Location location location. In the real estate world, many people are obsessed with it, and what they mean is that where you are is more important than the actual building you’re in. That’s because they figure you can do something about the bricks and mortar, but you’re stuck with the area.
You might not have the option of a clifftop mansion or a Malibu beach house or something in an elegant, historic part of a distinguished city, but you have the ability to seek out the best place for you in the city you have chosen to – or are obliged to – live in.
In the case of Austin, Texas, we’re on a winner from the outset, because this is in many ways a blessed part of the world. So what you have to do is zoom in closer on the map and see what there is that suits your way of life – and is within your budget.
The three options I present here are all in Austin: three very different parts of the city that offer a good chance of finding what you’re looking for. And what we’re all looking for is a base where we can live happily.
First, Holly. This is an area that’s best described as up-and-coming. Times change and cities change with them.Holly is one of east Austin’s success stories, determined to shake off an unflattering old image and recreate itself as a decent place for decent people. When this happens, gradually the change becomes noticeable and people are attracted to the area. The pioneers move in, snapping up property at rock bottom prices and, by their very presence and the faith they have shown in this improving location, they influence others. Soon there is a second wave of modern-day settlers, and the prices might not be an absolute steal anymore, but they are still on the very reasonable side. That’s what is happening in Holly today.
The district has natural advantages. It’s close to downtown, and therefore to one of the most vibrant, creative environments in the country. You don’t necessarily want to live right in the middle of such a hotbed – it’s a place to visit and enjoy as and when you want, rather than to be caught up in what can be a hectic atmosphere.
Holly is positioning itself as a place for younger professionals, who still want to feel young and alive and interested, but who also have a practical present and future to take care of in the shape of a career and a family.Public transport routes run through Holly and it’s close enough to walk or cycle to many places of interest anyway.
Holly has a range of schools dedicated to giving youngsters a good start in life. The presence not far away of the University of Texas acts as a reminder of potential and the need to fulfil it. As one of the options at elementary level, Zavala Elementary School, puts it: “Knowledge is power. Education is a community effort. All children deserve to be challenged to learn at their highest levels.”
Healthcare is well covered here, with hospitals and clinics and, happily for young families, the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.
As for restaurants and bars, the strong hispanic heritage in the area still has a big influence, but you will also find vegan, Japanese, Asian fusion, Indonesian and other options befitting a cosmopolitan 21st century city.
This is an unashamedly middle class area which prides itself on being a diverse community in which long-time residents welcome newcomers from within the city and further afield.
Another area that had improved greatly in recent years, it perhaps had less of a hill to climb than Holly, but now feels secure in its niche as a pleasant and relatively safe place to live.
Windsor Park is proud of its wide streets, large trees, well-tended yards and classic ranch-style homes just six miles from downtown Austin.
This is a place with abundant exercise and entertainment options, from disc golf to ball fields, basketball courts to picnic areas and a swimming pool. And there’s a library, that bastion of civilisation that continues to lend its reassuring communal presence to the internet-powered, earphone-clad tendency for education to become a solitary pastime.
Among the education options here are the all-girl Richards School for Young Women Leaders and the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, listed number one in the Best Public High Schools in Texas.
Property in Windsor Park is surprisingly affordable. If you’re lucky you can get a three-bedroom condo for less than $150,000, with great-value houses clocking in around $300,000, complete with a bit of space around the edges.
And rental apartments at $1,000 a month? That’s pretty good for an area you would actually want to live in.
Just the name Olympic Heights gives the impression that this is an aspirational place that takes itself quite seriously. And there is nothing wrong with that. If you’ve done your share of scrimping and scraping and are finally ready to take your place in the world, proclaiming “this is who I am and where I want to live”, this could be the place for you.
It’s a self-sufficient little enclave comprising 800 homes, developed by market-leading D. R. Horton company, with the first occupants moving in as recently as 2012, so it’s pretty much pristine around here.
With thoroughfares rejoicing in names like Johnny Weissmuller Lane and Jesse Owens Drive, the style of the community is demonstrated by a communal dog park, a jogging trail and a swimming pool.
Those concerned with the quality of local schools will be happy to know that their peers already here seem more than happy in that respect.
The same observers speak of a low crime rate, which is obviously a good thing in anyone’s book.
If there is one reservation about Olympic Heights, it is that the self-sufficiency that appeals to some is seen by others are relative remoteness. It’s hardly in the middle of nowhere, but if you like to be where the action is, or at least within earshot of the action, this might not be ideal for you.
As regards the all-important quality of the housing, there are some stylish places with a bit of individuality and character. Two and three-bedroom places are available from as little as $250,000, with apartments on offer from as little as $1000 per month.
All in all, then, Austin seems to be something of a bargain if you know where to look, and these three options cater for most requirements. Moving to Austin can be a relatively painless operation if you pick your moving company carefully, as some national companies have the local knowledge to help you out. It’s vitally important to feel like you belong where you are, and our choice of location is fundamental to our happiness and that of those close to us.
It’s a life-changing decision, of course, and no amount of reading is a real substitute for getting out there and seeing for yourself. If one or all of these three areas sounds like a possibility, the next step would be to pay them a visit. A day spent wandering around the area will give you enough of a feel for the place.
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