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Why Moving from California to Austin Isn’t a ‘Dystopia’


moving from California to Austin

Thinking about moving from California to Austin? 

If you’re anything like the droves of Californians scrambling to move to Texas (Austin, specifically) you’re probably wondering how it stacks up to where you currently live.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Bay Area-based sales exec, Brett Alder, who couldn’t wait to move to Austin, only to later regret it and move back to California…

Notably, he dubbed Austin a “conservative dystopia”. 

(Dystopia, meaning “an imagined state or society where is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.”)

It sounds dramatic, because it is. But Austin is pretty awesome as long as you’re realistic and prepared. 

Politics aside—because let’s be honest, that’s stressful and simply not our jam—we’re proud of every inch of our state. 

With 63,174 California residents moving to Texas in 2019 alone (the most influx from any state)1 we’d like to offer a more positive perspective about our capital city. 

Here are 3 weirdly satisfying things that Californians can expect when moving to Austin!

1. Austin’s Cultural Scene is Distinctly Texan—With a Worldly Twist

Whether it’s an artistic cultural exhibition or foodie fest, Austin is on par with California in terms of diversity by Texas standards. 

Events happen daily, with some of the most world-renowned festivals taking place year-round. 

Texans as a whole are incredibly proud of our brand of barbeque and Tex-Mex cuisine.

Austin takes this to a whole ‘nother level. 

Instead of relying solely on Yelp, why not talk to locals and do a little more research on the things to do and places to eat? 

You’ll find it difficult to choose from Austin’s myriad of mouth-watering restaurants, bars, and barbeque joints known for their range of ethnic and regional influences! 

If you want a cinematic scene with more of an indie flair, why struggle in the highly competitive world of Hollywood, California?

Austin is an excellent choice for launching a career in film or simply enjoying a festival. Cult films, blockbuster TV shows and movies alike have long been filmed in Austin.

Heck, in 2016, Moviemaker.com even voted the city the third-best for filmmakers2.

2. Energy & Weather Are Totally Doable For Cali Transplants Who Plan Wisely

One of Alder’s biggest complaints included not only high energy costs for his 4,000-square foot home, but the hot and humid weather in Austin. 

Yes, it’s hot (duh, it’s Texas)—much hotter than California. 

Despite having lower energy costs across Texas, you’ll use more to cool down/heat up your home. 

Combined with the 300 days of sunshine3 that Austin gets, make sure you can handle the heat and don’t mind spending less time outdoors during 100-degree temperatures. 

But, there are ways around paying so much money to heat and cool a large home, and it’s best to do your research before you get to Austin.

Humid air takes longer to heat and cool down4, so you’ll need to be much more strategic when leaving California’s temperate climate for the muggier Lone Star state.

  • Install a smart thermostat- This will help you cool down your home efficiently on a timer and you can even set it by specific days or monitor settings with a mobile app. 
  • Invest in a humidity control system- Dehumidifiers will help inhibit any mold growth (fungi love humid and warm conditions) and zap moisture from the air. Whole-home systems can be installed by an HVAC technician to automate your humidity control even better.
  • Cycle the bathroom fan- That fan in the bathroom isn’t just for number 2’s. It should be your BFF when you want to keep air and surroundings dry. Just remember to turn it off so you don’t waste energy!
  • Consider getting a dryer duct kit- Reroute air from your dryer (non-gas dryers only) either outdoors during warm days or indoors when it’s cold. Combine this with a dehumidifier to combat condensation. 
  • Check any cracks and reseal- Your home can’t efficiently heat or cool if there’s air getting in or escaping. Closely inspect your future residence to determine if any areas need to be resealed or repaired. 

If you haven’t moved yet:

Find out what you’re currently paying for energy, including the usage, and write it down. 

An Excel or Google spreadsheet should work fine.

The goal is to compare what you’re currently paying with the energy and water rates where you’re planning to move. 

Even if you don’t know exactly where you’ll be moving to within Austin, you’ll have a solid rate already recorded for future reference.

If you’ve already moved: 

It’s still a good idea to check what you’re currently paying (especially if your bill is higher than it was in California). 

Use an energy comparison provider like ElectricityPlans.com or Power to Choose to compare rates in Texas. Enter your zip code and instantly get a lineup of rates to choose from.

Lastly, if storms and harsh weather have you concerned, factor in getting the appropriate level of renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance to your moving costs. 

You may even be eligible for assistance or discounts through certain company projects—like weatherization and solar or wind energy programs!

3. You’ll Enjoy Lower Crime + More Economic Opportunity in Austin vs. California

Looking to move somewhere where there’s more opportunity to buy a home?

Austin is a good choice for a few reasons.

In general, Texas is known for its Southern hospitality and more laid back, family-friendly atmosphere.

Austin will give you the same experience with a bigger metro-city feeling.

Ranking 28th out of the 30 largest cities in the US for violent crime5, you can feel safer there than in many California cities.

In addition to the lower crime rate, Austin has an existing reputation as a technology hub. This reputation is quickly gaining steam as more large companies are ditching higher-priced metros with state taxes (Texas has zero) for Austin.

To name a few, big brands like Tesla, Oracle, Lowe’s and others are either relocating to Austin or expanding operations and opening regional offices there.

Of course, current employees and aspiring industry newcomers alike will follow where the opportunity is, and so can you!

Key industries for employment in Austin6

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Clean Technology
  • Corporate HQs and Regional Offices
  • Creative & Digital Media Technology
  • Data Management
  • Financial Service & Insurance
  • Space Technology
  • Life Sciences

Recognize that many of the key industries in Austin mirror those in California? 

You’re right!

Even better news is the fact that Austin’s economy is bouncing back, proving to be more resilient than many other cities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic job losses of 2020.

National & Local Housing Market Data | Zillow

home values in Austin compared to Californian cities

Housing prices are also lower compared to basically anywhere in California’s major cities. In the charts on average home value below, Austin clocks in at $378,454. While that’s above the U.S. average of $266,104, it’s well under even the least expensive major California city mapped on this chart ($678,665). 

So yes, homeownership is definitely within your reach if you’re fleeing California for more opportunity. 

It’s even more attainable if you’re realistic (a.k.a, not aiming for a McMansion) and have funds from previous home equity, or savings from a decent-paying job. 

Observed Rent Index | Zillow

rent prices

Rental prices in California versus Austin are comparable with housing averages.  They’re even more of a deal when you consider the national average ($1,740)!

When compared to major cities in California, Austin is still less expensive for renters with an average price of ($1,548).

Wrapping Up

Californians, please don’t expect Austin to feel 100% like the cities you’re leaving behind in the Sunshine State…

California is unique and so is Texas.

That pretty much goes triple for Austin which we fondly call ‘weird’ for a very good reason. 

The best way to acclimate to any new place is to keep an open mind and do lots of research. 

Keep in mind those two simple things and you’ll find that a utopia awaits you in Austin instead of regrets.

Sources:

  1. ‌‌U.S. Census Bureau. “Moves to and from the South and West Dominate Recent Migration Flows.” The United States Census Bureau, 29 Apr. 2019, www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/04/moves-from-south-west-dominate-recent-migration-flows.html. 3 Feb. 2021.
  2. Hensley, Ellie. “Austin One of Best Cities for Filming — Even Better than LA.” Austin Business Journal, Austin Business Journal, 21 Jan. 2016, www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/creative/2016/01/austin-one-of-best-cities-for-filming-even-better.html. 7 Feb. 2021.
  3. Media, Yu. “Austin, TX – Detailed Climate Information and Monthly Weather Forecast | Weather Atlas.” Weather Atlas, 2021, www.weather-us.com/en/texas-usa/austin-climate#climate_text_1. 7 Feb. 2021.
  4. Guy, Energy. “How Humidity Affects Heating and Cooling – Energy Forums.” Energy Forums, 11 Feb. 2016, energyforums.net/hvac/how-humidity-affects-heating-and-cooling/.  7 Feb. 2021. 
  5. ‌Mulder, Brandon. “Fact-Check: Is Austin One of the Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.?” Austin American-Statesman, Austin American-Statesman, 6 Nov. 2020, www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/11/06/fact-check-is-austin-one-of-most-dangerous-cities-in-us/43010523/. 7 Feb. 2021.
  6. “Key Industries.” Austin Chamber of Commerce, 2019, www.austinchamber.com/economic-development/key-industries. 7 Feb. 2021.

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