The internet blasted me when I said I regretted moving from California to Austin, Texas. Here's what I'd do differently if I moved there again. (2023)

  • Brett Alder says moving his family to Texas in 2015 was a mistake on his part and assumed his experience in California would carry over to Austin.
  • He made a poor home purchase and says that if he had moved to a more suburban part of Bee Cave with a more moderate elementary school, they might've been much happier.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

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A couple weeks ago, Insider republished a post I had written back in 2016, where I talked about my family's misadventures moving from San Diego to Austin, as well as cautions for Californians considering the move.

In the attention vacuum created by Trump's deplatforming (from office and from Twitter), I was, for about 48 hours of a slow news cycle, the poster child of so many antagonisms: California vs. Texas, Rich vs. Poor, and Red vs. Blue.

It's hard to be certain, there's a lot of nuance out there, but I'm pretty sure I've been placed in the buckets of CA, Rich, and Blue.

For this column, let's re-hash the first antagonism.

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California vs. Texas:

I have heard from people all over the country. Many bystanders and Californians watched in amusement and bewilderment of the unfolding. Others, particularly in Austin and in broader Texas, bridled at a story going viral that not only seemed needlessly hurtful, but also anecdotal and unrepresentative.

When my family and I first moved to Bee Cave/Austin, there were a number of wonderful families from our church congregation and neighborhood that reached out to welcome us. We grew close to one family in particular, who heavily invested in us despite the fact that a number of previous families they had welcomed and befriended had "moved back to California." We think about that family a lot. I also wonder why their friends moved back to California.

So what should I have done to make the move a success? I've reached out to a number of people I trust in Austin, at least those who will still speak to me, as well as curated some glorious feedback from social media.

Here are two key takeaways.

1. Focus on the big picture when it comes to culture and geography

Spend some time reviewing this graphic. It shows Facebook connections across seven different regions and was originally published 11 years ago.

The internet blasted me when I said I regretted moving from California to Austin, Texas. Here's what I'd do differently if I moved there again. (1)

Pete Warden

There are two key takeaways from this image.

One is that California and the Western US are quite culturally interconnected, a consequence of people moving around a lot. All of this movement creates more general cultural rules of engagement. Our weather in the West comes in off the Pacific Ocean and is buffered by mountain ranges, so though climates vary, it's generally not extreme (there are no tornadoes or golf ball sized hailstones).

The second is that the Greater Texas region is strongly bound, and except for a link between California and Austin, is more culturally self-contained with more specific rules. This means Texas culture has less experience integrating newcomers, but also has the benefit of higher social cohesion. The weather is unimpeded by mountains, and the Gulf can get feisty.

The point is that if you're thinking of moving, and considering Seattle, Boise, Phoenix, and Austin, all those cards might seem to have the same suit, but culturally and geographically, Austin is by far the outlier.

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Do not assume that your experiences in California or the West will carry over to Austin. I know these are basic points, but I had traveled to Austin probably a dozen times before settling in Bee Cave and I didn't fully comprehend that we had crossed into a new world until we moved there.

2. Allow more time for discovery if moving from California to Austin

Let's just clear the air: of the people I spoke with who lived closer to the center of Austin, no one related to my family's experience with the strict schools, football culture, "monoculture," and rudeness that we had experienced in Bee Cave, about 15 miles from downtown.

They were happy with their schools, the level of diversity, and friendliness. Yes, there are anti-Californian billboards and people wear "Don't move to Austin" t-shirts, but they're not smug about it like the guy I encountered at my kid's flag football game.

At the same time, most people are not moving to the city, but rather the suburbs, so the suburb discussion is important to have.

My friends advised, across the board, to rent first and get the lay of the land — and maybe don't sell your home in California. This can be especially difficult advice for Californians to follow, since a primary reason for moving might be to finally afford a home, or finally purchase the home of your dreams. I get it — the real estate market is red hot and you feel the need to pull the trigger fast.

But making a poor purchasing decision like we did, based on assumptions of what we thought it would be like, can taint your whole experience.

Before moving to Austin we visited a number of neighborhoods, attended different Church congregations, and talked to people — mainly west of Austin in places like Dripping Springs. Their feedback was that Bee Cave was very nice, it's in the hill country, very pretty, and you could get land while also being close to schools and amenities.

Probably our biggest mistake was buying a unique house, with electric-only heat, no city water connection, and undisclosed water penetration issues that most locals would have known to watch out for.

Aside from the football culture and strict school, we liked Bee Cave. We were surrounded by sharp and successful people that we learned a lot from. If we had bought a smaller house in a more suburban part of Bee Cave with a more moderate elementary school, it would have been a much better fit for us.

There are some other points I want to discuss.

Recreation: This is one of the things that I was most pilloried over. People have talked about the many great things to do around Austin. As far as the outdoors are concerned, people recommended making friends with someone who has a boat and spending the summer on Lake Travis, mountain bike parks with lifts, and camping retreats further out of town like Pace Ben Park.

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Talk to people before planning outings. For example, you might see Whirlpool Caves on Google Maps very close to the city and the website looks fine, but locals know it's locked up and only open for infrequent elementary school tours.

Leverage a Local Network: Whether it's a church community or local Indian community, get plugged in. It can be indispensable to have local guides helping you through the culture shock.

Since so many things work differently in Austin, getting recommendations from newfound community on their go-to plumber or favorite recreational areas can be surprisingly helpful even in the Internet age.

Taxes: There is no state income tax in Texas, which is great, but be mindful of the property taxes that are often ~1.25% for a newly purchased home in California and 1.69% up to 3% in Austin. The homestead exception helps lower the rate, but Austin's real estate appreciation can lead to property tax bills that increase as much as 10% per year, year after year. Leave headroom in your budget.

Traffic and Toll Roads: Most people seem to agree that Austin's infrastructure was not built to handle the huge influx and is getting worse.

Do your research on traffic pinch points as they relate to your commute. A couple of miles might entail 15 to 20 minutes of driving. A lot of the new construction seems to be made up of toll-roads, whether as an added express lane or alternative route, and may have variable pricing depending on traffic conditions.

I was universally told the traffic was the fault of incoming Californians.

Community Make-up: Apparently Bee Cave, and surrounding areas have a reputation for being more football obsessed. That's because Westlake and Lake Travis high schools are ranked in the top 5 in Texas, so both the Lake Travis and Eanes school districts as well as surrounding areas seem to form hot spots in the football obsession heat map — schools closer to the city not so much.

Two of my older three boys were very small for their ages (late bloomers), so being a part of a culture where both adults and other children highly valued physical size and football potential was a bigger deal for us. I'm still amazed at how strong the football culture was.

Austin has a significant demographic division along the I-35 into East and West sectors, and the higher ranked schools are typically to the West. Local elementary school demographics can give you an idea of the diversity to expect. A lot can depend on the specific community you end up in. New housing developments (like in Belterra or in Dripping Springs, both west of Austin) are more likely to be made up of a mix of newcomers (possibly 8% Californians and 51% Texans).

We met a lot of people from the South and Midwest as well. If you move to a more established neighborhood that is further out of town, things can change fast and are predominantly more conservative, a departure from the liberal Austinite variety. So even a 10-mile distance can result in big differences in community make-up and the flavor of local customs. Self select carefully.

Texas Folkways: Texas tradition may seem foreign and in some ways arbitrary, but it definitely has advantages in that it brings people together.

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We were invited to neighborhood potlucks, hot cocoa in pajamas brunch, and New Years and Halloween parties — all very well done. Several comments and interviews have confirmed that pre-COVID, Austin neighborhoods seem to get together and feel more of a sense of community than I have experienced in California or Washington State.

If I had not been caught up in a cobweb of so many issues (like buying a unique house and dealing with unanticipated culture shock), I definitely would have enjoyed the city more.

Obviously there is a big political divide between Austin and the rest of Texas and a feeling of mutual dislike — a blueberry in the tomato soup. But Austin is still deeply embedded in the Greater Texas region and influenced by the Texas folkways.

Austinites expressed a pride in their city that I would interpret as a modified Texas Pride. Uber drivers would talk for a whole 30-minute drive about how they loved Austin. A soccer coach from the Bay Area would rave about how happy she was to have moved.

It is this kind of infectious city pride that has made Austin a national brand.

Partly because of this, when talking to friends in Seattle, Phoenix, and Austin, our friends in Austin may be the most enthusiastic about their city by far. And while I'm happy Austinites have a strong sense of pride — I really am — I also recognize how this complicates things for us outsiders.

In California or the dynamic West, we move around too much to have a highly cultivated sense of state or city pride, so it can be very difficult to disentangle what is Austin pride and what are the comparative merits of Austin as a medium-large city in Texas. We don't move to Austin feeling entitled, we move there believing in some dream, big or small.

If I were going there again, I would look forward to the bluebonnets, springtime, beautiful cloud formations, spectacular thunderstorms, and the lightning bugs. There's a virtue to the extremes of Texas; time slows down when you feel like the weather and the critters are trying to kill you.

We packed in three years' worth of memories into our one year in Bee Cave/Austin. I never did get to plant my wildflower seeds.


Is it worth moving from California to Texas? ›

Benefits of Moving From California to Texas

Because Texas is growing so rapidly, it can be an excellent place for people searching for new job opportunities. Housing costs are a huge issue in California—the average cost of rent for an apartment is $1,600, while the average cost in Texas is a little over $1,000.

Why do Californians move to Austin? ›

One of the BIG reasons to move to Texas from California is the taxes. California state income tax is the highest in the country, on all levels. Californians pay as much as 13.3% in state income tax and, depending on local rates, between 7.25% and 10.75% in sales tax.

Are people moving out of Austin? ›

Austin, Texas took the top spot this year, moving up from its fourth-placed ranking in last year's edition of this study. In 2021, close to 24,000 millennials moved to Austin from a different state. With about 13,400 millennials moving out of Austin to a different state, there was a net migration of about 10,500.

Are Californians moving to Austin? ›

Travis County — home to Austin — attracted the largest group of California residents, according to the Express-News data analysis. And it's not just residents leaving the Golden State. According to news channel CBS 13, 153 California companies relocated from California to other states in 2021.

Why are Californians moving to Texas and what's known about their impact? ›

People are moving to Texas primarily for economic reasons. They want good job opportunities and to be able to afford the type of lifestyle they want to live. When you look at the West Coast compared to Texas, there's a gigantic difference in housing prices. And that is by far the biggest driver.

Is Austin going to be next Silicon Valley? ›

In the technology industry, talks of emerging “new Silicon Valley” are hot, and Austin is a contender to become the newest tech hub. The current hub in California is seeing a decline in popularity among both residents, future residents, and companies.

What state are most Californians moving to? ›

Texas is currently the number one destination state for those leaving California.

Who pays more in taxes Texas or California? ›

Though Texas has no state-level personal income tax, it does levy relatively high consumption and property taxes on residents to make up the difference. Ultimately, it has a higher effective state and local tax rate for a median U.S. household at 12.73% than California's 8.97%, according to a new report from WalletHub.

Are people moving back to California? ›

But a U.S. Census data estimate released last month found that net migration to the U.S. from abroad in 2022 reached its highest level since 2017. California is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of this uptick, with more than 125,715 new residents coming to the state last year.

Why are there so many Californians in Austin? ›

Vibrant Job Market

California is popular for offering high-paying job opportunities. Austin can offer you the same without making you feel the same level of competition in California. Austin is also known as a thriving place for technology and innovation.

What is the best small town in Texas to live? ›

1. Fredericksburg, TX. Fredericksburg is one of the best small towns in Texas. It's known for its strong German influence, delicious peaches, and outstanding local wineries — which makes sense since it's located in the heart of Texas wine country.

Where are most people moving to Austin from? ›

The majority of people moving to Austin are from other parts of Texas, but the number of people coming from out of state has been on the rise. In the Austin Chamber's report, the top states people are moving to Austin from are California, New York, New Mexico and Massachusetts.

Why do so many people want to move to Austin? ›

With a strong sense of community, a thriving job market, and plenty of outdoor activities, Austin is a great place to start a family or launch a career. The city's vibrant food scene, creative community, and reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World offer endless opportunities for entertainment and inspiration.

Is Austin becoming gentrified? ›

A former Freedman's Town, today Montopolis is a low-income, majority-Hispanic neighborhood on the front lines of the city's rapid gentrification: Home prices have skyrocketed across Austin, nearly tripling since 2011 and hitting a median of $624,000 in March — a 40% increase from two years prior.

Is it a good idea to move to Austin Texas? ›

It is worth moving to Austin, Texas. Not only is it easy to find a job when living here, but there are plenty of significant areas to call home. With an affordable cost of living and high safety rating, it is no surprise that this beautiful city has become so popular.

Why do people keep moving to Texas? ›

No Income Tax

This incentive draws people to the state in the hopes of keeping more of their income. Combined with the low cost of living, the lack of income tax makes it easier to live the way you want in Texas.

Why Millennials are moving to Austin? ›

Millennials often want to live in places where there is a great night life and entertainment. Austin has renowned festivals and a night life that rivals other larger cities. Austin's 6th Street is famous for its restaurants and bars, which almost always seem to feature musical acts to dance the night away.

Are Texas people moving to California? ›

In fact, for more than 15 years, as many as 40,000 Texans have moved to California each year. That's not insignificant. But why are so many people leaving the Lone Star State for the Golden State?

Where are people from Texas moving to? ›

California ranked first in the United States for the number of residents moving out of state in 2019, with Texas coming in second. The most popular out-of-state relocation destinations for people moving out of Texas included California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Florida and Georgia.

What are five reasons that Californians are fleeing the state? ›

Why Are People Leaving California?
  • Rising State Taxes. High taxes are one of the main reasons why people are leaving California. California's income tax rate is 13.3%, the country's highest. ...
  • High Cost of Living. ...
  • Increasing Housing Prices. ...
  • Low Quality of Life. ...
  • Inflation. ...
  • Lower Cost of Living. ...
  • Proximity. ...
  • Weather.

Is Elon Musk moving to Austin tx? ›

Musk moved the headquarters of his tunneling and infrastructure company, the Boring Co., to Central Texas, and he has opened offices for SpaceX and Neuralink in the region. He also moved his private foundation, the Elon Musk Foundation, to Austin.

Why are people leaving Silicon Valley? ›

More On: silicon valley

Among individuals who plan to leave, 67% cited housing costs, while 47% pointed to a falling quality of life and 43% were sick of the area's high taxes.

Is Austin the city of the future? ›

Big news, Austinites—Forbes recently named Austin the #1 city of the future. While this doesn't mean we'll be getting jet-packs or flying cars any time soon (although, who knows what they're working on over at the Austin Google offices), there's still plenty to celebrate.

Where is the best place for Californians to move? ›

These were the top destinations for Californians leaving:
  • Texas (82,235 people in Texas had moved from California in the last year)
  • Arizona (59,713)
  • Nevada (47,322)
  • Washington (46,791)
  • Oregon (37,927)
Sep 2, 2021

What state should a Californian move to? ›

Where Is The Best Place To Live Outside Of California? If you're planning to move out of California, then Texas, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon are some of the best states to move to.

Why do so many people move to California? ›

Opportunity, adventure, and pleasant weather are some of the many appeals of the Golden State. You can search high (Mount Whitney is the highest point in the 48 contiguous states) and low (Death Valley has North America's lowest elevation) and truly find something for everyone in California.

What city in Texas does not pay property taxes? ›

The City of Stafford holds the unique distinction of being the largest city in Texas to abolish city property taxes. This includes both commercial and residential properties. In addition to a lack of city property taxes, the State of Texas has no state property taxes.

Are California salaries higher than Texas? ›

Employers in Los Angeles, CA typically pay 13.0% more than employeers in Dallas, TX. The same type of job in the same type of company in Los Angeles, CA will typically pay $67,803.

Who has a better economy Texas or California? ›

Overall, in the calendar year 2022, the United States' Nominal GDP at Current Prices totaled at $25.463 Trillion, as compared to $23.315 Trillion in 2021. The three U.S. states with the highest GDPs were California ($3.6 Trillion), Texas ($2.356 Trillion), and New York ($2.053 Trillion).

What states are people moving out of? ›

Top states residents are leaving

The annual 2022 United Van Lines National Movers study is out! But it wasn't good news for New Jersey or New York. A similar report from United Van Lines showed New Jersey as the top outbound state, followed by Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Wyoming. The full list is below.

Where is everyone moving in 2023? ›

Based on migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans are moving to Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Orlando, Florida; Dallas, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona. The most moved-to cities are based on percentage increases in population since 2010.

What state is everybody moving to? ›

The states that attracted the most new residents in 2022 are Florida, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina, followed by other states in the South and West.

What is so special about Austin? ›

What is Austin, Texas Best Known For? Known as the Live Music Capital of the World®, Austin, Texas is home to hundreds of live music venues and some of the premier music festivals in the country. But that's not all Austin has to offer.

What is the coldest month in Austin Texas? ›

Austin City's coldest month is January when the average temperature overnight is 40.0°F. In August, the warmest month, the average day time temperature rises to 95.6°F.

Why are celebrities leaving California? ›

High taxes are one of the biggest reasons why Hollywood studios and celebrities may consider leaving California. The state has one of the highest tax rates in the country, with a maximum income tax rate of 13.3%, which can make it very expensive for businesses and high-earning celebrities.

What is the friendliest city in Texas? ›

San Antonio

The Alamo City wins out, and for a lot of different reasons, according to the article.

What is the happiest place to live in Texas? ›

The Top 40 Happiest Cities in Texas
RankCityAverage Commute Time
2Sugar Land28.5
3Wichita Falls14.7
26 more rows

What is the wealthiest small town in Texas? ›

Southlake topped the list with a median income of $239,833. Lucas, Coppell, Heath, Highland Village and Keller also made the list.

Where do the rich live in Austin Texas? ›

Rosedale is one of the richest and most historic neighborhoods in Austin. Located just north of the city's University of Texas campus, this charming neighborhood was first developed in the 1920s and 1930s, and much of its local architecture reflects this antiquity.

What side of Austin is best to live in? ›

South Congress is possibly the best-known neighborhood in Austin—they call it SoCo. It's filled with locally-founded boutique stores, shops, diners, coffeehouses, and bars. California-style food trucks started in this area of town and spread all over Austin quickly after.

What is the majority race in Austin Texas? ›

White alone, percent 66.4%
Black or African American alone, percent(a) 7.7%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent(a) 0.8%
Asian alone, percent(a) 8.2%
57 more rows

Why is Austin so expensive right now? ›

Why is Austin getting so expensive? ​ A big reason this city has seen such a boom in prices lately is the announcement of some of the major tech companies moving here. Tesla, Google, Apple, and others have opened headquarters in and around Austin in the last few years.

How much money should I have saved to move to Austin Texas? ›

How much money should I save when moving to Austin? Quick answer: Although there's no definitive answer to this question, you should aim to save at least 3 months' worth of living expenses to be safe. The more you save, the better.

Why do they say keep Austin weird? ›

Keep Austin Weird is the slogan adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses in Austin, Texas. It is intended to promote local businesses and is inspired by comments made by Red Wassenich in 2000 while giving a pledge to an Austin radio station.

Is homelessness a problem in Austin? ›

We estimate at least 5,094 people experienced homelessness in Austin or Travis County on a single day in March 2023.

What is the most gentrified state in the US? ›

Five out of the 20 most gentrified cities in the United States are right here in California. That's according to new rankings from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

What is a comfortable living salary in Austin? ›

The median income in the Texas capital is $63,717 but it takes $98,007 a year to live comfortably in Austin, according to a recent study by GoBankingRates, a personal finance website. To live comfortably in Austin as a renter, it takes $94,455 — but that's still a gap of more than $30,000 from the median income.

Is it smart to move to Texas right now? ›

Warm and tax-friendly, living in Texas is a great idea. With many diverse cities and endless job opportunities, Texas is a popular destination for young professionals, families, and retirees. Compared to living in Florida, Texas is slightly cheaper and just as warm as the sunshine state.

Where are most Californians moving to in Texas? ›

From his research, Clark has found that Californians are almost exclusively moving to Texas' four large metro areas — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

Why not move to Austin? ›

Its EXPENSIVE: the average home price in Austin has increased by 28% year over year! No pro sports: Austin does not have a single professional sports team. Extreme weather: The concrete jungle and exhaust amplify the dry heat. Austin is also prone to tornadoes, hailstorms, and floods.

Is Texas or California better to live in? ›

Texas is 76.5, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.. Overall quality of life. WalletHub found Californians work fewer hours weekly, enjoy more miles of trails for biking and walking per total state land area and have better access to public transportation. Culture.

What are 3 good reasons to move to Texas? ›

  • Cost of living. One of the main reasons why people are moving to Texas is that the cost of living is much more affordable compared to expensive coastal states. ...
  • More affordable housing. ...
  • No state income tax. ...
  • Job market. ...
  • Great schools. ...
  • Climate. ...
  • Diversity.
Jul 21, 2022

Should I consider Moving to Texas? ›

Great job opportunity coupled with a reasonable cost of living makes Texas a gem for young professionals. According to Zillow, the median home price in Texas is $190,000 and the average rent price is about $1,500. Due to the fact that Texas is absolutely massive, they have practically endless land to build on.


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