Houston, Texas is one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas, thanks to a strong economy, low unemployment and a relatively low cost of living. With over 2.1 million people living within its nearly 600 square mile city limits, Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest city in the U.S. Add in the entire Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Consolidate Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) and you have a sprawling 8,778 square miles (just slightly smaller than Massachusetts) that includes eight counties and more than 6 million residents. In other words, if you’re considering a move to Houston, you’ll have a lot of ground to cover and a lot of choices to make. This City Guide is a good place to get a general overview of Houston, along with essential information about the types of insurance you’ll need to home, auto, health and business.
Houston is named for General Sam Houston, a hero of the Texas War of Independence against Mexico and twice-elected president of the Republic of Texas. It was founded in 1836, on land purchased by the Allen brothers near the banks of Buffalo Bayou, and incorporated in 1837. By 1860, Houston was fast becoming a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton from nearby Gulf of Mexico ports in Beaumont and Galveston. Its strategic position was used by Confederate forces in the Civil War. By 1890, Houston was the railroad center of Texas. Oil was discovered nearby in 1901, the beginning of Houston’s role as one of America’s energy giants. The opening of the Houston Ship Channel and deep-water port over the next few years attracted more residents and by 1930, Houston was the most populous city in Texas. The petrochemical industry thrived during World War II, as did shipbuilding. In 1948, the city annexed several unincorporated areas, doubling its size. In the 1950s, the availability of air conditioning fueled a business boom in the energy sector, as many companies now found it feasible to relocate to Houston. The establishment of NASA’s manned space center here in 1961 spurred more growth, and gave Houston another nickname: Space City. The late 70s brought another population surge as people migrated from America’s Rust Belt and the Arab Oil Embargo created opportunities in the petroleum industry. When oil prices fell and the space industry slowed down in the mid-1980s, Houston hit on hard times, made worse by the recession of 1989. In the 1990s, Houston began to diversify its economy, focusing on aerospace, health care and biotechnology, which along with energy, finance and real estate, continue to be the city’s economic base.
If you like humidity, you’ll love Houston. The relative humidity ranges from 90% in the morning to 60% in the evening, with a year-round average of 78%, which puts Houston in the Top 10 most humid cities in America. That means mold and mildew damage to structures and property is a problem here. Other weather-related problems include violent thunderstorms, hail and hurricanes. Houston is, in fact, among the top five U.S. cities most vulnerable to hurricanes, according to Weather.com. In 2008, for example, Hurricane Ike did nearly $28 billion in damages to Houston and nearby Galveston. Flooding, from hurricane storm surge and heavy rains, is also a big risk in Houston. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 40 inches of rain on parts of the city, triggering the worst flooding in its history. Depending on where you live, you should definitely consider adding a supplemental flood policy. Your insurance agent can advise you about the amount of coverage you’ll need to protect your property and personal possessions. For example, you may want to choose replacement cost value versus actual cash value to be certain you can replace your property at today’s costs.
Driving and Houston Car Insurance
The state of Texas gives you 30 days from the time you establish residency to register your vehicle. Before you can do that, you’ll need to purchase Texas car insurance. The minimum required coverage is $30,000/$60,000 for personal liability and $25,000 for property damage. You might also want to add collision and comprehensive to protect against hail and storm damage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. You can get quotes online for Houston car insurance here and learn more about Texas motorist laws and fines here.
Once you have proof of insurance, you will need to get a vehicle inspection sticker from a certified Texas Department of Public Safety inspection station. You’ll also need to show your current registration or title of ownership form your previous state of residence. Take it all to a Harris County Tax Office. Find one near you. To get a Texas driver’s license, you’ll need to go to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Wherever you live in America, you are now required by federal law to have a qualified health insurance plan that covers the essential benefits spelled out in the Affordable Care Act (also called ObamaCare). The state of Texas has additional mandated benefits that insurers must provide. You can learn more about them, find a list of Texas health care resources and get competitive quotes for Houston healthcare insurance for individuals and small businesses here.
Should you need medical care in Houston, you’re in luck. One of the city’s well-deserved nicknames is the Medical Capital of the World. Of the 106 facilities in the area, USNews.com includes these hospitals and medical centers in its list of Bests: Houston Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, and Menniger Clinic.
The city of Houston is so big it has its own Department of Neighborhoods, established in 2011 to provide residents with a centralized source for services and resources. And HAR.com, the Houston Association of Realtors locator service, boasts that you can use its website to “compare over 10,000 neighborhoods and subdivisions.” Basically, the easiest way to negotiate Houston housing options is to see the city the way AreaVibes.com does: North, Northeast, South Central, Westside, Southwest, Southeast and Houston (downtown). And understand that in a place as big as Houston, you’re going to find housing ranging from dirt cheap to OMG! One of the priciest places, River Oaks, has the distinction of being among America’s most expensive, with a median price of $1.53 million. But, in an area so large, you can certainly find bargains. HAR listed median sales price for all Houston single-family homes at $189,900 in April 2014. Popular neighborhoods include Clear Lake, Southbelt and Ellington, with average listing prices in the Q1/14 of $205,362 to $283,153, according to Trulia.com Houston Market Trends. Rentals in Houston are actually below the national median. Using year-to-date data through March 31, 2014, Zillow put the median Houston rental at $1,291 (or 90 cents a square foot), less than the national median of $1,315. At 50.35, Houston property crime rates index well above those for the state of Texas (33.62) and the nation (28.6). Your chances of being a victim of property crime in Houston, according to NeighborhoodScout.com, are one in 30. So, before you sign a contract, you might want to take a look at Houston police department crime statistics for the area you’re considering.
Trulia.com reports the median sales price for an Atlanta home in first quarter of 2014 was $236,250, an increase of 13% compared to the same period in 2013. And Zillow lists the median rent at $1,100, although prices can range anywhere from $400 for a studio to $2,400 and up for a single-family home, depending on where you live. But don’t be surprised if you end up on a street that includes Peachtree in its name; there are over 70 such streets throughout the city!
Crime rates in Atlanta are high – much higher, in fact, than both the Georgia state and national averages. According to NeighborhoodScout.com, your chances of being a victim of a property crime in Atlanta are 1 in 14 (compared to 1 in 29 for the state). Before you decide on a location, you might want to check out its crime statistic published on the Atlanta Police Department website.
Regardless of where you live, you’re going to need property insurance. You can get free online quotes for Atlanta homeowners insurance and Atlanta renters insurance here. A renter’s policy will protect your personal belongings from loss or damage. A homeowner’s policy will protect your possessions and your structure. There are basically two types of homeowners insurance: all-risk (also called open perils coverage) and named perils. You’ll also have a choice of deductible and replacement cost or actual cash value. Before you decide, here are some weather-related risks that are common in Atlanta.
If you live in Houston, Texas, you’re in one of the country’s healthiest states. Anyone born in Texas today has an average life expectancy of 78.5 years according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. If you’re a 65-year-old Texan, the Centers for Disease Control gives you another 18.9 years on average. But before you start feeling too secure, WorldLifeExpectancy.com wants you to know that accidents are the fourth leading cause of death for all Texas residents. Given the ever-present possibility of an accidental death, you might want to put life insurance on your list of things to consider when you move to Houston. There are four good reasons why:
To pay for funeral and other final expenses.
To replace your income if you’re leaving behind a spouse.
To help cover your children’s needs.
To help your survivors pay off debts and estate taxes.
If you purchase whole life, your insurance can also be a means of setting aside money for retirement, college and other needs. You can learn more about the difference between term life insurance and whole life insurance, and shop for competitive life insurance quotes here.
Business is booming in Houston. According to the Austin Business Journal, “Houston had a 2013 total GDP of $463.7 billion, more than four times the size of Austin’s.” Its driven by energy exploration, production and refining, biotechnology, high technology, medical research and healthcare delivery, aerospace, finance, manufacturing, agriculture, education, professional services and government. There are more than two dozen Fortune 500 companies headquartered here. Houston is also friendly to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Learn about programs, licensing requirements and resources here. When you’re ready to open your business, protect your investment and your assets with insurance designed specifically for your needs. Get quotes online for a variety of Houston small business insurance plans here.
Once you’ve got your business up and running, you’ll want to protect your investment. You can find quotes for a variety of Atlanta small business insurance policies here.