The fact Comal and Guadalupe counties are among the fastest-growing in population in the United States may not be a surprise, but where those new residents are moving from tells a story different than other Central Texas counties.
Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017 show Comal County as No. 2 and Guadalupe County as No. 36 when it comes to net percentage increase of residents. The majority of those residents are coming from another one of the Lone Star State’s 254 counties.
“Being between San Antonio and Austin, the first thing we have to offer is location,” said Marty Chrisman, broker of River Canyon Realty and president of the Four Rivers Association of Realtors. “There is a great quality of life and it’s just far enough from the city.”
The “city,” as in San Antonio and Bexar County, provides the greatest number of new residents to Comal and Guadalupe counties. The U.S. Census Bureau lists San Antonio as the seventh most highest populated city in the U.S. and among the top in growth. Some of that growth has moved to the north and east.
Just to the north in Hays County, the majority of growth is thanks to Travis and Williamson counties, where house prices have driven some away from the Austin and Round Rock areas, Realtors said.
The numbers coming in
Lastest figures for migration from the Internal Revenue Service show 13,290 people moved to Comal County in 2016. The most, 3,461 new residents, moved from Bexar County, while the second most came from neighboring Guadalupe County with 2,052. Hays County provided the third most with 754. Out-of-state transfers were 2,863, while 75 residents came from other counties.
In Guadalupe County, 15,220 new residents came in 2016, with Bexar County leading the way with 4,579 residents moving. Second is Comal County with 2,166 and Hays County had 716 move closer to San Antonio. New residents from out of state numbered 4,187, while 355 were from other countries.
Combined, the two counties picked up 28,510 residents, with 8,040 from Bexar County, 1,470 from Hays County, and 781 from Travis County and Austin. Other Texas metros provided higher number of residents, too, including Harris County and Houston with 742 and Dallas County and Dallas with 167.
Other states contributing to migration were topped by California, Florida, Illinois and Colorado, according to numbers from the IRS.
Comal County Judge Sherman Krause, a native of the county he serves, said the growth has brought new opportunities.
“The growth is bringing in new commercial and manufacturing businesses, and there are more opportunities here in Comal County,” Krause said. “That allows our residents to work here and spend more here. It helps all of our businesses.”
Where they go when they leave
The two counties lost 20,474 residents in 2016, which left a net growth of 8,036. Broken down by county, Comal County had a net gain of 4,309 and Guadalupe County was up 3,727. Comal County now has more than 130,000 residents, up from the 2010 Census figure of 108,472. Guadalupe County has more than 155,000 residents, up from the Census tally of 131,533 in 2010.
Of those leaving, 15,616 stayed in Texas, 4,600 moved to a new state, and 258 moved out of the U.S.
Growing strengths and pains
The quick growth offers some challenges for schools, cities and counties.
“Adding infrastructure while maintaining what we have is a challenge,” Krause said. “There is a cost that comes with that. The easiest example is that with more traffic, we need more roads. With a larger population to serve, the sheriff’s department needs more support to provide law-enforcement services. There will need to be more staff and employees.”
Krause pointed to steady growth over [the last]30 to 40 years, which is now including more retail and business development to help balance the growth in the housing market.
“We have a lot of capital projects going on right now to keep up with growth,” Krause said. “We have buildings being renovated downtown [New Braunfels], and we have more opportunities coming.”
Housing changes and needs
As retail, commercial and office space increase, the housing needs continue to evolve, according to Chrisman, whose association represents 1,500 members in Comal, Guadalupe, Gonzales, Caldwell and Hays counties. Chrisman said she lives in the Canyon Lake area and does not mind the drive time to experience the quality of living she enjoys.
“But certain price points in our area will bring a multiple-offer situation,” she said. “With a median price of $300,000, how can anybody afford a house?”
The national average home sale price of $296,500 is being eclipsed by the hot market near Austin and near San Antonio that Four Rivers serves.
“There are a lot of people moving to this area, though Austin and San Antonio are night-and-day different,” Chrisman said.
While Austin is the state capital and is home to The University of Texas, where the student population rivals that of New Braunfels, San Antonio has strong roots with a military and medical population. In between, there are many medical, tech and education opportunities, including Texas State University in San Marcos.
“There is a lot here,” Chrisman said. “But a high number of home ownership helps with the stability of neighborhoods. We need to have more housing in a range residents can afford to buy and invest. We have so much to offer with jobs, lakes, wineries and a great quality of life.”