Whether you’re a recent transplant to Texas or a lifelong Austinite, you’re almost certainly aware that it’s one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country. And if you haven’t yet jumped into the world of homeownership, you’re better off buying a home sooner rather than later. With a median home price of $262,182, Austin real estate is cheap compared to major hubs for tech and business elsewhere in the country, like San Francisco, Seattle and New York City. But that likely won’t last.

Austin certainly isn’t the only city in the U.S. currently experiencing a tight seller’s market in which sellers have the upper hand with more buyers than houses for sale. But Austin's median home price and expectations that the metro area could double in population over the next 10 years means buying a house or condo now could be a smart investment in the long run.

You don’t want to buy just any house that’s available for sale, though. You want your first home to meet your needs, be affordable enough to live comfortably and serve as a solid investment, increasing in value for a profit when you decide to sell. But with a hot housing market, you'll want to do ample prep work so you're ready to move quickly when you start checking out listings.

Narrow your search by neighborhood, type of home and features you’ll need to be comfortable. But before you begin anything, determine the number of bedrooms and bathrooms your house should have and how much living space you’ll need. You'll also want to determine what areas of the city are a good fit for you based on proximity to work, school and other activities you're regularly involved in, as Austin's average commute of 26.2 minutes is higher than most other U.S. major metro areas.

As you begin the house hunting process, the best course of action as a first-time homebuyer is to reach out to real estate agents and speak with a few who may be able to represent you throughout the homebuying process and real estate transaction. Organizations like the Austin Board of Realtors or an individual realty firm's website can help you get started with background to assist you in finding the right professional to represent you.

[Read: 6 Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent Before Buying a Home in Austin.]

Be selective, and only hire a real estate agent you feel will have your best interests in mind as you tour houses, place a bid and negotiate with the seller on price. The right agent will have a thorough knowledge of the neighborhoods you're considering. For example, an agent specializing in Tarrytown or Old West Austin might not be the same person you'd want to work with if you're more focused on suburbs outside the city limits, such as Pflugerville, Round Rock and Cedar Park.

[Read: 5 Signs You’ve Found the Right Austin Real Estate Agent.]

Especially in a housing market where available real estate is limited, it’s important to keep an open mind about the type of home you’ll purchase – whether that’s an older home that may need renovations, a condominium that's low-maintenance or a single-family home that’s part of a master-planned community. The more willing you are to consider a wide variety of housing styles, the more likely you’ll be to find a home to purchase within your budget.

Housing type aside, the location of the home you purchase is imperative to both your happiness in the home and whether you’ll be able to afford it. As you consider neighborhoods in Austin, keep in mind your preferences for commute time to work and school, access to recreational activities and the type of community you want to live in. Some want to be within walking distance of a weekend farmers market, while others find more convenience in having a major shopping center nearby.

In addition to your preferences, keep your expected return on investment in mind when considering a home. While continued property value growth can’t be guaranteed forever, your ability to make a profit when you decide to sell your home in Austin can mean the difference between moving to the house of your dreams and having to settle for something less desirable.

Tags: real estate, housing market, housing, home prices, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales, Austin


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

Recommended Articles

Should You Buy a House With Cash?

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 22, 2019

Before you go all-in with your money, consider these caveats to paying for a home with cash.

How to Stay Safe While Selling Your Home

Dima Williams | Nov. 22, 2019

From defensive landscaping to forming an LLC, here's how to guard your property and identity while selling your house.

25 Great Small Towns to Live in the U.S.

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 21, 2019

These small towns are seeing their populations grow, but they still offer space and quiet.

Buying a House in 2020: What to Know

Lisa Larson | Nov. 21, 2019

If you want to buy a house in the next year, start preparing now.

22 Sustainable Building Materials

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 15, 2019

Explore the green building materials that can make your house more environmentally friendly.

How to Fix What You Hate About Your Home

Wendy Arriz | Nov. 14, 2019

You can make your home feel new again with a quick remodel or by adding the right lighting.

Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 13, 2019

The right professional help, asking price and coat of paint can make selling your house easier.

15 Mudroom Ideas for Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 11, 2019

These design and organization ideas will keep shoes, jackets and bags from piling up at your door.

The Best Apps for House Hunting

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 6, 2019

With photos, maps and property history, these apps make searching for your next home easy.

Types of Roads That Impact Home Value

Devon Thorsby | Nov. 1, 2019

A double yellow line could kill a deal, but a cul-de-sac could bump a home's value.

How to Winterize a House

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 30, 2019

Keep your house warm and disaster-free all winter with these tips.

How to Sell Your Tiny House

Deanna Haas | Oct. 29, 2019

Here are some helpful tips to make selling your tiny home easier.

9 Things To Know About New York City

Steven Gottlieb | Oct. 28, 2019

Here's what aspiring New Yorkers can expect about life in the Big Apple.

How to Choose Energy-Efficient Windows

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 25, 2019

Improve your house's energy efficiency by choosing the right windows.

How to Navigate a Lease Takeover

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 23, 2019

A lease takeover may be your best option if you need to break a lease – if your landlord allows it.

Do's and Don'ts of Buying Vacant Land

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 18, 2019

Buying a home can be complicated, but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

Decorating and Design Tips From Experts

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 17, 2019

Interior design and renovation professionals weigh in on the best practices for home design.

How to Buy a House Before a Recession

Dima Williams | Oct. 17, 2019

While an economic downturn can tank a home purchase, financial prudence and local market knowledge should guide homebuyers.

Home Architectural Styles to Consider

Lisa Larson | Oct. 16, 2019

Consider how different architectural styles change the way you live in a house.

How to Buy Your First Home

Devon Thorsby | Oct. 11, 2019

What you need to know about going from full-time renter to homeowner and the process in between.