Cost of Living in Houston: A Guide for Homebuyers

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If you’re considering moving to Houston, knowing how Houston’s cost of living compares to where you currently live will give you a better handle on whether relocating is the right decision.

This guide will cover Houston’s living costs, from housing to food and healthcare. We’ll provide data from a local-centric cost of living index and comparison tools and look at how Houston ranks for livability compared to other U.S. cities.

We’ll also share a handy set of online resources to measure and compare the cost of living and expenses in other Texas cities.

Yes, You Can Buy Before You Sell. Why Move Twice?

Through our Buy Before You Sell program, HomeLight can help you unlock a portion of your equity upfront to put toward your next home. You can then make a strong offer on your next home with no home sale contingency.

What makes up the ‘cost of living’ in Houston?

When you’re planning to live in a new city, the cost of living there will be a combination of expenses required to maintain your desired lifestyle. Cambridge Dictionary defines cost of living as “the amount of money people need to spend to buy basic goods or services such as food, clothes, and a place to live.”

This overall cost can vary significantly based on location, even within Texas. But the living expenses you’ll pay for typically include the following categories:

  • Housing (mortgage/rent)
  • Energy (utility costs)
  • Food (groceries)
  • Transportation (vehicle or transit systems)
  • Healthcare (doctors, hospitals, dentists, etc.)

However, the costs often extend beyond these basics to cover other expenses, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Education
  • Childcare
  • Entertainment

These elements, when combined, establish the core costs associated with a particular way of living. However, your living standard is primarily influenced by your income and debts and how the dollar amounts compare to the costs of basic needs in your location or, in this case, the Houston community where you might want to live.

Let’s take a quick look at some ways you can compare your current living cost with what you might experience if you move to Houston.

What’s a Houston cost of living index (CLI)?

A cost of living index (CLI) monitors how these basic expenses shift over time in different states, cities, or regions. They provide a way to compare the price of maintaining a particular standard of living.

The CLI for a city like Houston is calculated by assessing the price of essential goods and services in different areas, such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.

A local index is typically standardized, with a base city assigned a baseline index value (usually set at 100). Other cities are then compared against this benchmark. For example, a Texas community with a CLI of 125 would signify that living there is 25% more expensive than the base location, while an index of 75 indicates it’s 25% less expensive.

A cost of living index will typically break down and score each basic expense by category. Here are separate scores for Houston from the AreaVibes Houston Cost of Living Index:

  • Overall CLI score: 101
  • Housing: 105
  • Healthcare: 94
  • Transportation: 90
  • Misc. goods and services: 101
  • Grocery items: 100
  • Utilities: 103

Data source used: C2ER Council for Economic and Social Research

According to AreaVibes, Houston is 1% higher than the national average cost of living among the U.S. cities or urban areas they analyzed (as of January 2024).

Cost perspective

While Houston’s overall cost of living is 9 percent higher than the Texas average, essential items such as groceries, goods and services, health care, and utilities are priced at a level consistent with similar urban areas.

Additional cost of living data for Houston

Now, let’s look at some real-world dollar amounts collected by various cost-of-living sources. Here’s more of what you can expect if you move to Houston.

Expatistan, a cost-of-living data site, provides these monthly cost estimates for Houston:

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: $5,859
  • Single-person estimated monthly costs: $3,603

Best Places lists these housing estimates on their Houston cost of living pages:

Houston housing data

Number of homes 990,632
Median home age 41 years
Median home cost $247,900
Home appreciation rate (last 12 months) 13.4%
Home appreciation rate (last 5 years) 36.8%
Home appreciation rate (last 10 years) 94.0%
Property tax rate (per $1,000 of value) $17.11
Property taxes paid (average home) $3,434
Homes owned 37.7%
Housing vacant 11.3%
Homes rented 51.1%


Houston tax rates

  • State individual income tax rate: 0.0%*
  • State sales tax rate: 6.25%
  • Houston sales tax rate: 1.0%
  • Effective property tax rate (percentage of home value): 1.12%

*Texas does not collect a personal income tax.

How does Houston rank for livability?

Along with the cost of living, you might be curious how Houston ranks as far as livability or quality of life. According to the AARP Livability Index of top communities in the U.S., Houston has an above-average quality of life score of 50.

For their livability index, AARP separates cities into four size categories: Very Large, Large, Midsize, and Small. Houston falls in the “Very Large” city category.

The index then provides an overall score between 0-100 (higher is better), based on rankings from seven categories:

  • Overall Livability Score: 50
  • Housing (affordability and access): 65
  • Neighborhood (proximity and security): 60
  • Transportation (safety and convenience): 55
  • Environment (clean air and water): 37
  • Health (prevention, access, and quality): 52
  • Engagement (civic and social involvement): 42
  • Opportunity (inclusion and possibilities): 39

For perspective, the highest-ranked city scores in each category were:

  • Very Large: San Francisco, 66
  • Large: Madison, Wisconsin, 67
  • Mid-size: Portland Main, 68
  • Small: Aspen, Colorado, 73

No city earned a perfect score of 100. You can learn more about this livability index on AARP’s methodology page.

Check your current city’s livability score

AARP provides a Livability Index Search Page that scores communities and even neighborhoods across the country for services and amenities that impact your life. You can check your current city score or others where you would like to live near Houston. The livability index Community Finder tool allows you to filter by location, community size, livability measures, and other features, such as state and local plans to create age-friendly communities.

Additional cost of living indexes

Here are some cost of living index links to research additional Texas living expenses:

  • Statista: Provides free access to many basic statistics. Paid subscriptions are available for more detailed information about Texas communities.
  • ACCRA (C2ER): Maintained by the Council for Community and Economic Research. This is a paid service that maintains one of the largest databases of cost-of-living metrics for Houston and other Texas cities.
  • World Population Review CLI page: This website provides a free search-by-state tool at the bottom of its Cost of Living Index page.
  • Numbeo: This crowd-sourced CLI promotes itself as “the world’s largest database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide.” This service can show you user-provided insights such as the cost of an inexpensive restaurant in Houston or the perceived presence of crime in different parts of Texas. It’s free for personal use.

Why are people moving to (or from) Texas?

According to the United Van Lines 47th Annual Movers Study that tracks migrations within the United States, here are why people are moving into Texas or away to other states.

Primary reasons people are moving

Inbound Reason for the move  Outbound
7.50% Retirement 11.70%
2.50% Health 5.10%
26.60% Family 27.20%
6.50% Lifestyle 9.90%
38.80% Job 31.20%
3.80% Cost 1.50%

Total inbound: 52.7%

Total outbound: 47.3%

How Much Is Your Home Worth Now?

Home values have rapidly increased in recent years. How much is your current home worth now? Get a ballpark estimate from HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator.

Budgeting for your move to Houston

Below is a collection of handy online tools to help estimate your moving costs and living expenses in Houston — from how much you’ll need to pay a mover to how much your current home might sell for and the proceeds you can expect.

1. Online move cost estimators

With today’s smart technology, you can find a wide variety of tools to help you estimate the cost of paying for a mover or how to find a trusted mover for your relocation to Houston. Some examples include:

2. Cost of living calculators

Cost of living calculators are different from cost of living indexes. These tools, typically free, provide a comparison based on income and regional costs for housing, transportation, food, healthcare, and other necessities in the two locations you select.

For example, if you live in Denver, you can view a side-by-side cost comparison with Houston expenses — or other nearby Texas cities. Some popular cost-of-living calculators include:

3. Living wage and budget calculators

  • Living Wage Calculator: Designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this calculator can help you estimate the local wage rate that you’ll need as a full-time Houston worker in order to cover the costs of your family’s basic living expenses.
  • Family Budget Calculator: This tool, provided by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), estimates the income your family will need to attain a modest — yet adequate — standard of living in your new Houston community. Choose from 10 family types.

4. Homebuyer calculators

  • Home Affordability Calculator: Understand the costs associated with buying a home in Houston and find out how much home you can afford before you start shopping or planning a move.
  • Down Payment Calculator: Estimate how much you might need to put down on a home in Houston and learn more about the loan options that work best for you.
  • Closing Costs Calculator: Find out how much cash you’ll need for closing costs on a Houston house, including estimated lender and third-party fees.

5. Home seller calculators

  • Home Value Estimator: Get a preliminary estimate of what your current home is worth, along with options to help you get the best price when you’re ready to sell.
  • Best Time to Sell Calculator: Use this calculator that incorporates nationwide real estate transaction data to help time your move.
  • Agent Commissions Calculator: Learn how much you might pay in real estate agent commissions when selling a house in your current market.
  • Net Proceeds Calculator: Get a ballpark idea of the net proceeds you could earn from the sale of your existing home.

Selling your current home and buying in Houston

To make your move smoother and less stressful, modern real estate solution companies like HomeLight have created innovative programs to help you buy a house before you sell your old one.

Watch the short video below to learn about HomeLight’s Buy Before You Sell program that lets you move into your new Houston home now and sell your current house with peace of mind and on your timeline.

Partner with a professional to find your new Houston home

As you plan your move, HomeLight can connect you with a top-performing, trusted real estate agent in your current city or the Houston community where you’d like to live. We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

For the best of both worlds — coming and going — ask your agent about HomeLight’s Buy Before You Sell program to help take the uncertainty out of your Houston home purchase.

Header Image Source: (Rome Wilkerson / Unsplash)