4.13.2018

Austin selected as the "Best City in the USA in Which to Live" for the second year in a row by U.S. News and World Reports Magazine (And website). It's the blue skies, I think.


When I first moved here to go to school at UT you could get a decent apartment for about $85 a month and the cost of living was nearly the lowest in the state. You could not get a freshly baked croissant but you could find decent biscuits just about anywhere. The town was small enough and compact enough that most students didn't see the need to own a car. In fact, it was so cheap in the early 1970's that my parents could afford to have three kids at the University at the same time; including graduate school. And with fifty cent Shiner Bock beer in bottles and $7 ticket prices at the Armadillo World Headquarters (famous music hall) it was very cost effective to take a date to see the Talking Heads open for the B-52's. Or was it the other way around? And yes! we generally walked there.

All that has changed. You can get croissants pretty much anywhere in Austin but sadly now McDonalds arguably has the best biscuits in town. You need a car if you live and work anywhere outside of downtown, and it better be a comfortable car because the same magazine article points to traffic and road congestion as one of the few big cons of living here. I'll list another big con: the price of housing has been sky rocketing for years. 

We have the mixed benefit of living in a very nice neighborhood in the middle of the school district that just got named (again, and for decades running) as the best overall school district in Texas. Usually in the top 50 school districts in the USA. Demand to get kids into one of these top flight schools is red hot which means that we're deep into "tear down" territory (buying and tearing down an existing house to build a bigger, better one on the lot). People are moving here in droves from the west coast and they don't even blink at the thought of paying a million dollars for a basic 3 bedroom, two bathroom ranch style house just to tear it down and use the lot as the foundation for their new, multi-miillion dollar dream ranch style homes. There are currently five or six houses heading that way just on our block.

We are actually starting to think of selling our house and moving somewhere else. But we'll probably be overcome with nostalgia and laziness and just hunker down and wait until we're 65 and can lock in the homestead tax exemption....

I think the biggest attractions of Austin, beside the circus we call the State Legislature, are the beautiful blue skies, the great Tex-Mex food, and the fact that you can still paddle board right through downtown... 

If you decide to move here just remember to bring a big bucket of cash. Home prices continue to rise and, sadly, so do the property taxes...


Infinite growth. Like bacteria in a Petri dish...

13 comments:

  1. Really nice images. Good colors and very crisp.

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  2. In Austin, Cowboys and Tree Huggers are welcome...

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  3. Nice post Kirk.

    Australia is a ridiculously expensive place to live. Almost no one lives here. We have millions of square kilometres of empty land, yet house prices make USA prices look like the bargain of the century. Why? Who knows, but my guess is there's lots of vested interests at all levels of government to artificially keep prices high. And we are cheap compared to New zealand....

    Thankfully it's a great place to photograph things.

    Regards,

    Max from Down Under

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  4. Harald Malmgren @Halsrethink, one of the most respected and experienced geopolitical and geosecurity strategists, has this advice on Twitter yesterday: “From perspective of what might happen in future, probably safest place politically to park wealth in US would be Texas, specifically Austin, a fast growing technology center”

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  5. I have had family in Austin and surrounding areas since the 1950s. While I was in Houston for college, I have been in Austin visiting since the late 1960s. Quite a change from an even sleepier college town than you came to, to today's slice of Southern California, complete with housing prices. What has happened to the music scene, now that there no cheap places to live?

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  6. Edward, Now we have to make due with trust funder musicians; all the real ones decamped to San Antonio or Memphis...

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  7. I love Austin, and I'm glad a good friend lives there (he's a professor at UT) and I can visit. Music is everywhere. You do pay a price with the weather. It sounds like Austin is becoming California--great place to live, but it's attracted too damn many people, causing the traffic and housing prices to multiply distressingly. I'm wondering--because you have some great writers in Texas--whether there is a great Austin novel.

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  8. Another beautiful location, suffocated by its success?

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  9. I’ve only visited Austin once a few years ago but it definitely felt like a great city, I could definitely cope with living there. But I’m lucky to live in the worlds most liveable city 3 years in a row - Melbourne

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  10. I investigated Austin a while back as I engage in the fantasy of moving periodically.
    I was astonished to see that home prices were comparable to SoCal and the property taxes significantly higher yet California gets the anti-business rep. Who knew.

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  11. What are you talking about with the "wait until we're 65 and can lock in the homestead tax exemption...." Is that Texas law? The age 65 qualification hasn't been a part of federal law for at least 15 years. I'd hate to think that you were "aging in place" because of a misapprehension of tax law!

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  12. Hi Phil, While our state has no income tax we have, in some major cities, one of the highest property tax rates in the USA. The only silver lining is that at 65 your tax rate for school taxes (the biggest percentage of the bill...) is frozen and does not go up. Don't worry about my possible lack of knowledge about tax law, that's why I have an accountant, a wealth manager and an attorney. They tend to keep me out of trouble and provide guard rails for flights of fantasy....

    I'm aging in place in a wonderful house. My studio is on the grounds. This part I like. I just don't like the property taxes going up dramatically each year....

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  13. Kirk, great post. Alas, the two biggest cons you list, the soul crushing traffic and housing price rise that mimics the Southwestern US and Florida in the housing peak, are what drove us out of Austin a few years ago. In the five years we lived there we saw traffic congestion almost double, and housing prices grow nearly 35% up in NW Austin where we were. In Austin proper it was even worse.

    Carmel, Indiana is no Austin, but it is a comfortable, safe, and affordable suburb to Indianapolis. The biggest plus is that Chicago IL, St. Louis MO, Cincinnati and Columbus OH, and a dozen smaller cities all with points of interest are within the same distance as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are to Austin. Feels like a lot more world to explore!

    We just won't talk about those big, blue Texas skies...

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