Welcome to Waco! The Lone Star State is the 2nd largest state in the country, so making a move to Texas opens up a wide world of possibilities. If you’re looking for a place with a small-town vibe that has access to big city living, then Waco, Texas, is the perfect new home for you. Located in central Texas, half-way between Dallas and Austin, Waco is one of the great State of Texas’ hidden gems. Most people don’t realize that Waco is home to landmarks like the Hawaiian Falls Water Park and the Grand Lodge of Texas, one of the largest Freemasonry Grand Lodges in the world.
Also based in Waco is Baylor University, a private Christian university, and one of the oldest continuously operating universities in Texas. And let’s not forget that Waco is the home of Magnolia Market, a two-block shopping complex in downtown Waco owned and operated by Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame. If shopping isn’t your thing, then check out the breweries and vineyards that call Waco home. From the arts to theaters and nightclubs to sports bars, Waco is sure to have something to pique your interest. Welcome home!
Living in Waco, TX: What to Know Before Moving to Waco
Welcome to Waco! Once referred to as the Florida of Texas, Waco has gained popularity with tourists, as well as those looking to make a permanent move. With a population of 271,942, it seems as though the secret of this Texas gem has gotten out.
Pros and Cons of Living in Waco
Before making a permanent move, it’s always best to weigh the pros and cons of your new location. Here are a few of each for your review:
- Low cost of living
- College-town amenities
- Numerous parks and recreation sites
- Historic sites
- Friendly, welcoming town
- Unpredictable weather
- Higher than average crime rate compared to other Texas cities
- Inflated real estate and property taxes
- Summer heat and humidity
- Educational attainment low for a college town
The tax rates in Waco, Texas, can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Let’s get the low points out of the way first. When you buy your new Waco home, you’ll pay 1.721% in property taxes. This rate is slightly higher than the Texas state average of 1.19%. When It comes to sales tax, it gets a bit pricey. The sales tax rate is 8.3%, a combined total of state, county, and city sales tax rates. The Waco sales tax rate is 2% higher than the average state sales tax, which is 6.25%.
Now for the good news! You won’t be forking over any additional taxes from your new Waco paycheck. Texas is one of seven states in the nation that doesn’t charge individual income tax.
If you’re looking to buy a home, then Waco is the perfect place to be. The median home cost in is $122,400, over $100,000 lower than the average U.S. home cost of $226,800. And once you’re ready to sell and upgrade, you’re very likely to make a profit on your purchase. Over the last ten years, the average home appreciation has increased by 14.32%, and in the last 12 months, it has increased by 13.8%.
If you aren’t quite ready to buy and want to rent while you get used to your new hometown, rental prices are going to run you around $623 for a 1-bedroom and $820 for a 2-bedroom apartment. Renting is an affordable option if you aren’t yet sure where you want to settle down.
Cost of Living
Living in Waco, Texas, is going to cost you less than living in other parts of the country —20.5% lower than the nation’s average. The median household income in Waco is $32,864, which is significantly lower than the nation’s median household income of $53,482. The unemployment rate in Waco is right in line with the US average of 3.6%. The Economic Policy Institute reports that childcare will run you approximately $911 per month, food will be approximately $653 per month, and housing will be around $836 per month.
Weather and Natural Disasters
If it’s warm weather and zero snow you’re looking for, Waco is the place for you. Waco’s climate is considered humid subtropical. The average rainfall is 36 inches per year, but you’ll enjoy an average of 230 sunny days each year, 25 days more than the national average of 205.
Thankfully, air conditioning is a staple in Waco homes, because you’ll need it for the hot, muggy summers. Average July temperatures can run around 95 degrees. In the winter you can call all your friends who live in the northeast and gloat that you’re enjoying above freezing temps with zero chance of snow — while they’re shoveling and slip sliding away.
Waco is susceptible to tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and significant hailstorms. These extreme weather events mean you’ll want to keep your insurance up to date and make sure your home has storm shutters. Tornado watches and warnings help residents stay prepared. Keep a battery-operated radio on hand so you can stay in touch when storms are imminent.
Economy and Job Market
Thanks to its location between two of the largest cities in Texas, Austin and Dallas, Waco has become a hot spot for tourists and business owners. In fact, with its below average unemployment rate and location to numerous amenities, Waco’s future job growth is expected to jump to 38.3% in the next ten years, which is above the national average of 33.5%.
It’s no surprise that the top industry in Waco is education, given the fact that Baylor University sits in the heart of the city. Healthcare is a close second when it comes to top industries. The top employer is the Waco Independent School District, followed by Baylor University. Other top options for job seekers are Providence Healthcare Network, Hillcrest Health Systems, and Walmart.
When looking for a new job in a new town, it’s important to do your homework. Research your chosen field to find places that are a fit for you. Search engines like indeed.com and monster.com are great resources for finding what’s out there in the job world. Be sure you come armed with a professional and thorough resume that highlights why you’re the best person for the job. Remember, the first impression a would-be employer has of you comes from your resume.
Traffic and Transportation
There are a few public transportation options in and around the city. Waco Transit offers free transportation to Waco Independent School District Students. Another option is the Silo District Trolley. The Trolley provides free rides and loops around downtown Waco, running every 15-20 minutes Monday — Saturday from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm.
With a walk score of 34, according to walkscore.com, Waco is considered a car-dependent town. Since you’re likely going to be driving to most places, you should learn your way around Waco’s major highways. The major north-south highway is Interstate 35. Interstate 35 is Waco’s connection to Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. Running northwest to southeast is Texas Highway 6, which connects Waco to Bryan/College Station and Houston.
What to Do in Waco
As a medium-sized town nestled between larger ones, Waco can certainly hold its own when it comes to attractions and things to do.
What better way to cool off on a hot Texas summer day than at a water park? The Hawaiian Falls Waterparks are a chain of parks in and around Waco full of water and fun for all those who need to cool off. Another option is a visit to the Grand Lodge of Texas museum and library, the largest Freemasonry Grand Lodge in the world. And let’s not forget Magnolia Market. A shopping mecca that takes up two city blocks in downtown Waco, the market has become a major tourist attraction thanks to the popularity of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines. Magnolia Market has specialty shops, food trucks, and event space set in repurposed grain silos.
The Cameron Park Zoo is another top Waco destination. This 52-acre zoo is home to an impressive array of animals which include Galapagos tortoises, elephants, giraffes, and even lions. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, check out the adjacent Cameron Park. This urban park features 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails and vantage points which offer spectacular views of the Brazos River. You can also go kayaking, hit the links on the disc golf course, reel in bass fish, or enjoy a good old-fashioned picnic.
Schools and Universities
Most of the city of Waco is served by the Waco Independent School District which received a rating of 2 out of 10 from greatschools.org. Some portions of the city are within the boundaries of the Midway Independent School District (rated 9/10) and Bosqueville Independent School District (rated 7/10). Waco has three large public high schools: Waco High School, University High School, and Midway High School. As you can imagine, there are some great rivalries among the three schools, given their proximity to each other. According to usnews.com, Waco High School has an 82% graduation rate with a 14:1 student-teacher ratio.
High school graduates have several options if they want to stay close to home for college. Baylor University is a private Christian university in Waco. Baylor is one of the oldest continuously operating universities in Texas, and one of the first educational institutions west of the Mississippi. If a large university isn’t the right fit, Waco is also home to McLennan Community College (MCC). Opened in 1965, MCC has approximately 9,000 students and sits on 200 acres of land near the Bosque River and Cameron Park. Another option is Texas State Technical College. With ten campuses throughout Texas, this two-year technical state college’s mission is to place more Texans in high-demand jobs and help fill the skill gap in the state.
Crime rates in Waco are 49% higher than the national average, according to areavibes.com. However, the number of year by year crimes has decreased by 4%. Based on a scale of 1-100, where 1 is a low crime rate, Waco’s violent crime rate is 29.3, just above the US average of 22.7. The property crime rate is higher as well, at 54.1, where the US average is 35.4.
Now that you have your new house and job lined up, it’s time to set up your utilities.
- Electricity — Texas is a deregulated electricity market. To set up your electricity, you should contact either Oncor Electric Delivery (800-242-9113) or Heart of Texas Electric Cooperative Inc. (254-840-2871), depending on your location.
- Gas – Atmos Energy supplies natural gas. To set up your new account call (800) 621-1867.
- Water – the City of Waco supplies water and wastewater service. To set up your account, call (254) 299-2489.
- Trash — Waco’s solid waste service provides trash pick-up for both residential and commercial customers. For pick-up information, call (254) 299-2612.
Best Neighborhoods in Waco, TX
As you’re searching for a place to call home, look at the information we’ve gathered to help you find the perfect fit for you and your family. Some of these suggested areas are within Waco city, and some are small towns outside of Waco.
The suburb of Woodway is home to over 8,000 residents. Located 4 ½ miles southwest of central Waco, it’ll only take you 10 minutes to drive into the heart of the city to run your errands. Woodway is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods around Waco and is attractive to both retirees and young professionals.
The median home value in Woodway is $246,100, and it looks like now is a great time to buy. Home appreciation has increased by 17.4% over the last 12 months. Although over 90% of Woodway residents own their own homes, rentals are available at a median price of $1,129 per month.
Highly rated Midway Independent School District serves Woodway. The district operates 11 schools which provide public education for 7,803 students.
You’ll find Woodway is a very safe community. Property crime is 60% lower than the average in Texas, and 57% lower than the nation’s average. Violent crime is 64% lower than the Texas average and 59% lower than the nation’s average.
Just off of Bosque Blvd and nestled on 15 acres is the Carleen Bright Arboretum. Named for a long-time Mayor of Woodway, the arboretum has six acres of gardens, an amphitheater, a small chapel, and a rental facility. Anyone planning a wedding?
About 5 miles south of Waco, Hewitt is bordered on its southeast side by Hwy 35, making a drive into downtown Waco a direct shot. Hewitt’s population of 14,253 enjoys a cost of living 8% lower than the national average. Homes are affordable at a median home value of $142,900. Condos, apartments, and townhouses rent at a median price of $1,047 per month.
Served by the highly-rated Midway Independent School District, Hewitt’s high school graduation rate is 89%. In 2018, Hewitt was named one of Texas’ safest cities by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. According to neighborhoodscout.com, Hewitt is safer than 53% of the country’s cities, and areavibes.com assigns an A+ crime rating for Hewitt.
Dallas is 100 miles to the north, so it’s common for Hewitt residents to head north for a big weekend of shopping or enjoy a game at AT&T Stadium. Locally, you can take in events and music and the Creekside Amphitheater.
A few miles south of Hewitt, Lorena is one of the less populated communities around Waco, with just 1,818 residents. Although the median home value is $139,500, only 27% of Lorena residents own their homes. The 72.8% who rent, pay a median rent price of $921.
The Lorena Independent School District serves children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. Niche.com gives the school district an A rating.
Crime in Lorena is 11% lower than the country’s average. With 100 being a high crime rating, Lorena rates 14.6 for violent crime and 27.5 for property crime.
Known for its laid-back and easy-going lifestyle, tiny Lorena doesn’t have many amenities. However, residents can head north 18 minutes to Waco to explore the Cameron Park Zoo, Heritage Square, and the Dr. Pepper Museum. They can also drive 22 minutes south to Temple, where they can explore the Czech Heritage Museum, Smith Art Gallery, and even take in a symphony at the Temple Civic Theater. Folks come from all around to enjoy Christmas in the Country, Lorena’s yearly festival organized by the Lorena Community Action League.
Settled back in the 1850s, Robinson has grown to 11,453 residents. Made up of mostly families and young professionals, Robinson has a median household income of $71,215 and median home value of $182,000. Some 79% of residents rent their homes and pay a median rent price of $1,116 per month. However, if you’re considering buying a home, now’s a great time. Home appreciation is up 8.4% over the last 12 months, and the cost of living is 9.10% lower than the US average.
Robinson is about 6 ½ miles southeast of central Waco. It takes about 15 minutes to make the drive if you’ll be commuting to work in downtown. Robinson Independent School District serves the area’s students. The five schools in the district receive average ratings. In addition to excellent public schools, parents will be happy to know that neighborhoodscout.com considers Robinson safer than 51% of US cities.
Robinson residents enjoy special events like the fall Robinson Festival that features music, food trucks, and even goat roping. Other events focus on the arts and local history. Like many Waco communities, Robinson is close to many parks that are perfect for staying active and enjoying the sunny Texas weather.
If you’re looking for a close-knit small town, check out McGregor. 17 ½ miles southwest of Waco, many of its 5,056 residents describe McGregor as a family, rather than a neighborhood. About 40.7% of McGregor’s residents own their own homes. The median home value is $98,400. 59.3% of residents rent and pay a median rent of $651 per month.
Rich in history, McGregor is the home of the former Bluebonnet Ordnance Plant, which made munitions during World War II. McGregor is also home to the Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast, made famous thanks to renovations made by Chip and Joanna Gaines.
The McGregor Independent School District provides education from pre-K to 12th grade and receives average ratings from greatschool.org. You’ll appreciate McGregor’s low crime rate that’s 69% lower than the national average.
Five city parks feature pit volleyball, fishing, jogging, strolling, horseshoes, picnic zones, and fun. When it starts to sizzle in the summer, head on down to the Amsler Park Aquatic Center, a mecca for folks who want to get some exercise or have some fun while they cool off.
Despite its name, West is 20 miles north of Waco along Hwy 35. Another area with a historical past, West was named after the town’s first postmaster, T.M. West, who developed the area in the mid-1850s.
Both renting and buying a home in West are affordable choices. The median home value is $128,500. Housing has seen an 11.4% increase in the past year, and homes are predicted to increase by 8.3% in the coming year. The cost of living is 18.5 points lower than the nation’s index. 33.4% of West’s residents rent and pay a median rent price for a 2-bedroom apartment of $760.
The population of 2,838 residents is largely of Czech descent, and West is known for the largest concentration of Czech Texans in the Lone Star State. These folks know how to bake so you’ll enjoy the products they create and sell at some amazing bakeries, like the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery.
West Independent School District serves the town and receives above average ratings from greatschools.org. West is yet another safe Waco area community with an overall crime rate 26% lower than the national average.
The town hosts Westfest each year, a festival celebrating the town’s Czech population and its rich heritage. You can expect some tasty food, entertainment, and activities everyone in the family can enjoy.
Another small community that’s attractive to new residents is Clifton. With a population of 3,442 Cliftonites, the town is 35 ½ miles north and a 40-minute drive from Waco. Although a bit far from Waco, Clifton can be a worthy home if you’re into culture and the arts. The town has been designated twice as one of the top 100 small art communities in the country.
With 70% home ownership, Clifton’s median home value is $84,700. The median rent is very affordable at $577 per month. The cost of living in this artsy town is 19% less than the US average.
Clifton Independent School District serves 966 students, grades Pre-K to 12. The student-teacher ratio is 12:1, and niche.com gives the school district an A rating.
Total crime is 56% lower than the Texas average, and Clifton receives an A+ for crime from areavibes.com.
In 2011, the city was designated a Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts. For a town its size, Clifton is considered a prolific visual and performing arts center. In 1997, the Texas legislature officially designated Clifton The Norwegian Capital of Texas. Each year the city features the Norwegian Country Christmas Tour, with craft demonstrations, tours of historic buildings and homes, food, and music.
Living in Texas means you’ll need to find ways to cool off during the dog days of summer. Clifton is home to Bosque County’s only public swimming pool, Olsen Pool. Open from June to August, the pool offers activities like water aerobics, party rentals, and swim lessons.
At almost 40 miles and a 56-minute drive east from Waco, Groesbeck is at the junction of state highways 14 and 164. With a population of 4,317, Groesbeck has a small-town vibe, so it’s no surprise that both past and present residents describe the town as a friendly and welcoming place.
The median home value in Groesbeck is $76,600, and 70% of residents own their homes. The median rent price is $634 per month, 33% lower than the US average. The unemployment rate is 5%, a bit higher than the US average. Whether you choose to buy or rent, Groesbeck is an affordable place to live with a cost of living 19% less than the US average.
Only 74% of high school students graduate, but test scores are 16% higher than the US average. The ratings for Groesbeck Independent School District are below average.
Areavibes.com gives Groesbeck a B- for crime. Property and violent crime combined are 4% lower than Texas in general.
As a residential community, Groesbeck doesn’t have loads of amenities, but outdoor lovers will enjoy exploring nearby Fort Parker State Park. With three hike and bike trails, Fort Parker is the perfect place to get outside and enjoy Texas’ sunny skies. You can also explore the Fort Parker Nature Center, which is open every weekend. Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboat and then camp out under the stars. After all, they’re “big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!”
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