Will Regional Growth Wake Up Sleepy Horseshoe Bay?

Horseshoe Bay sits on the southern end of Lake LBJ in the Texas Hill country.

Like every other Hill Country town, it has beautiful views, amazing wildflowers and a relaxed atmosphere. But the similarities end there: Horseshoe Bay isn’t like any other Hill Country town.

The median home price is $525,000. Fifty-three percent of the town is at least 60 years old. Only about 25 percent of the town lives there full-time, and most of the homes in town are second, or even third, homes.

Older folks with money in a sleepy lakeside town — but there might be more to Horseshoe Bay than meets the eye.

In Horseshoe Bay, the majority of residents are over the age of 60, and the median home price is over $500,000.Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
In Horseshoe Bay, the majority of residents are over the age of 60, and the median home price is over $500,000.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

“We love our little intersection here,” says City Manager Stan Farmer, looking out from atop the hill where one of the town’s two churches stands.

From the top of this hill, you can see all of Horseshoe Bay: the manicured lawns, the gleaming resort, the glittering lake.

But look closer, and a more complicated – and changing – picture of Horseshoe Bay emerges.

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There aren't many young people in Horseshoe Bay, but if there are children, they attend school in Marble Falls a town over. Some wonder if the town's growth will eventually lead to a school being built in Horseshoe Bay.  Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
There aren’t many young people in Horseshoe Bay, but if there are children, they attend school in Marble Falls a town over. Some wonder if the town’s growth will eventually lead to a school being built in Horseshoe Bay.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

Down below the church hill sits one of the town’s oldest neighborhoods.

The area falls under the Horseshoe Bay property owners association. The POA formed in 1974, about 30 years before the city incorporated. Farmer points out a jewel in the POA’s impressive list of amenities.

“Quail Point building is right up there,” Farmer says. To picture the facility, think of a neighborhood community center — but larger, nicer, and on the lakefront.

Inside Quail Point sit Reagan Lambert and Mary Daniel. Both are both POA officeholders, and both have retired here to Horseshoe Bay. Lambert says that most of the permanent residents live here because they’ve chosen to retire here. He has a laundry list of reasons someone would choose to do that.

“We have five golf courses. We have a constant-level lake. We have an airport with maybe, arguably the longest private runway in the United States. The weather. The bluebonnets. The people.”

Lambert and Daniel both say they love the town just the way it is. Tough to argue with that — if they’re happy there, why change anything? The town provides everything that its older population needs, Daniel says.

Because Horseshoe Bay has demographics similar to that of a retirement community, there are no schools in town.Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
Some residents wonder if the town is on the brink of a change — will it continue to draw only retirees? Or will the growth of the Austin region drive more young people to the area?
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

“we are basically a retirement community.”

“We do have some young families, but not a lot, because we have no elementary school, junior high or high school. So those kids have long bus rides,” he says.

But what about the young families who call Horseshoe Bay home?

To observe the elusive “young people of Horseshoe Bay” in their natural habitat, you can go to the local yacht club, where once a week you’ll find a group of friends enjoying happy hour and discussing the other side of Horseshoe Bay.

Bramer Owens is a doctor at the brand new Baylor Scott & White Hospital located just outside Horseshoe Bay. He says the divide in Horseshoe Bay is easy to define.

“You have the folks who have the wealthy lakefront property. And then you have all the folks who work for them. They’re their maids, their yard keepers. I mean all the people that it takes to run second and third homes, they also live here,” says Owens.

Allen Pilibosian owns Treadworks Tire and Auto in Cottonwood Shores, a small community just outside the Horseshoe Bay city limits. He has more contact with those in the service industry than most businesses in the area.

“We have people who come into our shop who, price is not an issue at all. And then we have people come in who can’t afford to have the simplest things taken care of on their car. And they also live here in Horseshoe Bay,” Pilibosian says.

Owens agrees there’s not much of a middle class in Horseshoe Bay. But he thinks that could change soon, as the new Baylor, Scott & White hospital he works at finishes its initial construction phase.

New construction projects in the town hint at possible changes to come. The price of the new homes, however, remains high — at least $400,000.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

“I think what you’ll see with the hospital is the establishment of a middle class,” Owens says.

And those folks will need somewhere to live. Horseshoe Bay currently has several thousand home lots ready for development. But Pilibosian wonders if those developments will just bring more of the same.

“There isn’t a large amount of housing that is good for that medium-income family. You’re either way above it or way below it,” he says.

Alan Leifeste works at Seton Healthcare in nearby Kingsland. He says you can’t isolate Horseshoe Bay when thinking about growth. Sure, the hospital will bring 300 jobs now, and more in the future, but those people can pick to live in Horseshoe Bay, or Marble Falls, or Kingsland, or even Austin.

“This area is prime to grow. Austin’s migrated this way. There’s about a 15-mile stretch between the end of Austin technically and Marble Falls [and] Horseshoe Bay. And that gap’s going to close very quickly,” says Leifeste.

And as the entire area grows, things may change. As Marble Falls gets bigger, the school district could decide it needs a school in Horseshoe Bay — which could lead to more amenities for the younger set. So that all means that things could change just a bit in Horseshoe Bay.

But right now, the town is what it is. In one of the newest and largest neighborhoods being built right now home prices start at more than $400,000.


  1. It should be noted that some of the amenities discussed in this article are available only to members of the resort, the airport and the golf courses, for example. The cost of resort membership is in the thousands of dollars plus a multi-hundred dollar a month fee. Quail Point, the community center, is the only access point (available to HSB residents only) to the water that I know of if you are not a member of the resort or live on waterfront property. And, when Quail Point is rented out, then there is no public access to the water in HSB. This community is resort-centric. If you are considering moving here for the “amenities”, just make sure that you are either prepared to be a resort member or be sure that your reasons for moving there are not based upon resort amenities. This being said, there are many areas with great natural beauty and views. Prices of lots for non-lakefront lots can be affordable. A perk: with so much money settled around the lake, even the convenience stores have good wine and cigar selections and the local grocery store, 10 minutes from anywhere in HSB, is a gourmet grocery store. Though it will soon be our regular home (not a vacation home) and we’ll be there every day, we loved the resort/vacation vibe. Reminded me of being on South Padre Island with all that water and all those flip-flops.

  2. I just retired as the Burnet County Judge in December and have lived in Horseshoe Bay for about 10 years. My husband, who is an attorney in Marble Falls, and I have raised our family here. Kids went to Marble Falls High School, which is less than 15 minutes from our home. They both participated in sports, scouts and extra curricular activities and currently have successful careers. Although the community has a high percentage of retirees, we also have a vibrant, well connected, professional working class. And, there are wonderful lots (not on the lake) that are very affordable to build your dream home. There are many, many activities in HSB which keep our community engaged. And, yes, we welcome families of all ages. When I answer that Texas question, “where are your from”, and I reply Horseshoe Bay, the counter statement is, “you live in a resort!”. Yes, I do. and I love it! Thanks for a great review of our community.

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