Austin has a lot to offer—great weather, hospitality, and amazing food and drink. But one of the things that have made south Austin, particularly Barton Hills, attractive to me and never want to leave is the socioeconomic diversity of its population. You can find almost any type of person here. I like to say that I now view areas in terms of the percentage of tattoos (urban, edgy) and tennis skirts (suburban, homogeneous). Ideally, I’d like at least a 50/50 ratio of each, although I’m prone to a higher percentage of tattoos myself. Once it gets above 70% tennis skirts, I am turned off and want to run for the hills—or city, in this case.
With Barton Hills real estate, you get both of those demographics and the luxury of living super close, walking or biking in less than 20 minutes—to downtown, Barton Springs, the Greenbelt, Zilker Park, South First St., South Lamar and South Congress. But with that comes a higher price and more competition, of course.
My family and I arrived in Barton Hills on Father’s Day 2014. We had decided earlier that year—during a frigid winter in a stuffy, upperclass Chicago suburb—to move somewhere warmer but with a bustling city and welcoming atmosphere. Austin hit the spot, especially since we already knew a handful of families here. On my only housing scouting trip at the end of April, I was told by the agents that I would have to pick a rental house now and pay for May even though we weren't planning on moving out till early June. Houses were here one day and gone the next. It was very intimidating and not at all what we were used to, especially after owning for 10 years.
I returned home that Sunday night with a few options but they were either over our budget, too small or farther away than we had anticipated. The next morning I looked on one of the real estate sites and saw a house in Barton Hills that had almost everything we wanted and in a great location with a great school. I hadn’t seen anything in Barton Hills on my trip but I had looked in Zilker and Bouldin Creek and knew I liked the 78704 area. Done! Our friend went by and confirmed what the photos showed and we had a house. The owner was also very helpful in providing information on preschools, camps, entertainment and general stuff-to-know about the area.
Now that we have been here for almost three years and explored other areas of Austin, I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere else. And in fact, I don’t even want to travel as much during winter and spring - which was something we were always dying to do in the cold Chicago weather - because of the great weather and cool sites in the Austin area.
We have two children in first grade at Barton Hills Elementary, which has been a great way to immerse ourselves with families from everywhere and of all cultures and backgrounds. Our oldest took advantage of the sixth-grade option at Barton Hills Elementary and transitioned beautifully to middle school last year. (Speaking of, the magnet school options are overwhelming, but in a good way!) The school makes it easy to get involved any way you can and provides a ton of fun events for kids and the parents—annual fall Carnival, multiple Barton Hills Choir events, Kinder Rodeo, talent show and Bash, to name a few.
Because we have a biracial family, it is important that our kids see others who not only look like them but also expose them to different worlds and experiences. Let’s face it, Austin is not the most racially diverse kid on the block, so finding a community where this exists was important for us. I love that in 78704, my children can see all types of families—families of blended ethnicities and various income levels, dads who stay home, parents with colored hair and tattoos, but in general people who are friendly, intelligent, family-oriented and more than likely believe strongly in the importance of quality of life.
Within the next year, we hope to buy a home here. While the market seems to have slowed somewhat, it is still intimidating to peruse the real estate market listings and make a plan. You can see how much cheaper it would be to live outside of Barton Hills and 78704 but definitely not as enticing or motivating. From living about 45 minutes outside of Chicago, I know you don’t take advantage of the city as much and we want to continue building our life in this community that supports all those things while enjoying the view of Barton Creek on a beautiful spring day—with a taco in one hand, a drink in the other and a smile on my face.