the Saturday Artist & Farmers Market or visit the Downtown Shopping District, which boasts more than 300 stores. Downtown is also home to culinary gems like Mac’s Downtown and Taconeta. When scoping homes downtown, you’ll find a variety of options that range from uniquely converted industrial spaces to more common condo spaces. Prices range significantly in this area. You can find a two-bedroom, one-bath single-family home from $50,000 to $110,000. Large renovation-ready spaces, however, can range from $165,000 to $400,000.
The University of Texas at El Paso is located in West-Central El Paso. Here you will find the Kern Place neighborhood, which is full of unique homes built using local stone (like the Paul Luckett Home known locally as “The Castle” because of its round battle-ready walls and roof) and favored by university students. The area is known for a bustling nightlife, specialty restaurants (like Coco Loko), and sweet little coffee shops (like the Coffee Box). If you’re interested in the bar scene, make your way down Cincinnati Street. In addition to the epic patio bars Hope and Anchor and the Hoppy Monk, you won’t want to miss out on the spectacular annual Mardi Gras block party.
Northeast El Paso
Northeast El Paso is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the city, thanks to the abundance of military families living here because of proximity to William Beaumont Army Medical Center and Biggs Army Airfield. The area also boasts some really impressive athletic programs at the Andress, Parkland, Irvin and Chapin high schools. The Mountain View neighborhood has mostly single-family stucco and brick homes. It’s close to good schools, and homes range from $135,000 to $200,000.
Know when to buy
When you’re looking to buy a house in El Paso, it’s less about the time of year and more about having a stable job, good credit, and a steady income. You also want to be ready to make a strong offer.
Terrazas says to be competitive you should offer 1% to 2% more than asking price, and cover your own closing costs.
While this may seem scary, the wiggle room becomes evident when your inspection spells out necessary repairs, and the appraisal provides you the true value of the home.
Find the best buyer’s agent
When you are ready to start surveying the inventory in El Paso, make sure to connect with a real estate agent. Top buyer’s agents in El Paso help buy 1.8 times more homes than the average agent in the city and save buyers, on average, $20,788.
With all this El Paso buying info in your pocket, you’ll be walking on sunshine and settling into your new house in Sun City in no time.
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