renting in Austing on a grad student budget
March 15, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

What neighborhoods in Austin have the type of house/studio thing I'm looking for?

I start grad school at UT in the fall. I am moving to Austin in the summer and I'm beginning to look at rentals. I'll have a grad student budget, looking for a 1BR/studio. If at all possible, I would prefer one of those cute "mother in law" detached units, a freestanding 1BR house, half of a duplex, or similar.

What I do not want is a generic complex of some sort; more than a few units together is not acceptable and I would strongly prefer a back yard or patio. Want a place that feels homey (not necessarily big) as opposed to having a pool or fitness center. I can bike up to ~7 miles from campus. I know I'm going to have to pay a bit more for that kind of place that close, but can it be done for $700 or less?

Is my budget realistic, what neighborhoods am I looking at, and where do I find the deals? Do I use craigslist or a locating service?

(memail me if you have a referral for a non-scummy locating service or someone who is looking for a renter)
posted by slow graffiti to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Look around the North Loop and West Campus areas. I have friends in those MIL/garage apartment units there, for around your price range.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:59 AM on March 15, 2010

I would look in Hyde Park north of 38th street, but this might be a bit over your budget. Try contacting your program's graduate coordinator and ask her/him if she/he knows of any places. Many times professors or other graduate students will have additional housing like this for rent, but they don't advertise it. Leaving graduate students often want graduate students to take over there rental places to "keep it in the department".

Also, the biking is really, really going to help. If you are honestly OK with biking 5 miles a day, look into Terrytown, North Loop, Rosedale, Brentwood, Allendale, Hyde Park Adjacent ect. What you are looking for exists, but is uncommon. As a guideline, anywhere south of Anderson Lane, west of I-35 (only because such places are less common east of I-35), north of Ladybird Lake, and east of Westlake Drive.

I would avoid west campus because of the concentration of undergrads there. It can get ... raucous.

Housing can be competitive here; Mefi mail me if you see an opening and you need a fellow graduate student to check it out for you.
posted by Peter Petridish at 12:06 PM on March 15, 2010

Small single-family homes and mother-in-law apartments will be more difficult to find, as they are rarer (well, the latter are rare; the former are not as rare but will likely be beyond your price range that close to campus). Duplexes aren't hard to find, but you will probably end up paying more than $700. (Possibly not much more than, but $700 is pretty cheap.)

I suggest looking on the east side of 35 if you're OK with a gentrifying-but-not-yet-gentrified neighborhood; prices are going up over there but are still lower than West Campus will be. Look also in the north Hyde Park/Duval area but be aware that the farther west you go, the more you will pay. You might also have luck in the South Lamar corridor, north of Manchaca on both sides.

How many units exactly is too many? There are a fair number of cute 12-unit buildings in the middle of neighborhoods (so, doesn't feel like a giant super-complex, but isn't exactly a duplex). Most of those places don't really list, though--they tend to get rented out by word of mouth, etc. Mefi me and I can point you in the direction of one such building.

Oh, also--are you dead set against roommates or housemates? I think you're more likely to find a place that meets your requirements if you're willing to share costs.
posted by devinemissk at 12:12 PM on March 15, 2010

You may want to consider living near a UT shuttle route or CapMetro bus line. Biking when it's 105 degrees out with unpredictable thunderstorms might not necessarily be something you are up for when the time comes.
posted by puritycontrol at 12:15 PM on March 15, 2010

There are a lot of places with mother-in-law apartments in central Austin that would leave you well-situated for commuting to UT, but I have a feeling you'll have a tough time finding one for $700. My wife used to live in just such a one in French Place (not as nice a neighborhood as Hyde Park); it was a nice apartment, but IIRC the rent was $850 (in 2003).

Hyde Park, West Campus, and North University are what you might call "first ring" neighborhoods for UT. They'll naturally be relatively expensive. French Place/Cherrywood could also be considered "first ring" but they're on the east side, which still has a bit of (unwarranted) stigma, and are separated by I-35. West Campus is rapidly being converted to large apartment buildings; you may find that it's heavy with undergrads and less congenial to a grad-student lifestyle.

I just took a look at Craigslist for grins, searching on Hyde Park, and found a lot places that are not actually in Hyde Park. But the prices were not as high as I expected. Still, if you rent before you get here, you're buying a pig in a poke. I did that years ago, when I moved back to Austin, and regretted it.

If you have the opportunity to ride your bike and visit some neighborhoods before you need to commit to a place, by all means do so. IMO it's the best way to look for a place. Just pick a neighborhood to explore, and ride every street.
posted by adamrice at 1:00 PM on March 15, 2010

There are quite a few cheap duplexes that have little yards in the area just east of I-35, right around 38th 1/2 street and Cherrywood. I think Maplewood Ave in particular has a lot of duplexes. It's bikeable or bus-able to the UT campus, and that neighborhood is really quite charming and nice.

It's a little further north, but I also really like Allendale (boundaries are roughly MoPac to Lamar and maybe 2222 to 35th street). It's a nice but relatively affordable neighborhood where you might find the kind of stand-alone place-with-a-yard you're looking for.

I'd also avoid West Campus. The north campus area is quieter and tends to have more grad students than undergrads. You might have some luck there.

Hyde Park and South Austin (78701) are indeed nice neighborhoods, but they're more expensive than other parts of the city, and you'll likely have trouble living in a house/duplex/garage apartment by yourself for under $700.
posted by aka burlap at 1:05 PM on March 15, 2010

Oh, and seconding the North Loop area, especially as you get close to I-35 and get just east of I-35. Rents will be cheaper there.
posted by aka burlap at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2010

Another UT alum, so won't repeat what others have said. Another option is to look into Co-ops, which yes mean living in West Campus and having to deal with undergrads. I belonged to College Houses, which has housing set aside for grad students. When it's loud, yes it can be annoying. But my overall experience was great because not only was it a lot cheaper than renting a place, I was within walking/shuttle distance to school, and got to meet a great cross section of students who were in other grad school programs.
posted by green_flash at 4:27 PM on March 15, 2010

Yeah, Northloop/Brentwood/Crestview are good areas to check out - bike accessable to UT, but cheaper than Hyde Park. I lived in Brentwood at one point and it was a 20/25 min bike to campus - Crestview is a bit further north than that.

The east side is also another possibility I would check out, but might be hit or miss, some places out there are super nice/new and therefore expensive.

As others mentioned, if you were willing to have house mates, it would be a *ton* easier to find a house much lower than your price range ($500/person), even with only 2 other people, in those neighborhoods.

If you want to check out the MLS renter listings before contacting an agent, check out, it's a lot easier to wade through/filter than Craigslist.
posted by theRussian at 4:47 PM on March 15, 2010

I second the recommendation of Austin Craigslist is worse than useless for job/apartment hunting.

I will also put in a very tentative recommendation for Sasona, which is a housing co-op that isn't connected to the university — meaning you get grad students, young professionals just starting out, and older artists and counterculture types rather than a mob of undergrads. It is quite cheap and quite homey, with a yard and everything, and when everything's running smoothly it's nice to share the burden of cooking and cleaning and maintenance and whatnot.....

...but everything isn't always running smoothly. This is true of co-ops in general. Generally, people are either compatible with co-op living or totally, completely, OMG get me the fuck out of here incompatible with it. But if you're the sort of person who's up for it, you might find Sasona more agreeable than the College Houses, which are well run but young and kind of party-party-party.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:27 PM on March 15, 2010

Another Co-op I can recommend is Sunflower in south Austin and not far from the 29 which will take you straight to UT. Crestview is a good neighborhood. But a LOT of old housing stock has been scraped for monster hummer houses.
Good Luck.
posted by Pecantree at 7:37 PM on March 15, 2010

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