By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, The Los Angeles Times
Californians have been leaving the Golden State for decades in search of cheaper housing, lower taxes and a different way of life.
When half a dozen California families arrived in a limo-style bus for a daylong tour of suburban homes for sale north of Dallas, the sun was shining but the temperature had dipped below 50 degrees. Some came unprepared for the cooler weather, shivering in hoodies, flip-flops and one in a Dodgers cap.
“Don’t know how much walking I’ll be doing,” said Paul Paone, 57, a grandfather wearing flip-flops and shorts.
Californians have been leaving the Golden State for decades in search of cheaper housing, lower taxes and a different way of life. According to a UC Berkeley poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times last year, more than half of California’s registered voters have considered leaving the state. For thousands, that search leads to Texas. California lost 1 million residents to other states from 2007 to 2016, about 2.5% of its total population, and Texas was the most popular destination, according to a 2018 report from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. The main reasons Californians cited for wanting to leave: high housing costs (71%), taxes (58%) and the state’s political culture (46%).
One couple from San Diego with two small children had yet to tell their family they were considering the move, but their financial incentive was clear: He’s a 100% disabled Marine, which in Texas means they won’t have to pay property taxes.
Before boarding their tour bus, arranged by Realtor and California expat Marie Bailey, who caters almost exclusively to those moving between the two states, the families met at the cafe of the master-planned community in Prosper where Bailey settled with her family, Windsong Ranch.
With its private poolside cabanas, tennis courts and artificial crystal lagoon, it was among the pricier developments they would tour: $400,000 to $1 million for 1,900 to 5,600 square feet. Her husband noted that three years ago, Toyota relocated its U.S. headquarters from Torrance to nearby Plano, and many of the workers now live in the area.
“We’re going to look at a lot of price points today, so just take it all in,” Bailey said as they boarded the bus to their first home.
Paone and his wife had already left Southern California years ago for Nevada — which, like Texas, has no state income tax — but want to live closer to their eldest son, Tim Paone of Hawthorne, also on the tour with his wife and two small children. They can’t all afford to buy homes in California, they said.
Kathy Paone, 55, noted a decorative sign in a model home they visited that said, “All I need today is a little coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.”
The night before, Paone had stopped to say grace before eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant and, instead of feeling out of place as she says she does in California, she was comforted to see others praying, too.
Her son didn’t notice.
“Politics isn’t that big a deal to me. The bigger thing is cost of living, how cramped it’s getting,” said Tim Paone, 31, a software developer. “We have a lot of friends who are considering moving out of L.A.”
He had promised to report back on the Texas tour to three other families renting in Venice.
Bailey was quick to note the price tag for a 2,800-square-foot brick ranch-style house they toured with four bedrooms and three bathrooms: $489,000.
“Too small!” joked Ashley Bustos, 30, a cosmetologist and mother of two from Fullerton.
“Oh! We were guessing $700,000,” said a firefighter’s wife from Valencia who asked not to be identified because she’s hoping her husband can move out of state and commute as other firefighters they know have been doing.
“That’s cheap!” added her sister, who lives in Palmdale.
There’s a $130 monthly homeowners’ association fee, but that’s nothing compared with Ladera Ranch in Mission Viejo, which can cost hundreds a month, Bustos said.
Later that day, touring another palatial home with 20-foot ceilings, Bustos exclaimed: “This is Ladera on steroids!”
She and her husband, Luis Bustos, 29, a car painter, came to Texas looking for “medical freedom” — that is, the freedom not to vaccinate their two sons, ages 9 and 4. Their older son attends public school with a religious exemption, but California made the process more difficult just as they’re about to register their younger son for kindergarten.
Ashley Bustos said she worries they will miss California and her husband’s extended Mexican American family, who gather at the couple’s house on weekends.
“I have major cold feet,” she said on the bus. “My husband says we’ll miss the beach. I say, ‘Honey, we go once a year!’”
Andy Simich, 30, the one in the Dodgers cap, is a defense contractor and former Marine and his wife, Valentina Caceres, 28, a Navy veteran, met while training at Camp Pendleton. The couple, who have a 5-year-old son and nearly 2-year-old daughter, lived in Yorba Linda until last year, when they began considering Texas.
“The second time my truck got broken into, we started having conversations,” he said.
They almost bought a condo in Fullerton for $500,000 in 2017, but the financing fell through, he said. During Saturday’s tour, they said they’re glad it didn’t work out.
“Now we can afford where we live,” he said.
His wife agreed.
“It’s a lot easier to get a house here, and you can get a lot more,” she said, noting local schools offer bilingual immersion classes (she’s Colombian American).
Of the communities they toured, the one that excited them the most was Light Farms in Celina, with its locavore restaurant, artificial sandy beaches and clubhouse fashioned from a 19th century Pennsylvania barn. Homes start at $256,990 for 1,507 square feet.
Read the full, original article from the Los Angeles Times here.