"People don't live in Austin to work, they work to live there." (Robert Rodruigez) Read Guide >
Luckily, Austin is a renter’s paradise with 55% of its inhabitants living by lease. As the city continues to boom, developers continue to build. New apartments are springing up - literally - because the City wants builders to reach into the cloudless Texan sky rather than sprawl across the earth. If you like living downtown, we hope you like heights. Whatever your housing choices, though, the local rental market will not disappoint. Looking for a turn-of-the-century cottage? A McMansion? A 1970s ranch house? A studio complete with an aging hippie who resists eviction? Austin will come through for you. Wherever you choose to lay down your guitar (or briefcase, or homemade shoes) here are a few questions you should ask:
How many mosquitos do you have? Austin’s mosquitos are so tough that they will suck your blood through your jeans and they won’t send a thank-you note afterwards. From spring till fall, these little monsters create misery for those unlucky enough to live near them. If you’re the kind of person who finds that a cloud of mosquitos in your nostrils ruins the taste of your real Texan ale, then make sure that your home has a screened-in porch or is nowhere near a creek.
Have you ever seen the rain? A good side of Austin is that it has many creeks and rivers. A bad side is that it's prone to flash-flooding. Like much of the hill country, Austin is home to violent rainstorms, and the ground-cover is so thin in parts that water could rush straight into your living room. Austin’s flood-plain records are out of date so be sure to find out whether the home of your dreams hasn’t been deluged in the past five years.
When did you last see a cockroach? We’re sure you’ll agree that there’s nothing more likely to ruin your morning shower than coming face-to-feeler with a cockroach. Yes, this is Texas where everything is bigger, roaches not excluded. They live in the trees and in the nooks and crannies of old houses, and are very difficult to get rid of. If you are moving into an older tree-filled neighborhood, negotiate a pest-control clause (claws?) into your contract.
A sneeze for all seasons? Austin is notorious for being the allergy center of America, and sadly, it is very hard to find a neighborhood that is protected from pollen. However, the four biggest sneeze criminals are cedar, oak, summer grasses and ragweed. If you’re an allergic type of guy, then make sure that your new apartment is not slap bang in the center of a ragweed field.
You paid how much for air conditioning? This being Texas, it can get hot in the summer. Blazingly, hellishly hot. Before you sign up to the charming apartment with the charming old air conditioning unit, find out how much you can expect to pay on climate control. Believe us. The cost of keeping cool in Austin is enough to put you in a cold sweat.
How quickly can you say pre-lease? If you’re a University of Texas student wanting to live near campus, then you need to pre-lease an apartment yesterday. Finding a pad close to campus is so competitive that many places open their lists in March and have a waiting list 15 heads deep by the fall. If you know where you want to live, be prepared to fight for it. Come early, come strong, come hook ‘em homes before the others do.
Austin is bisected by the Colorado River - a waterway that has seven man-made lakes ballooning out like a string of beads. The specific flavor of your Austin life will be determined by whether you are north or south of the river, and whether you have a view of the lakes. It won’t surprise you to hear that lakeside views command top dollar while homes sloping to the eastern edges are less demanding of your pennies.
The neighborhoods can be roughly delineated as follows:
West ($$$$) - this is where Austin’s affluent live in their large homes on tree-filled lots. Neighborhoods like Westlake are set in the hills and have glorious winding roads that offer you glimpses of the lakes.
Northwest ($$$-$$$$) - neighborhoods like Lakeway, Arboretum and Northwest Hills are coveted for their exemplary schools, large homes and big lots. The homes are newer builds and attract a more conservative, professional class of resident than some of the funkier neighborhoods in other parts of Austin. Downtown ($$$) - Austin is investing in the development of the downtown area, so every day, construction noise hammers against the sky. High-rise condos and lofts are in high demand, and demand high rents, because they are at the epicenter of the live music capital of the world.
Central ($$-$$$) - a good rule of thumb is that the closer to downtown you are, the higher the rental rates. Central Austin includes large, expensive homes with landscaped yards, poky student dorms, 1950s cottages and turn-of-the-century family houses. Some of the highlights include Hyde Park, home to university faculty, students and young professionals who own children and/or chickens; Tarrytown for the moneyed, sophisticated but quirky set; Clarksville for small, lovingly preserved homes built by Austin’s first settlers; West Campus, Riverside and North University for anyone in a Hook ‘Em Horns T-shirt; and Allandale and Rosedale for family bungalows built in the 1950s-70‘s.
South ($$-$$$) - neighborhoods south of the river are attracting artistic souls and gentrifying bohemians at such a pace that old-school Austinites are being priced out of the market. Apartments and single-family homes in SoCo command high rents because they are just south of the river; areas such as Bouldin Creek and Travis Heights boast funky houses at less-than-funky prices; while Barton Hills has 1960s ranch homes and the perfect place to raise kids given its proximity to Zilker Park. South Austin immediately becomes more affordable when you leave the 78704 zipcode behind you.
Southwest ($$) - areas such as Bee Cave, Circle C, Rollingwood and Oak Hill are solidly conservative, middle income areas with 1970s subdivisions and the promise of the suburban life within spitting distance of downtown. East ($-$$) - there is always an up-and-coming area in a city and for Austin, the East is it. Here, former crack dens rub shoulders with hipsters living in lofts. Places like Cherrywood and French Place offer affordable old homes on tree-lined avenues; further south you’ll find condos, lofts, artists and enough community tension between old and new to keep things interesting.
Southeast ($) - areas like East Riverside, Oltorf, Onion Creek and Willow Creek offer plenty of rental apartments at an affordable price. Not surprisingly, this is where you will find most of those UT students who’ve out-grown their campus dorms.
Outer suburbs ($-$$) - neighborhoods like Round Rock, Pflugerville, Cedar Park, Georgetown, Hutto and Leander are not strictly part of Austin but they cast such an influence on newbies that they are worth a mention. These outer suburbs are planned communities with new homes, plenty of outdoor parks and enough big-box retail stores to keep you busy on a Saturday. Your commute time into Austin may undo the good work you’ve done by saving on rent, so check the distances before going the distance.
The Atlantic recently voted Austin one of America’s most walkable cities. This fact makes many locals roar with mirth. While there is a decent public transport system offering buses, a light rail and a downtown trolley, Austin could not be accused of being the best place to travel by foot. The main reason is that continuous sidewalks, especially in residential neighborhoods, are rare and inconsistent treats. Also, during the summer months, it is often too hot to walk. As the locals say, why do Bikram yoga when you can just walk to the store and sweat for free? Given this, most people in Austin drive. The city is served by two parallel highways (the MoPac and the I-35) but driving these, or crossing the Colorado River at rush hour, is hell. Pure hell. The average commute time is 24 minutes but folk living in the outer suburbs, or growing old on the I-35 at sunset, will commute for longer. Austin is doing its best though. The city is working to improve cycling options, a new car-sharing service is booming and you can catch a pedicab (driven, one presumes, by out-of-work musicians) anywhere downtown. You can even zip around the downtown streets on segways, but we’re not sure that you should ever be that desperate to get to your destination.
As the locals like to say: “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could”. While you are packing for your move to Austin, don’t forget your swimsuit (doing back-flips into one of our spring-fed pools is a favorite activity), your dog (we love animals, sometimes a little more than we love you), and your tattoo (what? you don’t have any skin art? we’ll change that). Oh, and don’t worry. You don’t have to love Stevie Ray Vaughan to love it here. Austin has something for everyone. Even if you aren’t that weird.
If you were to conduct an informal survey of a small handful of Austin residents who weren't originally from Austin, undoubtedly 9 out of 10 of those people wouldn't have actually intended to move and stay in Austin, but just happened to get sucked in while visiting. Really! There's something about this city; people come for a visit or to "check it out" and they never leave (the writer of this wiki included!). While I'm sure you could say the same for at least a few other U.S. cities, there's no doubt that Austin gets under your skin, in the best of ways. You've probably already heard the motto "keep Austin weird". If you haven't heard it, be prepared to see it on tee-shirts, hats, bumper stickers and sprawled on buildings the moment you step foot in Austin. This phrase isn't an insult; it's a source of pride for many Austinites, and it will only take a few days for a new resident to see why (though, only the tourists wear the shirts, okay?) The phrase no doubt takes its origins from the unique local businesses, the crazy cast of Austin characters (past and present) and the myriad of events, festivals and music shows that take place in this fair city. Recent years have seen Austin really become a major player on the U.S. urban cities list, with job, real estate and business markets expanding at amazing rates. The little downtown area is now sporting several shiny new high-rises, and more are still on their way. Austin residents here for many years have had concerns over gentrification, as areas of the city that used to be "rough" are now bursting at the seams with modern architecture, hip new residents and neighborhood associations, most prominently seen in areas like the East Side. While most residents do welcome the change and growth, most do with caution. Luckily for the city, Austin is known for its passionate and involved residents, and there's never an issue that doesn't get lots of attention here. Politically, Austin is known as "a blueberry in a bowl of tomato soup". In other words, if you happen to be a liberal and you want to live in Texas, you better make your home Austin. The bottom line: you'll never be bored in Austin. This city gives you all the amenities of a bigger city, like fancy restaurants, a great job market and more, but it has the feel of a small town and a great community of support.
Pros •Amazing local character •Great mix of urban hotspots and rural suburbia •Nice, temperate weather •Music capital of the world •Great job market •Cheap housing market compared to east or west coast •Natural beauty and great access to Texas Hill Country
Cons •Too many musicians, some say, for artists to make a living •Ultra laid-back attitude can annoy those used to a faster pace •Traffic is a major issue for commuters •Always a glut of educated job-seekers (many waiters with MFAs) •Hot hot hot climate with a year-round allergy problem
The People - Who Lives Here?
The people of Austin are a varied and amazing bunch, comprising all ages, races, and walks of life. There's one thing they all have in common, and that's that Austin residents have a vibrant lust for life. It may sound cliché, but people in Austin are just plain happy. You just don't see frowns here. That's in no small part due to this great city, too. Certainly all types of professions are represented here in Austin, from politicians, to business owners to creative types. Even a few celebrities call Austin home, among them probably the most high-profile Austinite being Lance Armstrong. One of the most interesting phenomena that take place in Austin is the sort of disregard for classes that may take place in other cities. You might be seated next to the richest person in Austin dressed in flip flops and jeans and be served by a waitress with a PhD, all in the same day. Here in Austin, it's about doing what makes you happy, and there's a huge community to support you until you find what it is that makes you happy!
Social Scene - Bars, clubs, restaurants
Austin offers tons of opportunities to socialize. If you like music, you're in luck, considering Austin is the "music capital of the world". There's always a show going on somewhere in this town, whether at Emo's, Antone's, The Broken Spoke or the famous Threadgill's (where musicians like Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan played often) or literally countless other locations. In fact, pretty much any business open to the public has live music at some point during the week! If music isn't your scene, don't worry, there are lots of clubs and bars to have fun and meet folks. Sixth Street downtown is likely the most infamous place to do your socializing, with many people likening the area to New Orlean's Bourban street. As the writer of this wiki is originally from Louisiana, she can tell you it's no Bourban Street, but can see where they might make the comparison. Bars offer cheap drink specials and no covers, and you're bound to run into lots of tourists. Sixth street isn't the only place downtown to hang out though, with downtown also sporting a Warehouse district and the 2nd street district, all offering plenty of great places to hangout. Of course, downtown isn't the only place to socialize, areas like SoCo (South Congress Avenue) and the Drag (the area next to the University of Texas) are also great spots in Austin that offer a lot of choices. The great thing about Austin is that you'll have a lot of fun finding those locations that are off the beaten path, and not in one of the areas already mentioned! The food in Austin is as varied as its people, and you'll be surprised not only by the unusual types offered, but of the different price points available to residents. You don't have to be rich to eat good food! Though, if you do enjoy a fancy meal, places like Uchi, Lamberts, Eddie V's, Three Forks, Asti and The Belmont should definitely be checked out, not only for their great food but also the wonderful atmosphere. More humble eating establishments can definitely be found in Hoovers, Lola's, and Gene's. And of course you can't be in Austin without trying out Stubb's barbeque. Great Mexican food abounds here in Austin also, the usual rule being the farther away you are from downtown, the better it gets. And don't pass up the numerous taco carts sprinkled around the city, you can get some of the most delicious and authentic tacos from these roadside restaurants.
The Value - Rental prices vs. quality of living
While it seems prices on houses and apartments are on the rise, it seems most residents in Austin are so happy to be living in Austin, they'll pay whatever they need to pay. And though it would be nicer if prices weren't so expensive, there are still a few areas where deals can still be found. In the opinion of many, the quality of living here is just amazing, and you don't have to take the writer of this wiki's word for it, either. Austin has made the top ten lists in a variety of catagories in magazines like Forbe's for a few years running now. Austin has a great job market, is witnessing explosive growth and offers its residents an amazing array of activities to enjoy. Not to mention how healthy Austin is! With a huge selection of healthy and fresh groceries and restaurants as well as numerous ways to get active outdoors, Austinites are leading happy, healthy and prosperous lives. All that hype you've probably heard about Austin---it's all true!
Transportation & Traffic
Austin is lucky to have a pretty good public transportation system, with Capital Metro buses willing to take you where you need to go. The city also offers several free bus lines, called the Dillo's, that run limited routes to more popular locations. Soon to be operational will be a light rail system in Austin, primed to connect the downtown heart of Austin with farther away locations up North. Austin is also home to an international airport. Traffic can definitely get pretty bad in Austin at times, even with the large number of highways through the city. Interstate 35, Mopac (or Loop 1), highway 71 and 290 and Highway 360 all serve Austin, but can all get congested during peak traffic times. In fact, many major streets, like Lamar, Guadalupe, South Congress and others can become very congested. You can always try Red River Road when things get busy, they call it the "people's highway" here in the city. And of course, there are always bikes to get around. Austin is a pretty big bike city, and a lot of its residents get to work and play on their cycles. Some roads in the city feature bike lanes for safety, and there are lots of improvements planned for bikers and their safety in the future. It's advised that any future residents planning to use bikes as their primary mode of transportation familiarize themselves with Austin's specific bike laws, to avoid getting tickets for riding on certain sidewalks or without proper light at night.
Rental Advice & Tips
You're definitely going to want to check out individual neighborhoods in rentwiki to gauge the personality of areas you are looking to rent in. Each neighborhood in Austin is distinct, and you'll want to pick the area that best fits your personality and interests. Look for Austin apartments in neighborhoods such as Barton Creek, Canyon Creek, Brentwood, Hyde Park, Dove Springs, Barton Hills and SoCo. Search for Austin apartments close to colleges or universities like University of Texas at Austin, the Art Institute of Austin, and Austin Community College. If you prefer to live near public transportation, you can search for apartments near the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro). You can also find Austin apartments near popular spots like the Zachary Scott Theatre Center, the Paramount Theatre, Austin Lyric Opera, the Texas Memorial Museum, Zilker Park, or many of the shopping areas. You can locate Austin apartments in whatever location is desirable for you, including areas that are bilingual. When you've located your dream place, you'll want to act quick. Putting down hefty deposits to secure your location is a good idea in a city where great deals get snatched up quickly.
Entertainment & Recreation - Things to do
As mentioned before, Austin is the music capital of the world, and at any given weekend there's bound to be either amazing music shows going on or even music festivals. The famous Austin City Limits takes place in the city of course, but other smaller music festivals exist, like the Fun Fun Fun Fest, as well as even more specialized festivals, like the Psychedelic Rock festival. Also mentioned are the amazing amounts of outdoor activities available here. Greenbelts like Barton Creek, Bull Creek and Shoal Creek are sprinkled around the city and provide ample places to hike, swim, mountain bike and mountain climb, as well as canoe and kayak. Numerous state parks take residence in the city, one example being McKinney State Park, were things like camping and fishing are available activities. If you're in to more indoor activities, you'll definitely want to check out all the famous Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters, which feature old and new movies and a food and drink menu. The Paramount Theatre downtown hosts both classic movies and contemporary shows. If you're really into movies, music or media you'll of course want to check out the South by Southwest Festival that takes place in Austin. Austin is lucky to have a full and amazing comedy scene here in the city, with venues like Coldtowne Theater, The Hideout, The Velveeta Room, Esther's Follies and Capital City Comedy Club not only producing amazing local talent but hosting famous national talent. All of that being said, there's also a club or organization for nearly every activity imaginable in Austin! The best thing to check out is the calendar of Austin's paper The Austin Chronicle for listings on not only things to do, but also clubs to join. Other great resources are The Austinist's "ist list" and Austin 360.
Recommended Neighborhoods & Areas
While of course all of Austin is a lot of fun, certainly there are areas that have a denser amount of interesting things and local people. Downtown is a great place to hang out, with lots of options for drinking and eating and a lot of urban energy. The Drag (Guadalupe Street along the University of Texas) is a young crowd, and offers lots of delicious and affordable options for food and drinks. SoCo along South Congress is a hip and happening place to shop and go to restaurants, and both South First Street and South Lamar street offer similiar hip and local-filled businesses to patronize. The North Loop is gritty area filled with Austin charm, and Hyde Park is a great place to sense the history of Austin. You can't forget about the Hike and Bike Trail and Zilker Park, both feature huge green spaces and lots of outdoor activities, like kayaking and canoeing. New developments like The Triangle and The Domain offer residents luxury shopping experiences.
The Essentials - Groceries, gyms, banks
Austin's got plenty of essentials, and most areas have a grocery store very closely located to the neighborhood. It would be impossible to list every essential in the city, but know that plenty of options exist for all essentials in terms of local or national businesses, and businesses of all sizes and varieties. It's best to check out each local rentwiki neighborhood page for specifics on particular essentials. Keep in mind though, that Austin is the birth place of the famed Whole Foods, which is a pretty important essential to most Austinites.
Austin's pretty lucky with the job market. Huge companies make Austin their home, like AMD, Dell, 3M and plenty more, all offering great jobs to Austin residents. Being a capital city, lots of government jobs are available, also. Austin has several major educational systems, like the University of Texas, St. Edwards University and Austin Community College, all of which employ a large number of Austin residents. Even with the economic woes of late 2008, Austin is still faring pretty well. In fact, earlier this year, Business 2.0 Magazine ranked Austin fourth in the nation for protected job growth among urban areas. We're expected to see a job growth of 24.7 percent between 2005-2015. Austin also boasts a low unemployment rate of 4.1 percent.
Most Austin schools fall under the jurisdiction of the Austin Independent School District, which offers many education choices for kids and parents to choose from. With different types of instructional programs, parents in Austin have the options to find the right school for their kid's learning needs. Along with neighborhood schools, AISD also offers specialized magnet schools and focus academies. Along with AISD schools, Austin also offers lots of smaller Montessori schools and alternative schools, like Eco School and The Griffin School. Many Austin parents will tell you that neighborhood schools are hit and miss. More hits than misses, but it's still important to check into the specific schools that are in neighborhoods and areas you are interested in. Great schools do exist in Austin; a recent Newsweek magazine poll found that out of 1200 of the nation's top schools, 12 of them were in Austin.
The Austin real estate market is certainly diverse. There are neighborhoods that feature older, post war bungalows. There are neighborhoods with a mix of older homes and newer, larger modern homes. There are neighborhoods filled with huge mansions over looking the town lake. And there are neighborhoods with old and run down houses in dire need of restoration. Because of this variety, home prices also vary wildly. 2008 has seen the average price of a home hover at the mid $200s, in August hitting an average price of $261,799. Some houses in the older and nicer neighborhoods as well as some of the more modern homes being built in the city can top a million dollars. If you're good with tools, fixer-uppers can offer potential homeowners good deals. If you don't mind living far from the heart of Austin and living in a fixer-upper, you might even be able to find a home under $100,000. And while recent economic woes in 2008 have slowed the market, in general Austin's housing market is only getting bigger.
Austin weather, not counting winter or summer, is pretty great. Overall a temporate climate, it makes for gorgeous Spring and Fall weather. Summer can get pretty unbearable, with the number of hot days over 90 degrees in any one summer usually at about 111 days, give or take. The hottest days are usually in June and July. Winters are usually pretty mild, averaging only about 19 days a year with the temperature below freezing. Average annual rainfall is about 32.1". There can be some floods in the summer, and some freezing rain in the winter, but overall, Austin weather is quite enviable, and affordS Austinites plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors!
Many long-time Austinites bemoan the influx of new residents that never seems to quit, in part because housing prices get driven up and also because the job market gets tighter and tighter as a result. If you are considering moving to Austin, I strongly suggest nailing down a job before you arrive, as it is extremely competitive here unless you are seeking a service industry position or temp work with a high tech employer. The great numbers of people graduating with Bachelor's, Masters or PhD's from UT, St. Ed's and Texas State that want to stay in the Austin area makes this very much a buyer's market in terms of available jobs, a situation that probably will not change for some time to come with the current economic situation. Austin is a wonderful place, but you really need to do your homework and figure out a way to stand out from the herd here, because we're stuffed to the gills with qualified folks as it is. But we're also sweet-tempered, and will welcome you regardless. -Robin