Tyler A Rare Gem of a City
I moved to Tyler a couple years ago from California and I love this rare gem of a city. It is a great place to live—especially if like me, you're burned out on overcrowded, expensive, high stress urban megacities. I promise I'm not with Tyler Chamber of Commerce! High quality of life is here in a beautiful, manicured, green city close to nature that is secure with low crime. Old growth trees shade a broad grid crisscrossed with creeks, green spaces, groomed parks, trails and byways. Tyler has a very low cost of living, low taxes, well maintained infrastructure, populated by friendly, diverse people. It has grown 34% since 2000, with a population of 103,000 in a sprawling piney woods metro area of 203,000. Tyler is in the urban Goldilocks Zone, big enough to have everything you need, small enough to be pleasant.
Culture: It is young and new mixed in an easy blend with old and traditional. You'll see way more tattoos and skinny jeans now than cowboy boots and pickups. More Starbucks than barbecue and beer. Shopping is ridiculously good, and surprisingly sophisticated. Nothing snobby or pricey but styles for every taste. Grocery stores bristle with fresh produce (much of it local) in dizzying selection—from value groceries and big boxes to hip natural foods and high end wine selections. Tyler has a local culture that is conservative and skews evangelical Christian evidenced by a lot of churches. But folks are not at all pushy about it—more "practice" than "preach." This also means a lot of faith-based charitable outreach; so you don't see homeless folks. Yes, there's an old school elite that runs things, but they're efficient and very civic-minded, not corrupt. Tyler city government runs a tight ship, keeping their city clean, well kept and with low crime and robust new infrastructure. Kind of a "Texas Singapore" that way. There are spots here and there, but no busy nightlife. People entertain and hang out with each other, making Tyler more a easygoing, family-friendly place than for young single hipsters. I'm retired, so that's fine by me. Besides, Tyler folk get up and get to work earlier, more like it's on East Coast time. But that also means people get off earlier and get home earlier. There is a surprising amount of wealth tucked away in Tyler (ostentation and conspicuous consumption isn't the culture here, you don't flaunt wealth). A drive thru the upscale, older central Azalea District or out to the new subdivisions in the rolling hills to the west or piney-wooded ones to the south reveal world class custom homes. There's a combination of old money from Tyler's oil boom era blended with new money from Tyler's burgeoning professional class in healthcare and education. Tyler has three colleges, including a big state university, and the nation's premier junior college. People here tend be hard-working, going to school, or both—or retired. Tyler is a great place to for retirement; it is often mentioned in AARP's best places to retire. I jokingly call it Palm Springs With Pine Trees. Tyler does have seasonal symphony and beautiful libraries, as well as a luxurious new cineplex with table service. Tyler has lots of places to eat out. If you drive by the many restaurants at lunch or dinner, you'll swear no one cooks anymore. Tyler loves to dine out! Restaurants tend to be all the different nice chains. Many of the order mom and pop places are gone. Slowly, Tyler has started to acquire newer, trendier places to dine—and they're packed, so this trend will accelerate. This is a Texas, so of course there is outstanding barbecue!
Medical: Tyler has world-class medical care. It is the regional medical hub for East Texas. Gleaming, sprawling new hospitals and medical centers have attracted top healthcare professionals here from all over. Christus Trinity Mother Francis' cardiology is ranked in the top five of the nation behind only the renown Cleveland Clinic. Other specialties from oncology to neurosurgery abound. My only critique is that it's hard to find the classic family doctor, most being on staff of one of the many satellite clinics of the big hospitals that are everywhere in the area. But I suspect this trend is not limited to Tyler.
Schools: Tyler has great schools. If you see some "dollars spent per student" chart don't overreact. A dollar goes much further here. Tyler has many brand new elementary and middle public schools, plus two large public high schools with a third new one on the way. The new schools are spacious and high tech. Tyler also many good private schools. Tyler Ed has satellite vocational campuses as well—including a new tech learning center that's like a Silicon Valley campus.
Real estate: Tyler has very affordable real estate compared to the rest of the country. The good news is value. I just bought in a good neighborhood. It's a brand new Craftsman-style 3 bedroom 2 bath detached house, 2000 sq.ft., vaulted ceilings, open plan, all designer surfaces, custom granite, spacious, landscaped yards for $168K. It's so energy efficient my electric bill is now lower than my water bill. All with low property taxes ($2.3K per year—which I've locked-in as my homestead). My new home increased in value by 12% in one year, but this is not typical. You can buy yourself a new "mansion" if you wish here for $300-500K (versus $millions in any other major metro area) in one of the new upscale developments in the booming southern quadrant. The bad news is selling your home here can take longer here, up to 9 months. I suspect this is because of an excess of inventory of existing homes combined with a building boom in new homes. There is also a local tendency to want to "build new" because real estate values have been traditionally so affordable. All these trends contribute to a buyer's market, but this will tighten as Tyler's growth catches up. Tyler saw a boom in condos in the 80s and 90s for retiring WWII generation folks. It needs more new ones for retiring Baby Boomers and younger folks who want condo convenience. Ask around carefully before buying older condos here, the culture of each is different, and a few have let maintenance slip because of older owners on fixed incomes unable to pay for big maintenance assessments. I found that smaller, single family houses can be found here—and you're not at the mercy of inconsistent home owner's associations that can effect property values within a few years.
Renting: Again, a buyer's market. There's been a boom in apartment complexes, many are lovely, nestled in the rolling hills and pine trees on the expanding perimeters of Tyler. This leaves the older (most well-maintained) older complexes in the Center areas competing with bills-paid or no deposit, three-months paid move-ins. There are also a lot of rental homes in Tyler, especially in the older 1960s-1980s subdivisions in the inner loop.
Traffic: I see quite a few reviews where people bitch about Tyler's traffic. Oh please. These people have never sat through a multi-hour commute in urban California or the Northeast. I can get across town here in 12-15 minutes at the height of rush hour! I think it's because Tyler's afternoon rush hour is spread out longer (2:30-6:00) because of the staggered hours of the many people in healthcare and education, and this creates a "perception" of congestion. But give me a break, Tyler's well maintained roads keep the traffic moving. You never see "stop and go" freeways—because there are no freeways! There is an outer loop toll road that flows at about 70mph. Tyler has very limited mass transit; you need a car here to get around. This is an area where Tyler needs to improve.
Climate: I won't deny it. Tyler has hot, humid summers. They run typically from early May through mid October with 70s at night to mid-90s day. Once or twice a decade, Northeast Texas can have runs of +100-degree midsummer days, but these are not the norm. The hottest part is late June through early September. Either side of that is warm but easier to handle. My first summer here, I melted! But a summer or two on, your body adjusts and it's really not a big deal. All public spaces are cool with chilly AC. And evenings and early mornings are lovely all but a handful of days. And, people dress accordingly here. You almost never see ties and jackets! Off hours, everybody's in shorts, Ts and sandals, very casual. The Good News is Tyler's Sunbelt climate makes for mild, short winters. What we call "Fall" is wonderful. It usually kicks-in about the end of October with a steady, slow cool-down into late November. Days in the 60s, night 50s. Some years, the cool snaps quickly and we get a riot of Fall colors as we did in 2015. Thanksgivings are usually rainy and cold (upper 40s), but once or twice a decade there can be a freak early hard freeze. Usually there's that steady, Indian Summer-style cool down through Christmas. Our really cold weather is typically in January and early February. We usually have one to two brief hard freezes (in the teens) per year. It rarely if ever snows. March is usually rainy and cool, warming into April. Springs blooms green quickly here in March. We have at times scary thunderstorms with winds April into mid June. There can be brief, localized rainstorm runoff, but Tyler not being near a river seems exempt from floods. Last year in 2016-17 we never really had a winter, 50s-70s with only one brief hard freeze. Tyler is in a zone of climate transition: prevailing warm, moist air wells up from Gulf of Mexico, occasionally clashing with cool, dry northern air.
Pros: High quality of life, low cost of living, green, low crime, mild winters.
Cons: Urban-oriented folks may miss "culture," hot summers.
Traffic is not an issue here—if you've lived in big cities, this is nothing.
Robert | Tyler, TX