Time to invest in some new footwear because if you’re San Antonio-bound, you’d better show up in boots! The Alamo City is one of the military’s most envied postings and is often referred to as “Military City USA”. Low cost of living, affordable homes, and the lack of state tax on retirement income are a few financial perks to living and retiring in this Texas city. A robust job market that seems partial to government and defense/security contracting ensures employment opportunities for spouses or transitioning service members. San Antonio is the country’s seventh fastest growing city yet has somehow managed to retain a “small town feel.” Quality schools and friendly locals (most with military ties) are additional perks to living in San Antonio.
Some things you should know before you get here: trucks are the norm (the bigger, the better), love for The Spurs (NBA) runs deep, the H-E-B obsession is real (it’s a grocery store), rodeos are life, and don’t call it “San Antone”—that’s just wrong. The community boasts a vibrant Hispanic population, and enhances everything from the food, to the music, to community events. You don’t necessarily need to speak Spanish to get around, but you’d better know how to say barbacoa, tamales, and cascarones.
Name brand shopping (IKEA is the latest arrival of note), restaurants, and all variety of entertainment all add to San Antonio’s quality of life. SeaWorld, the San Antonio Zoo, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and downtown museums are all fun outings for kids and families. Tube or kayak down a river, play or fish in the lakes, or relax by San Antonio’s famous downtown River Walk. Museums, art galleries, and historical landmarks—remember The Alamo?—round out San Antonio’s cultural offerings. Tex-mex cuisine arguably originated here, and some up and coming culinary trendsetters are making a name for themselves in the Pearl District downtown, alongside several notable breweries.
You’ve probably heard that Texas is hot. It’s true. Texas is hot, and San Antonio is sweltering in the summer. With over 300 days of sunshine and good ole’ southern humidity, you might need to prepare yourself for that summer PCS date. The good news is that San Antonio enjoys mild winters and pleasant spring and fall seasons.
San Antonio is in Bexar County (it’s pronounced “BEAR”) in south central Texas, and is just south of the gorgeous Hill Country. It’s only about two hours from Austin, the beach, or the desert.
Joint Base San Antonio
Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) is the nation’s largest joint base and consists of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, JBSA-Lackland, and JBSA-Randolph. JBSA units mainly focus on training, flying, medical, cyber security, and intelligence. Each of the JBSA installations boasts desirable housing and very highly-rated schools on base (not DoDEA), however, there is often a long waiting list for housing that deters newcomers from living on base. Being stationed at one of the JBSA installations could also open up opportunities for a follow-on assignment at another area base. It would be wise to have an idea of potential career trajectory and choose where to live based on future commutes as well.
Finding A Home
The first step in choosing where to live is to determine your priorities. There are three main values, if you will, to consider: Home Size and Price, Commute, and Schools. On each area page, we’ll break down some of the more popular communities for military families, and give you an overview of the trade-offs for each.
Pro tip: If you come armed with this info before chatting with a real estate agent, they’ll have an enormous leg up in helping you find a home quickly. Efficiency and knowledge are crucial in this hyper-competitive real estate market.
Houses in San Antonio are some of the most affordable in the country! A steady real estate market equates to low prices and values that don’t fluctuate. While you can easily find homes within BAH ranges, it is common to see city-wide Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs) that can be stacked on top of subdivision HOAs. You’ll want to know about those fees when determining your budget. The market is booming with new construction, particularly in the suburbs of this sprawling city. A knowledgeable real estate agent can be a huge help in San Antonio, and we know some of the best!
San Antonio is a big circle with interstates crisscrossing through it and two “loops” that circle it. There is an inner loop, Interstate 410, and an outer loop, Highway 1604 or Loop 1604. Inside the inner loop is downtown San Antonio and the urban core of the city. Between Loop 410 and Loop 1604 is considered “inside the loop.” Locations inside the loop offer a more established suburban environment, yet still keep you pretty close to the action. Homes and neighborhoods tend to be older and more historic—this is where the urban sprawl was happening decades ago. Outside the loop (1604) are the modern, “proper” suburbs. This is where you’ll find big, gated communities in all their master-planned glory. Families love the communities outside the loop for the top-notch schools and are willing to sacrifice a short commute to live in the sprawling edges of suburbia.
Most service members without children seek to be as close to downtown as possible for the nightlife and younger vibe. Those with children often broaden their search criteria to include communities with highly rated schools in affordable neighborhoods. We use data from GreatSchools.org here at MILLIE, but that doesn’t always show the entire picture. Look at the school or district’s report card from the Texas Education Agency. Interview potential schools. Talk to the base or regional School Liaison Officer. Take into account all of the factors that could influence test scores, but aren’t necessarily reflective of the quality of education (i.e. a high percentage of students whose primary language isn’t English).
There are three independent school districts in the San Antonio area that have shared boundaries with military installations. Fort Sam Houston ISD, Lackland ISD, and Randolph Field ISD operate under the jurisdiction of the Texas Education Agency. Students who live on the respective JBSA installations may attend these (very highly-rated) schools, but if you live off base, you have to apply for a waiver for transfer acceptance. These schools are not DoDEA schools, but public schools. Off base, there are 23 Independent School Districts that serve military connected students in the San Antonio area. We recommend contacting the JBSA School Liaison Office to help learn more about education options for your child.