Photo by J King on Unsplash

The trend of international buyers purchasing homes in Texas shows no signs of slowing down, as revealed in the latest Texas International Homebuyers Report.

Released September 6 by Texas Realtors, the report shows that the Lone Star State remains the No. 3 hottest U.S. destination for international homebuyers. Texas ranks behind Florida and California for the fourth consecutive year.

From April 2022 to March 2023, 9,900 Texas homes were purchased by "foreign buyers," which the report defines as people who don't live in the U.S., don't live here full time, live here temporarily on non-immigrant visas, or have been in the country for less than two years. (61 percent of buyers fell in the latter two categories.) These homes make up 11.7 percent of the total number of Texas Realtors sales transactions.

For comparison, Florida (No. 1) accounted for 23 percent of purchases, with California (No. 2) at 12.2 percent.

"Texas has long been one of the most popular states for international buyers," said 2023 Chairman of the Texas Realtors Marcus Phipps in a release. "Our strong economy, diverse population and high quality of life make the Lone Star State an attractive destination."

International buyers spent $4.3 billion on these Texas homes during the time period, the report says. Nearly half (49 percent) of buyers avoided the need for a mortgage by paying for their homes in all-cash.

In all, 84,600 international buyers bought property in the U.S. between April 2022 to March 2023, down from 98,600 buyers in last year's report.

The report further states that the median home price for international buyers is slightly lower than the overall Texas median: $320,800 versus $342,000. However, the average purchase price for international buyers was significantly higher, at $446,100.

In a breakdown of the foreign buyers, more than half (51 percent) bought a primary residence in Texas. Mexico made up 41 percent of the top buyers, followed by China (8 percent) and India (7 percent). Nigeria and Venezuela accounted for five percent each within the top foreign buyers.


San Antonio buyers must earn this much more to afford a starter home in 2023

affordability gaps

An income analysis by online real estate brokerage Redfin has revealed just how much more a potential homeowner needs to make this year to afford a "starter home" in San Antonio, a concept that's becoming seemingly less attainable with rising mortgage rates and increased competition among buyers.

The report revealed that first-time homebuyers need to earn $55,657 annually to afford a San Antonio home in 2023, which is 18.7 percent more income than was required in 2022.

According to Redfin, the average salary needed for a typical starter home in the United States is $64,403, about 13 percent more than a year ago. San Antonio is $8,746 behind that number.

These findings further confirm that affordability is one of the biggest struggles for potential buyers in the current real estate market.

What was considered a generous salary to afford a home in San Antonio a year ago is no longer the case, as median sale prices are sitting at $210,000, and median mortgage payments are about $1,391 a month, the report said. However, the analysis indicated that home sales in the city have risen a lot since this time last year: 11.6 percent.

Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari said in the report that it's a "wild goose chase" for homebuyers seeking their first home in the current market.

"The most affordable homes for sale are no longer affordable to people with lower budgets due to the combination of rising prices and rising rates," he said. "That’s locking many Americans out of the housing market altogether, preventing them from building equity and ultimately building lasting wealth. People who are already homeowners are sitting pretty, comparatively, because most of them have benefited from home values soaring over the last few years."

Bokhari predicted the wealth gap between current and potential owners could become "even more drastic" if current trends continue.

Things escalated faster in San Antonio than anywhere else, but it's still relatively affordable overall, with the least expensive houses in the state. Next was Houston, where a first-time homebuyer would need to make $57,513, which is nearly 14 percent more than in 2022.

The necessary income in Fort Worth has also risen by 14.4 percent, amounting to $64,933. People in Dallas need to make quite a bit more, settling at $72,885 after a 10.6 percent increase. In Austin, potential homeowners saw a 3.3 percent decrease in income needed to afford a home, but it's still the highest income required out of all Texas cities in the report: $92,057.

The full report can be found on redfin.com.

Photo courtesy of Estately.com

Surprising Central Texas city boasts No. 1 U.S. housing market for first-time buyers

House hunting

Homebuyers looking to live outside of the bustling big city should turn their attention 150 miles northeast of San Antonio: Killeen has the best housing market in the country for first-time buyers, according to a new study by SmartAsset.

Killeen provides the three qualities potential homeowners prioritize the most: affordability, low competition, and growth potential, the report says. Median home prices there were sitting under $253,000 at the end of May, and the city has a one-year growth forecast of 7.4 percent.

"A home purchase can serve as a building block for the homeowner’s financial life – and the circumstances of the local market can make or break the deal," the report's author says. "First-time homebuyers may look for a less competitive market to have a better chance of getting a realistic offer accepted. They also need affordability to position themselves to grow their equity and a community within which to build a network."

Killeen is best known for its close proximity to Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood), the third-largest military base in the country. SmartAsset says the Killeen-Temple-Fort Cavazos metro area also boasts a "reasonably young population," and cites the median income of a resident at $63,458.

Killeen's No. 1 ranking in 2023 is a major improvement over its No. 89 ranking in SmartAsset's 2022 report.

Texas cities dominated the top 10 in the report, with Waco, about 60 miles northeast of Killeen, earning No. 6 (Waco did not appear in the 2022 report). Other Texas housing markets that earned high-ranking spots include Wichita Falls (No. 2) in North Texas, and two Rio Grande Valley cities: McAllen (No. 3), and Brownsville (No. 8).

The top 10 best places for first time homebuyers are:

  • No. 1 – Killeen, Texas
  • No. 2 – Wichita Falls, Texas
  • No. 3 – McAllen, Texas
  • No. 4 – St. Joseph, Missouri
  • No. 5 – Cape Coral, Florida
  • No. 6 – Waco, Texas
  • No. 7 – Huntsville, Alabama
  • No. 8 – Brownsville, Texas
  • No. 9 – Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • No. 10 – Jackson, Tennessee

SmartAsset's study ranked 185 metro areas based on their affordability, growth potential, housing competition, and population.

Photo by Dillon Kydd on Unsplash

Here's how much San Antonio homeowners will spend to boost curb appeal this year

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Sure, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but that doesn't apply to a vast number of luxurious homes in this city. It's probably safe to say that many locals (or tourists) have been guilty of window shopping San Antonio's most gorgeous houses while cruising around town.

In a recent study, home services websites Thumbtack and Nextdoor asked more than 1,000 homeowners to set tangible values to curb appeal: both how much they care, and what kind of exterior home improvements have the most influence. It also ranked cities on how much they spend.

The study found that San Antonio homeowners will spend up to $4,705 on many "small curb appeal investments" – such as replacing the front door, installing outdoor lighting, pressure washing the driveway, or painting their fence.

But if a homeowner really wants their property to stand out, major projects like installing solar panels or maintaining a perfectly manicured front yard are surefire ways to catch people's attention and admiration. So much so, that 82 percent of survey-takers said investing in landscaping is a substantial improvement, and 73 percent believe a well-kept lawn dramatically improves curb appeal.

"At its core, curb appeal is a homeowner’s first presentation of themself to the neighborhood," the report said. "An individual home’s curb appeal impacts the whole neighborhood — and, as a result, can build relationships or even create tensions on the block."

Costs, of course, are driven up with the scale of the projects. Cost estimates for garage door or gutter replacements can ring up at $1,310, with San Antonio residents budgeting up to $14,582 for their "medium-sized" home improvement projects.

The study designates some projects as "large curb appeal investments": things like painting the entire exterior of a house, replacing property fencing, or installing a sprinkler system. Estimates for multiple large-scale projects can cost up to $27,000 in San Antonio.

Nextdoor's Head of Revenue, Heidi Andersen, said in the report that a home's curb appeal can show the owner's "deep investment" in their neighborhood, and can improve their fellow neighbors' pride within the local community.

"For many neighbors, the neighborhood is a gathering place, a central hub, and most importantly, a place they come to for genuine connections, support, and shared experiences among its residents," said Andersen. "Every day, neighbors everywhere are transforming houses into homes, and streets into welcoming avenues for their communities."

While San Antonio didn't make it into the ranking of the top 10 cities with the best curb appeal, Dallas-Fort Worth ranked No. 5, while Austin ranked No. 2 behind frontrunner Atlanta, Georgia.

The top 10 cities with the best curb appeal are:

  • No. 1 – Atlanta, Georgia
  • No. 2 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 3 – Charlotte, North Carolina
  • No. 4 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 5 – Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  • No. 6 – Baltimore, Maryland
  • No. 7 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 8 – Orlando, Florida
  • No. 9 – Tampa, Florida
  • No. 10 – Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
The full report can be found on thumbtack.com.
Photo courtesy of realtor.com

San Antonio housing market remains steady this summer as prices fall

real estate report

Home sales and median prices fell slightly in San Antonio during the month of June, continuing a pattern of growing stability in the region's real estate market.

The latest report from the San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR) showed a 9 percent decrease in completed home sales in the area year-over-year from 2022, totaling 3,354 transactions. In Bexar County, there were 2,288 completed home sales, about a 10.2 percent drop from last year.

San Antonio homes are currently selling for an average price of $395,524, though median prices dipped 6 percent from 2022 to $320,950. In Bexar County, median home prices are sitting at $305,000.

Sara Briseño Gerrish, the 2023 SABOR Chair of the Board, said in the report that San Antonio has about 3.7 months of inventory, which allows buyers and sellers to have a "fair playing field for negotiations."

"Additionally, 95 percent of sales closed close to the original listing price, indicating that sellers are achieving their desired outcomes in most transactions," she said.

"Another noteworthy trend observed," she continued, "is the significant increase in the number of days on the market, which rose by 121 percent to reach 64 days. This suggests a more deliberate decision-making process among buyers, potentially due to increased scrutiny or the need for a more thorough evaluation of available options."

Home sales have dropped nearly 10 percent throughout the state, so San Antonio isn't the only region experiencing a small decline.


San Antonio boasts 11th hottest ZIP code in U.S. for buyers, report says

Hottest 'hoods

San Antonio is emerging as a big magnet for homebuyers, and boasts one of the hottest ZIP codes in the country.

According to OpenDoor’s 2022 Hottest ZIP Codes in America report, San Antonio's78253 was the 11th most popular ZIP code for buyers around the U.S. last year. It also ranked No. 11 in the 2021 report.

OpenDoor analyzed data from the local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) where Opendoor Brokerage operates, they say. The neighborhoods were ranked by total homes that went into contract within 90 days of listing in 2022.

San Antonio tracks with a post-pandemic trend that OpenDoor identified when compiling its 2022 list: that buyers were gravitating toward “a small-town feel while close to a bustling downtown for entertainment, dining, and shopping,” they say.

“Whether to be closer to outdoor and recreational activities or to join a close-knit community, the desire to belong remained strong in 2022 as the recalibration of work and personal priorities encouraged people to move away from city centers,” the report’s author says.

For the same reasons, another Central Texas city – New Braunfels – was deemed a top ZIP for 2022. Its 78130 lands at No. 4 on the list for the second year in a row.

“We are seeing homeowners vie for that sense of belonging in cities and towns accessible to major metros via short commutes,” OpenDoor says.

Elsewhere in Texas
New Braunfels and San Antonio just two out of three Central Texas ZIPs to make it into the top 20, but they are in good company with several others around Texas.

The third Hill Country city to make the list is the northeast Austin suburb of Leander, whose 78641 ranked No. 9.

The two Dallas-area ZIPs that made it into OpenDoor's report are Forney's 75126 and Aubrey's 76227, ranking No. 5 and No. 13.

Katy’s 77494, in the Houston area, is the highest-scoring ZIP in the state, landing at No. 3.

Half of first-time home buyers say ‘family’ is the top reason they decided to purchase a home in 2022. Katy, TX and Yukon, OK continued their reign on our hottest ZIPs list,” OpenDoor says. “They draw homeowners for their proximity to major employers while still being a good fit for families.”

Another Houston suburb, Cypress’ 77433, comes in at No. 7.

The hottest ZIP code in the country is 37042 in Clarksville, Tennessee, which has “a thriving, close-knit local community while still being close to the action in Nashville,” OpenDoor says.

The top 20 ZIP codes in the U.S. for 2022 are:

  • No. 1 – Clarksville, Tennessee (37042)
  • No. 2 – Yukon, Oklahoma (73099)
  • No. 3 – Katy, Texas (77494)
  • No. 4 – New Braunfels, Texas (78130)
  • No. 5 – Forney, Texas (75126)
  • No. 6 – Summerville, South Carolina (29486)
  • No. 7 – Cypress, Texas (77433)
  • No. 8 – Kissimmee, Florida (34747)
  • No. 9 – Leander, Texas (78641)
  • No. 10 – Murfreesboro, Tennessee (37128)
  • No. 11 – San Antonio, Texas (78253)
  • No. 12 – Loganville, Georgia (30052)
  • No. 13 – Aubrey, Texas (76227)
  • No. 14 – Winter Garden, Florida (34787)
  • No. 15 – Cumming, Georgia (30040)
  • No. 16 – Suwanee, Georgia (30024)
  • No. 17 – Gallatin, Tennessee (37066)
  • No. 18 – San Diego, California (92101)
  • No. 19 – Port Saint Lucie, Florida (34953)
  • No. 20 – Parker, Colorado (80134)
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San Antonio foundation pounces on bold program to return ocelots to the wild


In Texas, wildlife conservation is far from a simple equation. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, over 93 percent of the state is privately owned, including vital habitats for big cats. Balancing protection measures with the desires of landowners requires a deft hand.

Still, one San Antonio nonprofit is hoping it has found the right formula for ocelot recovery. The East Foundation, a local ranching operation and agricultural research organization, is proposing the Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to support reintroducing species into the wild. A 30-day public comment period began September 15.

Following the proposal, the East Foundation will release ocelots onto a section of its San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg and Starr Counties — an area marked as unoccupied ocelot habitat. Landowners in neighboring counties can voluntarily sign up to allow the cats passage on their acres, exempting them from future conservation activities.

Working with the Recover Texas Ocelots project, East Foundation has assembled large amounts of data on ocelots, ranging from prey habits to behavior with other carnivores. This research informed the organization's conservation strategy.

The need for protection is dire. The distinctively spotted wild cats have been officially listed as endangered since 1982. The state's sole breeding populations live in far South Texas, where much land is devoted to ranching.

"The largest population of ocelots remaining in Texas (and, by extension, the United States) occupies East Foundation ranch land in Willacy County," explains Dr. Jason Sawyer, Chief Science Officer for the East Foundation, via a release. Several estimates place that population between 50 and 100.

"So, we have demonstrated that good land stewardship associated with normal ranching activities is not in conflict with ocelot recovery," he continued, "and we want to continue ranching operations while also providing an opportunity to expand these populations."

Plan details and other conservation efforts can be found online. Comments will be accepted through October 16, with full specifics available at the Federal Register.

"The assurances provided in the Agreement offer a path for lasting and effective partnerships that accomplish conservation goals while removing the barriers that have historically impeded these efforts," said Neal Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer for the East Foundation. "We are excited to lead an effort like this in South Texas, where we successfully operate, and where wildlife conservation and ranching have been vitally important for more than 100 years."

Amazon goes on holiday hiring spree with 2.6k open positions in San Antonio

Holiday News

Soon the holidays will be here, and that means an influx of seasonal work from Amazon, which is on a holiday hiring spree.

According to a release, the company is hiring 250,000 employees throughout the U.S. in full-time, seasonal, and part-time roles across its operations network.

More than 28,000 of those will be in Texas with nearly half — 13,000 employees — to be hired in Dallas-Fort Worth. (Houston will be hiring more than 5,100, Austin more than 4,100, and San Antonio more than 2,600 workers. Waco gets 1,700-plus new positions, and El Paso, more than 300.)

Those include a diverse range of roles, from packing and picking to sorting and shipping, available to applicants from all backgrounds and experience levels.

Customer fulfillment and transportation employees can earn, on average, over $20.50 per hour for those roles, and up to $28 depending on location. Interested candidates can see hiring locations and open positions at amazon.com/apply.

"The holiday season is always a special time at Amazon and we’re excited to hire 250,000 additional people this year to help serve customers across the country," says Amazon SVP John Felton. "Whether someone is looking for a short-term way to make extra money, or is hoping to take their first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career at Amazon, there’s a role available for them."

According to Felton, a fulfillment or transportation employee who starts today will see a 13 percent increase in pay over the next three years, on top of offerings like pre-paid college tuition and health care benefits on day one.

Jobs in Amazon’s operations network include: stowing, picking, packing, sorting, shipping customer orders, and more, available in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S., with a range of full- or part-time hours.

For anyone interested in learning more about what it’s like to work at Amazon, they offer free behind-the-scenes tours to the public at amazontours.com.

Hill Country glamping goes gourmet with new personal chef experience

In-Tents Flavors

Flights to Africa are not cheap right now. The animals may not be the same, but at least San Antonians can make a short drive to a very comfortable safari tent for special-occasion jaunts into the wilderness.

"Why does it look like you're in Africa again?" questioned one of this reporter's friends via Instagram DM. It's true, we'd been in a nearly identical landscape in South Africa last winter. But this was only an hour's drive away. And make no mistake — it's still expensive, but not more so than a upscale hotel room or Airbnb at $450 a night.

Amani, the sole safari tent overlooking a vast expanse at Marble Falls' Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, may pose a philosophical question about what camping entails. If it's being in a remote area, it certainly fits the bill. The tent is situated at the end of a dirt road, off a dirt road. There's practically no chance of seeing even the odd hiker, unless they've taken the incredibly steep trail up the back way and specifically sought out the tent.

The more challenging question, is does camping include a generator? How about a shower, air conditioning, mini-fridge, plush rug, and king-sized bed? Probably not, but it certainly makes it easy to pack up and hit the woods in any weather. And if it's about enjoying nature, it doesn't really get better than being comfortable while doing so — although the noise from the generator, which powers the running water, is a necessary trade-off.

Amani LCRA interiorPhoto courtesy of LCRA

A unique idea for honeymoons, girls trips, seniors, or apartment dwellers without much room for storing camping equipment — and verified by CultureMap on an invitation by the park — this is hotel-style travel with the benefit of having absolutely no other visitors in sight. Or earshot. And although the smart interior design gives a glamper anything they'd need to make, serve, and store their own meals (using ingredients from the Marble Falls H-E-B, about 10 miles away), those who want to lean into the luxury may book some gourmet options.

Home chefs who like the idea of remaining separate from the rest of civilization can order a meal prep kit ($55-75 per person, vegan options available) to be delivered to the tent, where they can cook on the grill. The kitchenette, designed with input from a local chef who loved visiting the park before Amani existed, has plenty of grilling tools and dish ware — enough for four people to use even though the space only sleeps two.

More extravagant travelers should seriously consider the most luxurious option: welcoming in a private chef ($300). Chef Cindy Crowe grilled up Amani's first-ever private dining experience on September 16, representing the start of a new partnership between Crowe's company, Bay Kitchens Catering, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the government agency that managers the park and rents out Amani.

In fact, it was Bay Kitchens corporate chef, Jay Hunter, who made recommendations on the kitchenette design. And the park is no stranger to luxury dining outdoors; At one fundraising dinner, part of its "Savor the Outdoors" series, park supporters gathered at long picnic tables along the river at Pedernales Falls State Park to enjoy local foods prepared on cool live-fire rigs. The food was delicious, but the friendly breaking of bread between outdoorsy foodies was the highlight of the evening.

The spirit was similar at Amani, although, of course, much smaller in scale. Chef Crowe set up at the outdoor grill and peacefully, efficiently got to work preparing a meal that looked like it came out of an elite, bustling kitchen. Yet, despite all its sophistication, this meal retained the soul of any campsite meal: a simple grilled trout, a summery salad, and a no-bake dessert.

LCRA Amani private chef dinner troutPhoto by Brianna Caleri

Amani LCRA aerial

Photo courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)

Amani is the Lower Colorado River Authority's experiment in ultra-secluded glamping.

More specifically, the three-course meal — called the "Serengeti Menu" — included a very tender baby greens salad with toasted pecans and feta, sweet strawberries, perfectly soft orange supreme (essentially naked orange segments), and a refreshing peach-pecan vinaigrette. The very lemony trout was served with crispy skin, a healthy sprinkling of chives, and an almost-rustic side of roasted Yukon gold potatoes and Chardonnay and honey-spiked baby carrots. Chef Crowe rounded out the menu with her Key lime cheesecake, which she dressed with a berry compote and torched Italian meringue, for a low-maintenance, high-payoff finish.

Other menus include bourbon and honey-glazed Atlantic Salmon with marble potatoes and broccolini, or a choice of steak cuts with asparagus and a twice-baked potato. Crowe points out that although the menu isn't very limited, she did have to think about what could be cooked without an open flame. (It'd be hard to cook on something other than propane during a burn ban.) Things like twice-baked potatoes and mini cheesecakes are easy to prepare ahead and hit with a finishing touch at the campground.

"It's simple food, still done well," says Crowe. "Even though I'm out here with these beautiful views cooking on a grill you could buy at Lowe's, I still want to put my stamp on the dishes."

Amani is an experiment for the LCRA, according to Crowe and Cheyrice Brumfield, the park ranger and Cherokee grandmother who appeared at my tent in full glam makeup at 10:20 am to get the water turned back on after a repair before I arrived. If Amani — which officially opened its reservations in June according to a publicist — is as successful as the glamping trend of the past few years would suggest, the LCRA plans to bring similar tents to other parks.

Crowe, during her first run-through of this particular catering experience, was not sure how many people would be join in, but she guesses she could accommodate four people. Bay Kitchen Catering also does bridal brunches and even bulk prep for other restaurants, so the scope depends more on what LCRA is willing to host than the volume the catering company is capable of achieving.

Amani LCRAPhoto by Brianna Caleri

A private chef experience is obviously not required to enjoy a stay at Amani, but it certainly elevates the occasion, and could be a nice way to mark a special occasion beyond just staying in a nice room. Amani also offers a cold cowboy pool (basically a large trough for seated dip) that a glamper can choose to heat as a hot tub, an electric bike rental for conquering the very hilly roads and exploring Shaffer Bend's 508 acres, and of course, spectacular views all around the park.

It's as easy to scoff at the extreme luxury as it is to fantasize about it (if you, like most of us, contain multitudes), but what is really special about Amani is that people like Crowe and Brumfield are making it happen. It's not one of a dozen new purchases by an international hotel chain; It directly benefits Texas parks, and it's taken care of by warm, relatable Texans.

Amani and the park's other campgrounds can be reserved at reserveamerica.com. The safari tent has a two-night minimum, bringing the minimum rental cost to $900 before tax and fees. Culinary reservations must be made at least 72 hours before the stay. More information about Shaffer Bend Recreation Area is available at lcra.org.