If I had to sum up Austin in three words right now: lively, eclectic, congested. There are too many people for the infrastructure (roads, parks, places to kayak, water for drinking, parking spots) of Austin to handle presently. My home city of over twenty years is bursting at the seams. I hate to be one of those curmudgeons wagging my finger while yelling, "You kids get off my lawn", but I am headed in that awful direction. With a long list of repairs, replacements and remodeling to do at the 1952 House, Chad and I started to wonder if staying in our current home offers the right lifestyle for us.
Chad enjoys the flexibility to work from wherever he might choose, but does need to be near Austin for client meetings a few times a week. Real estate prices in Austin are out of control, rising really quickly. We could sell our house today, as is, and make a nice profit. But then where would we live?! We couldn't afford to buy another home (even a similarly cozy-sized home in a less desirable area) within Austin city limits. Chad and I started to think outside of Austin city limits where we might be able to have a bit bigger house without so much noise and congestion in our daily lives. My requirements for our not-Austin-but-near-Austin search: the town has to have a charming, historic square or Main Street area, an average commute time of 45 minutes or less to Austin; NO suburban bedroom communities lousy with fast food drive-thru places, model homes on clear-cut land and a lack of culture. Yes. I have high standards. Deal with it. I have.
Our search for a not-Austin-but-near-Austin home took us to Bastrop, Taylor and Georgetown.
Bastrop, Texas features a really charming main square with historic buildings. There is a waterfront park. There are locally owned restaurants. We had good lunch at Neighbors Kitchen & Yard overlooking the Colorado River. However, the homes near the main square in Bastrop are pricey and tend to be small. Charm isn't cheap. After the devastating wildfires in 2011 in and around Bastrop, many of the homes in the area just east of Bastrop are new construction and lacking shade trees. I like a little history to my house and I MUST have shade trees in my yard. Best wishes, Bastrop. I'll visit. Let's keep in touch.
Taylor, Texas has a historic Main Street area rife with remodeling and restoration happening. Chad and I found a few affordable, very nice homes that offered most of our wish-list items on Zillow.com in the Taylor area. One of the homes was even close to Main Street. We lunched at Ricoco's Latin Grill, which had a vegetarian burrito on the menu, thank you very much. We took note of the cute retro movie theater and the coming-soon craft brewery and beer garden. Overall Taylor was too far from Austin for commuting a few times a week and still a bit sleepy for a night owl like me.
Georgetown, Texas boasts a historic square with a proper, old courthouse. We brunched at the lovely El Monumento restaurant overlooking a waterfront park. (Waterfront parks are a running theme for me. Love!) We stopped at Galaxy Bakery for the best cupcakes ever! Georgetown is a great place to spend an afternoon. I'll be back. However, a home near the historic square in Georgetown that meets our need for trees, a second bathroom and a dedicated room for Chad's office is too much to ask on our budget.
While Round Rock, Texas would also be a fine choice for a not-Austin-but-near-Austin home with its historic area and appealing nightlife, the prices for our prospective 1500-square-foot dream homes with mature shade trees are too high. I also fear that I would develop an unhealthy habit of daily trips to Round Rock Donuts shop. So, no.
Conclusion: we are 95% sure that we are staying put. Chad and I agreed that while his work keeps him tethered to the Austin area, the 1952 House is the best nest for us. Soon we'll get all new windows, new exterior paint, a new bathtub and new bathroom subfloor for our sweet, little, old house. We only have one bathroom - the horror! I'm not a fan of having a port-o-potty out in the yard and showering at the gym everyday while the bathroom is repaired and updated, but first-world problems will be dealt with accordingly. The value is in the land here. We aren't too concerned with resale value, but we do want to be comfortable and not fall through the rotten bathroom floor while we're here. Wish us luck!