The price is right
5 Austin suburbs that unlock affordable homes for first-time buyers
Any hopes of ever buying an “affordable” house in the city of Austin are quickly fading, especially for first-time homebuyers.
In January 2022, the median sale price of a home within the city limits climbed to $550,000, up 20.9 percent from the same time a year earlier, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Even the median sale price for the entire Austin metro area is increasingly out of reach for many first-time homebuyers — $476,000 in January 2022, up 30.4 percent from a year earlier.
However, some Austin suburbs enable first-time buyers to get more bang for the buck. While they might be a fair distance from Austin itself, a number of suburbs offer home prices at least $100,000 below the region’s median price.
In alphabetical order, here are five suburbs that are affordable for first-time buyers, at least compared with the metro area’s median sale price. All median sale prices for these suburbs, courtesy of residential real estate brokerage Redfin, are from January 2022.
Median sale price: $295,000
The official Sausage Capital of Texas and the Brick Capital of the Southwest, Elgin was home to nearly 9,800 people in 2020. It’s about 25 miles east of Austin.
One of the highlights of Elgin is its 14-block historic district, comprising commercial and industrial buildings that were constructed from 1872 to 1947. Most of the buildings are made of locally produced bricks.
Of course, Elgin also gains acclaim for its highly respected producers of sausage: Meyer’s Elgin Sausage and Southside Market & Barbecue. Both businesses are barbecue mainstays in the Austin area.
While few major employers are located in Elgin, the Bastrop County suburb’s proximity to Austin and Round Rock enables residents to fairly easily commute to work.
Median sale price: $358,000
Longtime residents of the Austin area vividly remember what put Jarrell on the map: a powerful May 1997 tornado that wiped out an entire subdivision and killed 27 people. Twenty-five years later, the tornado is a historical footnote for some folks, but it’s not forgotten by those who lived through it.
Jarrell, a Williamson County suburb with a population of over 1,200, is more than its past, though. Home construction is booming today, thanks in part to the town’s proximity to Georgetown (nearly 20 miles southwest of Jarrell), Austin (about 45 miles southwest) and Fort Hood (almost 40 miles northwest). Jarrell also benefits from being situated along I-35.
Median sale price: $251,000
While Elgin reigns as the Sausage Capital of Texas, Lockhart can boast that it’s the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Highly touted barbecue joints in Lockhart include Black’s Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.
However, brisket isn’t the only draw in Lockhart, a Caldwell County suburb whose population is around 14,400. Several breweries and antique shops operate in and around Lockhart. Meanwhile, the county courthouse is said to be the state’s most photographed courthouse, thanks to the array of movies and TV shows that are shot in Lockhart.
Lockhart residents can work at or patronize any number of local businesses, but they also can take advantage of employers, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other amenities in Austin (almost 35 miles northwest of Lockhart) and San Marcos (18 miles to the west). Lockhart conveniently sits along the 85 mph SH 130 toll road.
Median sale price: $367,000
Located along SH 290 near SH 130, Manor sits at the crossroads of growth in the Austin area. Its location just 12 miles east of Austin gives Manor status as a relatively low-cost suburb with easy access to workplaces and a lot more. Nearby employers include Applied Materials, Samsung, and Tesla.
It’s no wonder, then, that the population of the Travis County suburb skyrocketed 171 percent from 2010 to 2020, landing at more than 13,600. Given the ongoing population growth, Manor continues to see an explosion of homebuilding activity. U.S. News & World Report lists it among the 25 best small towns to live in the U.S.
Median sale price: $327,000
The Williamson County suburb of Taylor about 35 miles northeast of Austin may not have been on your radar till November 2021. That’s when Samsung announced it would build a $17 billion chipmaking plant in Taylor that promises to employ more than 2,000 people. It’s by far the biggest thing to ever happen in this town of nearly 16,300 residents.
Even before the Samsung bombshell, Taylor was blossoming “into a quickly expanding hub of culture and business,” according to Austin-based Aquila Commercial, a commercial real estate company.
On the business front, Elgin is home to employers like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Durcon, Burrows Cabinets, and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Among the standout cultural features of Taylor are the nine-block downtown historic district, barbecue joints, five parks, and live music venues.