Should we move to Galveston, TX?
January 6, 2011 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Should we move to Galveston, Texas? SO and I burned out on living in cold, expensive town in the Mountain West. We miss the Gulf and its beaches terribly and are attracted to Galveston's cheap cost of living and the fact that we could drive there in one very, very long day. But what's the job scene like? We have experience in construction, landscaping, administrative support and corporate research. Early 30s here. Is this a bad idea? A potentially good one?
posted by caveatz to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Every so often there is a devastating hurricane.
posted by Miko at 11:05 AM on January 6, 2011

The beaches around Galveston are, how you say, not good.

If I were moving to the Gulf Coast I'd look around the "redneck riviera" in NW Florida. Seaside and the like are really lovely communities.
posted by cyndigo at 11:17 AM on January 6, 2011

When I was living in Houston, about 10 years ago, Galveston was a pretty economically depressed area, so I don't know how easy it is to find a job there. It has beautiful little wooden houses, and the cost of living is low, but as Miko pointed out, they tend to get destroyed by hurricanes every few years. And the water is warm and shallow, but kind of murky and brown. The beaches are better known for drag racing than sunbathing. Great shrimp though! Also, the low cost of living makes it attractive for artists.

How did you choose Galveston? Have you visited it? What are the main things you are looking for?

If you are looking for a hot climate and low cost of living, you may want to consider Houston, which has a great many more job opportunities. I love Houston, Galveston, and Texas in generally, but I experienced a great deal of culture shock when I first moved there. I would definitely suggest visiting for an extended period before making that kind of move.
posted by abirae at 11:21 AM on January 6, 2011

I grew up in and around Galveston, left around ten years ago, but still have close family in the area.

I would look very closely at your job prospects in Galveston before moving. I don't think anyone really knows what Galveston's economic future holds. The biggest employer is the medical center (UTMB), which took a huge hit with Ike. Some say its days are numbered, though UTMB seems to be looking to build back up. As I was told earlier - its an island, only so far it can grow.

Consider somewhere up a little further north along the I-45 corridor, between Houston and Galveston. There is a large amount of construction landscaping and business development in that area as Houston continues to grow. Open fields when I was a kid are now being developed almost overnight. I know a few friends and family members who are looking at that area with increased interests. On the plus side, you're close to the beach, but in an economically developing area.

I've seen the Galveston transform from a hole to a somewhat nice vacation spot, miss it dearly, and always visit when I am in town. However, I can't, with a good conscience recommend that someone start a new life there. Please memail me if I can provide any more information.
posted by defenestrated at 11:23 AM on January 6, 2011

The economy in Texas has stayed going strong despite the downturn in the rest of the country. Texas' economy is driven by the oil & gas industry and the defense/aerospace industries... While there are some things you won't have to put up with in cold mountain towns that you will in the Galveston/Houston area (i.e. cockroaches the size of your thumb and hurricanes), they're not all that common.

The job scene is pretty good, but you might end up working in downtown Houston instead and the commute can kind of be hellacious. Don't try finding jobs in aerospace, that sucks... construction's all happening farther inland right now, but there's still a bit of renovation jobs for people who are good at tying old and new together.

I live inland (in College Station), but I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend in the Westchase area of Houston.
posted by SpecialK at 11:24 AM on January 6, 2011

I agree with defenestrated. Look a little further up I-45 at some of the little towns in the NASA/Clear Lake area. My brother lives in Seabrook, and has also lived in Kemah and Webster. You can find a place very near the lake or the gulf in one of these cities, but you'll be in a much more economically viable area than Galveston itself. Galveston is still in bad shape after Ike, and you'll seriously increase your chances of getting a job without a long commute if you're not all the way down there on the island.

And before you buy or rent, make SURE you find out from neighbors what happened to that particular place when Ike hit. My brother lost a house and a boat. Even though the house was up on stilts, the 9 foot storm surge still left him with six inches of water in the living area. His current house is just a regular ranch style place that's at ground level, but it, and the neighborhood surrounding it, didn't take any damage from Ike beyond a few lost trees.
posted by MsMolly at 11:46 AM on January 6, 2011

We lived in Houston about 10 years ago and still vacation in Galveston every once in awhile.

I think defenestrated is right on. Galveston is still really recovering from Ike, and UTMB, the major economic force on the island, is still a big question mark.

However, I don't think it would be unthinkable to live in Galveston and commute to work in parts of Houston. When I worked at UH (downtown campus) I had a colleague who did that. His wife worked at UTMB and they were able to buy an awesome Victorian home on the island for around $100k. So the 1 hour commute each way was worth it, but YMMV, obviously.
posted by pantarei70 at 1:15 PM on January 6, 2011

Hey, I grew up on Galveston and I can't say this sounds like a good idea. And I just did this myself last year. (I now live in Houston.)

When I moved back, I worked for FEMA helping displaced hurricane victims get resettled into their new reality. There are still a lot of them. And there are still a lot of people all over who left Galveston, never planning to come back. Estimates range from between 10-20,000 residents leaving the island after the storm. The major employer is a medical school which laid off 6,000ish employees as a result of the recession and the storm double-whammy. That's 6,000ish people who are ahead of you in line for a job there.

It is a small town, and it has more culture and amenities than it had when I was growing up. But it is still kind of out there away from civilization.

There are not a ton of young people there. The young population is pretty transient (med students) and very few people who grow up there stay. A friend's mother interrogated me when I came back wondering why the hell I was there. As she very rightly pointed out - Galveston has a habit of chewing up and spitting out smart, capable people.

Real estate on Galveston is another problem. For what you will pay to live on the island, you will be sacrificing a lot of quality. There will be a crack house, albeit a mostly quiet one, in your neighborhood. (And I say that with substantial certainty - since there's one in every neighborhood in Galveston. Drugs are a roaring trade in any resort town.) And if you go crazy and decide to buy one of the old Victorians in the East End (which is a significantly less romantic area now that all the 100 year old oak trees with all the Spanish moss died in the hurricane), you'll deal with the Galveston Historic Society, which will tell you everything from what color you can paint your house to whether you can install storm blinds (the answer is no).

And all this to live somewhere that is going to blow away sometime in our lifetime. Why? I mean - I absolutely understand the desire to live near the beach.

As others have noted, there are some ok suburban options nearby. That said, casarkos was in Clear Lake before they took her space shuttle remote control away and we both regularly and gleefully ran to Houston so that we'd have things to do and smart young people to spend time with (aka mefites) and stores to shop in that are not giant chains and restaurants to eat in that are not Landry's owned.

If quality of life and cost of living and general proximity to the ocean is your goal - I side with others who are saying Houston. You'll be 45 minutes from Galveston, your job options will be vastly better, and cost of living is almost identical.

If you come visit, please let us know. There are a number of us around here and we'd be happy to meet you and say hi and show you around Galveston or Houston or both.
posted by jph at 1:34 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, allow me to correct myself - UTMB's reduction in force was just under 4,000. My point still stands: those people are ahead of you.
posted by jph at 1:37 PM on January 6, 2011

Don't move to Galveston; almost the entire Tx Gulf Coast isn't what I'd call a draw. But Texas as a state has weathered the economic situation very well. I'd look for places around Houston/Austin/San Antonio instead. You can always day-trip it to the beach (I recommend S. Padre Island or Port Aransas).
posted by lychee at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2011

We live in Texas and really enjoy visiting the Galveston area, but Houston's crime rate and traffic congestion are among the worst in the country.
posted by davcoo at 3:43 PM on January 6, 2011

I'd look for places around Houston/Austin/San Antonio instead.

(If you're looking for low cost of living, don't come to Austin. San Antonio, maybe.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2011

Response by poster: thanks for all the help and informative details. we get that Houston has more jobs, but frankly we are kind of repulsed by the look of its metro housing. it seems that there are beautiful beach homes being rented for hundreds of dollars less than some poorly constructed ranch house in Houston or its suburbs. I know moving to a new place is always stressful but it helps with the stress to come back from a job at night to a humble home that you can be proud of.
posted by caveatz at 10:40 AM on January 7, 2011

Well, like people have said, the reason rent is so cheap right now is because no one can find jobs that allow them to live down there without an hour or so commute each way. And people aren't really ready yet to chance the fact that their home will look like this or this or this again after the next hurricane comes through.
posted by MsMolly at 11:12 AM on January 7, 2011

There are some beautiful old wooden houses in Houston in the Heights, northeast of downtown, and in "modtown" that don't rent for very much money. Here's a link to the Houston Preservation Alliance with some pretty pictures. Of course those houses are all restored, but there are plenty of old houses in different states for rent. You might want to browse craigslist. I found this cutie with the search heights+house+historic.
posted by abirae at 2:51 PM on January 8, 2011

Also, Austin has lovely craftsman style houses if that's your thing.
posted by abirae at 2:51 PM on January 8, 2011

I'm not sure where you are, but there aren't a lot of places in the Mountain West that are really expensive. I'm guessing you're somewhere in Colorado's front range or in a ski resort town. I lived in Houston for 20+ years, and in Denver for 4, and I would definitely NOT recommend moving to Galveston. Ditto everything everybody has said before me - economically depressed, poor beaches, not that great in the best of times.

Houston is known for having very low housing costs, and in any case they are far below what we were paying in Denver. Be aware that Galveston, Houston and San Antonio will have HOT summers - unrelentingly hot for far many more months than you would expect. If you like doing things outdoors (or working outdoors), it is going to be really oppressive for several months of the year.

I think you should visit some of these places, preferably in summer, when your Mountain West town doesn't seem so cold and oppressive. Also, being a day's drive away is a terrible reason to move anywhere.
posted by jeoc at 5:34 PM on January 8, 2011

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