Austin, the capital of Texas and a college town, was once a typical small city. But for decades the home of the University of Texas—Austin has grown steadily in both population and reputation, becoming a destination for tourism and business through global events like the South by Southwest festival and drawing tech giants and startups to make a permanent home in and around the city.
You may be drawn to Austin for the job opportunities or because it's a vibrant and exciting place to live. But before you uproot yourself to move to Austin, there are a few things you should know.
Should You Move to Austin?
If you’re finding yourself swept up in Austin’s gravitational pull, you’re one of many considering or planning a move to the area. Austin’s blessing and its curse is the sheer number of people moving to the area to take advantage of business opportunities and embrace the lifestyle. Between 2013 and 2017, the Austin metro area’s population increased by 10% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While the metro area's population is more than 2 million residents, the city of Austin accounts for almost half of that and was home to an estimated 978,908 people in 2019, according to the Census Bureau.
If you’re thinking that Austin will be a cheap place to live with ample job opportunities, think again. Austin is certainly a less expensive option than many major U.S. cities, such as New York City, San Francisco and Miami. But its cost of living – requiring 23.4% of the area median household income, based on data from the U.S. News 2019 Best Places to Live rankings – is higher than that of both Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, and is on par with Denver. For some, Austin’s attractions outweigh the cost of living, but it’s not a city that makes it easy to live cheaply.
How to Move to Austin
If you’re unsure about where you want to live in the Austin area, you may find that renting is a better option than buying a home since it's temporary. As of February, the average rent in Austin was $1,439, and the average apartment size was 864 square feet, according to rental listing and information site RentCafe.
With a lease, you can spend six months or a year exploring the city and surrounding suburbs, and move to the area where you feel most at home. RentCafe reports that nearly half of households (48%) in Austin are renters.
If you’re more inclined to purchase a home and have the means, however, buying can be the right investment even if you’re unsure the neighborhood is where you want to stay long term. In a neighborhood seeing growing interest and rapidly rising prices, you may be able to profit off the sale of your home if you’ve only been there a couple years, says Romeo Manzanilla, president of the Austin Board of Realtors.
“Even if you move into a house and it’s not your dream house, strictly from an investment standpoint you’re probably going to be OK,” Manzanilla says.
Here’s what you should know before moving to Austin:
- The cost of living is rising fast.
- The suburbs might be for you.
- Traffic is expected.
- You won’t get bored.
The Cost of Living Is Rising Fast
The plight of being a hot destination for businesses and professionals alike is that the cost of living isn't as low as it once was. The median home price in Austin as of mid-June was $425,000, according to national real estate brokerage Redfin, a 6.3% increase from the same time in 2019.
Many tech professionals moving to the area are relocating from Seattle or San Jose, California, where the cost of living has been notoriously high for a long time. Their salaries allow them to afford a more expensive home and amenities. As a result, new housing being developed often caters to the high end of the market.
The Suburbs Might Be for You
As a result of the rising cost of living, lifelong Austin locals often struggle to afford living in the city, and many transplants who balk at property prices close to downtown are more likely to look at the outer suburbs for a home to buy or rent.
The upside to looking for a home outside the Austin city limits is that you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice the entertainment you'll find downtown. Manzanilla explains that the suburbs, and Round Rock in particular, are seeing significant commercial development, bringing music venues, parks and other attractions outside the city center.
“They’re not going to miss those options and opportunities by going out to the suburbs,” Manzanilla says.
Traffic Is Expected
If you’re working in downtown Austin and living in the suburbs, expect a longer commute. The average commute time in the Austin metro area is 26.8 minutes, according to data from the 2019 Best Places to Live ranking. The average Austin commute is longer than the average of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. at 24.8 minutes, but much shorter than commutes in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston, which all have average commutes over 30 minutes.
The city is working to improve transit options beyond privately owned cars. On June 10, Austin City Council and the Capital Metro Board approved a new transit plan called Project Connect. The plan aims to better connect the city and surrounding areas with more than one rail line, a downtown transit tunnel for subway-style commuting and improved bus service, among other features. “This comprehensive transit system will make our city more equitable while helping us fight climate change and ease congestion,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a press release following the council approval.
While the Project Connect plan promises transit alternatives to driving that may have you wanting to ditch your car, these plans will likely not be fully implemented for years to come, and there’s no planned completion date yet.
You Won’t Get Bored
With so many new residents calling Austin home, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s plenty to do for a wide variety of interests both inside the city and in the surrounding area. Hiking, water sports, hunting and camping are all possible with a short drive out of the city.
Downtown and in certain suburban hot spots, live music is widely available, and a variety of nightlife options make for easy socializing.
Tex-Mex and barbecue are staples in Austin for tourists and residents alike, though you’ll probably find yourself opting for more neighborhood haunts than the most popular spots frequented by college students and visitors.
You’re also close to annual festivals that draw a national and international crowd. South by Southwest and Austin City Limits Music Festival are two of the most popular events that attract plenty of tourists, but many locals attend as well.
Which spots in Texas are the best?
Even if you know what part of the country you prefer to call home, you may still need a little help deciding which city or metro area to put down roots. When it comes to Texas, the largest state by area in the contiguous U.S., you've got plenty of options. Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Texas is home to 10 of them. We've compiled the details from the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings – determined by factors such as the local job market, affordability, average commute time and desirability – to help you decide which major metro in the Lone Star State is best for you.
Updated on Sept. 5, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.10. Brownsville
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 116
Metro Population: 420,201
Median Home Value: $88,800*
Median Annual Salary: $35,240
This city on the southern tip of Texas borders Mexico and touches the Gulf of Mexico, making it a destination for many vacationers looking to enjoy the beaches of South Padre Island. However, with a declining population due to net migration, a median annual salary $15,000 below the national median of $50,620 and an unemployment rate of 6.2%, Brownsville finds itself at No. 116 out of 125 on the overall Best Places to Live list, making it the last of 10 places in Texas.
Learn more about Brownsville.
(*The median home price for Brownsville was not available, so median home value is listed.)9. McAllen
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 112
Metro Population: 839,539
Median Home Value: $107,300*
Median Annual Salary: $36,380
McAllen may not be on the beach, but its location on the southern border of Texas with Mexico makes it a popular destination for many retirees embracing the snowbird life and moving south for winter. While McAllen struggles with high unemployment and a declining population like Brownsville, U.S. residents find it to be a more desirable place to live, according to a SurveyMonkey analysis of 2,000 people.
Learn more about McAllen.
(*The median home price for McAllen was not available, so median home value is listed.)8. El Paso
8. El Paso
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 110
Metro Population: 838,527
Median Home Price: $151,300
Median Annual Salary: $38,610
On the other side of the side of the westernmost edge of Texas, El Paso ranks fifth out of the 125 most populous places in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index released in 2018, the most recent version of the report that measures residents' satisfaction with their hometown, physical health and the area's economic stability. Despite that, a declining population due to net migration, low median annual salary and above-average unemployment rate (4.3%) contribute to El Paso's rank at No. 110 on the Best Places to Live list. Having decreased by 3.93% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, El Paso's population is the fastest declining out of the 125 places on the list.
Learn more about El Paso.7. Beaumont
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 108
Metro Population: 408,663
Median Home Value: $118,900*
Median Annual Salary: $47,900
Close to Louisiana, Beaumont takes the No. 108 spot on the overall Best Places to Live rankings. With a higher median annual salary than McAllen or Brownsville at $47,900, Beaumont residents have a lower cost of living – spending just 22.49% of their household income on a mortgage payment, rent and property taxes. Beaumont's population remained fairly flat between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration – seeing an increase of just 0.13%.
Learn more about Beaumont.
(*The median home price for Beaumont was not available, so median home value is listed.)6. Corpus Christi
6. Corpus Christi
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 105
Metro Population: 450,183
Median Home Value: $149,700*
Median Annual Salary: $44,710
Home of one of the largest shipping ports in the U.S., Corpus Christi has seen small growth in population due to net migration – nearly 1.07% between 2013 and 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Corpus Christi residents also have a short morning commute to work, with an average of just 20.2 minutes from door to door, making it the sixth-shortest commute out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.
Learn more about Corpus Christi.
(*The median home price for Corpus Christi was not available, so median home value is listed.)5. Killeen
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 101
Metro Population: 432,797
Median Home Price: $155,500
Median Annual Salary: $41,770
Home to the U.S. Army's Fort Hood military base, Killeen is a relatively affordable metro area, with residents spending just over 22.67% of the median annual household income on living expenses. The Killeen area also benefits from an unemployment rate of 4%, which is about the same as the national unemployment rate of 3.9%. Still, people are leaving the metro area – Killeen decreased in population by 0.64% due to net migration between 2013 and 2017.
Learn more about Killeen.4. San Antonio
4. San Antonio
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 34
Metro Population: 2,377,507
Median Home Price: $211,800
Median Annual Salary: $46,200
Founded in 1718, San Antonio is the No. 4 best place to live in Texas. People are flocking to the city for its low cost of living and healthy job market, among other reasons. Between 2013 and 2017, the San Antonio metro area population grew by more than 6.6% due to net migration alone. San Antonio's unemployment rate of 3.3% is well below the national rate of 3.9%, which helps residents in this Texas metro area feel more secure in their jobs.
Learn more about San Antonio.3. Houston
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 30
Metro Population: 6,636,208
Median Home Price: $223,875
Median Annual Salary: $53,820
The second-largest metro area in Texas, Houston ranks No. 30 on the overall Best Places to Live list thanks in part to its rapid population growth due to net migration, relatively low cost of living and flourishing job market. Houston residents also make more money, with a median annual salary of $53,820, more than $3,000 above the national median of $50,620. However, the unemployment rate is above average at 4.3%. Houston area residents spend 22.6% of the area median household income on housing expenses.
Learn more about Houston.2. Dallas-Fort Worth
2. Dallas-Fort Worth
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 21
Metro Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250
With a slightly larger population than Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth also benefits from a high median annual salary, strong job market and relatively low cost of living. With a median home price of $248,375, homebuyers in the area should expect higher prices than many other parts of Texas and the rest of the U.S. The Dallas-Fort Worth area also ranks 26th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. The metro area is seeing steady population growth, having increased by 5.7% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.
Learn more about Dallas-Fort Worth.1. Austin
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 1
Metro Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840
It’s no surprise that the state's capital city takes the top spot in Texas and the overall Best Places to Live list. Austin has emerged as a major tech hub in the U.S. in recent years – a more affordable option for tech startups and major companies seeking an alternative to Silicon Valley. The rapid growth has increased the cost of living, however, as homebuyers compete with each other for pricier homes. Still, residents spend just over 23.4% of the median household income on living expenses.
Learn more about Austin.The Best Places to Live in Texas include:
The Best Places to Live in Texas include:
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- San Antonio
- Corpus Christi
- El Paso
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.