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Ali Cruickshank

Thinking of moving to Austin...

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Hi everyone, My hubby and I live in London (Been here 11 years!) and at the moment are seriously thinking about making the move to Texas. I am originally from Durban and my husband is from 'Maritzburg.

 

I wanted to get a sense of what it's like in Texas, what costs we should figure in our budget planning etc. What are salaries like? We have 2 small kids 4&2. What are the schools like, how does it work, etc...

 

We will be in Austin later this year to have another look around (we last visited 10 years ago!) and plan to move as soon as possible next year.

 

Cheers

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Hi Ali,

 

We lived in Port Elizabeth before coming to the US a little more than 10 years ago. After a 2-year stint in San Francisco, we moved to Austin in 1998.

 

We also came on a fact-finding mission to Austin before we made the move. (My wife worked for Continental Airlines at the time, and so we could fly here for $10 per person!) We came for a weekend, and on our first evening in Austin, we went to see the famed bats under the Congress Ave bridge. There we met some people who offered to show us around the next day. Among other things, they showed us Lago Vista, a small community next to Lake Travis outside Austin. We still live in Lago Vista, and we are still in touch with those people.

 

Their hospitality had sold us on Austin. Since then, we discovered that hospitality seems to be a fairly common trait among Texans.

 

Like South Africans, Texans love the outdoors. Summer, even though it can get very hot, is a time of lakes, boats, swimming, braais, and so on. Lots of fun...

 

Since I'm talking about "summer", let me tell you about the seasons here. Summer, as I said, can be quite hot. In the peak heat months (July & August) it is usually up around 35 degrees C. Luckily all our homes have A/C, so it's not like we're just sitting here with out tongues hanging out! Winter can be cold, but generally we just have cold spells where the temps drop below freezing for a few days, and then it warms up and we have mild, sunny days. Autumn and Spring are really nice... sunny days with temps in the mid-20s. We can have fairly vicious thunderstorms in Autumn and Spring.

 

About salaries, it's tough to say how much you could expect to make without knowing what profession we're talking about. A good place to research salary data is Salary.com. There you can pick a profession and enter a zipcode to get a basic salary report. It should be just fine to use 78757 for your zipcode. That's an area in north-Austin where many companies are located.

 

About home costs, the home prices can vary from area to area. I think you can get a decent home for around $200,000. Take a look at this article that talks about affordability of housing in various cities in Texas, including Austin. This, along with your salary information from salary.com should give you a decent idea on where you stand.

 

About schools, your kids are still small, but it is a good idea to live near good schools right from the start. Texas schools are split into Elementary school (grades 1 to 5), Middle school (grades 6 to 8), and High school (grades 9 to 12). Kids start going to school at 4, when they start in pre-K (pre-kindergarten), then at 5 they go to Kindergarten, and then into 1st Grade. The schools usually start taking kids from Kindergarten, and so people typically put their kids in private day care centers for pre-K.

 

Austin has some very good schools and also some mediocre schools. The Texas Education Agency releases AEIS reports on Texas schools every year. Once you know which area you might consider living in, you could go there to find out information about that areas schools.

 

About areas to live in, I think Round Rock, Cedar Park, Lakeway, and North Austin are all nice.

 

I hope this information helps.

 

John

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Thanks for the info John. I have joined a couple of forums and everyone agrees with one thing - Austinites are very friendly and this was also true when we were there 10 years ago.

 

We have narrowed our neighbourhood choices down to zipcodes 78750 and 78759 as it is near to my brother's home and my sister in law's family - she is a real texan gal. My brother lives in China right now but will end up back in Austin. The schools seem good and alot have been rated exemplary.

 

We have looked online in lago vista and the places look great - what's the commute like to big employers like Dell, Freescale IMB etc? Another thing Austinite's all agree with is that the traffic situation is appaling. Coming from London, where it take my husband 1.5 hours to go 15 miles some days...I have the feeling that we won't think it's so bad!

 

We have not finalised our plans to visit - at this stage it's likely to be Mid Oct...if my mom will come out from California to have the kids for a week...I can't face the thought of househunting, job interviews etc with a 4 yr old and 2 yr old in tow. Any chance we could meet up for a beer or something to talk about Austin?

 

How long will it take to drive from NW austin to Dallas? Our best friends are considering a job offer in Dallas....

 

Sorry about all the questions...

 

Thanks

Ali

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It will help a lot that you already have family here. Things ought to be a bit easier for you.

 

Your forum friends are right about Austin's traffic. The story goes that Austin's planners of 30 or more years ago (whoever they may be) wanted to keep Austin the smaller university town that it was at that time, and so roads were not planned as well as for instance San Antonio's. They didn't bargain on the tech explosion that would take place some years later, and the influx of people that would bring about. Since then the planners have woken up however, and some major road construction is currently ongoing, so things are slowly getting better. You won't find the London traffic situation here though. Lago Vista is about 35 miles from downtown Austin, and on a good day, I can get there in about 1 hour. I used to work for the University of Texas in North-Austin (Pickle Research Campus) and my average commute time was 40 minutes from Lago.

 

Both Dallas and Houston are about 3 hours' drive away from Austin.

 

A beer sounds good. Let us know when you'll be here.

 

John

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Hi Ali, pity your move won't be sooner. We've been here in Austin for 8 years, and have enjoyed the tremendous friendly atmosphere.

 

You said you were looking at the 78750 area, and that is exactly where we live. It's not such a trek to the nearest shopping mall as John has from Lago Vista! :D And apart from the fact that my hubby works in downtown Austin, so during the peak hours, it takes him a good hour to do the 20 miles to downtown - At other times of the day, I can make it down there in 20 minutes, but I seldom EVER have to go downtown at all. We have all shops and amenities right here.

 

Dell is more toward the Round Rock/Pflugerville area. But I've heard it's a sweathouse to work for, so if you're in IT, you may want to try some other cpy's first, like 3M for instance, which is closer.

 

When I say it's a pity you won't be here sooner, it's because our own immigration to the USA, after 8 years, has failed, and so we are having to move out of here by September. Our house is therefore up for sale. (well, not officially on the market yet). It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, double garage home that has had some extensive remodelling done in the last 5 years, so that you have a really modern interior, in comparison with the houses in this neighbourhood. Very large lounge, a small office area, nice deck outside with swings for the little ones (mine are now 5 and 7), and a dream kitchen. Probably go for under $170k.

 

The schools in our neighbourhood are very good and fall under the Round Rock School District, which is better than the Austin School District. We also fall under Williamson County which is better than being in the Travis county area (I'm not going to try to explain all that, except that taxes etc are affected). THere is an elementary school within walking distance of our home. Also a lovely quiet little park that my kids love to go to.

 

We have two neighbourhood pools that you pay $15 per tag for the first two tags. The kids are free. Those tags are valid all year. The pools are heated in the winter. In the summer they have swimming lessons for the little ones at $30 for 2 weeks every day for half an hour. You do want your kids to learn to swim, cos there's plenty water around here!

 

Anyways, all the best with your move!

 

Colleen

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Thanks for the info Colleen. Sorry that your immigration has not worked out. Will you head back to SA? I am on a US passport so hopefully the family's immigration will just be a formality!

 

Since you live in the area, would you mind leting me know what its like - from the real estate websites its clear that you can get a nice 4br house for 300,000 but I have also seen some for 200,000. Are there "better" parts of the neighbourhood that would justify the price difference?

 

What school do your kids go to?

 

Thanks

 

Ali

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John, I tried emailing you a couple of times but have not heard from you. We arrive in two weeks time and would like to take you up on that beer while we are there. Could you get in touch? Thanks,

Ali

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Thanks for the info Colleen. Sorry that your immigration has not worked out. Will you head back to SA? I am on a US passport so hopefully the family's immigration will just be a formality!

 

Since you live in the area, would you mind leting me know what its like - from the real estate websites its clear that you can get a nice 4br house for 300,000 but I have also seen some for 200,000. Are there "better" parts of the neighbourhood that would justify the price difference?

 

What school do your kids go to?

 

Thanks

 

Ali

 

 

I don't think Colleen saw your post.

They emigrated to NZ.

Got their PR in a matter of a few months. :ilikeit:

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Ali, I'll reply to your private mail.

 

Ingrid, I'm happy Colleen and her family got settled easily in NZ. They were here in Austin for several years and I couldn't believe it when I heard they had to leave.

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Hi Ali

 

I see you are in a similiar situation as us - moving from the UK (after 10 yrs) to Austin with 2 small kids (3yrs & 3 1/2 mnths). I have the exact same questions going around in my head as you trying to get as much information as we can about Austin. Unlike you we have never been in Texas and dont know anybody at all there so we are quite nervous but excited about our new adventure.

 

Have you actually made your move to Austin yet or are you still here in the UK? I would like to get in touch with you and hear what you have find out about Austin so far regarding neighbourhoods and schools and what there is to do with young kids in Austin.

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Hi Ali

 

I see you are in a similiar situation as us - moving from the UK (after 10 yrs) to Austin with 2 small kids (3yrs & 3 1/2 mnths). I have the exact same questions going around in my head as you trying to get as much information as we can about Austin. Unlike you we have never been in Texas and dont know anybody at all there so we are quite nervous but excited about our new adventure.

 

Have you actually made your move to Austin yet or are you still here in the UK? I would like to get in touch with you and hear what you have find out about Austin so far regarding neighbourhoods and schools and what there is to do with young kids in Austin.

 

Hi HappyLO & Ali

 

If you are still around I would love to find out how your move's went. We are in the same situation, been in UK for 11 years & want to move to Austin. We have a 4yr old (5 in Sept). Have been looking at the same area's because of schools. Would love to hear if you ended up in Austin , how you found the move and any tips useful tips you may have?

 

Thanks

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Hi HappyLO & Ali

 

If you are still around I would love to find out how your move's went. We are in the same situation, been in UK for 11 years & want to move to Austin. We have a 4yr old (5 in Sept). Have been looking at the same area's because of schools. Would love to hear if you ended up in Austin , how you found the move and any tips useful tips you may have?

 

Thanks

 

C&D,

 

I currently live in Austin with 2 young kids. We have lived here for 3 1/2 years after spending 5 years in Nevada and 9 years in California. As far as a place to raise children, I would not want to be anywhere else, in fact that is one of the main reasons we chose Texas and especially the Austin area.

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Hi Mnctxusa

 

Thanks for that, makes me feel better with our decision! Are your kids at or been through Elementry school? I have a couple of questions regarding school starting age class sizes, buses for schools etc, if you don't mind me putting them to you?

Cheers

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Hi Mnctxusa

 

Thanks for that, makes me feel better with our decision! Are your kids at or been through Elementry school? I have a couple of questions regarding school starting age class sizes, buses for schools etc, if you don't mind me putting them to you?

Cheers

 

C&D,

 

Please feel free to send over any questions you have, if I do not have the answers, I will get them from my wife. Our kids are 7 and 5. The one thing that really amazed me about the schools here compared to SA and it is especially true in TX is that the parents are encouraged to participate in the daily school life of the kids. You can go read to the kids, help the teacher out, meet them in the cafeteria for lunch, etc.

 

I will look out for your questions.

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Hi Mnctxusa

 

Sorry for not getting back to you since your last post, we have just received our GC's and can finally start making more definite plans to get across to Austin so if it is still okay I will send over those questions in the next few days.

Thanks

C&D

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