- Locals and realtors share what makes these 14 neighborhoods the best in Austin.
- One agent said listings in the Austin area routinely get up to 40 offers or more.
- A few suburbs just outside of Austin round out the list.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The trend is clear: Austin continues to grow, and like a wind across the heartland, remote workers, tech refugees, and even aspiring unicorns are moving largely in a southeasterly direction.
Personally, I’ve only visited Austin once a few years back, so I’m no expert. But, friends in Austin have told me they think I’d really like living there.
Since I like a good game of “torture yourself by looking on Redfin and Zillow to see how much more you could get for your money elsewhere,” and since my wife and I could both work from anywhere, I decided to check it out. Of course, It’s one thing to say, “that’s it, I’m moving to Texas;” it’s another thing entirely to make a plan.
I talked with Austin residents, transplants, real estate professionals, developers, and tech workers to ask their opinions.
I wanted to learn about the neighborhoods, the traffic, the places you’d think about moving if you have young kids like I do, where you’d go if you were single, where you’d want to be if money were no object, and where to look on a budget.
Patrick McKenna, founder of One America Works, moved to Austin in 2019 after 15 years in San Francisco. He said, “If I had a family, I would look at the West Lake Hills, Tarrytown, Rollingwood, Zilker and South Lamar neighborhoods. The public schools are particularly good in those neighborhoods and it’s also where you’ll find plenty of big houses with pools, perfect for families.”
But it’s getting very hard right now to find anything to buy in Austin itself if you’re primarily concerned about price.
One real estate agent, Erika Levack, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been in Austin for over a decade, told me she’s seen a flood of investors along with the transplants, driving prices way up.
“Bare minimum now is $450,000 if you want to be in Central Austin, and that might get you a small, 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath house,” Levack said. “You can get a condo for less, but it’ll be in a two or three story multi-site property with high HOA fees, as opposed to a high-rise downtown.”
In January, she said one of her clients won a bidding war — but only after beating 95 other offers for a home that had originally been listed for $370,000 in Cedar Park, which is a suburb to the northwest of the city. It’s not unheard of to see listings in the Austin area routinely get 10, 20 or 40 offers, she said.
With that sobering point in mind, here’s a virtual introduction to some of the Austin neighborhoods and suburbs where transplants might want to take a look.
Located just east of the river and just west of Downtown, Clarksville has its roots in the homes and community built by former slaves in the latter 1800s. It’s been largely gentrified, according to the Clarksville Community Development Corporation’s website.
“I’d recommend Clarksville, which is a very easy walk to Downtown (or a quick scooter ride) so you can still be close to the action,” said McKenna. “It’s a little more expensive, but in Clarksville you can actually live in a house as opposed to a condo or apartment complex and still be in the city.”
The least expensive house I found near Clarksville while writing this article (technically just outside the neighborhood, but close) is a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, that does look cute, but that also literally backs up to the MoPac Expressway. They’re asking $649,000.
Westlake is further west, and includes the suburb of West Lake Hills, across the river. Quite a few people I spoke with identified it as the most obvious, classic choice if you were talking about places to live in Austin if money were no object.
“Westlake is probably the stock answer here, with the best public school district in the state and numerous estate homes,” said Ari Rastegar, CEO and Founder of Rastegar Property Company. “I think Tarrytown and Old West Austin are also great, and better located with proximity to downtown and Lake Austin. Each neighborhood has great character with some historic architecture baked in and tons of beautiful old growth oak trees.”
The least expensive house I found in Westlake was this four-bedroom home built in 1985, listed at $950,000. More typical were this house listed at $1,799,990 expecting final offers four days after listing, and this 6,604-square foot house for listed at $4,999,999, described as a “simply stunning home patterned after the “Mani Castles” on the Peloponnese of Southern Greece.”
Next up, Tarrytown, which is just across the Colorado River from Westlake.
“A pricier neighborhood, Tarrytown is not only rich in character but features large homes, spacious lots, and local businesses that cater to the upscale family neighborhood,” said Kerry Sherin, a home value expert at Ownerly.
“Lots of people want Tarrytown,” Levack said. “Very affluent, the schools are highly rated. Lots of social elites, consider you’ll pay at least $1 million, $2 million, $3 million.”
Here’s an example: a 4-bedroom, 3.5 bath, 4,000-square foot house, asking $2 million. “Move in ready!”
Moving back across the river from Clarksville, and south of Westlake, you’ll find Barton Hills. It’s also just south of 350-acre Zilker Park. The park is a crown jewel of Austin; almost every person I interviewed mentioned at least once.
Sherin called the park “one of the best features of Austin … [a] 351-acre park that overlooks Town Lake and has wonderful city views. Residents here can often be found playing in a pick-up soccer game, grabbing queso at Chuy’s or taking a dip in Barton Springs, Austin’s very own year round swimming hole.”
“Barton Hills would be my pick because of its proximity to Downtown and outdoor recreation. You can quickly get to Zilker Park, the Barton Creek Greenbelt and the neighborhood is very established with plenty of restaurants nearby,” said Dan Bagby, a travel writer at Honeymoon Always, who said he has lived in Austin for eight years, in four different neighborhoods.
One thing I got very hung up on, though: There’s Zilker Park, which connects to and is easily accessible from the Barton Hills neighborhood, and there’s a separate Zilker neighborhood, which is right next to Barton Hills and has a very similar feel, though Barton Hills might be the woodier, more residential feeling of the two.
Moving north again, quite a few people I talked with recommended Hyde Park, describing it as “a charming residential enclave with tree-lined streets and homes,” but also located between two major Austin thoroughfares: Interstate 35, and the MoPac Expressway (so named because it runs along the line of the old Missouri-Pacific Railroad).
“Old Enfield and Hyde Park are the best neighborhoods in central Austin. They are centrally located close to downtown, the University of Austin, and close to MoPac, MoPac, making it fairly easy to get around. The schools in the area are highly rated. The only downside is the cost,” Bagby said.
What’s the cost? I was excited while writing this to find one house listed at just $750,000 in Hyde Park. But it’s this one, with two bedrooms and one bath, and described as an “opportunity to live in as is, renovate, or tear down.”
More typical was this four-bedroom house, listed at $1.35 million, and with all offers due four days after it came online.
Further to the southwest, you’ll find Circle C Ranch (also just known as Circle C), which is a planned community that sprung up about 40 years ago. Several people recommended it for families.
“My family and I live there. We can walk to the Alamo Draft House, coffee, HEB (grocery store), bike shop, mail shop and a great variety of places to eat. Bonus: trails to run and bike on and great parks,” said Jason Jepson, who has been in Austin for 12 years and lived in several neighborhoods (he has a podcast called Talking During Movies).
Indeed, I was able to find a few more affordable houses here, ranging from $600,000 to $700,000. For example, this 2,500-square foot, four-bedroom house was listed at $699,000.
As the name suggests, head east and you’ll hit East Austin, which the website AustinTexasInsider describes as “quite possibly the most diverse, and in many ways, most intriguing part of the city.”
“East Austin is our Williamsburg, Brooklyn,” said Rastegar, who owns property all over the city. “It’s like the hipster, funky, cool, artsy area. It’s our Williamsburg, our DUMBO.”
“It’s home to a lot of the startup scene players, tons of coffee shops (that prior to Covid-19 used to be packed with remote startup employees and freelancers), and a diverse and young population,’ said Trevor Ford, who moved to Austin about five years ago from Boston, and works remotely as head of growth for Yotta.
Levack told me East Austin is really a series of smaller neighborhoods that are enticing for transplants, but have quickly gotten more expensive.
“Historically, for reasons that date back to Austin’s Master Plan of 1928, parts of East Austin were mostly inhabited by people of color (specifically the area now known as City Council District 1),” said Levack, who is a Black woman. “But as developers started moving in, it has become increasingly expensive. It’s close to downtown, with lots of cool areas and a mix of architecture (old homes, scrapes, condo lots, etc). In this section of East Austin it’s hard to get anything that’s not tiny for under $700,000 or $800,000 now.”
The original central business district of Austin, Downtown is where you’ll find the state capitol building, along with highrises and the most urban feel — and the three tallest condominium buildings west of the Mississippi River.
“Downtown Austin has always been the lightning rod for young, single people,” said Ryan M. Mueller, vice president of acquisitions at MLG Capital, adding that “6th street is the major bar/music area where the college kids and bachelor and bachelorette parties go. Rainey Street has a great vibe with lots of food trucks, music, and bars. My personal favorite spot is Bangers with over 100 beers on tap.”
“I absolutely love living in Austin, Texas, there is always so much to do,” said Chelsea Bancroft, a blogger who has lived in the city for 10 years, including four neighborhoods. She now lives in Downtown. “Sure, the traffic sucks, but it’s worth it to live in such a great city!”
Oh right, the traffic.
“Bad and getting worse,” Levack told me. “They’ve been talking about our infrastructure for 30 or 40 years. But there are hundreds of people moving here every day. The I-35 corridor is stop-and-go 11 hours a day. We don’t have good public transportation, not enough bike lanes, not enough busses. There are long range plans for improving Austin’s public infrastructure, including Project Connect, a comprehensive rail transit plan.”
The Domain, toward the north of the city, is a planned retail and commercial hub with Nordstrom, Macy’s, and lots of restaurants. It’s known as Austin’s ‘second downtown,’ and companies like Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, and IBM have offices there.
It could be a good choice for single people and young families — although you’d almost certainly be renting an apartment, rather than owning here.
Several people described it as the part of the city where all of your favorite bars and restaurants elsewhere start a second location.
Sushmita Malakar, a writer, said she and her husband have been in the area for two years after living briefly in the Bay Area.
“With major tech and IT firms moving in, Austin is definitely very desirable,” said Malakar, who lives in North Austin. “We moved from India … I wanted to start my own venture as a writer and Austin is far more welcoming for artists and small business owners than I imagined.”
A bit further to the east of Hyde Park, you’ll find Mueller, which is another of the not-quite-as-expensive areas suggested for families.
“Mueller is a constantly growing neighborhood perfect for young professionals and single people. It’s close to tons of new shopping, restaurants and entertainment and is not a bad commute to downtown or North Austin. This is where many young professionals are moving with new condos and apartment complexes opening to make room for new residents,” said Bagby.
Levack told me, “It’s basically a suburb within the city of Austin. It’s a mixed-use, master planned community that is super walkable with lots of retail and amenities. The lots are smaller, but the surrounding common green spaces bring people together. Landing a home in Mueller will run you at least $650,000, but homes listed at those prices are few and far between. If a buyer has their sights set on Mueller I generally tell them to prepare to pay $800k, minimum.”
“You are still centrally located, but can buy a funky house south of the river that will be much quieter than downtown,” said Mark Perlman, founder of The Deal Experts, who described himself as someone who’s spent a lot of time in a lot of different Austin neighborhoods.
“Just a half-mile walk across the lake to Downtown Austin so it has a ‘hip vibe,’ with outdoor dining, cool spots for live music, great shops and restaurants,” added McKenna.
“Maybe my personal favorite, South Lamar is a neighborhood littered with areas or little neighborhoods of its own. … Original Austin charm, with small to medium sized lots,” Sherin said. “Residents here can access numerous restaurants, venues, bars and it’s a quick 5-10 minute bike ride into the city or a 30-minute walk, depending on where you live. This neighborhood also has plenty of new condos, luxury apartments and newer builds.”
What kinds of listings can you find there? How about two condos in the same development: a 2-bedroom, 2.5 bath unit with 1,622 square feet of space and a $324/month HOA fee listed at $630,000, and a smaller, 908-square foot unit with a $371/month HOA fee, listed at $319,000.
Next up on the list: South Congress, which one Austinite called “the O.G. of Austin neighborhoods.”
“This strip of roadway stretches into the city, all the way to the capitol, and all the way south,” Sherin said. “In fact, it’s a law that no building can block the view of the capitol from South Congress (SoCo). The neighborhood features new builds, original Austin homes … condos, apartments and more. The area you’d want to focus on lies just south of Town Lake and features many bars, restaurants, parks, trails, co-working spaces and more.”
“For those looking to be close to the tech/startup scene, I recommend SoCo, Bouldin Creek and Travis Heights,” McKenna agreed. “SoCo is just a half-mile walk across the lake to Downtown Austin, so it has a ‘hip vibe’ with outdoor dining, cool spots for live music, great shops and restaurants.”
These two neighborhoods are in a very hot part of town thanks to their proximity to South Congress. “Originally developed in the 1920s and 1930s, Travis Heights has smaller homesites (lots), but very attractive walkable streets,” Levack said. Home prices range from $800k-$2.5M.
“Nearby,” she added, “Bouldin is a laid-back neighborhood with a variety of architectural styles (bungalows, Bahaus, craftsman, modern). It’s walkable to all sorts of cafes, shops, food-trailers, and a huge diversity of very popular restaurants. Home prices are similar to those in Travis Heights.”
14. The suburbs
I have to acknowledge that after going through this whole exercise, I was surprised to learn how quickly Austin real estate is knocking on the door of New York City and Bay Area prices.
But if you’re eager to move there on a lower budget, and especially if you’re looking for a house as opposed to a condo or an apartment, there are some suburbs worth a look, too.
Levack told me she’s encouraging some buyers qualified to purchase in the middle range to look further outside of the city limits to find homes that will work for them.
“I have clients moving here from California who have a $450,000 or a $550,000 budget, and they want highly-rated schools,” she said. She has to tell them they’re probably a year or two late to find anything in that price range in Central Austin that will fit their needs.
For families with an even smaller budget, say $250,000, she’ll send them a bit further north to places like Hutto and Killeen, which is near Fort Hood, and “maybe Buda or San Marcos,” which are about 15 or 20 miles southwest of the city.”
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