When I relocated to Austin about ten years ago now, there were so many things I didn’t know. I took a few trips before I moved to get to know the Austin area. Though that helped, I learned a lot more by actually living here. In a previous post, I candidly shared the 10 Reasons We Relocated to Austin and thought I’d share some realities about Austin that most people don’t find out until they live here. Some you may find positive, others not so much. But, if you’re going to pack up everything you own, you probably want to know as much as you can – good and bad – about the place.
19 Things You Need to Know About Austin Before You Move
I’ve come up with a list of the 19 things you need to know about Austin before you move as a way to explain some of the little things I discovered after I moved to Austin. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area (Belmont, CA to be exact) and living in Atlanta, GA for college, I found the perception of Austin and Texas especially are very different than the reality.
#1: Austin is Hot But Usually Not Uncomfortable
I know you’ve checked weather.com to find out just how hot Austin is. You might have been frightened by the 100+ degree days we can have and thought, there is no way I can live in Austin. One thing I’ve found in my 10+ years living here is the temperature gauge is not a good indicator of how comfortable it is outside. I’ve spent lots of time in the South and in Florida and find I am uncomfortable and hot at 85 degrees. In Austin, it only gets uncomfortable if the temperature gets to be above 100 or if you are standing in direct sun. 90 degrees doesn’t feel like 90 degrees in other parts of the country. Though Arizonans don’t agree, Austin is a dry heat and is not often humid, which makes a huge difference. The reality is, Austin is really hot for about 8 weeks a year and the rest of the year is pretty comfortable.
An added plus for Austin compared to other major Texas cities is it is located at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, which cools off faster. If you want to live in a cooler climate, try Dripping Springs or Driftwood, the west side of Leander or Spicewood.
#2: Austin is Not 100% Texas
Austin is a unique Texas city. With the University of Texas and a liberal leaning political scene Downtown, Austin is not the conservative Texas town you’d expect. With many transplants from the coasts, Austin is starting to act more like a coastal city than a Texas city. For those who find themselves running for Dallas or Houston, keep in mind much of the liberal leaning does center around Downtown and UT. Once you get to the outer areas of the city, you’ll experience more of the Texas type town you’ve envisioned.
If you want a more Texas political climate, try Hays County cities like Buda, Dripping Springs, Driftwood and Wimberley. If you want less of the traditional Texas political climate, try Austin or northern suburbs in Williamson County like Round Rock and Cedar Park.
#3: People are Friendly
Though Texas would never claim the South and the South would never claim Texas, Austin tends to lean more Southern in terms of the friendliness of the people. I always tell people when they visit Austin to determine if it is a place they’d like to relocate, strike up conversations with people when you are out. Austinities are always willing to give you their opinions and will probably talk to you for longer than you want to talk to them. When you move, get involved in either neighborhood activities or some clubs and you’ll have more friends than you probably had back home. Most everyone is a transplant and they understand what it’s like to be new.
I have several stories of going to house warming parties of clients who just moved to the area and showing up to a house full of people. Most of the time it is within weeks of them moving in and they have already met their neighbors, made friends with parents at their kid’s schools and co-workers. One couple told me they lived in their home town for 30 years and they would have never had this many people at a house warming party there if they would have decided to stay where they were and buy a house. Another testament to how friendly Austin is.
# 4: Austin Traffic Sucks
Austin has one interstate (IH-35) and it is 3 lanes for the majority of the trek through the city. With over 1 million people in the metro area, we need more ways for people to get around. It used to be that you could avoid traffic by traveling during non-peak hours, but those hours seem to be less and less.
That being said, traffic is nowhere near what you find in cities like San Francisco, Atlanta, LA and virtually all other large metro areas. But, you will hear locals really complain about traffic because it is a significant increase in what they’ve seen. To be honest, I’ve seen a significant increase in traffic in the nearly 10 years I’ve lived here. The expansion projects do seem to be working a bit, but, for example, the MoPac expansion that was recently completed after a few years under construction barely kept up with the population growth. They are expanding 183 on the east side of Austin, which will hopefully alleviate some of the traffic on 35.
If you want to minimize time spent sitting in traffic, either live as close as possible to work or try to stick with an east/west commute. If you work Downtown, look at neighborhoods off 71 or 290 rather than Williamson County suburbs like Round Rock or Cedar Park. MoPac, 35 and 620 are much busier during commute hours than 71 or 290.
#5: Small Businesses Rule
Though you will see your national chains in Austin (mostly in the suburbs), but for the most part Austinites support local businesses when they can. Even our grocery stores, H-E-B and Whole Foods are Texas companies. Austin has always been a very friendly city for small businesses, so you’ll see many local coffee shops, local restaurant chains and shops tend to do better than the big chains. Even in the job market, many more small to medium sized businesses employ Austinites than the large corporations.
Some of our favorite local coffee shops include Summermoon, which has several Austin area locations now, Radio Coffee on Manchaca Road, Cafe Nena’i on Montopolis for Cuban coffee and PicNik for those looking for dairy free coffee options.
Some of our favorite local restaurants include The Peached Tortilla and Chi Lantro, which both started as a food trucks, Noble Pig in North Austin, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, which has branched out to other states but started in Austin, Pieous Pizza in Dripping Springs and Uchi for sushi.
#6: Some of Our Best Food is From Food Trucks
In most cities, food trucks are often called “Roach Coaches” and are not very popular. Not the case in Austin. One of the first cities responsible for the nationwide food truck craze, Austin food trucks have some of the best food. You’ll find them at bars, in food truck parks and traveling around the city. When you see one, don’t be afraid to try it!
#7: College Sports are King
With no professional sports team, Austinites experience a lot of their live sports through our colleges and minor league teams. We do have some die hard Cowboy or Texan fans, but for the most part, Austinites follow UT or A&M.
#8: Austin is Proud of Being Weird
Keep Austin Weird is a motto you’ll see in the tourist t-shirt shops and on bumper stickers and it is a motto many Austinites live by. Austinites enjoy being different. Don’t believe me? Take a walk down South Congress Ave or Burnet Road and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
#9: You Need a Car
One thing Austin is lacking in is public transportation options. We do have a light rail, but unless you live and work near a stop, it makes it a pretty inconvenient option. Unfortunately I don’t see that changing too much as the city has already been developed. You sometimes hear about it discussed at city council meetings, but nothing really ever moves forward. So, unless you live and work downtown and are content to stay there, you’ll need your own transportation.
#10: Freeway Access Roads Only Go One Way
This one was difficult to get used to at first, but now that I am, I find it to be pretty easy to navigate. The access roads located next to the freeways only go in one direction. If you want to travel north, you’ll be on the north side of the freeway. South? You’ll be on the south side of the freeway. The one time where this can be frustrating is if you miss your exit. It can take you 5+ miles out of the way to make the u-turn.
#11: Our Housing Market is Booming
We find that most people have a skewed version of our real estate market in Austin, especially those coming from high cost living areas. Though you can definitely get more for your money in Austin than you can in say San Francisco, New York City or LA, it isn’t as big of a swing as it has been in years past. With over 175 people moving to Austin per day, our city is growing like crazy and builders can’t keep up with the housing demand. And, as any basic economy class taught you, when supply is limited and demand is increasing, prices have to increase. But, unlike areas like San Francisco where there is virtually no buildable land, we do have some room to expand in Austin. So, even though prices are increasing, they aren’t doing so at the break neck pace you’d see in an area that has no options for increasing demand.
If you’re moving to Austin and are looking to buy a home, work with a Realtor who can help you interpret the market so your expectations are aligned with reality. We know the Austin area well and can help you find a great deal on a home in the right part of town for you and your family. Check out our Austin Home Buyers section for more info about how we work.
#12: There’s a Festival for Nearly Everything
No matter what your interest is, you can be sure you will find a festival for it. Heck – we even celebrate Eeyore’s Birthday. Some of the festivals like ACL and SXSW attract visitors from all over the world and others are more localized. You’ll also find most of our festivals, no matter how weird or obscure, are pretty well attended.
#13: Horses and Cows Don’t Roam Free
To me this sounds crazy, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from clients and even my own family. My cousin told me he couldn’t move to Austin because horses and cows roam free. I have no idea where this came from, but it is absolutely not true. You will, from time to time, see a horse tied to a pole on South Congress and some Austin neighborhoods do allow cows and horses, but they don’t just roam the streets.
#14: Bugs aren’t Taking Over
Bugs are another hot topic for many considering a move to Austin. Most people are afraid Austin is overwhelmed with bugs that are bigger than birds, which isn’t true. We have normal sized bugs and very few of them at that. If you live in Georgetown, Buda, Dripping Springs or Driftwood (cities where you’ll find larger lots and a more rural setting), you’ll see more bugs than if you live in Austin, Cedar Park or Round Rock. But, even in the more rural cities, we don’t have an out of control bug population. Thankfully, we also have a large bat population which takes care of a lot of the bugs.
#15: The Ocean is 3 Hours Away
Coming from San Francisco, this was one of the harder things to get used to. Even though I rarely went, knowing the ocean was 20 minutes away was oddly comforting. It also makes for a beautiful cityscape. Though Austin doesn’t have a coast, the good news is there is one 3 hours away, so if you’re dying for a salty sea air fix, you can get it on a weekend trip. The Texas beaches don’t compare to the California or Florida beaches, but it is the coast and there are beaches. So, if you’re dying for a beach fix, you have something.
#16: Austin Has Winter
You hear more about Austin heat outside of Austin than anything else. But, what everyone forgets to mention is Austin does have winter. Sometimes it only lasts for 6-8 weeks, but one year it lasted for 5 months. We’re talking freezing temperatures, ice storms and snow (though not severe). Those of you from the Midwest and East Coast know Austin’s winter doesn’t compare to the severe winters experienced there. However, for those from other parts of the country, winter can be a bit of a shock.
#17: Austin is Still a College Town
Though Austin has grown faster than it probably wanted to, deep down, it is still a college town. Not only do over 52,000 attend UT, several thousand are employed there as well. You’ll notice during the summer when many of the kids are home for break, the city slows down, especially around Downtown. UT has also been a great reason for Austin’s growth. UT’s students are from other parts of Texas, the US and outside the country. And, when they live in Austin for a few years, many of them love it so much they decide to stay.
#18: Austinites Have their Own Pronunciations
If you’ve read our Austin Street Pronunciation Guide, you know Austinites don’t pronounce things the way they are spelled. For example, Burnet Road is pronounced “Burn-IT”, Guadalupe is pronounced GWADA-loop, queso is pronounced “kay-so” – the list goes on and on. The fastest way for an Austinite to tell if you are new to town is if you insist on using the widely accepted pronunciation of certain words. My advice, learn the quirky pronunciations and use them.
#19 Austinites Love Lines
Free taco day, discount oil change, free concerts – whatever the give away, you can be sure there will be a longer line than you’d expect. When I first moved, Torchy’s was giving away free tacos so we thought we’d check it out. We got there a few minutes before the promotion was supposed to start and no kidding, the line was out the door and wrapped around the building. Though we were the minority, we opted to skip the line and try a new taco place down the block.
Would We Still Choose Austin?
Absolutely! Though not everything we expected, Austin has been a great place to live and we are glad we chose to move
Considering Relocating to Austin?
We have been in your shoes and know what it’s like to relocate to Austin without knowing anyone. We also know the area better than any Realtor in town and won’t push you to our favorite area of town because it is easier for us. We take the time to listen to what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know where to find it, and help you find the area that you and your family will most enjoy living in. For more info about our relocation program, check out our Guide to Relocating to Austin, where you’ll find more tips and learn more about our team. Then, fill out our Relocation Survey, email us at info@11OaksRealty.com or call us at (512) 827-8323 to schedule a no obligation in person or phone consultation.