Texas realtors say ‘everyone wants to be in Pflugerville and Round Rock’

In 2013, Texas Monthly writer John Spong posed the burning question on every long-term Austinite’s mind: Is Austin still Austin when it’s overrun by tech bros and wealthy hipsters (sometimes impossible to distinguish, but alas).

In his story, titled “All Grown Up”, he stops at the Liberty, at the time the gold standard of dives on the East Side. His group is immediately labeled as intruders.

“Hey, yuppies, why don’t you get in your BMW and drive back to Pflugerville!” yells a young punk at Spong and his buddies.

Nearly a decade ago, the Eastside Dive Bar was easily spotted on either side of East Sixth Street, but now it’s squashed and hidden between condos. It’s hard to imagine anyone giving Spong a hard time in his blazer in 2022. Austin is who he is now. But perhaps most illuminating about his story is that the insult hurled at him — a real sting in 2013 — could fall on anyone’s back today, no matter what. the number of times they saw Fugazi at Liberty Lunch.

“Everyone wants to be in Pflugerville and Round Rock,” Austin-based realtor Sean Cronen tells me. It’s a wild turnaround, though he estimates 60% of his customers are from out of state.

Either way, it’s long been assumed that transplants, especially those on the West Coast, want to blend in with Austin’s culture, that intangible yet Instagrammable aura of this place. Who wouldn’t want to soak up the Continental Club and chilling Lone Stars and migas near a booming downtown? Turns out most people who aren’t from here.

“Everyone is really crazy to be 20 minutes from The Domain,” says Cronen, although there are a few exceptions. People with money still fall in love with Clarksville and Travis Heights – but for the most part, traffic is the main driver (sorry) of foreigners choosing a place to live in Central Texas.

“For some people it’s just the commute time and people coming from LA, they’re like, ‘I’m never going to do a two-hour commute again in my life,'” Cronen said. “So that’s their main priority and they see that as possible in this market compared to where they come from.”

sign for an Apple Inc. campus on West Palmer Lane is seen on December 13, 2018 in Austin, Texas. Apple said it would spend $1 billion on a new campus in North Austin that will initially employ 5,000 people and could grow to 15,000 workers. The new site will be on 133 acres of land located less than 1 mile from the current facility. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)

Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

More than 3,000 employees work at the estate’s three Amazon locations, and more than 2,000 more will arrive by 2024, when the company completes its 33,000-square-foot expansion in the same complex. Apple’s new billion-dollar campus sprawls a mile north of its current location in northwest Austin, so the company will straddle both Travis and Williamson County . Even brands are moving north, and with them, the people who work for them.

Cronen says some clients simply look at the distance between a potential neighborhood and their new office on Google Maps and balk at the distance. But 17 of the 110 miles in traffic could be twice as long in traffic as the same distance on I-35.

“It’s not just LA, but Seattle, places that are a bit like Austin in that the topography makes the infrastructure less efficient than it might otherwise be,” he says.

Cronen then throws another bombshell at me: “They always love how fast you can get around Austin,” he says, acknowledging how wild it feels in a city not particularly known for low traffic congestion.

Yet, with few exceptions, his out-of-state customers moving for work will forgo Spong’s pub crawl on East Sixth as long as they can be somewhere, anywhere north of Austin.

The most recent statistics confirm this. Within the city limits, home sales rose 2.5% in February, with dollar sales volume up 20.2%. These numbers are much higher in Williamson County, which includes, in addition to parts of northern Austin and Pflugerville; most of Cedar Park, Round Rock and Leander; and all of Georgetown and Taylor.

Home sales rose 32.3% in Williamson County in February as prices jumped 78.2% from a year ago. The median home price in the area is now $479,000.

“It’s become a high-demand area,” says Ashley Jackson, president-elect of the Austin Board of Realtors. “And there are, I think, a number of different reasons why you see that.”

The headquarters of Dell Computer Corp.  in 2001 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

The headquarters of Dell Computer Corp. in 2001 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jackson, an Austin resident for 40 years, says Dell’s foundation put Round Rock on the map in the 1980s and 90s, but it wasn’t until the last decade or so that the sleepy town is become a small town that homebuyers are now choosing Austin instead, rather than staying near the big city as a last resort.

“When I was early in my career, about 10 years ago, almost everyone was like, ‘Hey, how close can you get me to Austin? “”, She says. “If they couldn’t afford Austin, it was, ‘Well, what can I afford next? And in real estate, we say, “Drive until you can buy.” That’s how a lot of people ended up in Williamson County.”

CEDAR PARK, TEXAS - MARCH 20: (L-R) Rob Halford, Scott Travis, Glenn Tipton and Ian Hill perform in concert with Judas Priest during their "50 years of heavy metals" touring at HEB Center on March 20, 2022 in Cedar Park, Texas.  (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – MARCH 20: (L-R) Rob Halford, Scott Travis, Glenn Tipton and Ian Hill perform in concert with Judas Priest during their ’50 Heavy Metal Years’ Tour at HEB Center on March 20, 2022 in Cedar Park, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

Gary Miller/Getty Images

It’s not just the influx of tech companies moving into North Austin and Williamson County that’s driving immense growth. Namely, new residents can get closer to many amenities they would have had to travel to Austin for before. Veracruz All Natural and Hopdoddy are just two of dozens of bustling Austin food options for young teens that have made their way north. In 2009, the HEB Center was erected in Cedar Park, meaning Williamson County residents only had to drive a few miles to catch Bad Bunny or Disney on Ice or an Austin Spurs game. The same can’t really be said for Elgin, at least not yet.

Kalahari Resorts Round Rock has three acres of outdoor pools.

Kalahari Resorts Round Rock has three acres of outdoor pools.

Kalahari Resort

“Usually when people want to be in Austin, they want to be part of Austin,” Jackson says. “But now our suburbs have more to offer. We’re seeing consumers go from good, ‘I buy here because I have to,’ which has been true for many Austin-area residents for many decades. “

New construction is a big problem in Williamson County, where there are still huge amounts of farmland and ranch land. Not so much in Austin, of course, which is another reason Williamson County is seeing massive growth: there’s more inventory and it’s usually cheaper.

“Everyone wants them,” Cronen says. “They’re generally reasonably priced, believe it or not, in certain situations.”

Jackson agrees.

“There’s a general consumer preference among first-time home buyers to buy a very new, ready-made home,” she says. “Round Rock Pflugerville, Hutto, Taylor, you talk about areas that will have a lot more entry level housing [for] a first-time home buyer that Austin hasn’t been able to offer for a number of years.”

Regardless, Cronen still regularly engages in bidding wars in Austin proper. Earlier this week, his client made an offer on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the city’s Bluff Springs neighborhood. Listed at less than $350,000, the agent was expecting a ton of offers, but he certainly wasn’t counting on the fact that there would be 79.

He explains that 79 offers is extreme, and because of the relatively low asking price on the house. Still, the winning bid was $35,000 above the ask, a more than 10% increase over the pot.

“How do you even deal with the fact that there were 79 other people trying to do the exact same thing you were doing?” Cronen said. “I’m just trying to hold someone’s arm really strong and guide them through this crazy storm and get them what they need.”

Maybe you’re doing what the whippersnapper told intrepid journalist John Spong to do in 2013: go back to Pflugerville.

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