Real-estate investors are already circling homes in the Texas border town where Elon Musk said there would be 'several thousand' jobs

  • Elon Musk pledged $30 million to Brownsville, Texas, where SpaceX has a rocket-production facility.
  • He encouraged people to move to the border city, saying there would be “several thousand” jobs.
  • Realtors said Musk’s comments sparked investors to inquire about buying homes in the area.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elon Musk shone a spotlight on Brownsville, Texas, last week — and real-estate investors answered the call.

The city in the state’s southernmost tip, which sits on the US-Mexico border, is home to one of the SpaceX’s rocket-production facilities.

The tech billionaire, who founded SpaceX in 2002, announced via Twitter on March 30 that he was donating $30 million to revitalize the city’s downtown and improve the schools in Cameron County, where Brownsville is.

Brownsville on Google Maps.Google Maps

Musk then tweeted: “Please consider moving to Starbase or greater Brownsville/South Padre area in Texas & encourage friends to do so! SpaceX’s hiring needs for engineers, technicians, builders & essential support personnel of all kinds are growing rapidly.”

As of April 7, SpaceX had more than 111 job postings at its rocket-construction and launch site that broke ground in 2014. Musk has dubbed the facility and surrounding area Starbase. “Starbase will grow by several thousand people over the next year or two,” he tweeted.

It’s in the tiny neighborhood of Boca Chica, which has just half a dozen residents near where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico. Brownsville, 20 miles west, is the closest city, with about 180,000 residents. Musk’s tweet also referred to South Padre Island, a popular resort area just north of Starship on a barrier island with long sandy beaches. The whole region is known as the Rio Grande Valley.

Brownsville realtor Bruno Zavaleta told Insider that people were already heeding Musk’s advice. Since Musk’s tweet, he said he had received about three to four inquiries a day from people interested in buying homes in Brownsville. Two of those inquiries are already in the process of turning into purchases.

A Starship rocket-ship prototype at SpaceX’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, in November.SpaceXWhen he talks to prospective buyers who call, Zavaleta said, his first question is: “OK, are you moving down here?” When they answer “no” but say they’re an investor, he asks if they’ve reached out because of Musk’s tweet.

“I just point-blank ask them, and they’re like, ‘Yup.'” he added.

They hail from as far away as Austin, Texas, California, and Atlanta, Zavaleta told the local NBC news affiliate.

Craig Grove, a Brownsville broker and the owner of GRT Realty, witnessed a comparable uptick in inquiries over the past week. 

Since the tweet, he said, “my phone activity in general — the number of calls — has gone up dramatically.”

In fact, Grove told Insider, he’s working with an investor with a $2 million budget who has decided to buy Brownsville real estate in the wake of Musk’s tweet.

The typical price of a home in Brownsville is $167,800, according to Realtor.com data.

SpaceX was already boosting Brownsville’s real-estate market, but Musk’s tweet added fuel to the fire

Diana Haire, a broker who has been selling real estate in the area for over 15 years, told Insider that she’d been working with SpaceX employees moving to the area for about two years. 

“It’s really been picking up steadily for about two years,” Grove added.

Haire said Brownsville’s relative affordability, low interest rates for borrowers taking out mortgages, and minimal COVID-19 restrictions had been big drivers for out-of-state buyers — not just SpaceX employees — over the past year. 

Just in the past month, she said, she sold two homes to buyers in California over FaceTime. There has been so much interest, Haire added, that bidding wars are common.

A neighborhood resident walks his dog in Boca Chica Village in 2019.Loren Elliott/Getty Images

In March 2020, Realtor.com reported that the typical home sat on the market for 70 days before selling. In February, the typical home lasted just 35 days before being snatched up.

Out-of-town buyers tend to push prices up and can make properties unaffordable for locals earning more modest wages, Salvador Contreras, an economist and professor of economics and finance at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, told the NBC affiliate.

Insider’s Dave Mosher reported last year that SpaceX essentially cleared out the village of Boca Chica to build Starbase by offering residents buyouts and telling them “it’s not safe” and “too dangerous” to live there. Meanwhile, Mosher found, the company has quiet plans to turn the area into a private rocket resort for employees, guests, and VIPs.

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