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Moving To Austin Texas? (The Truth About Living Here)

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If you are thinking about moving to Austin, Texas, you should know that you would be hard-pressed to find a better place to call home. In fact, Austin is consistently included in many “Best of” lists — #1 in U.S. News and World Reports “25 Best Place to Live,” for example.

There are many reasons for this: a strong economy, a good job market, a diverse culture, rising home values, a vibrant music scene, and beautiful weather that supports an active lifestyle.

Let’s take a closer look at everything that Austin has to offer new transplants.

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What Are The Neighborhoods In Austin?

 

Austin is a sprawling city that takes up over 300 square miles. There are 11 general and over 100 individual neighborhoods. Austin is also a very eclectic city where every neighborhood, street, and business is quirky and unique, and residents are very proud of that fact. The city’s motto, which you will see everywhere, is, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Austin, Texas, downtown cityscape at dusk.

To simplify things, here’s a very general overview of some of Austin’s major neighborhoods, with one caveat. If you do move here, do yourself a favor and spend time exploring everything that the city has to offer.

Central Austin

Bryker Woods — First developed in the 1930s as a single-family neighborhood. Plusses include older, well-maintained homes, an elementary school, a park, a greenbelt, and natural springs.

Downtown Austin — Austin’s central business and cultural district, home to historic buildings and homes, upscale shops, popular nightclubs, and world-class music and film festivals.

Hancock  — Residential neighborhood with an elementary, middle, and high school, as well as a golf course that used to be part of Austin’s first country club.

Hyde Park — Austin’s first suburb, much of which is considered historical. This neighborhood is considered to be the most representative of local culture. Home to Shipe Park, which provides residents with tennis and basketball courts, a playground, a picnic area, and a swimming pool.

Pemberton Heights — One of Austin’s more historic and wealthiest neighborhoods. Pemberton Heights has several parks, open spaces, and a greenbelt.

Rosedale — This large neighborhood has over 1200 homes, as well as nearby businesses and medical facilities. At its heart is Ramsey Park, with picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, and a swimming pool.

North Austin

Allandale — This neighborhood has over 3500 homes and is known for its community traditions, including a 4th of July parade, a neighborhood-wide garage sale, and the display of lighted candy canes at every home during Christmas. Allandale also has multiple parks and recreation facilities.

Brentwood — Known for its beautiful tree-lined streets, Brentwood contains over 4,300 housing units, primarily single-family residences. The neighborhood has an elementary school, a dog park, and a 9-acre public park with a playscape, baseball and soccer fields, and tennis courts.

North Shoal Creek — This small pedestrian-friendly neighborhood has approximately 800 single-family homes and is primarily known for its extreme walkability.

Northeast

Windsor Park – Just six miles from downtown, Windsor Park was first developed in the 1950s and has evolved into a diverse neighborhood where half of the houses are family-occupied. Community amenities include a library, a recently-renovated pool, a splash pad, basketball courts, ball fields, a course for disc golf, and picnic areas.

Northwest

Canyon Creek — Once a working cattle ranch, upper-middle-class Canyon Creek has a semi-rural feel, even though it is only four miles from shopping and major employment centers. Canyon Creek has two parks, one owned by the city and another owned by the neighborhood homeowner’s association.

Northwest Hills — Also called “Far West,” this neighborhood has Austin’s greatest concentration of Jewish residents. One notable feature is a 40-acre complex of synagogues, schools, and organizations serving the Jewish community.

East Austin

East Cesar Chavez — Originally settled by former slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, the neighborhood formally known as Masonville is one of the oldest in Austin.

West Austin

Tarrytown — Interestingly, the land that is now Tarrytown was once a single 365-acre estate owned by Texas Governor Elisha Pease. Today, Tarrytown is an extremely affluent neighborhood where many of the original historic homes have been updated and updated.

South Central

Barton Hills — The defining feature of this neighborhood is its proximity to the Barton Springs Pool, a year-round outdoor swimming pool filled by natural springs. Nearby Ziker Park hosts the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Bouldin Creek — This neighborhood is unique for its diverse blend of cultures and architectural styles. One notable institution is the Texas School for the Deaf.

South River City — Also known as Travis Heights, this was Austin’s first planned urban community south of the Colorado River, originally developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Southwest

Circle C Ranch — Developed in the 1980s and the 1990s as a large master-planned community, Circle C Ranch is one of Austin’s newest and largest neighborhoods. Today, there are over 6,400 homes and community amenities, including 500 acres of parkland, four swimming complexes, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course.

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How Is The Job Market In Austin?

 

When it comes to Austin’s job market, there is good news, and there is bad news. The good news is that at 5.9%, the unemployment rate in the Austin area is slightly below that of the United States as a whole (6.4%) and significantly less than that of the State of Texas (8%).

The further good news is that the current figure is less than half the 12.7% unemployment rate that Austinites faced in April of this year.

The bad news is that while that 5.9% might seem low, it is still double the unemployment rate that Austin enjoyed before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit. Just like other communities across the country, the industries in Austin were hit hard by lockdowns, mandatory closings, and the changes in the economy caused by social distancing.

But in another way, Austin is actually lucky compared to some other cities. According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, many of the major employers in the area are in the tech sector, which more easily lends itself to remote working.

What else would you expect from a city nicknamed “Silicon Hills”?

In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that Austin is attracting more remote workers and corporate jobs than ever before. Company relocations from the East and West Coasts are expected to bring in 10,000 new jobs in Austin, the most ever recorded in a single year.

For example, 8VC, the venture capital firm owned by tech investor Joe Lonsdale is moving to Austin. Shell just opened an office in the city to develop energy exploration possibilities. In July, electric car manufacturer Tesla announced plans to build a local factory that will eventually employ 5000 workers.

Highway transportation system highway interchange at mopac Expressway and highway 183 in Austin Texas USA summertime green road way interstate

The traffic is almost all one-way. For example, for every person who relocated from Austin to San Francisco between April and October of this year, nearly three went the other way. The numbers from New York were only slightly less.

Why is this happening?

Several factors make Austin such an attractive destination for companies and -relocating workers.

  1. Austin enthusiastically offers tax incentives to companies that decide to move here, as they did with Tesla.
  2. Austin has a huge pool of skilled, educated workers, and UTA is always replenishing the supply.
  3. There is no state income tax in Texas. That is a huge incentive for workers asked to relocate, especially if they get to keep the same salary they were making on the Coast.
  4. Winters are shorter and milder in Austin than they are on the East Coast. Don’t underestimate the power of a sunny day.
  5. Housing is typically more available and less expensive in Austin than it is on either Coast.
  6. The risk of COVID-19 is less in a city where living conditions aren’t so crowded.

Industries

According to the Chamber of Commerce, the “Key Industries in Austin” are:

  • Clean Technology — Creating products and services that lessen environmental impact by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency.
  • Advanced Manufacturing — The use of cutting-edge or innovative technology to improve the manufacturing process.
  • Data Management — Gathering, storing, and using data as a valuable resource.
  • Creative and Digital Media Technology — Working with radio, television, digital, gaming, or social media.
  • Regional Offices and Corporate Headquarters — Centralizing the resources and leadership of large national or international corporations.
  • Space Technology — Developing the technology to be used in spaceflight, exploration, or warfare.
  • Life Sciences and Health Care — All of the pharmaceutical, biotechnological, nutraceutical, and other sciences that support the medical industry.
  • Insurance and Financial Services — Everything to do with insurance, banking, and investing.

Top Companies to Work for

Again according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, there are 12 companies that employ 6,000 or more people in the Austin area. Especially relevant, many of these jobs can be done from home. The largest employers in the Austin area are:

  • The State of Texas (62,853 employees as of 2018) — Austin is the state capitol, so a large number of government employees is expected.
  • The University of Texas at Austin (23,925) — The 7th-largest public university by enrollment.
  • H-E-B (13,756) — Top-15 Food retailer.
  • City of Austin (13,531) — As the fourth-largest city in Texas, this is expected.
  • Dell Technologies (13,000) — Hardware, software, and cloud computing.
  • Federal Government (12,795) — Federal workers make up 6% of the U.S. workforce.
  • Austin Independent School District (12,227) — Supporting 80,890 students.
  • David’s HealthCare Partnership (10,309) — With over 40 separate offices in the Austin area, St. David’s is one of the largest medical groups in Texas.
  • Ascension Seton Medical Center (9,947) — Austin’s largest surgical/medical acute care hospital.
  • Samsung Austin Semiconductor (8,935) — One of the most advanced and largest semiconductor manufacturing programs on Earth.
  • Apple (7,000) — A new campus with the potential to hire up to 15,000 employees will open in 2022.
  • Round Rock Independent School District (6,345) — Supporting over 50,000 students.
  • IBM (6,000) — Cloud computing, cybersecurity, and Watson Research and Design.

“Silicon Hills” remains an appropriate nickname for the area. In 2019, the Austin Chamber of Commerce reported more than 7,200 tech companies in the metro, providing over 161,000 jobs.

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How Is The Austin Real Estate Market?

 

The next obvious question you probably have is what the housing market looks like in Austin. According to Zillow, Austin’s median home price is $437,800, representing a year-over-year increase of 12.8% over 2019.

At these prices, a house that is offered for sale in the Austin Metro spends an average of 35 days on the market, about 19% less than in 2019. Active listings are down 50% from this time last year, so right now, there is a strong seller’s market in Austin.

Old House not far from the Capitol Building in the centre of Austin Texas

So while the bad news is that houses aren’t cheap in Austin, the good news is it is easy to make money off your investment rather quickly. For instance, home prices are expected to rise by 11.6% -over the next year.

And to put that number in perspective, the median home price in San Francisco is nearly $1.4 million, representing a 1.1% decrease compared to last year. Homes in New York City have a median value of $660,001, a modest 2.2% increase over last year.

Obviously, your home location plays a large role in how much it might cost, so let’s look at the median home values in the neighborhoods we listed earlier.

  • Bryker Woods — $947,888 (+13.6%)
  • Downtown Austin — $601,908 (+9.8%)
  • Hancock — $595,804 (+15.5%)
  • Hyde Park — $653,145 (+14.9%)
  • Rosedale — $771,514 (+13.7%)
  • Allandale — $672,664 (+10.9%)
  • Brentwood — $552,841 (+16.7%)
  • North Shoal Creek — $441,798 (+12.5%)
  • Windsor Park — $455,147 (+16.9%)
  • Canyon Creek — $432,361 (+5.9%)
  • Northwest Hills — $831,770 (+12.4%)
  • East Cesar Chavez — $602,958 (+17.1%)
  • Tarrytown — $1,090,179 (+10.8%)
  • Barton Hills — $801,499 (+14.7%)
  • Bouldin Creek — $832,135 (+14.9%)
  • South River City — $782,724 (+12.4%)
  • Circle C Ranch — $589,064 (13.8%)

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How Much Does It Cost To Live In Austin?

 

But besides buying a home, you probably want to know about the cost of living in Austin, Texas. After all, affordability is determined by more than just the price of your home. First, let’s look at how much regular expenses cost in Austin, specifically compared to San Francisco and New York City.

Food and Groceries

The average monthly food and grocery cost in Austin is $852, which is 32% lower than San Francisco ($1251) and 13% lower than New York City ($972).

picture of Family with shopping cart in an austin texas supermarket store

High labor costs, taxes, and regulation account for the huge difference. For example, in San Francisco and New York City, the minimum wages are $16.07 and $15.00, respectively, while in Austin, the minimum wage is just $7.25.

Plus, both San Francisco and New York City have huge “food deserts” where there aren’t enough supermarkets to meet demand. Major supermarket chains in Austin include H-E-B, Randall’s, and JD’s Supermarkets.

Utilities

The average monthly cost of utilities in Austin is $568, which is 32% lower than San Francisco ($834) and 12% lower than New York City ($648).

San Francisco customers use Pacific Gas & Electric, and the costs are double the national average. Power bottlenecks and the high cost of maintaining an aging infrastructure are why New York City residents pay up to 40% more than people in other parts of the country. Austin Energy is the biggest electric company in the area.

Transportation

Austin’s average monthly transportation cost is $537, which is 38% lower than San Francisco ($861) and 20% lower than New York City ($668).

MSN reports that New York and San Francisco are #5 and #3, respectively, among the “Worst Cities for Driving,” considering such factors as cost of ownership and maintenance, traffic infrastructure, safety, and access to vehicles and maintenance.

A single ride on Austin’s CapMetro is $1.25, and a week-long pass is $11.25. In New York, a single ride is $2.75, and a month-long unlimited pass is $127. In San Francisco, individual rides are $2.50, while monthly passes are $98.

Healthcare and Medical

The average monthly cost for health care in Austin is $342, which is 14% lower than San Francisco ($398) and 11% higher than New York City ($304).

Part of the reason that healthcare is relatively inexpensive in Austin is that it is one of the fittest cities in America, with low rates of diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.

Taxes

Austin’s sales tax is 8.25%, compared to 8.5% in San Francisco and 8.875% in New York City. More importantly, Texas has NO state income tax, while California’s average is 7.75% — the highest in the country — and New York’s average is 5.99%, which is 8th-highest.

Texas is attractive to businesses because there is no corporate tax, while California charges 8.84%, and New York 7.1%.

Texas does have the highest property tax among the three at 1.81%, compared to .74% in California and 1.35% in New York.

Because of special excise taxes, a gallon of gas is $1.95 in Texas, compared to $3.23 in California and $2.32 in New York, while a pack of cigarettes is $6.37, $8.31, and $10.47, respectively.

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Is Austin A Good Place To Retire?

 

In October 2020, U.S. News and World Reports ranked Austin #29 in the country among the Best Places to Retire. Demographics support this, because about 9% of Austin residents are age 65 or older.

Why is Austin such an attractive place for retirees?

First, there is the tax climate — no income tax, personal or corporate, low city and state tax rates, and no tax on retirement income. That means retirees can make their money go a lot further.

The actual climate is also a major draw. The warm weather and mild winter promote an active lifestyle, and Austin has plenty of green space. Half of the city’s residents live within walking distance of one of the more than 250 local parks. There are hundreds of walking, hiking, biking, and urban trails throughout the area.

Because it is ideally positioned on both sides of the Colorado River, Austin has several lakes and other options for fun on the water. At the Barton Springs natural swimming pool, people age 62 or older get in for the discounted price of only $2, while seniors age 80 and up get in free.

As both the State Capital and home to a major university, Austin has many health care options for seniors. Within 10 miles of the city’s center are Westlake Medical Center, Arise Austin, Seton Medical Center, University Health Center, and St. David’s Medical Center.

Of particular relevance, Seton Medical Center is Austin’s largest surgical/medical acute care hospital and the only facility in Central Texas that can perform heart transplants.

There are over a dozen retirement communities in and around Austin, with more than 16,000 homes. Among the largest are Sun City, Kissing Tree, and Onion Creek.

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What Are The People And Culture Like?

 

Austin is a very ethnically- and culturally-diverse city, and that diversity is celebrated in many ways. Each group is well-represented and celebrated with permanent cultural exhibits and regular community events.

Nearly 1 out of every 3 people in the Austin area is of Hispanic origin, not surprising since Texas used to be part of Mexico. Latino culture is highlighted in numerous restaurants and shops around the city, as well as in museums, theaters, and events:

The Asian population in Austin increased by 76% between 2007 and 2017, making it the fastest-growing local ethnic group. The biggest reason for this jump is Austin’s rise as a tech hub.

Austin is the only rapidly -growing major U.S. city where the African-American population is going down, currently at 8%. But that decline does not diminish the history of Blacks in Texas, dating back to the 1500s.

In addition, Austin has been ranked as one of the best LGBTQ cities in the world. In fact, the first same-sex marriage in Texas took place in Austin in 2015. Every June, Queerbomb is an inclusive rally, pride march, and celebration.

picture of a diverse group of friends playing jenga game in an austin texas bar

As Mayor Steve Adler says, “In Austin, we embrace the true meaning of ‘y’all.’ Being an inclusive city means everyone is included…”

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What Are The Popular Things To Do In Austin?

 

There are many good reasons that Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” On any given night, there are over 250 venues hosting a live music event in Austin. No matter how obscure or eclectic your music tastes are, you are sure to find something to your liking.

Some of the most famous music venues in Austin include:

  • The Broken Spoke — One of the world’s most famous honky-tonks, where country legends like Dolly Parton, George Strait, and hometown hero Willie Nelson have performed.
  • Threadgills — Janis Joplin worked as a waitress and performed at the original location.
  • Moody Theater — This is where Austin City Limits is taped, the longest-running music program in U.S. television history.
  • Historic Scoot Inn — Central Texas’ oldest bar
  • Antoine’s — Austin’s “Home of the Blues” since 1975.
  • The Continental Club — This former supper club has been rocking South Austin since 1955.

The Austin area is also home to several huge music festivals all year round. Following is a very small representative sample of some of the major events.

NOTE: Because of COVID-19, many of these were canceled or postponed in 2020. However, organizers hope to resume these traditional events in-person as soon as possible.

January

Free Week — Hundreds of local bands play free shows in venues around Austin during the first week of January.

February

Carnaval Brasileiro — One of the biggest Carnaval celebrations outside of Brazil, complete with music, dancing, and costumes.

March

South by Southwest Music Festival — SXSW is the world’s largest musical festival of its kind, with over 2000 acts and hundreds of thousands of attendees.

April

Old Settler’s Music Festival — Since 1987, this event has celebrated Central Texas culture with bluegrass, folk, Americana, roots, acoustic blues, and jazz music, as performed by local acts.

Austin Reggae Festival — The has been the most important reggae music event in Austin since 1994.

May

Hot Luck Festival — Live music and food highlighting local diversity.

Pecan Street Festival — As one of the longest-running music and arts and crafts festivals in the country, the Pecan Street Festival is an eclectic celebration of one of Austin’s historic districts. Held twice a year.

June

Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally — The state’s largest biker gathering is also an occasion for live music and a parade down Congress Avenue.

July

Fourth of July Symphony — Patriotic music played by the Austin Symphony.

August

Austin Pride Week — The largest LGBTQ+ event in Central Texas.

September

Pecan Street Festival.

October

Austin City Limits Music Festival  — The latest lineup had 130 acts on 8 stages, across every genre — country, rock, folk, indie, house electronic, and more.

Viva la Vida — Austin’s longest-running and largest Day of the Dead celebration, featuring traditional and modern Latin music.

November

Austin Area Jazz Festival — Austin’s premier jazz event, featuring local and international talent.

Austin Celtic Festival — Central Texas’ largest gathering of Celts, featuring traditional Scottish, Irish, and Breton music and dance.

Levitation — Since its inception in 2013, Levitation has grown into an international celebration of psychedelic rock music.

UTOPiAfest — A 3-day music and camping experience featuring almost 40 bands.

December

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar — Shopping, food, and live music featuring 35-plus bands.

Austin’s New Year — Austin’s official New Year’s celebration, an alcohol-free and family-free event featuring two dozen bands and a fireworks display.

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Pros And Cons Of Living In Austin

 

As with any move to an unfamiliar city, there may be an adjustment period if you move to Austin, with both positives and negatives. Let’s review a few of each.

Pros:

  • Job Market — Major companies, high salaries, low unemployment
  • Lower Cost of Living — Especially when compared to cities on the East and West Coasts
  • Favorable Taxes
  • Several of the schools have been named among not just the best in the State of Texas, but among the best in the country.
  • Mild Winters
  • within easy driving distance of several other major cities — 74 miles from San Antonio, 146 miles- from Houston, and 182 miles from Dallas.
  • Lots of Parks
  • Diverse and Inclusive Culture
  • Vibrant Music Scene
  • Soaring Home Values
  • Highly-Educated Citizenry — 90% of local residents have at least a high school diploma, and 52% have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
  • Good Medical Facilities
  • Very Dog-Friendly — There are 12 leash parks in Austin

Cons:

  • Median home prices in Austin are considerably higher than they are nationally or elsewhere in the State of Texas.
  • The inventory of homes for sale is low in some neighborhoods.
  • Summers are long and very hot.
  • Public transportation in Austin is inadequate, so you will need a vehicle of your own.
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Fun Facts About Austin

 

Austin is a unique city that is rightfully proud of its quirky culture. Here are a few interesting tidbits about the “City of the Violet Crown.”

  • Kenneth Threadgill was the first person in America to obtain a beer license when Prohibition ended.
  • Hippie Hollow is the only nude beach in the State of Texas.
  • On the last Saturday in April, Austinites throw “Eeyore’s Birthday Party” for the lovable depressed donkey from the Winnie the Pooh
  • Austin has the largest urban bat colony in North America — 1.5 million bats take flight every evening
  • The United States Grand Prix is the only Formula 1 race in America.
  • At the Stunt Ranch, you can learn about and even participate in real movie-style stunts.
  • The Texas State Capitol Building is the largest such structure in the U.S.
  • By population, Austin is the largest U.S. city not to have a professional sports team.
  • Austin is the 7th Texas city to serve as State Capitol.
  • The O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship is held annually in Austin.
  • Austin has more bloggers than any other U.S. city.
  • Famous people from Austin include NFL quarterback Drew Brees, actress Sandra Bullock, author O. Henry, President Lyndon B. Johnson, musician Janis Joplin, actor Matthew McConaughey, musician Willie Nelson, journalist Dan Rather, and actress Renee Zellwegger.

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The Bottom Line About Moving to Austin

As you can see, Austin is an interesting, vibrant, and diverse community that offers plenty of opportunities for newcomers. Between the affordable cost of living, the rich culture, the warm weather, and the welcoming and inclusive environment, Austin should be strongly considered as your next move.

 

Further Reading: Looking For More Texas Resources? Check These Articles Out!

 

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