AOMA Blog

5 Reasons Why Austin is Different from the Rest of Texas

Posted by Rob Davidson on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 @ 02:20 PM

5 reasons why austin is different from the rest of texas.png

Those of us that live in Austin LOVE it and the ones that visit always wish they could stay. Some call Austin “weird,” or the “blue dot in a red state,” while others call it the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Regardless of what you have heard about Austin, one thing is certain - it is VERY different than the rest of Texas for a number of reasons. Austin has its own culture and is known as a tolerant, open-minded city that attracts a wide variety of people –college students, tech entrepreneurs, artisans, nature enthusiasts, alternative health practitioners, and many others. To top it off, Austin was ranked the best place to live in 2017, according to US News and World Report! Let’s be honest here, we couldn’t agree more that Austin is the best, which is why we came up with 5 reasons why Austin is strikingly different from (and arguably better) than the rest of Texas.

Environmentally Friendly

Lady Bird Lake Austin

What you’ll notice about Austin that’s different from the other concrete-jungle cities in Texas is the vast amount of parks and nature preservations located close to the city center. Austin caters to any outdoor enthusiast with prized urban nature conservations such as the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Spanning a length of 7.9 miles with gorgeous trails and swimming spots along the way, “the greenbelt” is considered one of the best hiking trails in Texas. Zilker Metropolitan Park (350 acres), one of Austin’s most used parks, is just 2 miles from downtown. Zilker connects to the Barton Springs swimming pool and Lady Bird Lake, where anyone can paddle board, kayak, or canoe. Such centrally located access to outdoor recreation is rare in most Texas cities, making Austin even more special. Oh, and did we mention how dog-friendly Austin is? People love to bring their pets most anywhere, so you’ll find many outdoor restaurants and cafes offering dog-friendly patios!

Music

Austin TX Live Music

You’ve heard Austin is the live music capitol of the world, but have you experienced the live music here? Austin hosts large scale music events every year, such as Austin City Limits (ACL), South by Southwest (SXSW), and the Pecan Street Festival. Besides the large mainstream festivals hosted here, there is always live music being played at other smaller venues such as the Broken Spoke for country and two-stepping or the Elephant Room for an eclectic basement with live jazz. We have every kind of music you would want to hear, and more you didn’t realize you would like. With a venue at almost every corner, Austin has your entertainment covered for a night out on the town.

Tech Savvy

Austin Tech Startups

Austin is considered the technology hub of Texas spawning with growth from companies such as Dell as well as an explosion of new companies formed during the dot.com era. Today, we host a full-blown tech ecosystem that many consider 2nd best to Silicon Valley in the United States, and dubbed the “Silicon Hills”. Austin is home to some of the newest up and coming high-tech startups as well as a large presence by many national corporations like Apple, IBM, and AMD. Many of these companies also embrace alternative and renewable energy sources. In addition, Austin was also chosen as one of the first cities in the country to offer Google Fiber access for its residents.

Local Business-Minded

South Congress Austin

Austin’s economy thrives on local merchants such as coffee shops, micro-breweries, farmers markets, boutiques and local art studios. In addition, some of these local ventures have taken off and grown to national prominence such as Whole Foods Market, Kendra Scott, Tito’s Vodka, Chuy’s Restaurant, and YETI Coolers. Austin is a city where all dreams are possible, where small businesses get bigger, and where consumers are more conscious of the products they buy with the intention of keeping the economy balanced. Let’s not forget to mention that our local and organic food movement is prominent with many local farms, herbal shops and community gardens. Trust us when we say there are more than enough places to discover here and whatever it is you like, we’ll have it!

Access to Alternative Health Options

Austin acupuncture clinics

Austin’s residents tend to be healthier, fitter, and more interested in alternative health therapies. We have a plethora of yoga studios, group fitness classes, CrossFit gyms and running groups. Because of the wide variety of residents in Austin, we have even more variety of health care options for those residents, such as acupuncture and reiki practitioners, as well as meditation and nutritional classes. Our city also provides many restaurants and food trucks that cater to our growing population of vegans and vegetarians. But just so you know, we love our breakfast tacos, and no matter how healthy you are - they can be hard to resist!

Still not convinced Austin is the best? Guess you’ll just have to come see for yourself!

Download a Guide to Austin, Texas

Topics: Austin, moving to Austin, Austin acupuncture

Moving to Austin: Advantages to Students Who Buy Real Estate

Posted by Rob Davidson on Fri, Jun 05, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

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Graduate students completing their degree have a lot on their plates – from balancing course-loads and personal lives to anxieties over starting their post-graduation careers. Finding off-campus housing is another worry unique to the graduate-level experience. As a graduate student, your time in the dorms is likely over and you may be considering a number of factors relative to housing - whether to move closer to campus or to commute, to find a roommate or to live alone, how to make ends meet while attending school and supporting your family. Graduate students in the Austin, Travis County area may be especially compelled to rent an apartment somewhere in or near the city, so as to be close not only to classes, but also to a source of metropolitan jobs.

What would these students say if they were told it may be more mentally and financially beneficial to buy housing, than to rent? If they, or their spouse, has a stable income at a full time job with as much as two years of work history, even if they are still in their 20’s, they have already taken a crucial step towards a home loan.

Here are five reasons why owning real estate when you are in graduate school, or have completed college recently, may be easier to do, and better for you financially, than you may have assumed. In case any of the real estate and financial terms in this article sounding confusing, you can read a glossary of these terms here.

5) Foreclosures and short sale properties are great real estate investments. These properties will come at a great price and though they may need sprucing up, these are going to be properties that lenders/banks will want off their inventory, since they are currently taking losses on them. Tip: Condos and duplexes have the ability to be foreclosed on or parts of short sales too, so don’t count them out - you're not limited to single-family dwellings.

4) Federal home loans have low interest rates and sometimes, do not require a down payment. If you have a two-year history of employment, even while in school, and a minimum credit score of 620, lenders familiar with federal home loans will likely be willing to work with you. You should first seek out FHA home loans – while this loan requires a minimum down payment averaging 3.5 percent, the interest rate is low and closing costs can be paid by another party – you can especially look into their 203k loan for homes needing repairs. Another great option is the USDA home loan. Popular for low interest rates and no down payments, these loans are intended for low income Americans to buy modest homes in rural areas. Ready for a surprise? You can find eligible USDA home loan properties in the following Austin suburbs that are all 30 to 50 minutes away from the city: Garfield, New Sweden, Normans Crossing, Hutto, Leander, Jonestown, and Hudson Bend. For veterans and active duty – you should also seek out your options for the VA home loan, which is an entitlement to you for your duty to our country.

3) You can share a large house with other tenants to pay towards the mortgage. You can go for a home that has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms to share with friends or family, each go in on the mortgage with payments that can be as small as $500 per month, and help grow equity of the property faster. In Travis County, FHA loan limits are $331,200 for a single family dwelling, where the median price is $288k.

2)  If you have student debts, you have two options you may not have considered. One is that you can always request a deferment or forbearance on your student loans to pay them off later, or to make smaller payments. If this is not possible, your student loan payments per month are factored into your DTI, or debt to income ratio. As long as your DTI, or what you spend monthly on bills, does not overshadow your disposable income, this looks better when looking to buy property. Also, if you put work into the property and it gains value, you can sometimes take cash out on your equity and use it to pay towards your student debts!

1) Buying your own property may be the best thing to do for your future and your health. Not only will you have the anxieties of rent raises or denials of lease renewals taken off your shoulders, but you won’t have to worry about your landlord announcing your apartment is suddenly going to be sold as a condo, be forced to be in close quarters with unpleasant or disruptive neighbors or rely on your complex’s repair guy to come by at an inconvenient time to fix something. Owning your own property teaches you how to invest money and pay off bills; it’s an opportunity to learn how to repair things yourself, and, if you are looking to create your own family down the line, this home that you own is the best place to start. For animal lovers – except for some inevitable uppity condos out there, you likely won’t have to worry about your cat, dog, or multiple pets being denied to live with you, or being overcharged per month for them to live with you. (It will vary pending on what county you live with what pets you can own.)

About the Author:

The author of this piece, Amanda Rosenblatt, is an in-house writer for VA Home Loan Centers. Visit their sister site, Federal Home Loan Centers, for more helpful info on federal home loans and to chat with knowledgeable experts here.

For more info on relocating to Austin, download our guide below:

Download a guide to Austin

Topics: moving to Austin

4 Myths about Austin, Texas

Posted by Justine Meccio on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 10:50 AM

MYTH 1: Austin is always hot.texas snowmen_image courtesy of lauraagudelo272.wordpress.com

TRUTH: Austin is hot during the summer. I moved to Austin,TX from Massachusetts in July of 2011, which was later named the hottest, driest month in Texas’ recorded history, and it was brutally hot. The grass was bleached pale yellow and wildfires popped up around the city, in spite of the strict burn-ban, which extended so far as to prohibit Independence Day fireworks. After a few months I learned that such high temperatures are an anomaly for Austin, which generally boasts somewhat mild weather for much of the fall, winter, and spring. Unfortunately, I’d already joyously donated all my cold-weather wear before heading south, so sometime in November I had to reevaluate my wardrobe and purchase much of the gear I’d gotten rid of.

Since living in Austin, I’ve spent Thanksgiving in a wool pea coat and Thanksgiving in a tee shirt…the weather here can be unpredictable, except in its predicable variety.

MYTH 2: If you don’t like tacos or BBQ, you might go hungry.

daidue_image courtesy of daidue.com

TRUTH: While is true that Austin loves its BBQ (there are more than 200 joints in the Austin area) and may love tacos even more (you can buy tacos from  AT LEAST 400 restaurants and food trucks around town), the culinary scene is by no means limited to those two major food groups.Austin is home to hundreds of food trucks, which serve foods ranging from donut-burgers and deep-fried sandwiches to Mexi-Korean and Thai Kun. There are vegetarian &vegan restaurants, gluten -free bakeries,  locally sourced dinner-club inspired restaurants, gourmet hot dog restaurants,Thai restaurants, Southern Comfort Restaurants… I could go on and on. I’m not a food writer, but there are many enthusiastic bloggers in Austin. If you’d like to read more about the food and restaurant scene in Austin, here are a few that I recommend: 

•    http://austinfoodbloggers.org/city-guide-2/
•    http://thetastingbuds.com/
•    http://www.southaustinfoodie.com/
•    http://austin.eater.com/

MYTH 3: Austin doesn’t have public transportation.bcycle_image courtesy of austin.bcycle.com

TRUTH: Austin does have public transportation:

The bus system extends into most of the city, serving 50 routes and 3000 bus stops, and is continuously growing and improving its service.  For more info check out : https://www.capmetro.org/

Additionally, Austin has followed places like DC, Amsterdam, and NYC in implementing a bike-sharing program - ours is Bcycle, and it’s extremely affordable. For more info check out : https://austin.bcycle.com/

Here’s the caveat, and it’s a big one:  people who don’t have cars and instead use public transit often need to plan their daily commute in advance, and may find it easier to live closer to downtown. If you have personal experience with using Austin’s public transportation as your method of getting around, we welcome your comments and opinions!

As important as the presence of public transportation in Austin is its demand due to the growing population. As Austin continues to grow, the city is continuing to improve its public transportation offerings and make improvements to existing systems. I am optimistic that our city planners and local businesses will make this happen.

MYTH 4: Austin is full of weirdoskeep_austin_weird_image courtesy of chucklesnetwork.com

TRUTH: Austin is unique, and so are its inhabitants. You may have heard the city’s popular slogan “Keep Austin Weird”, and wondered what the heck people mean when they say this. In his book “Weird City” Joshua Long explored this very question, and shows that people mean many different things when they use this phrase. Sometimes people are referring to the music, or local icons like Willie Nelson and Leslie, and other times people are referring to the city’s politics or aesthetics. When I hear people talk about Austin’s “weirdness”, it usually has an intangible, nostalgic quality to it. Legend has it that the slogan began as a bumper sticker imagined up by a guy named Red, who (according to Joshua Long) “didn’t want to make money. He didn’t want to be famous. He was just worried that the city he loved was becoming over-commercialized, over-materialistic, and less 'weird'.” Since then, “Keep Austin Weird” has been adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote local business and economic revitalization that preserves the flavor of the city, while allowing it to evolve. Long claims that “there is a kind of a self-perpetuating, self-fulfilling prophecy of nonconformity now in the city” related to this sentiment. What this non-conformity looks like varies a lot depending on who you ask, but it’s my experience that many people in Austin are here because there’s a  sense of inclusivity that accompanies the city’s embrace of “weirdness “. Maybe that does make us weirdos, but I like to think of us as movers and shakers and artists and non-conformists, who are trying to build a city-wide umbrella of inclusivity.

Download a guide to Austin

 

elizabeth_arris_-_round-1Elizabeth Arris is an advanced student within the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program. Prior to relocating to Austin to attend AOMA, she earned a BA in Biological Sciences at Smith College. When not in class, Elizabeth serves as Student Ambassador, administering the InterTransform Mentoring Program for new students.

Topics: Austin, moving to Austin

Moving to Austin: Finding Roommates & Alternative Housing

Posted by Justine Meccio on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 @ 10:38 AM

There's no doubt that Austin,Texas is a popular place – recently topping the list of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. With such a dynamic environment, it's no wonder that many students choose to pursue acupuncture school at AOMA.

In our first post in the Moving to Austin series, we covered the basics of the Austin rental market. However for students looking for alternative housing in Austin, many opportunities exist including roommate arrangements, house shares, and cooperative living.

Finding a Roommate

Moving to Austin, Finding Roomates in Austin

For students seeking to limit their housing costs, finding a roommate is one of the best options. New residents have a variety of resources available when seeking roommates, including well-known sites like craigslist.org and roomster.com. These sites provide an opportunity to screen and to connect with potential roommates online.

AOMA offers support in the form of a biweekly Housing Digest that enables new students to connect with future classmates and  potential roommates in a secure platform. Throughout the year, current students also post openings for roommates online via AOMA's Housing Opportunities page and LinkedIn group.

When considering a potential roommate, it's important to be clear about your housing preferences. Taking time to consider lifestyle factors like school and/or work schedules, cleanliness, socializing, pet ownership, and personal habits is essential to ensuring a harmonious living environment. Additional factors to assess include the terms of a lease and/or approval from the landlord or property manager.

Cooperative Living & Co-housing 

Housing cooperatives (or “co-ops” for short) are member-ship based legal-entities that own residential real-estate. Becoming a member typically grants one the right to live within the co-op house or building.

A number of housing cooperatives and co-housing communities exist in Austin. Many of these co-ops feature communal living environments where multiple residents occupy a single house or building and work together to manage/maintain the property. For residents, the benefits of co-ops can include reduced housing costs and increased social interaction with roommates. When considering this type of living situation, it's important to account for personal privacy and space needs.

Information about housing cooperatives in Austin can be found through the Austin Co-op Directory.

 Personal Preferences

Alternative housing may not be for everyone. Depending on your personal or family needs, more traditional housing may be a better fit. No matter your preferences, Austin has a wide variety of options available to support your lifestyle.

Why Everyone is Moving to Austin

Life in Austin, Texas

 AOMA Student Housing Opportunities

AOMA Apartment Locators List

Article Contributors:

describe the imageJustine Meccio

Justine is the Director of Admissions for AOMA's graduate programs and works regularly to support new students in their transition to AOMA & Austin. A native to of the east coast, she relocated from New York five years ago. Since moving to Austin, she has lived in four different zip codes and is happy to share her personal knowledge of the city with newcomers.  

 

 

Take a Virtual Campus Tour Visit AOMA and Austin, TX

Topics: Austin, Austin rental market, moving to Austin, housing in Austin

Why Everyone is Moving to Austin - An Infographic!

Posted by Justine Meccio on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 @ 03:59 PM

Frequently cited for its friendly people, progressive thinking, and laid-back lifestyle, it's no secret that Austin is an attractive place to live.

Outdoor concerts, farmers markets, and numerous street festivals preserve a small-town feel, while the thriving business sector and bustling downtown generate genuine metropolitan excitement. This vibrant combination has many folks moving to Austin.

Check out the infographic below for a detailed look at all that the city has to offer. Enjoy!

Why Everyone is Moving to Austin

Infographic Credit: Complete Web Resources

 

Topics: Austin, Austin rental market, moving to Austin

Moving to Austin: The Austin Rental Market

Posted by Justine Meccio on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 @ 02:39 PM

Austin Rental Market
Moving is no small feat - finding a place to live, packing up your belongings, recruiting helping hands, finding a friend with a truck, tying up the pieces at your old place and remembering all of the little details for getting settled in smoothly at a new home. It is no wonder that moving is often considered to be one of the most stressful events in life!

Austin is a rapidly growing city with much to offer new residents. Depending on how far you are moving (i.e. across town vs. across the country); the process of finding a place to live may be different. No matter where you are starting from, the following insights will help you stay organized as you navigate the Austin rental market.

What to Consider When Searching For a Place to Live:

Consider Your Exact Move-in Date

Knowing your move-in date will help you determine when you need to be ready to sign a lease. Some apartments only list their availability 30 days prior to a potential move-in date whereas others list availability 60 days prior. Privately owned houses, condos, and duplexes usually have openings based on 30 day notices, possibly even shorter times, and are generally looking for quick move-ins.  As a general rule of thumb, it is best to start your housing search 45-60 days before your anticipated move date.

Lease Options

Before starting your search, it’s important to have an idea of what you are looking for. Most apartment communities in Austin offer one year leases. Some properties may offer nine and six month leases, however leases lasting less than six months can be very difficult to find. Many apartment communities charge an up-grade fee for leases shorter than one year, and such fees can be as high as an extra $150 per month. Privately owned properties like rental homes or duplexes almost always offer one year leases.

An alternative option for a shorter term lease is to sublet. Subletting a property can offer a temporary home-base while you explore Austin’s many neighborhoods and search for longer-term accommodations.

Rental Application Fees & Deposits 

When you have found a place you like and you are ready to submit an application, it is important to keep in mind that there will be associated application fees and deposits required. Planning for these fees will help you create a realistic moving budget.
 
Application fees can range from $35 to $150 and will vary depending on location. These fees are applied to the cost of running criminal background and rental history checks for potential tenants.  

A rental deposit is typically required to be paid to the property owner or management company. Deposit amounts are variable and can range from $200 to $1,000 per unit. Newer apartment communities that offer more amenities typically ask for higher rental deposits. Some apartment communities may include an “administrative fee” as part of the deposit that is frequently non-refundable and may be as much as half of the deposit. However, this type of fee is usually only found in larger, newer apartment communities. Owners of houses, duplexes, and condos often ask a new tenant to deposit the first and/or last month’s rent up front.

With many animal-loving residents in Austin, pet deposits are a very common feature of the rental market. Amounts and specific policies may vary depending on individual properties; though, a typical pet deposit will be around $300 - $500 for one pet. Half of this deposit is usually refundable while the other half is typically a non-refundable cleaning fee. Having more than one pet usually incurs additional deposit costs (often $250 per additional pet), and many communities limit the number of pets allowed to three.  In some cases apartment communities may charge pet rent instead of a deposit. Pet rent is a monthly fee paid in addition to rent and can vary from $15 - $50 per month, per pet. If you have furry friends, it’s important to ask about a property’s pet policies before applying.

Before paying any deposit, it is important to verify with the leasing agent whether a deposit is refundable if the rental application is cancelled, withdrawn, or refused.  Once an application is approved, the rental deposit is no longer refundable.

Qualifying Criteria for Rental Applications

When evaluating a rental application, apartment communities and property owners will consider/ verify the following:

  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older
  • Previous rental history (broken leases, evictions, lack of rental history)
  • Criminal background checks (any convictions, misdemeanors, felonies, etc.)
  • Credit history (outstanding housing debts/payments, utility or rental payment history, etc.)
  • Whether renter’s insurance is required (many properties require policies for $100,000 worth of rental insurance)
  • Number of vehicles or pets owned (properties may limit the number of each allowed)
  • Current income

When considering a potential tenant’s credit history and income, apartment communities typically expect to see that an applicant’s monthly income is approximately three times the amount of monthly rent. Combined income from roommates, financial aid received by students, and potential co-signors’ income are additional factors that may be considered. Most communities will allow co-signors for applicants that do not meet the earnings criteria. Co-signors are generally expected to own a home and earn five to six times the amount of the unit’s monthly rent. Depending on employment status, applicants may be required to present paystubs, income tax information, bank statements, or confirmation of financial aid eligibility to verify income.

Applicants with less than 6 months of rental history or a low credit-score may be required to have a co-signor on a lease or pay an additional rental deposit.  Factors such as a history of broken leases, evictions, or a criminal background will generally result in co-signors being refused. While apartment communities always perform criminal background and rental history checks, not all private owners do so. New residents should discuss the qualifying rental criteria in detail with the apartment community or property owner during the application process.

Rental Rates

Apartment rental rates are generated based on city-wide occupancy rates, meaning prices can fluctuate frequently. Rental prices will also vary based on the type of unit available (e.g. number of bedrooms, square footage, amenities, etc.) and exact location. In addition to checking rental prices for specific properties online, it is also advisable to contact a property directly to verify the current rate and to inquire about any move-in specials that may be offered. Cost of living calculators can help new residents moving from another city or state to estimate housing costs in Austin.

Getting Help with Your Housing Search

It’s always ideal to visit a potential house/apartment in person before making a commitment and signing a lease. Unfortunately, this is not always an option if you are moving from a different city or state.  Recruiting the help of a leasing agent or apartment locator can help to narrow down your options and find a place that meets your criteria and standards for quality of life. Many apartment locating agents in Austin offer free services to clients looking for housing and it’s important to choose a locator that is responsive, professional, and respectful of your housing needs.

AOMA Apartment Locators List  

  AOMA Apartment Reference Guide

In addition to individual leases, alternative housing opportunities exist including roommate arrangements, house shares, and cooperative living. Check out our next blog post in the Moving to Austin series for more information on this topic!

Article Contributors:

Austin apartment locators

Michelle Gonzalez

Michelle Gonzalez is an Austin-based real estate agent and AOMA student. Prior to beginning her studies within AOMA’s master’s degree program in acupuncture & Chinese medicine, Michelle worked as a full-time licensed real estate agent at Team Real Estate. She has years of experience and expertise within Austin’s rental and home-buying markets.

 

Austin apartment locators

Jillian Kelble
As AOMA’s Admissions Coordinator, Jillian Kelble works one-on-one with new students to support their transition to graduate school and is the administrator of AOMA’s bi-weekly new student housing digest. In addition to her role within the Admissions Office, she has also worked as a property manager for a privately owned rental property in downtown Austin. A transplant from the west coast, Jillian brings personal insight about the process of relocating to her work.

 

Visit AOMA and Austin, TX    Take a Virtual Campus Tour  


Topics: student services, Austin, Austin rental market, moving to Austin

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