The top 15 under-the-radar cities to live in Texas (2023)

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The housing market heats up, the housing market cools — this is the natural order of things. But one thing that stays consistent, no matter how quickly homes are being bought and sold, is that everybody wants a deal. 

This is especially true in a state like Texas, which boasts some of America’s most popular cities to live in. And since not everyone looking to buy a house in Texas can afford a mansion in Dallas or a bungalow in Austin, we decided it was time to update our ranking of the best under-the-radar cities in the Lone Star State. 

Heading into 2023, Orchard analyzed a list of Texas’ biggest cities and came up with a list of 15 places where the quality of life is high, the home prices are relatively low, and the market for homebuying isn't as competitive as in other parts of the state — giving homebuyers more options and leverage. This ranking features the most recently available Census data and market statistics as of writing. 

Top takeaways from the data 

  • Amarillo takes the top spot: The #1 city in Texas according to our rankings is Amarillo — which, with low home prices and good quality of life, is a true under-the-radar gem.
  • Our top cities have shifted: Last year’s top-five cities — Edinburg, Mission, Laredo, Pearland, and College Station — have all been replaced by newcomers, though four of those five still appear near the top of our list this year. 
  • West Texas shines: Under-the-radar cities in Texas are all over the map, but some of the best-ranked cities are located along Texas’ western flank, including Lubbock, Midland, and Odessa, mainly thanks to low home prices. 
  • Border cities provide excellent value: Contrary to many of the popular fears about border towns, some of Texas’ best cities in terms of home value and quality of life are just across the border from Mexico. 

The 15 top under-the-radar cities in Texas

best under the radar cities in Texas infographic

1. Amarillo

The city of Amarillo leaps into the top spot in our rankings thanks to a low median home sale price ($242,350), a low price per square foot of $137, above-average schools, and less competition than in the metro areas surrounding Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. It may be time to consider the charms of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” 

2. Longview

Longview has the second-highest DOM (“days on market,” which is shorthand for the number of days a property has been listed for sale) of all the cities on our list, and with low home prices and quality schools, folks who are looking to live just a day trip away from both Dallas and Sabine National Forest should consider home shopping here. 

3. Pearland

Just south of Houston proper, Pearland rises one spot from last year’s rankings. Though Pearland has a lower DOM than Houston, you’ll get more bang for your buck with $155 per square foot. You may want to consider a remote job, though: Pearland residents report a commute of over 30 minutes, one of the highest on our list. 

→ Check out home listings in the Houston area

4. McAllen

The first of many border cities in our rankings, McAllen rose from #8 to #4 in this year’s list. Low prices, excellent schools, and above-average internet infrastructure help McAllen stand out among its neighbors. 

5. Lubbock

Rounding out the top five, Lubbock is much more than the birthplace of Buddy Holly. The median home price is $249,445, commutes are easy and relatively short, and the population has a healthy employment rate. Nearby Texas Tech University contributes to the city’s cultural and educational milieu. 

6. Midland

One of two cities on our list along I-20 on the way out of Texas, Midland is a highly employed, highly connected, and low competition place to buy a home. Its biggest knock is the dearth of higher quality schools. 

7. Odessa

Odessa clocks in at 7th on our list. With even lower median home prices and price per square foot than nearby Midland, Odessa may be best suited for folks not looking to send children to school nearby, as school rating ranks near the bottom here.

8. Brownsville

Border city Brownsville is undoubtedly buoyed by a very high median DOM (114 days, far and away the highest on our list), but low home prices and above average schools also helped vault it into the top-10. 

9. Beaumont

A short drive from Houston, Beaumont makes the list thanks to having the lowest price per square foot of all 50 cities at $122. Internet access is high, but school ratings are on the low side. 

10. Mission

Rounding out the top-10, Mission is another border city with low prices, quality schools, and easy commutes. This city is seeing a lot of the same economic development that nearby McAllen is experiencing. 

11. Pharr

Pharr continues the run of Hidalgo County cities in our list with low prices and quality schools, albeit with slightly fewer employment opportunities than higher-ranking cities nearby. 

12. El Paso

The largest city on this list, El Paso sits right on the border of New Mexico (not to mention Mexico) and boasts a median home sale price of just $249,750. El Paso is often recognized as one of America’s safest cities, with lots of civic engagement among its residents. 

13. Edinburg

Our final Hidalgo County city, Edinburg drops from the top-spot in last year’s list but still makes the top-15 thanks to a price per square foot of just $144 and an above-average school rating. 

14. League City

Just outside Houston proper, League City makes the top-15 despite long commute times and average employment rates due to above-average scores in every other category. 

15. Laredo

The final city on our list, Laredo’s median home sale price of $238,675 and above-average schools make it an intriguing border city option. 

The full rankings

Here are the under-the-radar scores for all 50 Texas cities that we measured. You’ll notice that Texas cities with higher home prices and more home buying competition, and/or lower quality schools and less employment opportunities rank near the bottom. 

The top-15 under-the-radar cities in Texas (2021 rankings)

1. Edinburg

2. Mission

3. Laredo

4. Pearland

5. College Station

6. Conroe

7. New Braunfels

8. McAllen

9. Brownsville

10. El Paso

11. Sugar Land

12. Longview

13. League City

14. Wichita Falls

15. Corpus Christi

The bottom line

Thanks to rising interest rates and a decline in buying power, the housing market in Texas isn’t as red-hot as it was in 2021 and the first half of 2022. That being said, as we live through a constantly shifting market in a post-pandemic world, it’s important to know the best cities to buy a home to live comfortably while still getting great value. These under-the-radar cities in Texas are perfect for that. 

Methodology

To find cities that fit the description of under-the-radar, we created a proprietary score that combines a variety of home sale data and quality-of-life factors. We then applied these metrics to Texas’ 50 biggest cities by population. 

Here’s what we looked at and how much it accounted for: 

  • Median home price (20% of score): The lower the home price, the better the city’s score. Data for median home prices comes from May-October 2022 home sale data, via Realtor.com. 
  • Median price per square foot (20% of score): The lower the price per square foot, the better the city’s score. Data for median price per square foot comes from May-October 2022 home sale data, via Realtor.com. 
  • Average days on market (10% of score): The higher the DOM, the better the city’s score. Data for average days on market comes from May-October home sale data, via Realtor.com. 
  • Public school rating (20% of score): School ranking data comes from ATTOM, and is from July 2022.
  • Employment rate (20% of score): Employment rate is percent of population of civilian labor force over 16 years old, via U.S. Census data (American Community Survey) released in September 2022. 
  • Commute time (5% of score): Commute time is time in minutes spent commuting, self-reported via U.S. Census data (American Community Survey) released in September 2022. 
  • Internet access (5% of score): Internet access is the percent of the population with an internet subscription, reported via U.S. Census data (American Community Survey) released in September 2022.

Orchard is a real estate brokerage that helps simplify the process of buying and selling homes. We operate in major markets throughout Texas (and around the country).

Dennis Lin and Winnie Ng contributed to data collection and analysis for this report. 

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