Californians are fleeing the state to live where they can find more affordable housing, better schools, and a more rural lifestyle. A large percentage of them are choosing Austin, Texas.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the phenomenon of more people opting for permanent telework in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the trend of people choosing to live in GOP-led states that didn’t impose draconian lockdowns:
Experts say Austin’s boom, particularly during the pandemic, has been accelerated by Californians and Bay Area giants like Apple, Facebook, Google and Tesla that are all hiring in Austin. Last year, a record 22,114 jobs were added from companies relocating and expanding in the region, including at least 5,000 from Tesla in its new mega-factory rising just east of Austin, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, podcast host Joe Rogan and Tesla CEO Elon Musk all made the California-to-Texas move during the pandemic. That’s a lot of newcomers looking for homes.
Last month, Josh and Jessi Rubbicco and their two kids joined the flood, moving out of the East Bay after seven years. They found a fast-growing neighborhood in southwest Austin called Belterra, where urban density gives way to lush green hills dotted with freshly built homes next to half-finished wooden frames.There are dance parties on weekends, bike and hiking trails and fishing ponds. Children can take a golf cart on wide, low-traffic roads to attend the local elementary school — parents optional, depending on age. In the Bay Area, it can take a year or two to secure child care. There’s no wait in Austin.
The weather is warm and similar to the East Bay, said Rubbicco, who works for a software company with a Bay Area office that’s allowing permanent remote work. Texas Hill Country’s offerings are reminiscent of Napa, thanks to an array of wineries and distilleries. In the nearby town of Driftwood, there’s the 54-year-old landmark Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, built on a family ranch, with its vast cooking pit overflowing with meats and drawing hungry crowds. A 25-minute drive to downtown means easy access to Austin’s raucous bars and restaurants, where live music was blasting and drinks were flowing last month, even as much of the country was still locked down.
“The pricing power of Austin, which is number one in the country, is driven by California, plain and simple,” Toll Brothers CEO Douglas Yearley said on an earnings call that took place last month. “The phenomenon is fascinating. We’ve never seen migration like this.”
The Chronicle reported the price of a typical house in the East Bay is about $1 million. And even if prices in Austin have surged 35 percent in May compared to last year, you can still get a larger, newer house with a yard and access to good schools for about half the price:
For the Rubbiccos, the daily grind of getting up early, getting kids to day care and commuting on BART to an office just to open a laptop and take phone calls has given way to a home life that allows a focus on children and family — and a bigger house and yard to enjoy it.
“I love the Bay Area, I was born and raised there. I have nothing bad to say about it,” Jessi Rubbicco said. “I think we were just looking for something different for our family. COVID put in perspective what we wanted.”
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