Austin FAQ: What's It Like to Live in Austin?Whether you are interested in moving to Austin for business, family, or personal reasons, you are likely to have many of the same questions in mind:
- What's it like to live in Austin?
- How does Austin compare to where I am currently living?
- What is the cost of living like?
- What is Austin weather like?
- What neighborhood should I live in?
- Central Neighborhoods
- Lake Travis Area Neighborhoods
- Southwest of Austin
- Northwest of Austin
- Far Southwest Austin
- North of Austin
- Northeast of Austin
- South of Austin
- What is the traffic like?
- Are the schools good there?
Here at austintexashomes.com, we want to help you make the smoothest possible transition to Austin. To help you out, we've attempted to answer most of these questions here. However, if you have more questions, you can always reach an Austin Realtor at 1-877-231-9802.
Austin is a fairly laid-back, fun place to live. Here, the dress seems to be more casual than in many large Texas cities. Many people work from home, or have a flexible work schedule. Austin contains many young people and artists, and has a diverse culture, which is affected by the following factors (among others):
- Technical companies--A directory of "Silicon Hills" (Austin's own "Silicon Valley") lists over 100 technical companies in the Austin area. This makes Austin a fairly tech-savvy town. Many Austin organizations and businesses were some of the first to be noticed on the Internet because of the large number of "techie" folks here in Austin.
- Universities--Austin is home to the University of Texas, St. Edward's University, Concordia Lutheran University, Austin Community College, Huston-Tillotson College, and there are two other large universities in nearby towns, Southwestern University and Texas State University. That means Austin is home to a lot of young people and students. Many, after graduation, decide to live in Austin or start families here, which means Austin has many young families as well.
- The music scene--Austin is a music industry mecca. South by Southwest (abbreviated SXSW) is a large music and film festival that has put Austin on the entertainment map. Austin has a large and varied selection of artists performing all over town, and notably on 6th Street downtown, every night. Austin City Limits, which appears on public television, is filmed here, and has showcased many well-known talents through the years.
- Cultural holdovers from the 1960's--Austin has a history of, for lack of a better word, "hippie" culture. Whole Foods, a now well-known health food store, was started by two entrepreneurs from Austin. Of all the counties in Texas, Austin's county of Travis one of the few "blue" counties, politically (though Austin is home to a wide variety of views). In Austin, it's easy to find resources for holistic health, alternative spirituality, and natural childbirth. Hippie Hollow, a popular sunbathing and swimming spot on Lake Travis, is a clothing-optional park. Environmental groups in Austin help to protect Austin's natural resources, such as the Greenbelt and Barton Springs.
- Capital city--Being the capital of the state of Texas, Austin is home to many leaders, such as the governor and congress members, and houses the state Capitol Building. Like any large city, Austin is a very diverse community with people from every walk of life. The above are just a few of the things that give Austin its flavor.
Austin is not that "sprawled" out, compared to many Texas cities. Though there are smaller cities surrounding Austin, such as Leander, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Dripping Springs, Manor, Buda, and Kyle; Austin itself is fairly compact and easy to navigate. Compared to cities such as San Antonio and Houston, Austin's major roads are few and well-located. Some say Austin needs even more roads, however (see "What is the traffic like?").
In 2003, Austin was rated as the 16th most populous city in the U.S. with New York, L.A., and Chicago being the top three, Houston being fourth, San Antonio eighth, and Dallas ninth. According to City of Austin demographic data, the population of the Austin area has risen from 846,227 in 1990 to 1,450,746 in 2006, which is a 58% increase. The many technical companies in Austin have contributed to this growth, mainly during the 1990s.
The cost of living in Austin is slightly higher than that of most Texas cities. However, Austin still has a lower-than-average cost of living when compared to all cities nationwide. To compare the cost of living in Austin to the city you currently live in, go to the CNN Money.com cost of living calculator or one of any number of similar cost of living comparison sites on the Internet, such as www.bestplaces.net.
Austin has been rated as #2 among best places to live by Money magazine. It's been rated as one of the "greenest" cities in the country (and hence one of the worst cities for allergy sufferers.) It has also been called one of the "fittest" cities in the country (which may be why a non-smoking ordinance for public places in Austin passed). It has been called "one of the best places to live," "one of the best places for singles," "one of the best places for young professionals", "one of the cleanest cities," and is relatively low in violent crime (according to austintexas.org and bestplaces.net).
Overall, Austin compares very well to other cities for liveability, cost of living, crime rate, and beauty.
Being in central Texas, which is a tropic region, Austin is generally warm. In the summer, temperatures can occasionally top 100°. Keeping the lawn watered in the summer can be a challenge, because the sprinkled water tends to evaporate quickly in the sun. It's best to water the lawn in the early morning hours or at dusk.
However, most days in Austin are warm and enjoyable, which contributes to Austin's outdoor life and fitness level. Even on wet days, people can be seen jogging or biking on the trail around Town Lake. Austin is a great place for camping or hiking as well, because of the warm weather. Austin is rainier than some Texas cities, which contributes to its "greenest" rating. It gets about 33 inches of rain a year.
One issue in Austin that can be challenging in certain areas of town is flash flooding, which is caused by too much rain accumulating too quickly. Flash flooding can cause a part of a road to be unusable for hours, or even a day or more. Austinites learn to take simple precautions such as staying away from low water crossings during heavy rainfall, and never driving over standing water. In the winter, there is very little snow or ice, with an average of 1 or 2 snow days a year. Most of the winter is warm enough that you might not even need to wear a jacket. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing, which makes it easier to care for plants and animals here.
Where you want to live will depend a lot on where you work, of course. Austin has a bus system through Capital Metro, but no subways or other public transit system. We here at Austin Texas Homes can't tell you where you should live, but we certainly can give you an idea of what the price ranges and amenities of Austin communities and the surrounding area.
Like most cities, the neighborhoods near downtown Austin tend to be higher-priced, whereas many surrounding areas are more affordable. Following are descriptions and price ranges for many Austin neighborhoods, arranged with the higher-priced neighborhoods coming first, and lower-priced neighborhoods at the end.
Some of the older, more prestigious neighborhoods in central Austin include Tarrytown, Hyde Park, Enfield, Clarksville, SoCo, Bryker Woods, and Travis Heights. These neighborhoods have the charm of the "old guard," and have the benefit of being right in the thick of Austin life.
Tarrytown is home to many of Austin's "movers and shakers." It's about 10 minutes west of downtown Austin. Currently, homes in Tarrytown range from about $600K to about 1.5 million.
Hyde Park is located just north of the University of Texas. A lot of younger families have been attracted to this area, because of its proximity to parks, Central Market, and the tree-lined streets. You can expect to pay from the high $200K range to the $600K range for a home in this area.
Enfield contains a wide range of property values, starting in the $400K range, and going all the way up several million dollars. Because of this eclectic mix, a street in Enfield may contain properties with dissimilar values.
SoCo, which is short for "South Congress" area, is a location of much renovation and revitalization since the year 2000 or so. "First Thursday" of each month is a regular event held on South Congress, wherein stores stay open until 10 PM and there are various activities through the evening. The SoCo shopping area could be described as "funky" or "retro." For a home in this hip and trendy area of town, you can expect to pay between $275K and $500K.
Travis Heights is located on the southern edge of downtown. Families and singles of all ages are attracted to this popular area because of the quaint, renovated feel it has. The many trees and convenient location of this neighborhood are additional selling points. Home prices in this area range from $300K to $700K.
Lakefront property is also very popular in Austin. Real estate prices directly on Lake Travis will start around $600K ranging up to millions of dollars. You can find a home near the lake (not lakefront) starting around $250K in Lakeway, which is located to the southwest of Lake Travis.
Lakeway is a very large, sprawling community, with its own police force. Some homes were built as early as the 1960's, and there is still new building of homes in the area. There are 3 golf courses in Lakeway, one of which is a Jack Nicklaus course that is located next to another Jack Nicklaus golf course. It is the only place in Texas where you can find two Jack Nicklaus courses so near each other.
Lake Travis ISD, located near Lake Travis, is a renowned school district. Prices in Lake Travis vary greatly, ranging from the $100K range to the multimillion dollar range.
In the popular southwest Austin and coveted Westlake areas, prices have been high in the past, and have gone up even more, due to high demand. Westlake real estate has long been in high demand. Eanes schools (found in the Westlake area) are renowned in Austin and statewide. Westlake is convenient to downtown, has many trees and hills, and many of the homes feature views of the surrounding hill country. To live in Westlake, you can expect to pay a starting price of close to $500K.
Cedar Park is adjacent to Austin on the northwest side of town. This area includes Lakeline Mall. Prices range from low $100's to over $400K for some of the more upscale neighborhoods. If you would like to be close to the lake, Cedar Park is also pretty convenient to Lake Travis. The new toll roads make travel from Cedar Part to the east much faster.
Leander is just north of Cedar Park, about 5 miles north along Highway 183, and you can expect to pay similar prices there. The new 183A toll road will improve the commute dramatically for some residents. Leander has a slightly more rural feel than Cedar Park.
Dripping Springs is at the edge of the hill country southwest of Austin. Dripping Springs offers great schools and great scenery. Some say there is a need to improve road safety along 290 in this area. You can find nice acreage properties for $300-700K or other homes for a little less. The Polo Club in Dripping Springs is a gated equestrian community with lots of new development going on.
Georgetown is a city approximately 30 minutes north of downtown Austin and just north of Round Rock. Georgetown has an older, more established feel than some other communities surrounding Austin. It also has a historic district with beautifully restored homes. You can also find nice homes on over an acre of land for $300-600K in Georgetown. If you own a horse or two, Georgetown has many good properties you can live on with your horses. This small college town is home to Southwestern University.
Round Rock is due north of Austin (northwest of Pflugerville). Round Rock has grown tremendously since Dell Computer opened its headquarters there in 1994. Round Rock has approximately 86,000 residents and a good school system. Home prices in Round Rock start around $120K and go all the way up to $700K for some of the newer upscale executive areas.
Hutto is a rapidly growing community just to the north of Pflugerville, which is northeast of Austin. It's a good place to invest in single-family homes, and is affordable--you can still purchase newer homes starting around $100K. For many years Hutto has been a tiny, farming-type community, but with many new restaurants and stores popping up there, and the new SH 130 toll road that goes through Hutto, it is becoming a larger, more lively place.
Pflugerville is a quiet, safe community on the edge of NE Austin. The two new toll roads that intersect in Pflugerville have really improved the commute into and out of Austin for many residents, in some cases cutting the time in half! Because Pflugerville is outside Austin, it's affordable, so you can get a lot more "bang for the buck" with housing. Homes start around $120-130K and range up to about $325K. Pflugerville's prices and other advantages have kept it growing in recent years, and now a lot of commercial growth and shopping venues are planned for Pflugerville.
Buda, a small town located due south of Austin along IH-35, is a bedroom community with lots of homes. Main Street in Buda has retained its "old time" look. Buda doesn't offer as much shopping in the immediate area as some of the other Austin metro areas, but in Buda you can get lots of house for your money. Some people think that Buda is a good area to invest in. Home prices in Buda start under $100K.
We here at Austin Texas Homes want to be frank: traffic in Austin can be an issue for those with tight or inflexible schedules. An urban mobility study done by the Texas Transport Institute of Texas A&M U. ranked Austin 13th in the nation for traffic delays, amounting to 51 delay hours a year per traveler (in the year 2003). Austinites hear a lot of complaints about traffic, and it is even burlesqued in live shows such as Esther's Follies. There are ways we can get around the traffic, such as:
- Rearranging work hours so as not to drive at peak times
- Taking less-traveled roads, even if the route is less direct
- Using the new toll roads
As of fall 2006, two new toll roads, Texas 45 North and Texas 130, are open to help Austinites avoid some of the city traffic and get to work faster. Additional toll roads are planned, and a map of their locations and expected completion dates is available at the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
The public schools in the Austin area vary in their ratings. The state of Texas rates its schools using a four-level system. The levels are, from best to worst:
- Academically Acceptable
- Academically Unacceptable
The following table shows the number of schools in each district that received each rating in the year 2006:
|District Name||Location||Number Exemplary||Number Recognized||Number Acceptable||Number Unaccept-able|
|Austin||Central Austin, North Austin, South Austin, and Southwest Austin||6||23||67||6|
|Del Valle||Far south and southeast Austin||0||2||7||0|
|Dripping Springs||Far Southwest of Austin||1||3||0||0|
|Eanes||Westlake Hills area, and to the west of Westlake Hills||8||1||0||0|
|Georgetown||Georgetown, north of Round Rock, far north of Austin||1||8||5||0|
|Hutto||North of Pflugerville, far northeast of Austin||0||0||4||0|
|Lago Vista||North of Lake Travis, far northwest of Austin||0||3||0||0|
|Lake Travis||South of Lake Travis, far west of Austin||3||2||2||0|
|Leander||Northwest of Austin||3||13||7||0|
|Liberty Hill||North of Leander, far northwest of Austin||0||3||1||0|
|Pflugerville||Pflugerville, northeast of Austin||1||8||13||0|
|Round Rock||Round Rock, north and slightly northwest of Austin||8||20||12||0|
|Taylor||North of Pflugerville, far northeast of Austin||0||0||4||0|
To make sense of these numbers, we tried to find the "average" rating for schools in each district. To do that, we at Austin Texas Homes have used the following formula:
(Number of exemplary schools x 4) +
(Number of recognized schools x 3) +
(Number of acceptable schools x 2) +
(Number of unacceptable schools) = Number of rating points
Then, we divided the number of rating points by the number of schools. So, for example, the rating for Austin Independent School District looked like this:
(6 * 4) + (23 * 3) + (67 * 2) + 6 = 233
233 / 102 = 2.3
So, Austin ISD's average rating is between the Academically Acceptable and Recognized ratings. Using this system, the school districts can be ranked as follows:
Using this system, 3-4 points is between Exemplary and Recognized, 2-3 points is between Recognized and Academically Acceptable, and 1-2 points is between Academically Acceptable and Academically Unacceptable.
For reviews of local schools in Austin, check out www.greatschools.org.
The website www.ceoaustin.org has information on many Austin private schools, as does austinprivateschools.com.
Austin is home to many homeschoolers, and has an active homeschooling community, with many homeschooling groups of religious and secular nature. In fact, some of our children here at Austin Texas Homes are homeschooled.
If you homeschool, or are interested in homeschooling in Austin, the following resources can help you get "plugged into" Austin's homeschooling community:
Austin Area Homeschoolers Yahoo Group
A large, inclusive group with park days and many other activities.
Austin Area Homeschoolers Website
This website for AAH has information on the group, and also a free guide for those new to homeschooling in Austin.
Austin Home Base
A part-time school for homeschoolers who want a balance between private school and homeschooling.
A Christian, part-time school for the homeschooled. A university model school in east central Austin.
Holy Family Homeschoolers
A homeschooling group for those of the Catholic faith, but also inviting anyone else who wishes to be included.
The Homeschool Source
A local library just for homeschoolers! Austin-owned and operated.
Learning without Limits
An inclusive group of homeschoolers mainly in the Williamson County area.
Round Rock H.O.M.E.
A group for Christian homeschoolers in the Round Rock area.
Smoothing the Way
A group that attempts to help new homeschoolers get started. Answers questions, leads you to resources, and introduces you to other homeschoolers.
Another Christian university model school in southwest Austin.
This page was last updated 11/03/2007