First off, let’s divide up the city into manageable parts, shall we?

I’ve divided the city into these areas:

Central Austin

West Austin

Southwest Austin

South Austin

Southeast Austin

East Austin

North Austin

Round Rock, Pflugerville and Cedar Park

Where are the weathiest neighborhoods in Austin?

Take a look at the above map and notice the blue-shaded areas. They include West Austin, and parts of South Austin and Central Austin. You can find more areas scattered throughout town, but in general, start your search here. Also as a generalization (sorry! It’s hard to talk about otherwise!) if you feel like you’re looking for more conservative areas, West Austin might be your favorite. More liberal-minded home-buyers should check out South Austin or Central Austin.

Looking for more affordable housing?

Look for the orange areas of the map above, which are along the outskirts of town, mainly to the north, east, and south. These represent Austin’s most affordable homes and apartments, and newcomers on a budget can start their search there. You can also find newer homes and subdivisions in these areas, so if this is your thing, check out these places.

Somewhere in the middle?

Mid-range newcomers can find homes and rentals just about all throughout town, but look especially at the yellow areas of the map. Or, like I mentioned above, if you’re into planned communities with newer homes, check out the outskirts of town for the suburbs.

Generally speaking, you’ll find home prices in this range:

  • Orange:  Less than $225,000
  • Yellow:  $225,000 – $350,000
  • Blue: $350,000 and up

And now, about the neighborhoods:

Central Austin

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Downtown

The obvious center of activity for the city. Here you’ll find the vast majority of our bars, upscale restaurants, and high-rise (relative to Austin) living.  There’s been a huge increase in condos being built downtown – which is going to vastly expand the number of places to live downtown. You could potentially ditch your car if you choose to live here, and walk to work, play, or exercise along our beautiful Lady Bird Lake trail.  More >>>

Central Neighborhoods Along Mopac Expressway (Loop 1)

These include Tarrytown, Clarksville, Enfield, Bryker Woods, and Rosedale.  The closer you are to downtown, the higher the prices.  This area includes some of Austin’s wealthiest neighborhoods – gorgeous older homes on gracious manicured lawns. You can find a range of size in the older homes – from the tiny 2 bd/1 baths to the palatial manors, plus new “McMansions” that got built before building codes changed. The schools are great, as is the shopping.  The topography has some wonderful rolling hills, which along with the old oak trees makes this area a gem.  More >>>

Central Neighborhoods along Guadalupe St, Lamar Blvd and Burnet Rd

Just north of the University of Texas campus is Hyde Park- one of Austin’s oldest neighborhoods, where you can find gorgeous old Victorian homes mixed with 1950′s cottages. Towering trees and big front porches make this area an absolute delight to bike through at twilight, with the lightning bugs blinking all around you. It has a wonderful neighborhood feel.  There are cute rentals in this area as well, perfect for students or for families. Overall – this can be an expensive neighborhood, but with a more diverse population due to the nearby university.  Look closely at what public school area you fall into – some are less than desirable.  More >>>

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Brentwood, Crestview and Allandale are almost one and the same – though don’t tell their neighborhood associations – 1950s & 60′s homes, tree lined streets, and a quiet neighborhood feel.  Many families with kids flock to these more affordable central neighborhoods due to the slightly larger floor plans (relative to homes closer to downtown, not to the suburbs. Think 1500 – 1800 sq. ft) and good schools. There are some rental units as well, but mainly in homes or in older apartment buildings. Overall, these neighborhoods are in transition as more people desire to move closer to downtown. Bias alert, this is where I live.  More >>>

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West Austin

West Austin is generally considered to be the wealthy part of town, extending from the Mopac Expressway (Loop 1) all the way to Lake Travis.  Austin’s terrain changes along Mopac from prairies in the east to hill country in the west, so you can find oak and cedar trees, great views and curvy roads throughout this area. Westlake Hills, along FM 2244, is a community barely 5-10 minutes from downtown, but parts of it still feel like it is in the hill country.  You’ll find homes built in the 60′s to modern day construction. You’ll also find Mercedes and BMWs, and cops that pull you over for going 38 in a 35 mph zone. Schools here are some of Austin’s highest rated, and more and more companies are moving their offices over to Loop 360 – so perhaps you’ll have no commute if you live here.  More >>>

Steiner Ranch is a gigantic subdivision near Lake Travis with homes built around 10 years ago.  This is where you should live if you love the lake, and don’t mind a long commute into downtown. It’s got a new subdivision kind of vibe – with golf clubs and neighborhood parks, plus newly built schools.  It’s a great place for families and retirees, a people who work in the suburbs.   More >>>

Another neighborhood worth noting is Cat Mountain, an older neighborhood in the hills around FM 2222, west of Mopac Expressway (Loop 1). Homes are larger here than what you will find in Central Austin, and with its relative proximity to downtown, to the shopping around the Arboretum, and to the shores of Lake Travis, you can may not have to travel far for anything. More >>>

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Southwest Austin

Southwest Austin includes Oak Hill, an area of town with older subdivisions (1970′s and up) and good schools.  It also feels like it is part of the hill country — as the name implies, there’s lots of oaks and hills.  This is a more conservative, middle income part of town, and you’re likely to find a wide range of prices to fit your budget.  You may even find large acreage sites out here — and deer and coyotes.  For some reason, whenever my husband and I drive through this part of town, we like to listen to Don Walser (for the non-Texans out there, he’s a legendary Texas country western singer/yodeler).  Anywhere else, and Mr. Walser gets on my nerves.  Go figure. More >>>

There are some new subdivisions in this area too, like Circle C Ranch.  Circle C has all the amenities that you’ve come to expect from similar neighborhoods – golf, swimming, schools, parks.  There’s a cool veloway nearby – a circular bike path that’s dedicated to bikes and rollerblades – and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. From what I hear, people choose this region because of its proximity to downtown (about 10-15 minutes), as opposed to the subdivisions up north. And — the reason I’d consider living in Circle C — you could live pretty close to the Salt Lick, a barbecue joint in nearby Driftwood, TX. More >>>

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South Austin

South Austin (Zip code 78704)

There’s a slogan in Austin: “Keep Austin Weird.”  The epicenter of weirdness is in South Austin, or in the zip code 78704 to be exact (ok, to be more exact, it’s everything north of Oltorf Rd. to Lady Bird Lake). In fact, just being in the 78704 zip code adds value and cache to a home sale. The main drag is South Congress, or SoCo, with lots of funky shops, restaurants and bars.  More >>>

For the renters out there — I’m going to let you in on a little secret: If you are in your 20′s and are moving to Austin, it will be a bit of a cliche to move to 78704. I remember moving to town and thinking I was in on a little secret and focused on finding housing here, but the reality is that the area is full of newly-transplanted 20-year olds. A little less obvious is East Austin for this crowd, and if you really want to appear in-the-know, look around the North Loop area, which is just north of Hyde Park.

South Austin tends to attract those who are more artistically inclined, liberal and/or natural (i.e. hippie). Think of Richard Florida’s book “Rise of the Creative Class.” They’ve all settled here. Home prices have sky-rocketed in the last few years, forcing those who can’t afford it to move south of Oltdorf Rd.  More >>>

Travis Heights is a stone’s throw away from downtown (in fact, just across Lady Bird Lake from it) making it a perfect place for those who eschew commutes. It’s a gorgeous neighborhood made up of rolling hills, old oak trees, and period homes from the 1920′s and up. It is also the most expensive neighborhood in 78704.  More >>>

Other notable areas in 78704 is Bouldin Creek, a funky and hip neighborhood around South Congress that has a definite laid-back hippie style, though that’s getting dampened by gentrification.  You’ll find a funky stew of bungalows, apartments and newer modern McMansions here. More >>>

Barton Hills has a great family vibe. The ranch homes are mainly from the 1960′s era -  though with older and younger exceptions.  There are lots of nice hills in this area, and it’s very close to Zilker Park, a wonderful city park.  This neighborhood also has great access to the greenbelt, where you can hike along Barton Creek and feel far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. More >>>

South Austin – Non 78704

Homes are far more affordable leaving the 78704 zip code behind.  Their prices and the relative proximity to downtown and the funkiness of SoCo are why many people choose to call this area home. Think of it as trendy-adjacent.  Houses and apartments were mainly built in the 60′s and 70′s, and schools are mid-range. More >>>

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Southeast Austin

Southeast Austin has a lot of rentals, so you’ll find a lot of UT students down here.  There are some homes, too, but it’s not what this area is known for.  The closer you are to South Austin, the more expensive the homes are, but overall this area is very affordable.

Check out some of the new subdivisions on the way east part of town – near the airport – if you are looking for the most affordable. The public schools aren’t all that great over here – but– you’ll be super close to the legendary barbecue in Lockhart, TX.  That should more than make up for it.

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East Austin

Historically this area has been home to those on the lower end of the economic spectrum; however, the past 10 years have completely changed East Austin. Now next to a run down shack you might find a huge loft-style condo project filled with artists and young professionals. Many long-time residents resent the rise in property values (and taxes), so there’s a slight fracturing of the community. It’s hard to find a bargain in this area now as more and more people flock to the eastside in hopes of getting in before the area turns even more uber-trendy. East Austin was recently ranked as one of the top hipster places to live in the US. If you have a family, you should note that schools may not be the best in this area (with exceptions).

Homes are older – even dating back to the Victorian age the closer to Lady Bird Lake you are, with the exception of the new Mueller development where the old airport used to be.  Here you’ll find new homes in a planned community- similar to being in the ‘burbs, but close to downtown. More >>>

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North Austin

North Austin is a good place to look if you are wanting affordable housing, and want to be by lots of shopping. Most of the homes were built in the 60s – 80s, with larger floorplans than Central Austin. It is also relatively central, so you’ll have a short commute to anywhere.  All of the chain retail stores you can think of are in this area, plus the new upscale outdoor shopping mall called The Domain. If you can get a house in the Round Rock or Pflugerville school district, you’ll probably be more impressed with the public schools. More >>>

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Round Rock, Pflugerville and Cedar Park

Let’s say you are moving to Austin but are not really into the whole hippie-artsy-liberal scene.  Welcome to Williamson County, home to Austin’s three major suburbs. All of these areas have a wide range of housing prices – so you’re sure to find something that will fit your budget.

Round Rock is the largest, and has the most of the suburban comforts – big box retailers (my favorite being IKEA), chain restaurants, and a minor league baseball team. It also is the 13th Safest City in America. The schools are highly rated, especially around the Brushy Creek subdivision. It is probably pretty similar to the suburbs around most other cities. The commute can be AWFUL. See if you can avoid driving to and from Austin on I-35 every day. More >>>

Pflugerville is tucked in next to Round Rock on the southeast, a town of mainly subdivisions. I’ve heard some grumblings about the Pflugerville schools from friends – though I know there are some excellent ones there too. It pays to research here. One plus for Pflugerville is that it is closer to town than Round Rock, and more affordable. A downside is that Pflugerville is not known for having much personality, nor having the houses increase much in value. More >>>

To the west is Cedar Park, which feels more like a small town to me. You can live a comfortable suburban life here with highly rated schools, planned communities, and great outdoor parks. It also has a pretty awful commute into Austin, however now that there’s a commuter rail it has vastly improved. More >>>