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Central Texas is part of what is called the “Texas Triangle”, the triangle formed between the major metropolitan centers of Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. Over 70% of Texans reside within the “triangle”, and it is one of the fastest growing and economically robust megaregions in the United States.
Fort Hood is located on the Edwards Plateau on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. The area features many hills, which are more plentiful further West in Copperas Cove and beyond. The bedrock is limestone which is often eroded by underground water, resulting in numerous caverns dotting the area. The soil is thin, beneath which is a sticky, clay loam, making it mostly unsuitable for crops. The area’s main agricultural product was once cotton but is now cattle. The landscape is scattered with savanna grasses and trees.
Central Texas has a short winter. Average highs reach 96 degrees Fahrenheit in August and lows of 34 degrees in January. Extended periods of 100+ degree weather in the summer is not unusual. Central Texas is moderately humid, typically ranging between 35% to 90% humidity. Humidity peaks in May and is driest in the late summer months of July and August. May and June are the rainy months and often feature short but violent thunderstorms. After a dry summer, scattered rain can be expected in September through the end of the year. The area averages 32.83 inches of rainfall a year, essential to maintaining the local civilian water supply at Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Lake. Snow is rare and usually melts within a day. Hailstorms are common and can often damage roofs and property.
The Fort Hood area recently completed major infrastructure improvements along Highway 190 and Highway 195 (Fort Hood St.), resulting in very manageable traffic patterns even at peak hours. Supporting roads like Stagecoach and Rosewood have also recently been added or expanded, significantly improving local commutes. Highway 190 was recently redesignated Interstate 14, part of a planned route stretching from Fort Stockton in West Texas, through the Killeen area, west to Bryan/College Station, and then all the way to Georgia. Also called the “Gulf Coast Strategic Highway”, the route is intended to link some of the nation’s major military installations to improve military readiness. Highway 195, recently re-routed around Florence and expanded to four lanes, make Georgetown, Round Rock and Austin more accessible to Fort Hood area residents. Highway 183 in Lampasas is also a convenient way toward Austin on the westward side, going through Liberty Hill, Leander, and Cedar Park.
Things to Do
Fort Hood is conveniently located to just about everything Texas has to offer. The following is a partial list of activities and events either in the Fort Hood area or within a three hour drive at most: Austin’s 6th Street, SXSW, Texas Hill Country Wineries, Inner Space Cavern, Rodeos, Dr. Pepper Museum, San Antonio River Walk and Alamo, Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool, Longhorn Football, National Museum of the Pacific War, Texas Chainsaw Massacre House, Magnolia Market, N Land Surf Park, Hidden Falls Adventure Park, Schlitterbahn, Houston Space Center, AT&T Stadium, Boulders Climbing Center, Skydive Temple, Lake Travis zipline, Longhorn Cavern State Park, Peloton Ridge Country Club, Stunt Ranch, Stillhouse Hollow and Belton Lakes, and more.
Fort Hood is a large post, unlike posts like Fort Polk, Sill, or Drum for example, and has all the major branded stores, shopping and restaurants. Prime local shopping includes the Killeen Mall and Market Heights. The best shopping in Central Texas is 67 km south at the Round Rock Premium Outlets, featuring approximately ninety-six (96) stores.
The two primary school districts in the area is Killeen ISD (KISD) and Copperas Cove ISD (CCISD). Harker Heights and Nolanville schools are part of the KISD. Lampasas, Florence, Salado and Gatesville also have their own, small school districts. The Temple and Belton school districts are also within reach for parents. The area also includes a significant number of private schools available. For higher learning, Central Texas College (CTC) has many Service Member oriented education, and Texas A&M has a campus in Killeen as well. A Realtor cannot make school recommendations because of equal housing laws, so it is the buyer’s responsibility to do due diligence on which schools are important to them.
Killeen is by far the largest city surrounding Fort Hood. Its population exploded since the War on Terror in 2001, when it was a mere 80,000. Now over 130,000, it is the largest city between Dallas and Austin – larger even than Waco. Even with all that growth, home values during that time have been flat, keeping pace with inflation. Many attribute this to the ample new building that has been taken place during that time, generating an ample supply of inventory to keep up with the housing demand. Like the rest of Texas, Killeen survived the 2008 housing crash relatively unscathed because home values had not climbed anywhere near as dramatically as they had in places like Florida, California and Nevada. For buyers moving to the area, Killeen is the likely destination. There are great neighborhoods to choose from as the town rapidly grows southwards – the only direction it can expand with Fort Hood to the north and west, and Harker Heights to the east. There are great builder options, or recently built preowned homes that can give a buyer a great quality of life for their money.
Copperas Cove is to the west of Killeen and Fort Hood, though it still bumps up against Fort Hood and has its own gate leading to post. Even though its population is slightly more than Harker Heights at just over 33,000, it has a decidedly small town feel. It has a diverse housing market, with very affordable areas along with newer and pricey options. Finding homes with some space and country is achievable. The terrain is also observably more “Hill Country” than Killeen, with awesome views along Skyline Mountain. The town was put on the map when Copperas Cove High School “Bulldog” and Army brat Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy as Baylor University’s quarterback, and went on to the NFL.
Harker Heights is just east of Killeen on Hwy 190 with a population just over 28,000. It has the highest home values between Killeen and Copperas Cove. Residents tend to be more established with lower home occupant turnovers. The area of Harker Heights along Hwy 190 includes the Market Heights shopping area, with some of the best shopping in the Fort Hood area. The parts of Harker Heights furthest to the south like The Ridge are close to Stillhouse Hollow Lake and finding homes with boats parked in the driveway are not uncommon. Other parts of Harker Heights include older areas that have maintained their property values and boast lovely mature trees – not always easy to come by in Central Texas.
Nolanville is a small but trending community just east of Harker Heights on Hwy 190. Nolanville has the newest homes in the Fort Hood area, with the average home sold in 2014 being built in 2006. It features the high end HOA community of Bella Charca, as well as more the more affordable Nolanridge, and Wildwood Estates priced in between the two. It is still part of the Killeen ISD. Nolanville has a variety of new and new-ish home options, close to the Harker Heights shopping and amenities. Being on I14, homeowners are on the near side of I-35 in Temple/Belton and then on either north to Waco and Dallas or south to Austin and San Antonio.
Gatesville is an older rural town outside of the North Fort Hood gates. For those unfamiliar with the layout of Fort Hood, there is the main post of Fort Hood in Killeen, as well as West Fort Hood across Hwy 190 at with the airport, also still in Killeen. North Fort Hood is on the clear other side of the training area from the rest of Fort Hood, and is a 30-45 minute drive from the main post. Gatesville is its own unique market. It is actually just as close to Waco as it is Killeen, because the entire, sizeable Fort Hood training ground is between Gatesville and Killeen (and Hwy 84 is a convenient stretch straight from Gatesville to Waco). Quite a few Soldiers live in Gatesville and commute to work – especially those who work on North Fort Hood. It is a good place for those hoping to stay in the area afterward and are looking for some very affordable, older homes or especially some land.
Kempner and Lampasas
Kempner is to the west of Copperas Cove on Hwy 190, and Lampasas is yet further west. The commute to the Fort Hood Main Gate is about 25 minutes from Kempner and 40 minutes from Lampasas. Lampasas is actually a very easy commute to Austin at just under an hour’s drive, straight down Hwy 183 (though the Hwy 183 corridor is a trending area to the south, with lots of building in Cedar Park, Leander and eventually Liberty Hill, so traffic congestion is coming). Both communities are much more rural, and great options for either a small town feel or if you are looking for farms, ranches or acreage.
Temple and Belton
Temple is an older area than Killeen, and Belton is the county seat of Bell County. But the Killeen/Harker Heights/Copperas Cove area has considerably outstripped the growth in the Temple and Belton markets. Many moving to the Killeen area, even those who work on Fort Hood, choose to live in Temple or Belton in spite of the longer commute. At approximately 30-45 minutes, is a more manageable commute than living in Georgetown or Round Rock, and the home prices and market are more comparable to Killeen than the hot Austin market. However it is still a separate market. Most agents who work in the Fort Hood market don’t do a lot of business in the Temple/Belton market, and vice versa.
Georgetown, Round Rock, and Austin
Some Soldiers love the Austin area so much that they choose to live in Georgetown, Round Rock, Leander, Cedar Park, or even Austin itself. The Georgetown/Round Rock/Austin markets could not be more different than Killeen’s. Killeen is a stable buyer’s market, with lots of affordable housing but no home appreciation. As soon as you pass through Florence on Hwy 195 into Williamson County, however, the housing market changes dramatically into one of the hottest seller markets in America. You can expect to pay twice the amount for a comparable home in Williamson and Travis Counties for the same home in Killeen. Many officers and NCOs who choose to commute from the Austin area regret it. It is a long drive one way, which will be painfully felt when one realizes they forgot their boots 60 miles away when changing at the gym after PRT. With the expansion on Hwy 195, commuting either way has become much more tolerable. In the next ten years, the Austin metro area will continue to grow in both space and prices, and commuting to and from Killeen area becomes a more attractive option.
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