So you’ve heard the big news: Austin, Texas is the top rated city across the globe to migrate to this year. While it’s true that there are many great things about Austin that attract a wide array of people (and our breakfast tacos don’t hurt, either), it’s also true that Austin might not be for everyone. You might be asking yourself, “Should I move to Austin, Texas?” Here are some great reasons why you might – and might not – want to call this great city home.
Austin is Hot.
To quote Lizzo, all the rumors are true! Austin gets HOT. As someone who grew up in New England and then lived for a year in Arizona, Austin is a different kind of heat. Compared to Houston and other parts of the south, it does feel dryer, but it’s not quite dry. We have a fair amount of humid days where you feel the sweat rolling off you the second you step out of the door. The other thing about Austin is that it can often feel like the the warm season never ends. It starts getting hot around April/May, and it isn’t really until November/December that you feel like you have some actual nice weather. Sometimes not even then. This past Christmas was 90 degrees! You just never know what you’re going to get. There are also months where you will have 100 degree days every day, usually July, August, or September.
What does this mean for your lifestyle? Simply that you need to be around water. Having a pool in Austin is critical, whether it’s your own or frequent access to a friend’s or a community pool. There are a lot of great public watering spots, but they tend to get full really quickly, especially with our explosive growth. As a Boston girl, I will say that the relentless heat is much better than being trapped after a brutal snowstorm. You just have to learn to adjust your lifestyle around it and do things like, take the kids out early to play, find shade and water, and embrace air conditioning. Regardless of the heat, though, we still rock summer photos!
As a girl who never suffered from allergies in my entire life, cedar fever is REAL. My second winter in, I started understanding what everyone was talking about. My eyes and nose felt like they were going to fall off my face, and it was an absolutely miserable existence until I started on allergy meds. Even with the meds, I still feel cold symptoms all winter. This drives me crazy, because as it feels like finally when the weather is nice enough to get outside a lot (hello, hiking season!), I can’t leave my house because of the cedar pollen. Fun fact about cedar trees, too: they’re protected, which means we can’t even get rid of them.
Austin is Expensive.
I will admit that “expensive” is a relative term. What is expensive to one person won’t be expensive to another. What I will point out is that many people across the nation think of Texas as affordable, and that’s just no longer the case…especially in Austin. In fact, Austin has had one of the worst cost of living increases in the entire United States. We recently got our house appraised and it is valued at 400k more than we paid for it, not even 18 months later. A lot of the cost of living is going to depend where in Austin you are. The more expensive parts of Austin are downtown and surrounding, River Place area, Westlake Hills, Bee Cave/Lakeway, parts of South Austin, and parts of Dripping Springs. They are going to vary quite a bit in cost, too. As of January 2022, the average cost of a home is $2.5 million in Westlake Hills and $847k in Lakeway. A lot of people coming from other expensive areas like California, Seattle, and New York find our prices very refreshing and are able to get a lot more for their money than they did back home. These are more outlier markets, though. The average person moving to Austin is going to find that it is extremely expensive, and a lot of the locals who were once looking to buy homes are finding themselves priced out of their own market.
As someone coming from the Northeast, it blew my mind how LONG it takes to get around here. It seems that there is always traffic, no matter what time of day, and many places like Lakeway and many of the master planned communities only have one way in and one way out. There is one commuter rail here that goes from parts of North Austin to downtown, but it is known to be unreliable and too crowded to take a lot of the time. If you’re looking at North Austin and planning to use this for a commute, make sure you have a back up plan. The infrastructure works great for those who work remotely because they won’t have to fight traffic at every turn. It also works well if you’re utilizing your local neighborhood schools or schools that are close enough to your home. I will say from experience that because the sun is so strong here and there isn’t a lot to block it, sunrise and sunset are brutal times to drive and when there typically tend to be the most accidents.
The Schools are A Mixed Bag.
How well you like the public schools of a location is also going to be impacted by your background. Is your bar super high like mine, coming from the Northeast? You might be a bit disappointed with many options we have. Is your bar more average coming from a state with both stronger and weaker public schools? You will probably be pleased. My daughter is finishing up her junior year and has been in the LTISD district since 6th grade. She has definitely been challenged and had some amazing teachers. One great thing about Austin is that there are a ton of amazing alternative schools to choose from, too, if you want to go that route. If you have a child with severe special needs, though, this is not the place for you. There is only one therapeutic school for the entire city, and it’s private and costly. It is tough to find a district that does the right thing for and understands truly complex children. If you have never lived anywhere but Texas or other parts of the south, you probably don’t know what you’re missing from places like the Northeast…and that’s ok, too, as long as you feel supported. My personal opinion though as someone with a complex child is that this is not the best place for them, and they will thrive in other parts of the US. I love Niche and GreatSchools as a place to start your search. My advice is also to talk to parents of kids in those districts and get a sense of what they’re loving or disliking. That helps more than just seeing test scores!
The Food is Incredible.
Again, your perception of Austin food will depend on where you’ve come from, but this Northeast girl is in love. Boston does seafood really well, and yes the North End has some great Italian spots, but….the suburbs are severely lacking. New England is not known for fun, family friendly cuisine, and Austin definitely is. We were so delighted that there are so many delicious restaurants here with amazing outdoor spaces so our kids could play while we waited for food. There is also such a variety of food here in the city and suburbs, and most of it is absolutely delicious. My one piece of advice is to make sure your particular area has the type of food you love. For example, here in Lakeway we have a few great sushi spots, but no poke. I have to drive 30 minutes for it, and it is one of my favorite foods. You could seriously eat somewhere new and delicious every week in Austin and never get bored.
The Politics Are Mixed.
Everyone thinks of Austin as a liberal mecca, and that’s just not true…especially in the suburbs. Yes it’s Austin, but we’re still in Texas. Overall, Austin is pretty even with there being higher blue concentrations downtown and closer to the city, and more red/mixed as you get into the suburbs. Where you choose to live in Austin should reflect your family’s values. There is no wrong answer. Even though this map is helpful, I don’t find it to be accurate. For example, I live in Lakeway and it leans heavily conservative. As of January 2022, our superintendent is also highly conservative, and this reflects in our school’s policies, especially Covid related. Again, it’s just important to pick areas that align with your beliefs. This school year of 2021/2022, AISD had a mask mandate in place while LTISD did not.
The People are Great.
Regardless of where you live in Austin, we have found that we just love the people. They are friendly, outgoing, and a total breath of fresh air compared to New England. I have a wide array of friends here from all backgrounds and walks of life, and it is fantastic. Southern hospitality is definitely alive and well here in Austin.
There’s a lot to do.
One thing about Austin that we also found refreshing coming from the Northeast is simply how many great things there are to do! There are things like The Thinkery for kids, as well as as tons of free splash pads and playgrounds all around the city and suburbs. You can rent paddleboards, canoes, or kayaks at Zilker or zip up (literally) to Lake Travis and go ziplining. There are a lot of public watering holes and places to explore outdoors like the Botanical Gardens and Wildflower Center. Because our weather is typically more mild than a lot of the country, we can also enjoy a lot of outdoor amenities year-round. Austin is also constantly popping up with family friendly indoor spots like their franchise of Little Lands and other small business indoor spots. If you have kids, it is definitely a very child friendly city.
What do you think? Are you ready to call Austin home? Are you still thinking, “Should I move to Austin, Texas?”