Austin Commute Times: A Deal Breaker for Home Buyers?

by Jon SnyderOctober 13, 2017

Thanks to the growing popularity of events like SXSW (and of course, all that amazing barbecue) it’s clear: Austin is poppin’. While this means a thriving community and food trucks on every corner (practically) it also means more congestion on the highways. In fact, according to a study from transportation analytics firm INRIX, a whopping 28 percent of Austin commuters’ transit time is spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

In Austin, like in most of Texas, locals rely on their cars to get to where they need to go. In fact, 94 percent of Austinites commute by car. So when it comes to buying a home in Austin, shoppers will likely be considering commute times as part of the buying equation.

But don’t panic. Though commute times may play a role in buyers’ decisions, that role may be small. Here are some things to consider if you’re selling a home in an area with higher than average commute times.
An aerial shot of the City of Austin.

Chances are, it’s better than you think

While commute times can affect resale value, the actual numbers might surprise you. Prices in Downtown Austin, with a commute time of 15 minutes, average $456, 000. That’s a good number, but it’s getting beaten single-handedly by Travis Heights, Bouldin Creek, and South Lamar in the 78704 area code. With 7 more minutes added onto their commute time (and every minute counts,) their housing prices average at $517,500. The growing neighborhood of Travis Heights, for example, is loaded with bustling retail shops, restaurants, and over 20,000 homes, so the slightly longer commute time isn’t hurting resale values.

Getting a little further out, Travis County (not to be confused with Travis Heights) is a good 6.5 miles out and requires a 35-minute commute. Average prices there are not-too-shabby at $315,000.

Make the location work for you

Even if the location is a little farther away from Downtown Austin than you’d like, there are likely to be other selling points working in your favor. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  1. More natural beauty: Getting out there? Many of Austin’s surrounding areas are filled with gorgeous views, so sending a potential buyer on the scenic route can’t hurt when it comes to making the sale. The winding Lime Creek road, leading to some suburban communities, is filled with gorgeous greenery, as is Farm to Market Road.
  2. Presentation is still everything: Let’s not forget the basics. Curb appeal and presentation hold quite a bit of sway, even in a challenging location. If a buyer has to go on a longer journey to view the home, then it’s doubly important that everything looks tip-top. Keeping the yard trimmed, neat and free of debris will do wonders. It also helps to make it stand out among the other properties nearby. You can do this by small upkeep like painting the exterior door, updating the outdoor lighting and planting an ornamental tree.The same goes for staging. When in doubt, hire an external staging company, as this may be the single most important factor in selling a home. If a home feels comfortable and buyers can easily envision themselves living there, then they might worry a bit less about adding a few minutes to their commute.
  3. Play the numbers game: At the end of the day, the more potential buyers who view the property, the more likely it will get sold — even if it’s in a tricky location.

A neighborhood of American row houses.

A changing tide for Austin prices?

While commute times are a consideration for home buyers in Austin, they are not the only factor. In this vibrant, thriving and self-proclaimed “weird” community, there is a myriad of attractions to entice a potential buyer.

The live music scene, for example, is among the best and is a huge draw to the area. But that doesn’t mean that all music-loving homebuyers will want to be in the thick of all the action on 6th Street.
Signs For Businesses along historic 6th street In downtown Austin.

Another important thing to note: home prices in Austin may be showing signs of cooling off. While the real estate market is expected to continue thriving, a gradual slowing of prices and homes spending more time on the market may indicate a less aggressive climate and a normalization of prices.

Could “far out” be the new “in”?

Furthermore, some farther-out Austin communities could be booming. Williamson County, 46 miles out of Austin, is growing with new construction, and Hayes County had a 13% increase in home sales in 2016, compared to 2015. Plus, homebuyers in Texas and beyond are increasingly understanding the advantages – often financial – of living a bit farther out.

In short, we’ll continue to expect Austin to draw families and homebuyers. But as it continues to grow, a home’s proximity to Downtown may not continue to be the deal breaker it was once thought to be.

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About The Author
Jon Snyder
Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, overseeing countrywide design of property insurance products, including Texas. Jon has over 25 years of industry experience in product management, design, and claims roles at Esurance and other major industry carriers.