Location, location, location
Like any great city, Austin’s neighborhoods each have their own history, charm, and quirks. Cherrywood on the East Side, for example, is barely four miles (six kilometers) away from Clarksville, an Old West Austin neighborhood, but it has a completely different character and vibe. Before you buy, check out the local amenities in your vicinity: how far away are the coffee shops, grocery stores, and community hangouts?
Do your research
Other considerations that come into play when choosing your ideal location will include crime rate, walkability, and nearby schools. While you can get the best feel for this simply by driving around your desired area, websites like Trulia are a valuable resource to get you started in your search.
Conduct a “Night Test”
Drive through your potential new neighborhood area after dark. What are the night noises like? Do the streets seem safe and well lit? You can only know if you test it out for yourself. Better yet, park in front of the complex itself. Are there loud parties from neighboring units? Will those bright security lights beam into your back bedroom? Some things you can cancel out with curtains and soundproofing, of course, but in addition to investigating city sound ordinances, it’s best to get a taste ahead of time.
Bigger is not always better
Traffic is a major consideration for apartment buying in Austin. Consider your new space an investment in time as well as money; in exchange for more square footage or a larger backyard, are you willing to spend more time in the car? For some buyers, the answer is yes—being further from downtown can provide both the physical and mental space needed to unwind away from the office. For others—especially recent transplants from bigger cities like San Francisco and New York—a smaller, low-maintenance property just blocks from work relieves the added tension of traffic stress.
Hire a specialist
Find someone who specializes in condos and apartments, not houses. The housing market in Austin fluctuates, and there are different factors at play when buying a home compared to a condo. Finding the right specialist can feel like dating around at first, but the ideal candidate will be someone you can trust, who knows the market, and who looks out for your best, long-term interest—not just commission in their pocket.
Get to know the homeowners association (HOA)
This step may not seem like it would affect your daily life, but it could greatly affect some major expenditures after you purchase a property. Questions you’ll want to ask include: Are the HOA fees the same across the board? Does the HOA prioritize long-term repairs or just make quick fixes? If possible, find out how often the HOA meets and how many owners there are. Your condo specialist might even be able to get you access to information like minutes and budget, insurance coverage for individual units, resale certificates and more.
Learn the rental-to-owner ratio
Getting to know the HOA can also tell you the rental-to-owner ratio (i.e., how many units are rented versus unoccupied or owner-occupied), which affects your financial options if you plan to take a loan. All HOA’s are required to keep a record of condominium questionnaires for different lenders that determine how readily they would qualify for a loan. Knowing this ratio, you can compare your own ability to get a loan and competitive interest rate.
Finally, get to know the unit and the complex itself. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, after all. How accessible is parking—for yourself and visitors? Are spots assigned? Some amenities will come down to individual needs and personal preference: what are the hours of the fitness center and/or pool? Are other shared spaces kept clean? The answers to these questions may not make or break your decision, but it’s always worth avoiding unwelcome surprises!
In addition to being the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is America’s largest no-kill city, saving more than 90% of its homeless animals since 2011. Whether you already own a pet or plan to adopt one, be sure to check out the HOA pet policies and facilities available in your area. Is there a dog walking area? If not, is there a dog park nearby?