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min read

A transferee’s guide to Austin

Everything you need to know to thrive personally and professionally in the Live Music Capital of the World

Hi, I'm Taruna Ahuja, and I've had the privilege of living in Austin, Texas for the past 12 years and working as a Relocity Personal Host in this market since June of 2021.

Relocity has been helping transferees settle into Austin since February of 2019. During my time as a Personal Host, I've had the pleasure of helping my clients relocate to this incredible city. From finding the right housing to uncovering hidden gems and must-visit spots, I've helped transferees through it all! Now, I'm excited to share my expertise with you.

In this blog, we'll dive into Austin’s eclectic culture, dynamic real estate market, immersive lifestyle offerings, and more. If you're seeking guidance on housing, recommendations for a quick lunch, or the inside scoop on public transportation, you've come to the right place. Get ready for a journey filled with live music, mouthwatering food, outdoor adventures, and much more. I’m thrilled to introduce you to Austin, lovingly known as “ATX,” the capital of Texas and the Live Music Capital of the World!

Rustic charm to tech-savvy metropolis: journeying through Austin's history

Nestled in the heart of Texas, Austin comprises 300 square miles in a vast region of farmland. Beyond the city limits, the rural landscape is dotted with cattle farms and ranches. With rolling hills to the west, expansive prairieland to the east, and the majestic Colorado River gracefully meandering through the city, Austin’s little slice of greenery and blue lakes sits squarely in the Texas Hill Country.

Spanish settlers first inhabited the region around Austin in the 1700s. In 1839, Austin, previously known as the tiny village of Waterloo, was incorporated as the permanent capital of the newly formed Republic of Texas. Judge Edwin Waller, who would later serve as Austin’s inaugural mayor, surveyed the area and designed a street layout that remains largely unchanged even now. Buildings were promptly erected, and by January of 1840, the city’s population had grown to over 850 residents.

Fast forward to today: Austin's population has soared to just under a million people, with the greater metropolitan area exceeding 2 million residents. This growth has been nothing short of remarkable, fueled by Austin's transformation over recent years. The city’s popularity has rapidly grown due to its thriving job market and lower cost of living compared to other major tech hubs, like San Francisco and New York City.

Clarksville, one of central Austin's historic neighborhoods, stands as a testament to Austin’s evolving identity — complete with cobblestone streets rich with character. Now a contemporary entertainment district, Clarksville, along with Old West Austin, are charming neighborhoods with galleries and local favorites for dining, woven between historic homes and bungalows. Here you'll also find the Neill-Cochran House Museum, which narrates the area's rich history. 

In South Lamar, another historic district in Austin, iconic music halls contribute to the city's appeal. In fact, the Broken Spoke, a honky tonk music hall, was awarded a Texas Historical Marker in April of 2023. South Lamar is a well-loved spot by foodies (thanks to the district’s plethora of restaurants), offers patios to enjoy year round, and presents a laid-back nightlife scene that locals and visitors alike seem to love — all located a short distance away from Downtown Austin.

If you venture into East Austin, you'll find an eclectic area where old meets new. Arguably the fastest growing neighborhood in Austin, the Eastside is characterized by old churches and buildings undergoing renovations, as well as fresh eateries and boutiques that are popping up like wildflowers. No matter what type of cuisine, atmosphere or activity you’re looking for, East Austin has it.

In recent years, the city has become increasingly cosmopolitan and diverse. The tech boom attracted people from all across the nation and the world. Suburbs like Georgetown, Leander, and Kyle have experienced some of the country’s largest growth rates. In fact, the Milken Institute ranked Austin the No. 2 Best Performing City in 2023, based on criteria like job creation, wage growth, and output of the high-tech sector, along with housing affordability and broadband access.

Overall, Austin has evolved from humble beginnings into a thriving metropolis and capital city with a vibrant cultural scene and extensive housing options, becoming an exciting place to live and explore.

Unpacking Austin's reputation and vibrant blend of culture and industry

Austinites are known for being laid-back, friendly, and eclectic. Over half of Austin's population is under the age of 25 in large part due to the many higher education institutions in the area, making Austin a very hip place to be. The region’s constant influx of students attend local universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin, St. Edwards University, Concordia University Texas, and the historic Huston–Tillotson University. We see plenty of students from Texas State University and Texas A&M as well, since those universities are one to two hours away.

Austin’s dynamic cultural scene offers a haven for musicians, artists, and other creatives. Celebrating its reputation for being laid-back, creative, fun-loving, and quirky, the city wears the motto "Keep Austin Weird" like a badge of honor. As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin buzzes with live performances in every corner, from local dive bars to renowned music festivals. Austin’s “Live Music Capital of the World” slogan became official in 1991 after it was discovered that the city had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the nation. In fact, Austin is home to more than 250 live music venues. Estimates have shown that the music industry generates well over $1 billion per year for Austin.

From a business perspective, Austin is home to a diverse mix of industries. Consistent with the broader Texan economy, petroleum and agricultural farming have a presence. Additionally, the local tech industry has been on the rise. Technology giants like Dell Technologies, Apple, Meta, Oracle, and Tesla have established significant footholds in the area. Dell, one of Austin's oldest tech companies, is headquartered in the nearby city of Round Rock. Austin also houses Whole Foods’ headquarters. Unsurprisingly, the city's tech scene is abuzz with innovation, attracting talent from across the globe.

What makes Austin famous? Firstly, the culinary scene is renowned for savory breakfast tacos and barbecue, drawing food enthusiasts from far and wide. Secondly, the city's abundant greenery, towering oak trees, and thriving wildlife offer the foundation for local outdoor lifestyles. Thirdly, we’re huge sports fans (the University of Texas Longhorns are a source of immense pride!), but you’ll never see competition get in the way of our overall friendly demeanor.

As you open a new chapter in Austin, you’re sure to experience the best of this city.

Finding your dream home in Austin

To navigate to this view, click on the appropriate layer — “Downtown Austin” in this case — and then click on the pins. The pins display neighborhood overview and attractions.

After growing rapidly in the past few years, Austin has become a bustling hub for home construction and buying activity, earning the No. 1 spot on U.S. News & World Report's Best Places to Live in Texas in 2023-2024 list. The local real estate market was nothing short of frenzied during the pandemic, when home prices surged with jaw-dropping increases of 30-40%. Currently, homes for sale typically get snapped up after an average of 54 days on the market. While there’s decent housing inventory, apartment communities are running at near-full occupancy rates, hovering between 95-98%. Austin remains a relatively hot market despite this year’s slight cooling in renting and buying.

When it comes to housing costs, geography plays a significant role. Properties close to the Colorado River or north of the river in Downtown Austin command higher price tags. However, just a five-minute drive south of the river can lead to more affordable housing options that maintain access to the city.

No matter your lifestyle, Austin has an array of suitable neighborhoods just for you. Single people and couples without children often gravitate toward Downtown or the Domain in North Austin. Neighborhoods near the Domain offer a similar vibrant vibe to the downtown area without downtown pricing.

On the other hand, families with children often settle in the suburbs for family-friendly environments and excellent school systems. 

In central Austin, Hyde Park and Clarksville’s historical homes have been lovingly renovated into charming residences, spanning 1,000-1,500 square feet. These homes exude character and are conveniently located near renowned restaurants and cafes.

If you prefer to be just south of the river, Barton Hills is an excellent option where you'll enjoy easy access to water sports, kayaking, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail and Boardwalk, plus quick access to the bustling downtown scene.

A little further east of Downtown lies Mueller, a master-planned community that's a personal favorite among locals. Its walkability, diverse dining options, movie theater, and fantastic museum for kids make it an attractive choice for families or anyone seeking a lively urban environment.

In North Austin, Cedar Park and Avery Ranch are top picks, offering a wealth of kid activities, swimming pools, shopping centers, grocery stores, and community events. Round Rock and Leander are affordable and extremely family-friendly, with excellent schools, parks, and community activities. You can also enjoy scenic views of rolling hills in Leander!

Another option for a family-friendly atmosphere and outstanding schools is Circle C Ranch, located southwest of the river. This master-planned community is near some of Austin’s best parks and outdoor venues and comes with a 20-minute commute to Downtown.

While Austin's housing market offers incredible opportunities, be sure to consider the trade-offs of each option. Older homes with character may lack modern amenities like multiple bathrooms or updated plumbing. If space is a priority, you may find yourself trading city living for the suburbs. (Take heart; you’ll still be within 30 minutes of Downtown!) If you’re working with a Relocity Personal Host like me through our Concierge solution, you’ll reap an invaluable benefit: a dedicated resource full of market expertise who leads you through the entire home-finding process.

Whether you seek the buzz of Downtown or the tranquility of the suburbs, with a bit of patience, exploration, and a Relocity Personal Host by your side, you’ll find the perfect place to call home in this dynamic Texan city.

Transportation options: getting around in Austin

Commute times can vary significantly depending on where you live and work. If your workplace is located in North or South Austin, you can generally expect a manageable 30-minute commute to Downtown. However, if you find yourself traveling from one side of the city to the other, be prepared for an hour-long journey.

Austin’s public transportation system, CapMetro, offers bus routes and MetroRail service to help people move throughout downtown and the rest of the city. Because this option is somewhat limited compared to that of other major cities, I recommend that transferees bring personal vehicles for daily commuting. Otherwise, if you like to bike to work, Austin has developed numerous bike lanes throughout the city.

Discovering your work-play balance in Austin

Navigate to the Central Market within the Relocity app from the “Explore” tab.

As a newcomer to Austin, finding the ideal spots for remote work, lunch breaks, and post-work gatherings is essential for creating a balanced and enjoyable workday. Luckily, I have plenty of recommendations!

Working remotely in Austin can be a delight, thanks to a variety of welcoming and inspiring spaces. Some of my favorites include the Austin Central Library and Summer Moon Coffee. The Austin Central Library, an architectural gem, is a five-story wonder with massive windows. Often ranking as one of the country's top ten beautiful buildings, the Austin Central Library offers stunning views of Town Lake and the Colorado River interchange. With free Wi-Fi and a massive patio, the library makes for an excellent spot to set up your remote office.

Alternatively, try Summer Moon Coffee. With multiple locations in Austin, this franchise is a beloved choice for remote work. Summer Moon’s cozy and inviting atmosphere makes any location a go-to spot for remote workers.

Lastly, don’t miss coffee shops near Austin Community College. For instance, Bennu Coffee and Epoch Coffee offer welcoming environments with plenty of space to focus on your tasks.

When it's time to refuel during your workday, Austin has a wide range of options to satisfy your taste buds:

• Food trucks: If you're working in Downtown Austin, you'll find various food trucks offering diverse cuisines within walking distance or a short drive. One standout spot is The Picnic, a delightful food truck park with 80 paved parking spaces and the mission to support local businesses.Central Market North and South: This upscale grocery store with two locations offers a unique lunch experience. Enjoy deli and hot food options at both locations. Central Market North, my favorite, provides a delightful lunch under oak trees with live music. It's kid-friendly too, with a playground for little ones to enjoy.Tacodeli: Known for its breakfast taco, Tacodeli is a local favorite crafting delicious and diverse tacos.Home Slice Pizza: Located on South Congress Avenue, Home Slice Pizza offers a tantalizing crust and a rustic outdoor patio with benches. It's an excellent choice for a quick and satisfying slice of pizza.Fareground: Situated close to South Congress Avenue in Downtown, Fareground Food Court features a variety of upscale restaurants. If you're seeking a gourmet dining experience during your lunch break (maybe you’re taking a client to lunch or celebrating a teammate’s birthday), this is the place to be. 

After a productive day, it's time to unwind and socialize with colleagues. Austin offers some fantastic places to get to know new coworkers:

The Driskill Bar: Located at the historic Driskill Hotel on Sixth Street in Downtown, the Driskill Bar is characterized by British architecture and offers a welcoming ambiance, cocktails, plush couches, and live music in the evenings, creating an ideal social atmosphere.The Roosevelt Room: For an upscale after-hours gathering, head to the Roosevelt Room, a downtown cocktail bar. The sophisticated ambiance and wide array of cocktails make this bar a favorite among local professionals.

As you settle into your new life as an Austinite, exploring these fantastic work and play options will help you create a well-rounded and enjoyable routine.

Embracing the Texan lifestyle: living it up in Austin

Pulsating with energy and offering an array of exciting activities for everyone, Austin is an amazing destination for outdoor adventures, quirky attractions, and vibrant music festivals.

For those who relish the great outdoors, Austin's natural beauty is a playground waiting to be explored. Enjoy the serene waters of Lady Bird Lake with a kayaking adventure, or hit the scenic hiking trails at Barton Creek or McKinney Falls State Park. In the summer, take a swim at the Barton Springs Pool, or plan a picnic or leisurely walk with a new friend at Zilker Metropolitan Park, Mueller Lake Park, and the grounds of Texas State Capitol.

When it comes to outdoor shopping, explore The Domain, sometimes dubbed the "downtown of North Austin." Here, you'll find a delightful mix of shops, bars, restaurants, condominiums, office buildings, apartments, and vibrant street life.

If you’re looking to do something off the beaten path, check out the Cathedral of Junk and the Museum of the Weird. Don’t forget that Austin celebrates the unconventional.

Movie buffs will delight in watching a film at Austin's iconic Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, where movies are transformed into immersive events. If you’re ready to dance, find out why Austin is the best place to catch live performances. Don't miss the internationally renowned music festivals, Austin City Limits (ACL) or South by Southwest (SXSW), which offer an eclectic blend of music, arts, and culture. After exploring Austin’s thriving cultural scene, one thing will be certain: This place knows how to have a good time.

Whether you're part of a family with kids or flying solo, here’s how I’d recommend you spend a day in Austin:

• Families: Start your day at one of the local farmer's markets, where you can savor regional delights like breakfast tacos. Then, spend your afternoon at Thinkery, Austin's interactive children's museum. As the afternoon turns to evening, capture a family photo at the famous "I Love You So Much" mural and treat the kids to penny candies at the circus-themed Big Top Candy Shop. End your day with the mesmerizing sight of watching bats take flight from under the South Congress Avenue bridge.
• Singles and couples:
Kickstart your day with an invigorating hike or bike ride at Barton Creek or McKinney Falls State Park. In the middle of the day, refuel with a walking food tour or immerse yourself in the vibrant street art scene of East Austin. As the sun sets, let the music guide you. If you're up for a lively atmosphere, go to shows at legendary venues like the Continental Club and Antone's Nightclub, or explore the bustling nightlife on 6th Street and the more refined Rainey Street.

Haven’t heard of bat watching? We’ll tell you all about it in the “Explore” tab within the Relocity app.

No matter how you choose to spend your time, you’ll appreciate Austin as a city that embraces diversity, creativity, and adventure, ensuring that everyone can find something to love in this dynamic Texan gem.

Rocking your future in Austin

In closing, Austin, Texas stands as a city of boundless opportunities and experiences, ready to welcome newcomers with open arms. From the area’s thriving music scene and vibrant festivals to its breathtaking outdoor adventures and eclectic cultural attractions, Austin offers all sorts of experiences for individuals, couples, and families alike. As you embark on your journey here, rest assured that you'll discover not just a new place to call home, but a dynamic community and a world of exciting possibilities waiting to be explored. Thank you for letting me introduce you to the city I’ve loved for over a decade! It would be my privilege to help you relocate to Austin.

Check out our latest articles below or request a demo if you want to see how Relocity can help your talent thrive in Austin or your other key locations.

Taruna Ahuja

Personal Host

Taruna has lived in Austin for 10 years and loves to explore the local spots, the little towns around Austin and hiking trails.