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Old 02-26-2009, 09:39 PM
 
6 posts, read 20,593 times
Reputation: 30

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I'm sorry to make a post like this, but I'm hoping I can get some perspective to show that I was wrong.

My wife and I have been considering relocating from the San Francisco area to Austin for many months. We were finally able to get out to Austin last week for about 5 days to check things out and meet with our realtor, with whom we had been emailing and talking on the phone for months.

Wow. We were really shocked at what we found. First off, the positives:

1) We've never seen so many bars in one place, aside from Tijuana.
2) People were nice
3) The weather in February was pretty good, although very windy
4) The french fries, regardless of where we went, were awesome

But then, unfortunately, the negatives:

1) Austin was incredibly flat. "Hill country" was nothing of the sort. It was more like "slight rises and falls, that in San Francisco would count as earth movement from recent earthquakes." The whole area was just incredibly flat and uninspiring.
2) Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl, and uniformity. We looked at many neighborhoods that surrounded the downtown area, and were shocked that virtually everything was a cookie-cutter development with shoddy construction and no character.
3) The road system was a disaster. Very few real freeways. Freeways that suddenly turned into roads. Stoplights everywhere. How does anyone get around without spending all their time commuting?
4) Allergies. My god--we heard about this, but it was oppressive the moment we walked off the airplane. I hope this is just a product of the recent drought, but it seemed like allergens were just everywhere.
5) Austin was not "weird." We saw signs and t-shirts everywhere saying "keep Austin weird," but in truth, the whole place seemed incredibly commonplace. The few "weird" areas we visited (like SoCo), were really just about 5 blocks of kitschy stores that you could find in any city. The downtown area was just your typical college-town bar scene. We saw some people with purple hair and tattoos, but coming from the Bay area, the entire town seemed really sterile.
6) Prices were not what they should be. We keep hearing about the lower cost of living in Austin, but the truth was that any halfway-decent house with some kind of character was at least $450K, and the bars and restaurants were pretty consistent with the prices you would see in California.
7) Everything just felt "unfinished." Strip clubs next to reputable businesses. Vacant lots next to new condo highrises. Crappy bars next to skyscrapers. The whole town just felt unplanned, unfinished, and unremarkable.
8) The town and the surrounding area were just ugly. We went to Lake Austin and were underwhelmed. Lake Travis was ok, but pretty generic. Then we learned about the presence of scorpions, cicadas, tarantualas, etc. in the summer, and we just had to ask ourselves "why?" Why would anyone put up with all of that when you could live in the Bay area for a slightly-higher cost of living, have great weather year round, have virtually no bugs, be in the center of the tech universe, and have one of the most beautiful areas in the world in your backyard?

I'm really sorry to lay all this out like this, but we were really shocked at how disappointed we were with the city. Please tell me that we visited on an off weekend or that our perspective was completely blown off, as we were really hoping to find a sort of oasis in the middle of Texas!

Last edited by omegaman99; 02-26-2009 at 10:01 PM..

 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:10 PM
 
98 posts, read 257,845 times
Reputation: 28
Austin is a great city for Texas. As a Northern California I will agree it will in no way compare to San Francisco. Austin is on the border of hill country and in my opinion is very cookie cutter. I believe you have to leave the city to find a character hill country town. But, I'm not a city person, so I wouldn't want to be close to downtown. But, I doubt you could buy any house in San Fransisco for the same price. Sorry, you did not enjoy your visit.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:14 PM
 
Location: The Lone Star State
8,031 posts, read 7,361,761 times
Reputation: 5040
Ah, yes. So you've discovered for yourself.

Austin has been great at self-hype. Awesome in fact. It should get an award for this. I don't know how many times I've heard this.

It's the total opposite of, say, Houston's case. Which is a decent city that is terrible at promoting a good image (but the national media can be blamed on that as well.)

I've lost count of how many people I've seen with this response to Austin because they come with unrealistic expectations (set by the visitor's bureau, national media, people with Austitude, or whatever.)

It's only really hilly to the west of Austin.

Austin has sprawl and traffic just like the other Texas and sunbelt cities.

... and all the other things you mention.

But in all fairness, you're coming from SF - even with its problems, considered one of the most desirable cities to live. You're setting the bar really high for anywhere you go, don't you think?
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:20 PM
 
980 posts, read 2,570,796 times
Reputation: 620
Quote:
Originally Posted by omegaman99 View Post
My wife and I have been considering relocating from the San Francisco area to Austin for many months. We were finally able to get out to Austin last week for about 5 days to check things out...
I hope this serves as a lesson for anyone else wasting months or years seriously considering moving to a place they've never visited. Visit first, then decide if you want to move somewhere.

It's ok with us if you don't like Austin, but I'm sorry you wasted so much time considering it before visiting. I've got a complaint list a mile long about San Francisco if you want to compare notes sometime.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:20 PM
 
1,957 posts, read 5,276,965 times
Reputation: 568
For me Austin is much better. But it is personal so I'm glad you visited prior to moving out here.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:23 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
7,159 posts, read 15,882,513 times
Reputation: 3444
Your observations aren't wrong; it's just clear that you've never been to Texas. We get a lot of that. The rest of Texas (at least where 90% of the state population lives) is sprawlier, cookie-cutterier, flatter, buggier and much less weird. The roads are better in some of other Texas cities, though.

Austin can be very nice if you enjoy the low crime, laid back vibe, things like running/swimming/biking, and can find something reasonable in a neighborhood you like (it IS possible, but has gotten harder). If you came here thinking you would find something comparable to San Francisco only cheaper, it's no surprise you'd be very disappointed. It's a shame if it was marketed to you that way out in CA. At least you came to visit before making a life-changing move.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:26 PM
 
6 posts, read 20,593 times
Reputation: 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by sxrckr View Post

But in all fairness, you're coming from SF - even with its problems, considered one of the most desirable cities to live. You're setting the bar really high for anywhere you go, don't you think?
No, you're right, and I really agree. I was just shocked at how disappointing Austin was after everything we had heard, even with the pre-conceived understanding that nothing could match the Bay area. We came with an incredibly open mind, and with the expectation that THIS was going to be the place for us to settle down and enjoy a good family life. We were just shocked at how generic the whole area felt. I can't even put my finger on exactly what it was, but it was basically the massive presence of generic, cookie-cutter urban sprawl, coupled with a very generic downtown that couldn't really be differentiated from any other downtown or college town out there. Couple that with what we heard from EVERYONE about the incredibly horrendous summer weather, and we were just left asking ourselves "what?" makes this place remotely special? We just don't get it.

I could understand it if you could get a decent house for $300K, but like I said above, anything even remotely decent that we saw with any character (and by that I mean a house that doesn't look exactly like the house next door and a house that at least has some trees for privacy betwen lots) was at least $450K in any area remotely close to downtown.

So again, I'm really sorry to be a downer. We were just incredibly disappointed in what we saw. We thought after everything we read on this forum that Austin was different, but we just didn't see it. Are we totally off base here?
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:34 PM
 
Location: The Lone Star State
8,031 posts, read 7,361,761 times
Reputation: 5040
No, I don't think you're totally off base. Just came with unrealistic expectations about the place (and with all the Austin boosterism that goes on, probably not your fault.)

And I agree with you about the home prices of inner Austin. Ridiculous. Wasn't as much the case a decade ago. I wonder if prices will ever correct...
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:39 PM
 
Location: Central Bay Area, CA as of Jan 2010...but still a proud Texan from Houston!
7,484 posts, read 8,400,427 times
Reputation: 8873
Default No need to be sorry

Don't feel sorry for what you observed...it is what it is. I will not go into what I observed about Austin in the 1.5 years that I lived there (recently lived there). You can find my posts and read it for yourself. The people who love Austin will tell you how great and wonderful their city is and I am sure that they believe every single word of it. I think it is awsome that they love their city. I am sure your realtor sold you on what a great place Austin is to live in. I don't think Austin is a bad city but certainly not one that interests me. You like what you like about a city and there is no right or wrong about it. I personally believe that not many folks (not saying everyone) that have experienced and enjoyed living in a big diverse city would find Austin weird or very interesting. Staying in Austin longer would have only solidified your observations and you would have found other disappointing factors as well. It is good that you visited and did not move there. Unfortunately Austin is marketed as "the" place to live but as you observed... that speaks for its self.

I think it is good that you posted to let people who are considering moving there based on all the wonderful marketing things that they hear (realtors included) so that you can raise awareness. You post was not negative it was helpful for those who don't really know.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 10:44 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
7,159 posts, read 15,882,513 times
Reputation: 3444
Quote:
Originally Posted by omegaman99 View Post
I could understand it if you could get a decent house for $300K, but like I said above, anything even remotely decent that we saw with any character
Well, Austin was much, much smaller only a few decades ago. So the kind of character you were seeking is pretty hard to find. $300K can get you something very big and new vs. a lot of other cities with a reasonable commute, and that's what some people are looking for. I'd be curious about the neighborhoods you were shown, if you care to share that info. I wonder if the realtor was guiding you away from some places with character at <$300K because he/she felt they were "not so good" neighborhoods..

Quote:
So again, I'm really sorry to be a downer. We were just incredibly disappointed in what we saw. We thought after everything we read on this forum that Austin was different, but we just didn't see it. Are we totally off base here?
Not off base, some people come here and love it (although they probably aren't coming from SF!), others don't, and it Austin can certainly be overhyped on the boards and the magazines. You seem to be pretty fair in your criticisms, and we appreciate that; believe me, you'll see MUCH worse in this thread very soon.
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