Stretch Your Money

Here's where you'll find the most affordable homes in the Austin area

Here's where you'll find the most affordable homes in the Austin area

City of Round Rock water tower downtown
Priced out of Austin? Try Round Rock. James Howard/Wikimedia Commons

Feeling priced out of Austin? It's not your imagination — Zillow recently calculated that a house payment in the Capital City takes a 20.3 percent chunk out of residents' income.

That makes Austin proper the most cost-burdened city in the Austin metro area, but even in this expensive market you can still find pockets of affordability, if you're willing to put up with a few predictable trade-offs, such as fewer amenities and longer commutes.

Zillow determined that the metro-level mortgage burden for the United States as a whole is 14.6 percent, which is less than the 15.9 percent burden for Austin as a metro area. But a roughly 20-mile drive north yields housing prices that are a little gentler on your bank account. Round Rock emerges as the local pocket with the smallest mortgage burden, at only 13 percent.

A good portion of the study focuses on the seemingly out-of-control West Coast markets, where mortgage payments can eat up as much as 75 percent of a homeowner's paycheck (our condolences, Palo Alto). But it all illustrates how hot spots within popular housing markets have caused runaway housing costs that place significant burdens on the people who live and work there, even as the cities next door remain more affordable.

"The Bay Area and other expensive West Coast markets get a lot of attention for being unaffordable, but even they have some areas where the share of income spent on housing is relatively low," says Zillow chief economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Of course, buyers have to be willing to make some trade-offs to live in more affordable cities within the metro. Some cities in the most in-demand housing markets across the country have such a high housing burden that they are simply not feasible for buyers with lower incomes. If income growth doesn't keep pace with home value growth, especially as mortgage rates rise, inequality will persist."

The other Texas cities in the study fall below the national mortgage burden, though Lewisville and its 16.1 percent makes a surprising statement as Dallas-Fort Worth's most costly city for homeowners. That's pretty close to Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim's affordable Lancaster (18.5 percent), which is only a "short" 70 miles from pricey (66.1 percent) Santa Monica. Trade-offs, remember?