Things You Should Know About Texas (Before Moving Here)

Alex Niemi
19 min readOct 5, 2023

My purpose in writing this isn’t to hate on Texas. It has a lot of great attributes. But, like any place, it has its peculiarities, some of which are extreme. My intent is to highlight a few of those things that might be relevant to would-be movers to this great state. I should mention that the two houses across the street from us have been a revolving door of out-of-staters ever since we’ve lived here. They’ve come from all over the U.S. -California, Idaho, Ohio -and all of them made a hasty departure after their first summer. These are the type of people that I’m writing this article for; I’m trying to save them from making a costly cross-country move to a place that they’re not ready for. Most of our other neighbors are lifelong Texans -though were born in different parts of the state -and have remained our neighbors. I’m not listing things in any particular order, just as they come to me. Someday, I’ll write an article on the good stuff too. Note: we live in North-Central Texas (DFW Metroplex) and are located about 20 miles due west of Fort Worth. My comments apply to a vast area of Texas but it is a gigantic state and thus my comments are not applicable to all of it; do your own research if you’re moving to another part.

The summers are MUCH longer and hotter than you think.

Our first 90-degree day of the year always occurs sometime in April and once we reach that milestone, it’s a march straight up (in temperature). I intend on making a little calendar of seasons for this section but until that’s done, here’s a rundown of the seasons, starting with January…

  • Winter: January & February
  • Spring: March
  • Summer: April — November
  • Fall: December*

*Christmas day is typically in the mid to high 80’s (84–89 for past three years) and we spend it outside in boardshorts and bikinis.

The takeaway here is that summer is eight months long. It’s hot, dry, shitty, and exhausting. No rain. No cool days. No breaks. No bueno. Starting in May, we’re experiencing 100-degree days. For the past few summers, we didn’t have a single day less than 100 degrees in all of July and August; September and June had only a handful of sub-100 days. Thus, practically speaking, that’s four months of 100+ degree days without much/any break. Also, many of the summer days are from 105–111 degrees. The extra 5–11 degrees (in excess of 100) makes a HUGE difference in comfortability. Moreover, most days in the summer have an “orange” or “red flag” notice for Ozone and particulate concentration — I’m not sure what that means — but I do know that I can’t breathe outside for more than five minutes at a time on a 110-degree day with an “orange flag” warning in effect.

Long story short, there’s an extended period in the summer when it’s too hot to be (or do) anything outside. Both us, and our dogs, get fat every summer. We spend every day (including weekends) inside with the A/C going 24/7.

If you Google “monthly weather, [city] Texas,” you’re likely to see something like the screenshot below (which is near where we live). This is bullshit. Straight up. The data is based on 20-year historical means/averages and NOT at all representative of the current climate here (more on that later); moreover, those historical data are heavily skewed by a few outlier low-temperature months that occurred long long ago.

In July and August, the temperature does NOT drop down to 97 degrees even at the coldest point of the day (shortly before sunrise while it’s still dark out). For most of the summer, we can’t keep the inside of our house at 72 degrees (the reported average “Low” in July and August) despite running the A/C continuously… this is because A/C units aren’t generally designed to reduce the temperature by more than 20-degrees from ambient/outside (where the compressor is located). Thus, on a 112 degree day, the A/C can theoretically maintain an indoor temperature of 92 degrees, assuming that you have excellent insulation in your walls/attic and that all of your door and window weather-stripping is in perfect condition.

Final point on the weather charts above… there is NO precipitation during the summer, period. Absolutely none. I can only guess that the weather stations reporting this are broken, dysfunctional, or biased.

Tons of Copperheads

They are dangerous and insidious. I almost always find them within a few feet of our house, shed, or garage. They like man-made structures because there tends to be shade, some moisture, and cover for them there.

They are incredibly well camouflaged and almost invisible when laying on mulch, leaves, dirt, grass, and anything other than gray concrete. People often get bit when they inadvertently step on one or grab one with their hands when weeding or picking up something from the ground. I’ve come uncomfortable close to grabbing or stepping on many myself. During the summer, I don’t pick anything up outside before I turn it over once or twice with a rake. We have two dogs that love to scavenge and find almost anything outside that moves, including Copperheads. You may think that I’m an asshole but I kill every single Copperhead that I find so that they don’t have a chance to bite our dogs (or us) or slip into the house when we open a door.

They start hatching in mid to late April every year, and can generally be found all summer long (i.e. until December). Often, there are two hatches every year — the first in April and another in September or October (depending on the weather). On average, I kill six (6) every year, right next to the house. Some years it’s more. One interesting thing about Copperheads is that they are excellent climbers and will spend much of their day hiding somewhere in trees (they love Oak trees). Late at night, I’ve found them slithering down tree trunks and onto the ground, presumably to hunt for food.

If you do end up in Texas, don’t try to be a tough guy and kill them with a rake or shovel (or the like). They can climb a shovel faster than you can let go of it, and you WILL get bit. The best solution is a 12-guage with trap shot (№7’s or №8’s work well) because there is no contact with the snake and you don’t have to get close to it to get the job done. Just don’t be an asshole — be mindful of your surroundings before shooting. Be neighborly: many dogs are terrified of gun shots (including my dogs)… so don’t go blazing away without letting your neighbor know if he’s outside with his dogs.

Other venomous snakes include rattlers (of various kinds), Water Moccasins (only certain locations and near ponds/lakes), and Coral Snakes. I’ve only seen one Coral Snake — there aren’t many, they’re extremely shy, and they mind their own business. There are a staggering number of species of non-venomous snakes as well. I let all of them go about their business without interference despite some (like Rat Snakes) being breathtakingly large.

Point is, the Copperheads are the ones to watch out for. Almost forgot, I have found NO way to deter them or reduce their presence around our home. Stores sell “snake repellant,” which are sulfur pellets. They’re stinky and do nothing other than make a pungent mess.

Houses and land aren’t cheap (anymore)

Yeah, homes in Texas were reasonably priced prior to the pandemic and through the first half of 2020 but then people started moving here in droves and the prices shot up. I haven’t seen anything that I’d consider a “deal” in more than two years.

Vacant land here typically goes for $50k+ per acre, which IMO is highway robbery given that the land is arid and barren with no intrinsic value (other than as a spot to plop down another house). Desert land isn’t worth $50k/acre; it’s isn’t worth $500/acre.

Houses aren’t cheap either. Currently, if I was searching for a well-maintained 3,000 ft2 home on one (1) acre of land in my area, I’d budget a range of $650–850k. If you’re coming from California, that may sound like a large home on a big chunk of land at a reasonable price. I can assure you that one acre is not nearly as large as it sounds; neither is 3,000 ft2. Also, if you’re coming from CA, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Hawaii, or anywhere that allows you to spend some of your time outside, then multiply your current home size by at least three to get the size of home that you’ll need in Texas. Why? Because you have to spend ALL of your time indoors here. My wife and I live in a 2,100 ft2 home with our two dogs. It’s the largest place that we’ve ever lived in (by far). But, it feels like a tiny shoebox all summer long. If you do come here, my advice is to buy the biggest and newest house that you can possibly afford on at least 1/2 acre of land. They’re still building tens of thousands of big boxy houses here every year — they’re not hard to find.

So, $750k may not sound like a lot for a decent-sized house on an acre of land if you’re coming from California or Hawaii. But, think about what you’re actually getting for that money… and what you’re going to sacrifice to be here. You definitely can’t get the same house for $750k in Newport Beach, Santa Barbara, Kaneohe, or Seattle… but you can get it in Hesperia, Thousand Oaks, Modesto, Valley Center, etc. And, all of those places have a climate that’s similar to (arguably better than) Texas.

“Lakes” aren’t always lakes

Lakes dry out during the summer. Sometimes we don’t get any appreciable rainfall for 10-months at a time. All medium-sized and “large” lakes here are manmade reservoirs. As such, they are used to supply water for industrial, commercial, and residential use (as is the case in most states). With Texas’ population, and its industrial complex, growing at a break-neck pace, the number of straws sucking water out of the reservoirs is increasing by an unimaginable amount every year. The lakes go dry faster and stay dry longer every year. This problem is compounded by multiple-year stretches of severe drought and below-average (the new normal) precipitation. The lake closest to us — a medium-sized reservoir — supplies water for a large and growing city; it has been at less than 50% capacity for more than two years. There’s not a single dock on the lake that has any water under it (see aerial photo below).

Aerial photo showing that the water’s edge has receded so much that the ends of homeowners’ docks are more than a hundred feet from the current shoreline.

There are two takeaways here. First, don’t put a huge premium on a “lakefront” or “waterfront” property because the lake, river, or reservoir won’t have any water in it for most of the year, and whenever it does, it will also be full of plain-bellied water snakes thrashing around, which, I guess are better than alligators (if you’re coming from Florida). Second, you need to realize that in ten years time, Texas will be completely out of water, just like Arizona is today. Once the water runs out, property values in dry rural areas may experience a huge decline in value. Mark my words on this because you’re going to be shocked at how quickly it happens and how immense the consequent climate-migration FROM Texas (and AZ and NM) will be.

Rain is ALWAYS a bad thing

Ninety percent of the time that the forecast calls for rain, it never occurs. But, when it does rain, it’s always a torrential downpour… and it comes with a windstorm. So, after the storm passes, you get to look forward to a massive cleanup effort. At very least, there are leaves, branches, and outdoor furniture blown everywhere and usually destroyed. At worst, your house floods and the wind blows down trees on top of it.

Needless to say that anytime it rains here, the ground is hard, dry, and impervious because it hasn’t rained for the past six months. So, instead of the rain soaking into the ground and watering trees and lawns, it simply flows over the hard clay and creates a tremendous amount of storm runoff that tends to find/carve a few paths headed down hill where it coalesces, speeds up, and does tremendous damage to anything in it’s path.

Finally, the rain is highly alkaline (at least in our neck of the woods) and it promotes a fungal growth in St. Augustine called “Take All Root Rot.” So, paradoxically, even though your grass (if any still exists) may be dying of drought, any amount of precipitation will do immediate damage to it.

Texas owns your water

With few exceptions, the state of Texas owns any/all surface water in the state, including: reservoirs, lakes, ponds, streams, all navigable waterways, all types of “watercourses,” and stormwater runoff. Texas owns the rain once it hits your roof and as it flows across your property.

You have no right to divert water, capture it, or use it. The only exception has to do with using it for livestock/stock ponds (and an aquifer if your home uses a well for water). The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has jurisdiction over all water in the state; it also has regional/watershed-specific organizations that are extremely disjointed and uncollaborative.

Our area reached a D4 (“Exceptional”) drought level in the summer of 2022. In anticipation of the drought, I attempted to work with the TCEQ to get a permit to use water from a nearby pond in order to keep the remaining old-growth native oaks (as well as new native trees that I planted) alive. I completed their application, provided tons of required documentation, got documents notarized, and spent six months of my time trying to satisfy them. In the end, they would not allow me to submit my application even though it was complete (according to all of their standards). Based on numerous communications with the TCEQ, they grant permits mostly to commercial and industrial interests including: mining & quarrying, oil & gas, real-estate development, city & county, etc. The average Joe (i.e. me) is shit out of luck. Many of the trees on our property have died over the past two summers as a result.

Somebody else owns the “minerals” below your house

If you by a home in Texas, you will almost certainly find out that long ago somebody stripped the “mineral rights” from the title of your property and that they do NOT convey to you. You own the surface land and [usually] subsurface groundwater contained in aquifers, but that’s it.

“Mineral rights” means oil… just in case it wasn’t clear. The mineral rights on most properties are stripped (by previous property owners or real-estate agents) and then leased to oil & gas companies. The person that stripped the mineral rights from your property still receives a check in the mail every month for leasing it to an oil company. Often, that monthly check has been passed down to heirs of the previous property owner.

The oil & gas companies pay a monthly lease in order to perform hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) in the ground underneath your property in order to extract crude oil and natural gas. In the process, they do an immense amount of damage.

I found the graphic below on the Kentucky Environmental Foundation website and it does a great job of illustrating the fracking process.

Hydraulic Fracturing depiction from: Kentucky Environmental Foundation

You have to water your foundation (frequently)

The first time that somebody told me this, I thought they were tricking me and trying to see how naive I was. Not so.

Home foundations (concrete pads) shift and crack in Texas. The primary reason for this is related to the section above — fracking. There is constant micro-seismic activity in most rural, suburban, and densely populated urban areas of Texas due to fracking. If you combine this with the extreme cycles in temperature and soil-moisture (due to seasonality and the unpredictable variation of those seasonal semi-patterns), you end up with a constantly shifting chunk of earth below every house.

In my experience, most people completely ignore (or unaware of) the devastating and expensive consequences of fracking beneath their homes. They simply accept that “foundations shift” over time and foot the bill when the damage is done.

Watering your foundation during the hot dry summer months helps but it isn’t a silver bullet. The goal is to keep the soil around and below your foundation somewhat moist and expanded. When the soil dries out here, large fissures open up as the soil contracts (due to loss of moisture). The best method that I’ve found is to lay-out soaker hoses around the ENTIRE perimeter of your home (approximately 8" from the exterior walls). Let them run for 8 hours, three times per week (or more), all summer long.

If you don’t do it, your foundation will shift and eventually crack. Early warning signs are cracks in the interior drywall seams near ceilings and around window and doors, as well as gaps forming between siding butt-joints in exterior eaves around the home.

Repairing a foundation that has cracked or shifted significantly can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. It can also require massive repairs to plumbing because PVC (and cast iron) lines running through the foundation will crack if they are subject to excessive stress.

Texas has a lot of weird weather

Maybe it’s not weird to you if you’re from here or somewhere like Texas. But, it’s weird to me. Here are some weird weather phenomena that we experience frequently.

Thunder and lightning without rain

Nine times out of ten, a “storm” that’s forecast either: 1. won’t arrive at all, or 2. amounts to tons of thunder and lightning without any precipitation. Texas is the only place that I’ve ever experienced this. It happens ALL THE TIME.

Hail in hot weather

Quite a few times in the summer we’ve had marble-sized hail when it’s 105 degrees outside. The hail comes down and destroys any canopies and tarps that you have deployed, beats-up the shingles on your roof, and then melts five seconds after it hits the ground. This is VERY common.

Tornadoes

Any inclement weather that occurs from March to June (inclusively) has a decent chance of causing a tornado. They’ve also occurred near us in December and other months as well. Quite a few times every year, we end up huddled in the bathroom with our dogs while the sirens wail and the wind destroys stuff outside. Luckily, we’ve never been in the path of a tornado but many have been within 20 miles of us. Despite not being hit by one, we’ve still had our property torn apart by high winds that occur everywhere in the vicinity of a tornado.

Wind Storms

We’ve had 80-knot winds knock down trees, fences, and rip the roof off our shed. I’ve replaced our car canopy cover three times this year. Usually, it doesn’t blow 80 knots but it’s fairly common for it to blow 30. This occurs throughout the year. During the summer it increases the chances of brushfire significantly and can be extremely dangerous. For most of the year, it consistently erodes the super-dry clay-silt soil from our property. We lose approximately 2" of soil every year due to erosion; most of that is a result of wind blowing over super dry clay.

The Fourth of July is dangerous

By July 4th every year, all of the fields and grass here are bone dry, brown, and crunchy. It’s typically windy, excessively dry, and between 100 and 115 degrees. Basically, all of Texas is a huge tinderbox by early July every year.

Regardless of the weather and how inappropriate fireworks are given the current conditions, EVERYBODY will light and shoot off tons of them. So, on July 3rd every year, I mow and mulch what’s left of the crispy brown grass all the way to the ground. I also get out my trash-pump, which I’ve outfitted with 300' of 2" hose and a fire nozzle.

For 2–3 days in a row, our neighbors launch incendiary devices into our dry field, onto our dry trees, and onto our roof with the goal of setting the entire mother fucker on fire. There’s nothing that I can do to stop them. Texas widely supports the use of fireworks during the summer even though it doesn’t make any sense. “Murrica!”

Men drive trucks, Chargers, Camaros, and Mustangs

That’s it. Nothing else. It’s my belief that the state of Texas gives every teenage boy one of the aforementioned car models on the same day that they get their driver’s license… jk (kinda but not really). Perhaps Texas is what’s keeping Ford, Chrysler, and GM alive despite them producing dysfunctional and all-around terrible vehicles.

The more important thing to know is that every Charger, Camaro, and Mustang has a catback (or runs straight headers) and guys love to rip around neighborhoods in the evenings (and all the time) throttling their engine, spinning it up to 5000 RPMs in second gear, and then let it slowly wind itself down to a crawl while it howls and spits and disrupts the peace for miles in every direction.

More things that I’ll expand on later

Driving is no cup of tea

  • You will be tailed by monster trucks going 80+ mph on all highways at all times.
  • The highway system is incredibly vast, poorly named, jammed with traffic and constantly under construction.

Say goodbye to nature

  • Most of the year it’s too hot to be outside, and during the winter it’s typically too cold to be outside camping or hiking.
  • There aren’t any mountains, rivers, forests, trails, or recreational areas. It’s a six-hour drive out-of-state to anywhere worth visiting.

No recreation in the winter (or summer for that matter)

  • The cold states have snow (or mountains with snow) that can be used for winter sports. Texas winters are simply cold without any snow.

People love shooting and have an immense budget for ammunition

  • If you have a shy dog, it can be pretty frustrating when they’re too scared to poop for three days straight.
  • Not a single evening has gone by (in > 3 years) in which one or more residents in the area weren’t target shooting at dusk.
  • NOTE: I don’t have anything against firearms but it’s not appropriate for somebody with a tiny lot to turn it into their private gun range; many a dispute has occurred in the past between neighbors over differing opinions on this subject.
  • Really internalize this point, especially if you didn’t grow up hunting or using firearms because I’ve heard guys shoot here, every waking hour, for three days straight. You have no idea how disruptive this can be to your mental state, your work, and everything.

Everything is geared for big industry and commerce

  • ExxonMobil could get a permit to suck the water out of your bathtub and drill through your kitchen floor for oil… but you can’t get a permit to use your own piss once it hits the dirt.
  • You think I’m exaggerating but you’ll see.

Mines are popping up everywhere

  • Every few months a new mine pops up somewhere close to us. I can’t find out what they’re mining because they don’t have to divulge it to the public.
  • They have massive leech fields and tailings ponds full of poisoned water that they’re dumping back into the ground.
  • Additionally, they use dynamite to fracture the earth. So, there are massive explosions 2–3 times/day. Obviously, this will depend on your location but they weren’t here when we moved here so you never know when they’ll arrive. You can see them on Google maps (depending on when it last updated for your area) and if you drive around looking for them.

People can kill almost any animal at any time

  • True, you need to buy a $25 license in order to legally hunt many things but in a lot of cases, there is no bag limit, no season, and absolutely no restrictions. If you read the regulations carefully, there’s a loophole allowing you to kill almost anything at almost anytime.
  • Many species that once thrived here have become extinct to the state and there is absolutely no desire to reintroduce them. In fact, they are typically hunted mercilessly and without restriction when found.
  • Sad content removed from this section.

People hate trees

  • The first thing that people do when they move into an existing home is clearcut any remaining trees. Developers do this on all lots for new homes. I’ve never seen more trees cut down faster anywhere in my life.
  • They will not grow back. People don’t realize that it is now far too hot and dry in this part of Texas for the native trees (many oak species) to ever grow again. The mature trees are barely getting by.
  • On the weekends, it’s a constant chorus of chainsaws in all directions… if you can hear them over the gunshots, mine explosions, and race cars.

All social and group activities originate at church

  • Obviously.
  • I’ve heard that it’s different in Austin but I don’t know because I don’t live there.
  • Good luck making friends if you’re not super religious.

The food sucks

  • Honestly, this one surprised me. But, it’s true.
  • The homestyle “meat and potatoes” type of dishes here are crude and unappetizing replicants of the hearty and delicious food that you find in the Upper Midwest.
  • Mexican food doesn’t hold a candlestick to anything in SoCal.
  • There isn’t any type of ocean or seafood influence here and the barbecue food is a cheap imitation of cuisine found east of here.
  • Basically, it’s all shit. Tasteless unhealthy garbage.

Many stores and businesses aren’t open on Sundays

  • Not a terrible thing but takes some getting used to so that you can plan around it. Also means that most stores are packed on Saturdays.
  • Big-box stores (like Home Depot, Walmart, Costco, etc.) ARE open on Sundays.

It’s quickly becoming a desert

We lose three oaks per year (on average) on our property. Scrub brush and loose fine sand replace them. In twenty years (or less), it’ll look just like west Texas -sand, dunes, and oil fields.

80% of the power here is generated via coal and gas-fired turbines

  • Despite the state having an overabundance of sun for solar power and wind for wind turbines.
  • The incentives favor big oil and not renewable energy, even at the residential level. It’s the biggest waste of our resources possible, and it’s happening every day and will continue indefinitely.

The air quality is terrible

  • Allergens, pollen, dust, ozone, SOX, NOX, you name it. If you’ve got allergies or asthma, you’re going to suffer. I do.

People burn everything

  • My last neighbor was very proud of the fact that they had never hauled any yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) to the county waste area but rather had burned all of their garbage. Note: even if you do haul it to the county waste disposal, the county simply burns it every weekend anyways.
  • It’s a constant source of particulates and pollution in the air. Not great for the environment or global warming either.
  • Expect it to be smoky if you live in a rural area.
  • I’ve watched neighbors pour gasoline around their fence perimeter and set it on fire in order to avoid weed-eating. This happened in the middle of the summer in 30mph winds. Someone else in the neighborhood called the fire department who had to come and put it out.

--

--

Alex Niemi

I'd write more if I didn't spend all of my time coding.