Pros and Cons of Moving to Austin, Texas

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Austin at a Glance 

Nestled on the banks of the roaring Colorado River, Austin is the beating heart of the Hill Country. This is a city that marches to its own beat —the Lone Star State’s center stage. As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin’s nightlife is like no other — 30 million visitors from across the country come to see the world’s brightest musical stars and hear the local acts destined to be the next big thing. But Austin shines bright in many arenas, from the creative to the economic. Austin has its own ballet, symphony and opera, but it also reigns supreme in the daredevil arts of bull riding and rodeo. Truly, this is a city that never takes a one-eyed view of itself. 

Over the past three decades, Austin has also made itself a hub for creative companies and big technology, thriving on the homegrown talent cultivated at schools like UT-Austin. Once the well-kept secret of the country’s second-largest state, Austin is now the 10th-largest city in America. The population in Austin has grown by nearly 175,000 people in the last twelve years, and 964,177 residents now make their home in the Bat City. This excludes Austin’s population of actual bats, whose number now tops 1.5 million. The greater Austin-Round Rock metro area (pop. 2.4 million) has held the title of the fastest-growing metro area for 12 years running, expanding by 2.7% each year and never showing a decline since the turn of the century.  

As the fourth-largest city in Texas, this state capital has distinguished itself with its inclusive, quirky vibe, its ethnic and racial diversity and its bustling economy. Every year, thousands of people move to Austin for exciting new careers, to explore the understated, Southern beauty of the central Texas hills and the vibrant city scene. 

If you think Austin might be your next home, learn below about all the city has to offer, and read more about life in the Lone Star State in our Moving Guide to Texas.  

What It’s like Living in Austin

Cost of Living in Austin Is Rising

With so many people clamoring to live in Austin, real estate prices in the city have skyrocketed. While the U.S. Census calculated Austin’s median home value from 2017-2021 to be $381,400, home prices have exploded since then, and rents now exceed $1,400/mo. According to the National Association of Realtors, single-family home prices in Austin averaged $488,600 in 2021 — more than $100,000 over the national average. It also found single-family homes and condos in Austin metro area to be the most expensive in the state. Housing costs are one of the primary reasons the cost of living in Austin is above the national average. Healthcare is the other. The cost of groceries, transportation and utilities all fall below the national average, though. 

For years, Texas has lured new residents and corporations alike with its attractive tax policies — there is no individual or corporate income tax levied by the state and no personal income tax collected by the city. However, you will pay a local property tax — both the city and the county each levy a fee, which varies by the area — along with an 8.25% sales and use tax in the city. Texas also charges a gross receipts tax on businesses and imposes a fairly high property tax (1.66%) of its own. One thing is certain: assessing your gains and losses in this system isn’t straightforward. 

Please note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances. 

Austin is Becoming the New American Tech Hub

What started as the center of Texas trade in the late 19th century blossomed into a center of technology by the late 20th. Now in the second decade of the 21st century, this progressive Southern city has only strengthened its reputation as a tech hub, fortifying the leisure + hospitality industry and bolstering the name of Austin in the creative & design universe.  

Austin rebounded quickly from pandemic-related job losses, expanding by 13.2% since early 2020. In just the past year, the city has gained nearly 60,000 new jobs (+4.8%), putting this music capital in the country’s top ten list for job growth. The city’s colleges, like the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University help stabilize both the community and the workforce, and they also give the city a lot of bragging rights. These top research programs draw the best students and faculty from around the country and the world.  

The unemployment rate in the greater Austin metro area stood at just 3.1% in April, and the past year has brought remarkable growth to many critical industries, including Leisure and Hospitality (+13.4%), Wholesale Trade (+10.9%), Manufacturing (+7.6%), Information (+6.9%) and Professional/Business Services (+6.7). 

It should surprise no one that tourism topped this list, with Americans compensating for pandemic lockdowns with heavy “revenge travelling.” This influx of visitors has returned Austin’s many festivals and events to their pre-pandemic glory, including South by Southwest (SXSW), the Austin Marathon, Austin City Limits, the OUTsider Festival, the African American Book Festival and the Austin Film Festival. 

When you’re not attending one of these festivals (or sleeping or eating), you’re likely at your day job, which is likely at one of the many exciting companies Austin has attracted to its inland empire. Although Dallas and Houston may scoff at their sister city having only three Fortune 500s to its name, those three are pretty powerful industry leaders. Dell has been around the longest, opening its HQ in neighboring Round Rock 30 years ago. Oracle packed its California bags for the Texas hills in 2018 but didn’t formally announce Austin as its new headquarters until 2020. Tesla is the latest Cali export — their Gigafactory Texas opened in Austin 2021, further solidifying the city’s stature as a leader in clean energy & technology. Many other corporations have headquarters and bases here, including the city’s homegrown Whole Foods, along with NXP Semiconductors, Samsung, eBay, Advanced Micro Devices, National Instruments, IBM and Intel.  

You’ll Probably Need a Car to Get Around Austin

In this oil-rich state, there’s no getting around the fact that most people still use a car to get around. Austin is no exception. The Bat City has a decent public transportation system — CapMetro — but most Austinites still prefer their Batmobiles to trains, buses or bikes. Gas prices in Austin average just over $3.00/gallon right now — one of the lowest rates in the country — making it doubly hard to give up the door-to-door service of your own vehicle. 

The downside of all these cars is all that Austin traffic. Most Austinites reside in Travis County — the fifth-most-populous county in the state —making for lengthy rush hour commutes that average 25 minutes and can be even worse downtown. This is where CapMetro points to its zippy new downtown station, express bus routes and the free Wi-Fi offered on its commuter line to the northern burbs. 

Ridership on CapMetro totaled 22.2 million in 2022, an increase of more than 20% over the previous year. Local services cost $1.25/ride and commuter services cost $3.50/ride. There are weekly, monthly and reduced fare options, too.  

If you still prefer to steer your own ship, but want to be green about it, Austin residents can use the city’s bike map to map their ideal, two-wheeled route. The map indicates the comfort/safety levels of different routes, so you don’t have to find out the hard way that you’re about to be on a rocky alleyway or, worse, the interstate. If you’re bike-curious, try out the MetroBike bikeshare program before investing in your own bicycle. An annual membership will only set you back $86 for an unlimited number of 60-minute trips.  

Best Neighborhoods in Austin 

With its hipster vibes and laid-back lifestyle, Austin is unlike any other city in Texas, and it’s almost certainly cooler than almost any other state capital. Downtown Austin is a perfect balance of commerce and culture, where skyscrapers overlook the banks of the Colorado River and restaurants, galleries and music venues line the streets. There isn’t a night of the week that crowds aren’t gathering for cocktails and shows in one of the music-centered districts, like Sixth Street, Red River or the Warehouse District, one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly areas in town.   

UT Austin makes its home just north of downtown, and many students choose to live in the West Campus/West University area, which is loaded with coffee shops, quick-bite restaurants and apartments catering to the 18-25 set. A stretch of Guadalupe known as The Drag is a popular hangout between campus and the West University area where you can relive your youth at quirky retail shops, divey bars and get some serious ink.   

If you have ridden that time machine back to 1999 too many times already and are now old enough to work at UT Austin, nearby Hyde Park offers a different kind of cool, like elegant trattorias, artisanal cheese shops, the charming Avenue B market (est. 1909!) and the Hancock Recreation Center, where the kiddos can take swim lessons while you do yoga or take barn dancing lessons…you are a Texan, now, remember. Because Hyde Park is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, the area’s architecture is full of character, from historic sites like the Elisabeth Ney Museum to the charming (but expensive) bungalows. The Hyde Park neighborhood even has its own paper — The Pecan Press

If in-town living isn’t quite you or you’re priced out of the trendy neighborhoods of your dreams, Austin has dozens of wonderful suburbs. Some of the most popular neighborhoods lie to the north, and the CapMetro system serves many of those districts well with commuter trains and express buses. Just ten miles outside the city, North Austin is no boring burb. This lively district, located between I-35 and the MoPac Expressway, is a prime spot for upscale dining, entertainment and retail therapy — perfect for those who never wanted to relinquish their city chic for backyard barbeques. North Austin gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll also have access to the conveniences of nearby Gateway and the greenspaces of Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, which has a swimming pool, hiking and mountain biking trails and ballfields. Further north, you’ll find Round Rock and Georgetown, two cities that are considered a part of this large metro area. 

Before you move, we encourage you to thoroughly research neighborhoods in Austin to see which location has the right amenities and resources for your family. Consider the area’s commute time, tax rates, cost of living, safety statistics, schools and any other factors that may be relevant to your needs. 

Settle in and Explore Austin

Experience More than just Music in the Live Music Capital of the World 

Austin is a city whose monikers do not lie. In the Bat City, a gigantic colony of Mexican free-tailed bats really does make its home, and you will not find a better scene for live music than in the Live Music Capital of the World. At the city’s coffeehouses and clubs, you’ll hear budding musicians building their sound on Austin’s most intimate stages, and you’ll find professional acts at famous venues like the Moody Theatre, the Cactus Café and Antone’s Nightclub. If you need to get your boots scootin’, head to the favorite local honky-tonk, the Broken Spoke. We give you five minutes before you develop a charming Texas twang.  

Of course, the city hosts some of the world’s biggest music festivals, as well. If you’ve never heard of South by Southwest, both a global music festival and a think-fest, you should steady yourself for the 300,000ish people who will be visiting you this coming March! (Hope you have a lot of air mattresses.) But Austin City Limits’ numbers make SXSW look like a Friday night sleepover — a whopping 450,000 people are expected to turn out for this multi-weekend October event, headlined by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Shania Twain and Mumford & Sons. 

While the Live Music Capital may not be a traditional sports town, it is superlative in its non-traditional game. The only pro-sports ball team in Bat City is the MLS’ Austin FC, which hasn’t done so well in the first half of the 2023 season but will hopefully be able to get back on the horse. 

If not, just hold out for next spring’s Rodeo Austin, when Travis County becomes truly cowboy crazed with bareback riding, bullfighting and steer wrestling, an event which technically ends when the steer is on its side with all its legs pointing in one direction, but can also conclude with the rider lying prone, limbs flying every which way. And, if your child hasn’t figured out enough ways to wind up in the ER, you can sign them up for Mutton Bustin’, where they’ll have six seconds to prove their dominance over a fast-moving sheep with nothing to lose.  

Looking for some even higher-octane action? Austin is always eager to show off its motorsports side. Formula 1, NASCAR, MotoGP and MotoAmerica all rock the Circuit of The Americas, where you can watch races, stunt shows and see winners drink from their shoes. Challenge your family to a little friendly competition on the COTA Kart track and get that sweet (or, um, metallic) taste of adrenaline for yourself.  

Austin also has a wealth of museums, from historical to scientific to art. At UT-Austin, the treasured Blanton Museum has a 21,000-work art collection, which is particularly strong in Latin American works. The museum’s newly renovated campus is also home to minimalist Ellsworth Kelley’s architectural masterwork, Austin, a restorative, chapel-like space with colorful geometric windows that create a kaleidoscopic effect on the interior. 

Austin Outdoors 

Looking to explore the Hill Country outdoors? You’re not alone. One of the greatest treasures of the city is this unique region of Texas, which makes for great hiking, biking and swimming.  

One of the best in-town diversions is taking a dip in a spring-fed pool, which will be extra rewarding on many 100 F-plus days. Barton Springs Pool, located in Zilker Metropolitan Park, is filled with refreshingly cool waters from a natural, underground spring — and swimming here is hugely popular with the locals. Zilker Park is also the home of the Austin Nature and Science Center, the Zilker Botanical Gardens and the Zilker Hillside Theatre, where the community can watch musical performances and plays.  

If paddling is your passion, you can rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards on Lady Bird Lake and tour your new hometown on the waterfront.  

Looking for trails? The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a picturesque spot for family hikes — spend your morning on the trails and then picnic on the boulders before cooling off in the clear, rushing waters. 

If you want to experience the Texas landscape at its best, a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will immerse you in a wonderland of native plants. Established by one of the most revered and influential First Ladies, this 284-acre Hill Country oasis features a colorful grassland, a delightful shrub maze, and an arboretum with hundreds of varieties of native trees, including the Cathedral of Oaks, which is outfitted with tree swings — what could be more fun?  

Austin’s Diverse Food Scene 

When your boot-scootin’, racecar-rootin’, rodeo-hootin’ self is ready to refuel, you will be so glad you moved to Austin. You’ll be able to live out all your Tex-Mex and barbeque fantasies in the state capital while also discovering new international flavors and hometown originals.  

Bar-hoppers will find Austin’s food trucks accommodating to their can’t-stop-won’t-stop schedule, like the fully plant-based menu of Arlo’s Curbside, where the Frito pie burger will sop up everything you’ve taken in that evening.  

If you’ve already hit the area’s classic BBQ hotspots — Franklin, Black’s, Interstellar — sink your teeth into the Middle Eastern delights at KG BBQ, where smoky brisket gets crowned with pomegranate seeds and tahini and smoked lamb chops are adorned with a spiky mint chimichurri.  

For a fresh take on another Southern staple, Seoulju Korean Kitchen & Bar puts a unique spin on comfort classics. Their twice-fried chicken is served with piquant pickled radishes but don’t pass up their bulgogi kimchi fries, either. 

For a special splurge, try the prix fixe tasting menu at Barley Swine, where the dress is always casual and the flavors are divine. The dazzling yellowtail crudo is highlighted by a spunky golden beet hot sauce and berry vinaigrette, and the Muscovy duck is rich with spices, from the fennel salad to the pecans. 

Moving to Austin? Let Mayflower Get You There

Get a quote on moving to Austin. 

When you’re ready to call Austin your home, Mayflower’s trusted team of movers will help you relocate to the Live Music Capital of the World. Whether you’re moving long-distance or moving locally within Texas, Mayflower can help simplify your move to Austin. When you move with us, the Mayflower Move Portal will keep all the information about your upcoming move streamlined and organized. 

Moving cross-country to Austin? Mayflower’s trusted team of long-distance movers can help you move  anywhere in the United States. We can provide you with custom moving packages and provide full-service moving services to Austin, including packing and unpacking, storage, car shipping, debris removal and more. 

Making a local move to Austin? Mayflower can also help you with local moves/movers in Austin and the state of Texas. Our Austin Movers perform local moves in the state of Texas independently under their own brands and business names.  

Planning a DIY move to Austin? Mayflower’s helpful moving checklists and packing tips are here to help you stay on track. 

Still not sure where to move to in the Lone Star State? Check out Mayflower’s Moving Guide for Texas to learn more about popular neighborhoods, cool attractions, and insider tips on settling into your new home. 

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