Looking for an apartment in Austin
June 14, 2011 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Looking for an apartment in Austin for this fall. Help me figure out what to do.

I'm starting a job in Austin this September. And I'm starting to figure out my housing situation. I've gotten in touch with an apartment locator (from a recommendation), but I feel like I need to do more to educate myself about the city and what I should realistically be looking for, as well as what else I need to be doing.

I'll be working downtown, and from my visits and general understanding of the area, I think I'll probably be spending a lot of my free time in that area as well. Ideally, I'd love to live there, but I'm not sure if I can make that work given my price range. But close by would be awesome.

I'm 25, male, and want to live alone. Budget, based on some very basic income-based calculations, seems to be $1200-1400/month. I'd like to move in early August; at the latest, I need to be settled in by the end of that month. I cannot move before August 1.

So: What do I do to make that happen? Should I talk to more locators? What neighborhoods should I be considering? What areas should I avoid? Any other tips?

Also, the locator suggested that many places just don't list very far in advance, so it would be hard to get something more than a couple of weeks before I want to move in. True? Options for dealing with this given that I live across the country and have a fairly narrow window to move in?
posted by SuperNova to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience Austin apartments want 60-day moveout notice but seem not to rent until the 30-day window in advance. This was what we found when we looked last fall, anyway. We were looking for a place starting in November, so we were well away from the semester changes (UT fall semester starts August 19). Semester change may also be an issue for you.

Check out the parking situation for your job and consider whether a bus pass may make sense for you. I had jury duty in December and there was no parking for jurors, so I took the bus and it was an easy experience. My husband uses the bus to commute to work and gets a subsidy from his employer for discount bus tickets. If you're interested in commuting by bus, Cap Metro maps (PDF) are available from their website.

How big of a place do you need? Do you have pets? What downtown amenities are you considering being close to? Live music, the Alamo Drafthouse, etc.? If you've visited, how do you feel about South Congress? My instinct is to tell you to look south of the river but north of Ben White, between 35 on the east and maybe a little west of Lamar on the west side. There's also an upscale apartment complex on the east side of downtown, right opposite the Mohawk and just north of Stubb's, whose name is escaping me, that I used to fantasize about before we bought our house. I wouldn't recommend that for anyone who needed a big place or didn't have a high tolerance for noise, though.
posted by immlass at 1:26 PM on June 14, 2011

Every apartment complex I know of requires 60 days notice on move-outs so realistically they should know that far but many don't list until 30 days.

Be aware that the apartment situation in Austin is freaking horrendous right now (people keep moving here but no new apartments are being built). The place I moved into this weekend was $100/month less when i looked at the same complex last year, they were also offering 1 month free and a free in-town move then too. They aren't offering anything right now.

If you are working downtown you probably want to look into buses, parking down there can be really expensive, unless your company is paying for it.

If you want to try another locator, let me know. I like mine a lot (we are on apartment #4 now) and he is a straight shooter as far as sticking to my budget and telling me what I can realistically expect in that range.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2011

or, you know, what immlass said.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:32 PM on June 14, 2011

Moved to Austin a year ago.

I recommend at least checking out the east side of central Austin. There are cheap apartments close to downtown -- not tons, because the area is mostly houses, but some. Check out the apartment buildings on Manor Road between I-35 and Walnut Avenue -- French Place, or the Sandsone Apartments (where I live), or there are a few other buildings. Also, there are apartments on East 5th Street (probably more expensive). I like east central Austin, which might be described as the area bounded by I-35 to the west, Airport Boulevard to the east, and the Colorado River to the south -- but within that area there are, admittedly, some bad sections (stay away from 12th and Chicon -- although just a few blocks from it things seem to be fine).

South Austin may also work, as immlass noted above.

Don't listen to people who say that it's not "safe" to live anywhere east of I-35. That's like saying that it's not safe to live in Brooklyn, ignoring the existence of such neighborhoods as Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, etc. Basically, it's something dumb people who live in the suburbs might say. Check out the neighborhood yourself. There are lots of bars, restaurants, and 20-something individuals here.

I would be wary about using a locator. They seem to exist to fill the ugly complexes along 183 north of the city. The locators we attempted to use had nothing to offer us anywhere near downtown, and everything was off some horrible highway. You may have a really good one who can offer you decent listings, but if everything s/he's showing you is crap, don't assume that you have to settle for that.

In my opinion, the bus system in Austin is absolutely dreadful, but I think because it's Texas people have really low expectations for public transit. If you do take the bus in Austin, expect it to go at a slower pace than you can walk. It does, however, allow you to escape the heat.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:52 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh -- feel free to memail me if you have any specific questions.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2011

If downtown living is too expensive, you can try just west of downtown in the Clarksville neighborhood. If you do a Craigslist search for Clarksville, you should get some hits. It is pricey but not as bad as downtown. We live in that area and love it (walking distance to many things--including downtown-- which is rare in Austin).
posted by murrey at 2:06 PM on June 14, 2011

Get on a bike and check out East Austin.
posted by swift at 2:12 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I asked the same question basically last year when I moved here for grad school, but I had half your budget and slightly different neighborhood priorities. Here is what I've learned from two different rentals here so far:

1. Do not rent with the academic calendar. Wait until you're competing with students before start of term and there will be nothing good available. Winter is when I scored a great deal. If you want something in September it's not necessarily too early to secure it now, but of course it varies. Another option is a short term lease or sublet until December or so, then look for something permanent.

2. Check out several different locators. Craigslist here is very spammy but padmapper.com can help you filter.

3. Hyde Park is dilapidated and overpriced. North of that is sad strip mall land. West of downtown is a very wealthy neighborhood, but there are a handful of rentals. Just south of the river can be nice in places but you're paying a premium for a hip neighborhood, and if you bike you can be downtown in minutes, but don't plan to drive over the river in the morning. It will take you 30 minutes to go less than 4 miles.

4. You could do very well on the east side for your budget, possibly even a 2BD but the risk with lower price rentals in Austin is poor maintenance. There are tons of old properties in this city held together with wire and glue, and if that's not your thing, you should just go directly to the nicer, newer managed buildings and ask them about availability.

5. My friends have a kick-ass condo in this small building just a block east of 35 and close to alot of cool bars- check out that walk score!! http://www.highrises.com/austin/6th-and-brushy-condos/
posted by slow graffiti at 2:48 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Very helpful answers so far, thanks!

To follow up on some questions: No pets, and I don't need a big place. A studio is fine. I think parking is covered by work, so I'd prefer to drive as long as I can avoid heavy traffic.

In light of the time issues (not listing until 30 days out), can anybody speculate on whether it would be worthwhile to try to find a place to sublet in August and look for a permanent place then? While I'd rather have this ironed out sooner than later, I'm not opposed to that option... but only if I'd actually be able to find a good place and not end up stuck somewhere terrible out of necessity.

So any thoughts on that, in addition to the above, would be great. Thanks!
posted by SuperNova at 2:48 PM on June 14, 2011

The one thing I can immediately say about commuting by car is don't be south of the river east of I-35 for traffic reasons. I live east of 35 near Ben White and on those rare days when I end up north of the river during afternoon rush hour, I just find somewhere to hang out rather than drive in the traffic. In general I avoid driving on I-35 as much as possible, but especially during rush hour.

(And as someone who lives east of 35, I second the idea to ignore the "OMG scary" talk about east Austin. Some neighborhoods are sketchy and others are not. If I thought it was unsafe, we would not have bought a house here.)

Other commenters here are going to be more helpful in answering your new questions.
posted by immlass at 3:34 PM on June 14, 2011

If you want something non-dilapidated in Hyde Park, you could go with The Triangle, which looks like it has one bedrooms in the $1200-or-so range to start. It's right on a bus line for buses that go straight downtown, and is a new development with I don't know what you call it, a walkable area with shops and little restaurants and cafes, and a nice small green park thing with a fountain. There is a farmer's market there on Wednesdays if you are interested in that sort of thing.

I live in Hyde Park and I don't really mind how dumpy my apartment is (I am not at the Triangle, but near it), but I find the location is great to get anywhere in central/north Austin. I-35 is nearby, and Mopac is not far away. Lots of it is nicely walkable/bikeable, good local restaurants, Central Market (gourmet grocery store), Wheatsville Co-op (earthy crunchy grocery), Walgreens (close to the Triangle). Major bus lines go down Guadalupe to downtown. Lots of people really dig this neighborhood, is what I'm getting at.

Good luck, I hope you find a really great place that suits you.
posted by marble at 5:35 PM on June 14, 2011

Oops broken link. Try this link for the Triangle.
posted by marble at 5:39 PM on June 14, 2011

The east side was where the deals were 10 years ago when I was there. A bit funkier. You just gotta drive it. It changes by the street.
posted by Murray M at 9:21 PM on June 14, 2011

No one has suggested going south. It's a bit of a drive, but if you're near Mo-Pac (loop 1), you can make a pretty straight shot downtown. Clarksville has basically two speeds: totally gentrified, or absolutely crappy. The East side might be an option, but anywhere within about 2 miles of I-35, and you're looking at places that have been taken over by the yuppies. You might also consider French Place, which is from about Manor to 38th or so on the East side of the highway. Dellwood is just a little north of that (on the East side), and might also be a possibility. If you've got a decent locator, they will no doubt lead you away from the dumps. I found my place through one (in 1 day!), and have managed to stay intact.
posted by Gilbert at 9:47 PM on June 14, 2011

You can get a pretty good place for that budget. Probably even very close to downtown or save a few bucks and get a place for 1000-1100.

My suggestion would be to take the locator suggestions with a grain of salt as they are only pushing the inventory that gives them commission and hunt furiously on craigslist/padmapper within your 30 day move in window.

I'm really happy with the SoCo place I found in April which was on CL for about 10 minutes, but I was hunting for about two weeks before I got it. The market is pretty crazy right now.
posted by ejoey at 12:33 PM on June 15, 2011

I'm watching this thread with interest as I'm considering a move to Austin in the next few months, and craigslist has been not-at-all-helpful. Everyone posting there is an agent and has a disclaimer saying blablabla, it's not our problem if our ads are misleading because prices change. My budget is half yours, so I'll have an interesting time finding a place. Still looks cheaper than Seattle though.
posted by thelastcamel at 12:38 PM on June 16, 2011

« Older Where[Way-uh}? Over there[they-uh].   |   Of all the people in this city... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.