• Eric Newland, 56, lives in New Braunfels, Texas, one of America's fastest-growing cities.
  • The city between Austin and San Antonio wins over movers with relatively affordable homes, he said.
  • The transplants lead to benefits, like higher wages, and drawbacks, like increased traffic, he said.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Eric Newland, a 56-year-old retired Medical Service Corps officer who is now a real-estate agent in New Braunfels, Texas. Census data shows that New Braunfels' population has surged by more than 15% since 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.

In 2005, I moved to New Braunfels while going through my master's program at Fort Sam Houston. Since then, I've lived here off and on during my military career.

I've spent time in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, and, most recently, Germany. In 2020, I moved back to New Braunfels.

The city is about 32 miles northeast of San Antonio and roughly 40 miles southwest of Austin, within the Texas Triangle." This area, primarily along Interstate 10 and Interstate 35, spans between Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston, and has seen the bulk of the state's population growth.

New Braunfels is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

With many people relocating here from various locations, there have been a lot of vibrant changes.

The city is growing but retaining its identity

Despite its growth, the city maintains its small-town charm, with quaint shops and restaurants. In the heart of downtown, there's a central plaza that has smoke trees and a pavilion where people often gather to watch local bands perform.

Further away from the downtown area, there are many new neighborhoods. Moving towards San Antonio and Austin, the city begins to feel like a larger town with several strip malls and new homes.

The pavillon in New Braunfels. Foto: Courtesy of Eric Newland

New Braunfels has a mix of Mexican and German cultures. I have lived in Germany three separate times, and the closest feeling to that is probably here in New Braunfels.

The city was founded by German settlers and many businesses like to maintain that theme. For example, if you're at an Autohaus, it would be spelled with an "h-a-u-s" instead of "h-o-u-s-e." We even have an old German bakery called Naegelin's.

Every year in November, the city hosts Wurstfest, the largest German fest in the United States. New Braunfels is also home to Schlitterbahn, a German water park that is the largest in the country.

Californians are flocking to New Braunfels

I became a real-estate agent a few years ago when I retired from the Army. I began my training in 2020 and got my license in 2021.

New Braunfels has always been growing, but since then, there has been a significant increase in interest in the area. There's a lot of construction going on, and big housing developments and new businesses just keep popping up everywhere.

Newland works for a real-estate agency called House Hunters. Foto: Courtesy of Eric Newland

There's been a mass migration of people from California moving to New Braunfels.

In fact, a common theme among Realtors in the area is hearing, "I have another client from California."

While I can only speak for a handful of clients I've talked to, it seems that many of the movers coming here have been priced out of California and believe their money goes further in Texas.

For instance, a friend of mine from San Diego said that the cost of living became too expensive relative to income levels, and that Texas offered them more affordability on everyday expenses.

Similarly, another person I know sold their Los Angeles home, purchased a house here in New Braunfels, and used the profit to start a business. Their move even encouraged some of their family members to relocate here.

There have been some growing pains

With more people moving here, the real-estate market has changed. Home prices have risen significantly compared to the 19 years that I've been associated with this area.

When I first moved here in 2005, I bought a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot home for $130,000. We sold it for $144,000 in 2008, and then purchased another home for $171,000, sold it in 2017 for $194,000.

In 2019, my wife and I purchased a 2,400-square-foot home for $370,000. Today, I'd estimate its value to be somewhere in the mid-500s, potentially up to $600,000.

As a retired veteran with disability benefits, I am exempt from paying property tax. However, I am aware that property taxes in this area have increased. I believe one of my neighbors saw theirs increase from around $1,500 to $1,600 a year.

Newland in front of a train mural near New Braunfels' Railroad Museum. Foto: Courtesy of Eric Newland

When you have growth, it does change the fabric of the area.

An upside is that there have been a lot of new businesses, more income to the city, and even live music. A downside has been that there's definitely more traffic.

Even still, I think our city leaders have done the best they can to accommodate our larger population.

Read the original article on Business Insider