Austin has long graced every popular magazine list and online listicle proclaiming that it is the top place to move for whatever your lifestyle is. But with home prices on the rise, you might want to take the plunge, but you’re wondering – is it worth moving to Austin?

Maybe, maybe not. A huge portion of residents are here because they attended the University of Texas and just stayed, but others made a conscious decision as you are right now.

So if you’re thinking about it, here are the things you should know before moving to the Austin area.

live music being played at sxsw in austin texas

Do You Like Music?

Austin has long been dubbed the live music capital of the world, with music venues galore and music festivals including South by Southwest and Austin City Limits.

It’s a huge part of our culture, and even if you stop in for a quick taco at a tiny spot, there might be someone with a guitar playing for just five diners. Or Wilco could be at the BBQ joint down by Barton Springs, unscheduled, just being chill.

You never know. The reason this is worth considering is that if you’re musical at all, this is your spot. If you hate live music, and the idea of a microphone making music sounds (while you’re doing something random like shopping) makes your skin crawl, Austin might not be the spot for you.

austin texas tex mex dishes

Do You Like Food?

Okay, this one is kind of cheating – if you’re human, you probably like food. And what you don’t know is that food consumption is like 60% of an Austinite’s personality.

Living in Austin means having extremely strong feelings about where the best tacos are, who has the best locally brewed IPA (but not in a douchey hipster way), which of the food trucks is the most worthy, and so forth.

If taking every friend that visits you to local Tex-Mex hotspots doesn’t sound like a dream, Austin might still be for you, but you might get annoyed that people are willing to die on such minuscule hills.

view of Lake Austin and the Austin city skyline

Do You Like Nature?

It seems counterintuitive that a population would gorge on breakfast tacos yet be one of the fittest parts of the nation. But it is. Why? The setting.

Even people that don’t care about food or music live here because of the stunning backdrop which offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities.

You can jog alongside Lake Austin which winds its way through downtown Austin, take a boat ride to quiet coves on Lake Travis, and maybe see some bass, raccoons, cattle, or deer.

Perhaps floating on a kayak on Lady Bird Lake (aka Lake Austin, aka Town Lake) with your dog sounds lovely, or hiking in the Hill Country among the cedar trees and limestone trails. There are fabulous museums here devoted to preserving and adoring nature, and observatories tucked about the city limits.

Whether you enjoy just having a pretty view from your home, you want to be active outdoors for fitness reasons, or just enjoy witnessing the majesty of nature (like deer – oh my gawd there are so many deer here), Austin could be the place for you.

But fair warning, all of that natural beauty comes with a price. Allergies. Get ready for daily Flonase and Claritin, we all adjust accordingly.

austin texas state capitol building during the day

Do You Like Politics?

Many people that aren’t familiar with Austin imagine that we’re like the rest of Texas, and you might imagine we all ride horses to work and tumbleweeds are rampant. You might think we get into random gun duels.

But Austin is a modern city just like any other major city. We’ve long been considered the San Francisco of the south, and been a blue dot in a red sea for a century.

The City of Austin leans left, strongly left, so if you lean right, you’ll find yourself keeping your politics to yourself and just saying “yeah, I don’t really like either party” a lot.

You’ve probably heard that Austin has a mantra – Keep Austin Weird. That bit has nothing to do with politics or even lifestyle, it was a phrase developed by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses in Austin, Texas. It’s only been around for a little over 20 years and has been bastardized endlessly. But it’s not a political statement.

And the truth is that politics changes depending on which Austin neighborhood you choose, so if it’s ultra important to you, take a trip during political season and see which signs are in which yards – and in what abundance. The 78704 zip code in south Austin has long been steeped in extremely far-left politics, but drive a little bit out of town to 78006 for one of the most conservative spots in the nation.

For those of us who have lived here for a long time though, politics does not define our city or us, and we lovingly welcome every type of weirdo from any type of background! So don’t let your love of any political party stop you from planting roots here.

Moving To Austin: The Downsides

We saved the worst part for last!

Austin has a booming housing market, especially in recent years, but look at any chart of historical data regarding housing and you’ll see that other markets inflate and deflate, but Austin has always continued rising upwards. What this means is that you shouldn’t expect a decrease in housing prices.

If you’re independently wealthy and don’t mind moving to one of the fastest-growing housing markets in America, then Austin’s your place. But if you have a monthly budget, you’ll want to consider all of the factors at play that Austin has.

It’s Hard Finding Housing

With housing typically being the biggest bill anyone incurs monthly, the way to move here and live within your means is to be informed and to hire a Realtor (seriously, don’t go it alone, that’s like going to court without a lawyer – you don’t know what you’re doing).

That person will know your budget and tell you which neighborhoods fit that budget, especially if you want to be near certain attractions (be it music, food centers, nature, and so forth).

Public Transportation Isn't That Great

The second thing many people don’t know until they move here is you need a car. Or two. Public transportation is not great and isn’t what you’d expect in a major city. Plus, driving is kind of a Texan thing, yeehaw.

But if you’re anti-car, unless you work AND live near public transportation, you’re going to struggle. Most people can find one or the other near bus stops or the metro rail, but not often both. We’re improving in this category though, so you might be able to swing a few years with a car before breaking up with it.

Property Taxes Are High

Taxes are a bit of a double-edged sword here – you don’t have any income taxes (yay!), but you do pay substantial property taxes and some small sales taxes compared to other states. So plan for that.

Gentrification Is a Real Problem

Lastly, gentrification has honestly been an ongoing challenge as our city grows.

Underrepresented people were once pushed into East Austin, but that has now been overdeveloped, pushing those same people to areas that are more affordable which is now outside of the city limits, for the most part.

It hasn’t been pretty, and our city shouldn’t be proud of that, but we want to offer you an honest perspective.

A lot of it goes back to zoning changes the City Council made in the early 2000s, allowing “McMansions.” Tiny homes with 2-3 bedrooms with residents who had been there for generations were suddenly next door to 3-story luxury homes which the County assessed at a much higher value.

That McMansion suddenly increased the values of all homes on the street which sounds lovely until property tax time, which edged thousands of residents out of their family homes over the years.

This ordinance has ended, but the damage has been done. Current ordinances still allow for generous development all over the city, so this isn’t going to stop any time soon and is a shared burden residents live with.

So What’s Your Final Tally?

What parts of our culture can you live with, and what parts sound untenable?

The answer is different for everyone, but we hope that having an honest assessment from locals can give you an idea of whether or not it is worth it to move to Austin.

And if you’re cool, we hope you do!