Top 10 List I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to Austin

Town Lake and Downtown Austin

I moved with my family, (husband, daughter, 3 dogs and 2 cats) from Los Angeles, CA to Austin, TX over 3 years ago.  We haven’t looked back and are glad that we made the change, but here are a few things I wish I would have known…

1. That the “average” temperatures mean nothing.  For example the “average” high in December is 62 degrees.  Don’t mistake that to mean that it is usually 62 degrees, temperatures swing radically from day to day.  A high of 85 degrees to a high of 55 degrees within a 2 day span is not uncommon.

2. That brown scorpions (the local variety) are not poisonous.  Found this out AFTER my 4 year old was stung.  Yes it hurts, no it isn’t dangerous unless you have a rare allergy.

3. Wasp nests are not dormant at night and even though you are an organic gardener and don’t like disturbing beneficial insects, trying to “knock down the nest at night with a broom while the wasps are dormant” is not the best advice Google has ever given.  A side note, the Oak Hill Fire Department is super-friendly and helpful at 11:30pm when you and your husband have the little ones asleep in their rooms with the doors closed and about 100 angry wasps flying around the house.  After killing the wasps by hand, they waited to leave before making fun of us… true gentlemen!

4. That free plays at night in Zilker Park with my family on a blanket in the grass are precious and magical even with and maybe because of the Thunderstorm.

5. Town Lake is always beautiful, but especially in the Fall when the water is bluer, the leaves are orange and red, and the weather is crisp and cool.

6. Grocery shopping downtown at Whole Foods feels more like a family outing than a chore.

7. The Austin Zoo is a wonderful place to spend the day with small children.  It is actually an Animal Sanctuary and feels like a small park, with beautiful old oak trees, a train, and picnic tables with free roaming peacocks and chickens.

8. That the mosquitoes are relentless and that the natural mosquito repellent actually works, but you will forget it at times, and the mosquitoes are patient.

9. That a visit to a good local nursery (Natural Gardener, The Great Outdoors, Barton Springs Nursery) will save you money in the long run.  Gardening here is not like gardening anywhere else, but there are committed gardeners who will help you get acclimated.

10. The deer here are as unrelenting as the mosquitoes.  Don’t think that because something is marked as, “deer-proof,” “deer-resistant,” or “poisonous,” that the deer won’t either try a bite, or pull it up out of spite.

If you have recently relocated, please add what you wish you would have known.  If you’re thinking of relocating, please feel free to contact me with any questions about what life in Austin is like before you make the move.  In order to avoid a heated debate, I won’t mention the “high” property tax vs. no state income tax debate.


Spring Condominiums

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Spring Condominiums, 300 Bowie in downtown Austin, are located in one of the hottest spots in the downtown condo market.  The building was designed with efficiency and elegance in mind.  The point concept at Spring Condos means that the building is tall and sleek, with a maximum of 8 occupants on floors 6-23, 6 occupants on floors 24-38, and only 4 occupants on floors 39-41.  This is a radical departure from what typical condominium owners experience, and affords occupants of Spring Condos more privacy, security, and a sense of community on their floors.  Elevator fobs control access to all floors and common areas.

Town Lake is a short few blocks away from Spring Condominiums and views of the lake are stunning, particularly from above the 20th floor.  Parking lots and building tops seem to recede above this level.  Views of the Texas Capitol are also available from some units.  The Whole Foods in downtown Austin is 2 short blocks away, and delivery is available at no charge from the grocer.

The 5th floor at Spring Condos combines a small, functional gym, outdoor swimming pool, library, lounge, and conference room.  The conference room is available for reservation free of charge to occupants wishing to host a dinner party or business event.  There is a professional kitchen for catered events.  2 guest rooms are available for guests of residents at Spring Condos.  They are available for $50 and $75/night.  These features allow some flexibility to those wishing to downsize without completely relinquishing the idea of ever hosting a large dinner.

Most of the units have hardwood floors in the main living areas, and carpets in the bedrooms.  Upgraded kitchen appliances are available at an additional cost, and all cooking is done with gas.

The nearby Seaholm power plant always draws queries from visitors to Spring.  Visit the City of Austin‘s link for more information: Plans are for mixed a mixed use space that will include office, retail, and a boutique hotel, special event space, and an outdoor terrace that will overlook Town Lake.

As of this writing, occupancy at Spring is at 67%.  Prices start $219k for a one bedroom, $379k for 2 bedrooms, and $699k for 3 bedrooms.  Finishes are completed in dark and light wood floors and cabinetry, granite counters in various hues, and marble or tile in the bathrooms.  HOA fees are 0.38 cents/s.f.  It is also worth noting that every time I have visited the concierge has been exceptionally friendly and helpful.

Click Here to search for condos downtown, or contact me for more information about the downtown condo market.

Four Seasons Residences

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I recently had the privilege of a private tour of the Four Seasons Residences.  This is one of the latest luxury condo projects to open its doors in downtown Austin, TX.  The bar continues to rise as competition stiffens.

Model units named after famous cities line the wall in the design center at the Four Seasons Residences.  Also on the wall, a photo of Michael Graves, the world-renowned architect responsible for the design of the project.  Samples of available luxury finishes are on display as well.

The Residences are located next to the Four Seasons Hotel, and residents enjoy all of the amenities of hotel guests.  Have your groceries delivered by Whole Foods, and the concierge can arrange to have your groceries put away for you.  Many other conveniences are included with the HOA fees.

The 32nd floor was designated for the common areas.  From this prime vantage point, residents can enjoy the pool, the fully equipped fitness center, observation deck, party room, and library.  There is a private kitchen also on this floor for on-site catering of events.

Lake and downtown views are both available, and of course the better views can be seen from the higher floors.  That is when parking lots and rooftops start to disappear and the drama of a view can be truly appreciated.  Square footage is generous and the patios are very private and unlike many other downtown condos, there is enough space to set up a coffee table and chairs and spend some time outside without feeling cramped.  High end appliances come standard, and include Wolf stainless steel gas cooktops, and Sub-Zero refrigerators.  Exotic hardwood floors, limestones, marbles, and granites, of various colors were on display in the units that we visited.  The larger units had fireplaces and a particularly striking bathtub stood out to me as well.

With prices starting at $475,000-$660,000 for a 1 bedroom /1 bath ranging from 949-1,400 square feet, and 3 bedroom / 3.5 bath units with a family room and study costing between $2,425,000-$3,350,000 for 2,948-4,745 square feet, the Residences are not for everyone.  Nor were they intended to be.  The monthly HOA is $0.62 cents x interior sf.  When I toured several weeks ago the building wasn’t quite completed and already 50% of the units had been sold.

I didn’t mention that penthouses are available as well ranging from 2,948-3,052 square feet.  Prices are available upon request.

To search for a condo downtown click here, or contact me for additional information.

Austin City Limits – This Weekend

The weather in Austin this time of year is spectacular and today is the first day of Austin City LimitsZilker Park is fenced off, stages are prepped, and visitors from all over the world have gathered for this well-established event.  This year I am going to be there on Sunday with some good friends and my 4 year old daughter to hear Elizabeth Mitchell.  I’ve been playing her wonderful CD’s for both of my children (I also have a 17 month old son), since they were little babies.  I’ve included a clip below of one of our family’s favorite songs.  I know it is going to be a big surprise for my daughter to see it performed live!

Texas Attorney General Temporarily Halts Foreclosures

Half million dollar house in Salinas, Californ...

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From the office of the Texas Attorney General:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Attorney General Abbott Calls for a Halt on Foreclosures While Loan Services Review Their Business Practices Abbott calls for thorough review to determine if “robosigners” were used in foreclosure paperwork processing AUSTIN — The Texas Attorney General’s office has called for a halt on all foreclosures, all sales of properties previously foreclosed upon and all evictions of persons residing in previously foreclosed upon properties, until companies have completed a review of their processes, including whether employees or agents “robosigned” affidavits and other documents which were recorded in the State of Texas. The suspension notices were sent to 30 loan servicers doing business in Texas in an effort to determine the full harm Texas homeowners may have suffered or could suffer as a result of these business practices.

List of Lenders:

Letter to Mortgage Lenders:

AIA Tour 2010

Lake Austin From Above

Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

I wasn’t able to get to as many of the 12 homes as I would have liked, but what a joy to peek into private residences that were designed by local architects.  Some standouts for me were dark soapstone kitchen countertops, treated with linseed oil, white marble backsplash, and red viking range.  The kitc hen cabinets were a dark wood, maybe walnut and the overall effect was stunning.  I also admired a bathroom wall tile that was translucent in different shades of blue-green, some pale and some more saturated.  It looked like quartz to me, but I was informed that it was a type of marble. 

Another home rested on the shore of Lake Austin, and had beautiful views of the water, copper countertops in the kitchen (antibacterial) and lovely rooftop gardens, including a second story kitchen garden with variegated basil, espaliered apple trees, artichokes, grapes, and blackberries, all densely planted on the balcony.  The sun dappled yard led to the private boat dock and the gorgeous lake views were really the focal point of the home.

Next year I hope to volunteer so that I can learn more about the homes on tour. 

Old Pecan Street Festival

The Old Pecan Festival is the largest art festival in Central Texas.  For 29 years, this biannual event has been a venue for local artists, musicians, and food.  The event is free and attracts over 300,000 people per event.  My husband and I ventured out with our children (Lola & Gabriel featured in the video clip).  We enjoyed great local music by the duo, “Precious Blood,” and visited with Jahnavi, the owner of one of our favorite local jewelry shops.

Sixth street is blocked from automobile traffic during the event and instead of cars, pedestrians stroll through vendor booths, listen to music, and enjoy a cold drink or some hot food and take in the scene.

The event was named when 6th street was still named Pecan.  The street name has since changed, but the festival’s name stuck.  For more information please check out the event website: