11 Photo By Melisa Oporto

Sunnyvale

Virginia Ellsworth and her husband both own businesses in East Dallas. And, until earlier this year, the Ellsworths lived there, too. But they wanted more—more house for their money and better public schools. They found what they were looking for in Sunnyvale, wedged between Lake Ray Hubbard and Mesquite, just a 15- to 20-minute drive away.

“I actually saw fireflies in my backyard,” Ellsworth says. She’s planting a garden on her two acres, along with raising chickens and goats. “It’s so quiet. No honking, sirens, or car alarms. Yet I’m still so close to Dallas.”

Ellsworth and her family were lucky to find those two acres. “In the last six months, only about 12 homes in Sunnyvale have come on the market,” says Becky Bochniak, a real estate agent who has lived in the city for 25 years. “There have been waiting lists for several months for people wanting to build in some subdivisions.”

The demand has been building since 2009, when Sunnyvale finally opened its own high school (students previously went to North Mesquite High School), aiding parents’ long-term comfort with the district. Because of the new school and proximity to Dallas, the city has become a more attractive option. As a result, the average home price in Sunnyvale has increased 19.2 percent since 2011, from $277,449 to $330,736. Which is one of the reasons the city made the biggest leap on our list, from No. 21 to No. 11.

Sunnyvale barely edged out two other suburbs—McKinney and Hurst, with 9 point gains—for the biggest leap. Why? Mostly for the same reasons: steadily climbing home values and solid, improving schools. — Dawn McMullan

Demographics

  • Median Age: 44.9
  • Population Growth (2000-2013): 109.80%
  • Population Density: 342 people per square mile

Schools

  • Students Passing STARR K-11: 91%
  • Average SAT Score: 1478
  • Students Taking SAT/ACT: 91.00%
  • Instruction Spending Per Student: $5,205

Crime

  • Violent Crime Rate: 1.89 per 1,000 residents
  • Non-Violent Crime Rate: 22.3 per 1,000 residents

Real Estate

  • Average Price of Homes Sold (2013): $330,736
  • Sales Price Change (2011-2013): 19.20%
  • Owner-Occupied Homes: 94.80%

Ambiance: 80