🏠 Only in Austin: Prices are down but homes are still out of reach
Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
- 6 min read

🏠 Only in Austin: Prices are down but homes are still out of reach

Plus, find out which one of Austin's 9 allergens is currently kicking your *ss.

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Introduction

☀️ Good morning, Austin.

Remember when you could buy a house for less than $250,000? Yeah, we don’t either, but the data below proves there really was such a mythical time in Austin’s history.

Plus, allergies got you down? Or maybe you’re nostalgic for Rainey Street’s glory days? We’ve got more on both those topics below.

Finally, thanks for making Austin Daily’s first week in your inbox a great one. We’d love to know what you liked, what you didn’t or what you think we should be writing more about. Hit reply and let us know.


Housing blues

Sometimes less is more, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Austin home values, which fell again last month, according to Zillow data. 

It’s no secret that during the pandemic Austin home values saw staggering increases:

  • January 2020 - January 2021: Austin home values increased by nearly 14%.
  • 2021-2022: They increased by over 35%.

While they’ve been steadily declining since about midway through 2022, it’s hard to celebrate. Values are still nearly $150,000 higher than they were in January 2020 and nearly $250,000 higher than 10 years before the pandemic. Back then, $250K would’ve bought you a whole second house.


A note about the data: Home values are different from home sale prices. Unless otherwise noted, the data in this piece comes from Zillow’s home value index data — an estimate of the typical home value in a geography. It’s meant to illustrate trends over time. Read more about it here.

Over the past year...

Austin has seen the greatest decrease (roughly 7%) in typical home value among Texas’ four largest metros. Great!

Not great: We’re still at least $90,000 higher than every other Texas city. And roughly half the city’s population can’t afford to buy here, according to the Austin Chronicle, which has more on who can actually afford to live here.



What to expect in 2024

So the median residential home price in January was about 4.4% lower than in January 2023, according to a recent report from the Austin Board of REALTORS. Clare Losey, a housing economist with ABoR, expects that trend to continue, with home sale prices rising or falling by only about 5% throughout the year. She says this is due, in part, to the expectation that we won’t see any dramatic changes in mortgage rates. In other words: We’re not getting a ton of relief. 

The DL on the HOME Initiative and whether it will help 

HOME went into effect earlier this month and changed certain zoning laws to allow up to three residential units to be built on most single-family zoned lots. 

Some say the changes will help add to the city’s supply of homes affordable to middle-income households. Others say it will ruin the character of existing neighborhoods, displace low-income residents and do little to provide affordable housing. 

Losey is hopeful the initiative will facilitate long-term affordability in Austin, but cautioned that it could be upwards of 10 years before we’ll really know for sure. 

“It’s just a long term game,” she said. “Redevelopment tends to occur at a pretty small scale in any given year, so it seems more likely that we won’t see the effects of this for quite some time.”

Anyone else thinking this two couples, one mortgage plan is suddenly sounding a lot more appealing? 

— Cat DeLaura, reporter


Temperature: 74 degrees   Sun: Lots of it  What to Expect: Cooler but still warm

While we were sleeping, a weak cold front moved through the city. Temperatures will be about 10 degrees cooler, with breezy north winds, on the last day of the work week. In my opinion, it’s a picture-perfect day in ATX.

Mary’s Tip: Spring is literally springing! I’ve noticed some flowers starting to bloom. Worth adding to your weekend plans: A stroll around the famous Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


Austin allergies: Everything you didn't want to know

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Y’all, bad news: Allergy season is (always) upon us here in Austin. Literally, year-round.

Cue the coughing, sneezing, sniffling and cursing. About 26% of adults and 19% of kids suffer from seasonal allergies, according to the CDC. Let's break down what we're dealing with in the Capital City, specifically.

🦠 Mold. The most common Texas allergen, present during both wet weather and dry spells. 

🌲 Cedar. Our major winter allergen and the culprit behind dreaded “cedar fever." Symptoms range from headaches, stuffy noses and fatigue to coughing and sneezing. And yes, some people actually do run a fever. Texas A&M Forest Service breaks down what to look for.

🌳 Spring has three main allergens: ash, pecan and oak pollen. You have them to thank for that yellow film that accumulates on our cars in March and April. 

🌿 In summer, the pollen count is lower, but mold and grass are still around. And when autumn comes, ragweed and fall elm are the primary stressors. 

Climate change and weather patterns can alter pollen production and allergy seasons. A warm winter combined with drought can cause plants to bloom earlier than usual, and rainy weather tends to remove the pollen that floats in the air (rain, our real MVP.)

One thing’s for sure: keep that Neti Pot handy.

— Mary Wasson, Meteorologist


RIP Rainey Street as we knew it

In our occasional Graveyard series, we mourn the death of Austin faves. Restaurants, stores, parks and places that — for one reason or another — are no more. Today, Anthony Jones a.k.a. @theatxdrinker reflects on the Rainey we once knew.

Anthony Jones | @theatxdrinker

For the uninitiated, Rainey is a street of registered historical houses-turned bars. It’s A Vibe, and has regularly made local and national headlines. But for Austinites, it was simply where we Ubered for a sunny Sunday afternoon drink with friends.

“One of the benefits to living in Austin, I thought, that made it different than other cities, was Rainey Street,” Jones told us. And his favorite memories of the strip were always on Sundays.

“While Fridays and Saturdays everyone would always be out and we’d have a ton of visitors here on vacation, Rainey felt like the place people would go on Sundays while the rest of the city slowed down from the weekend,” Jones said.

Now, she's a different scene, flush with luxe high-rise apartments. And commercial rent spikes started pricing out the very thing that attracted developers in the first place: Rainey’s bars. 

Four staples have closed since 2020. Others are humming along, but the strip doesn't have the crowds it once did.

Alas, Austin's running theme: The old attracting the new, which in turn transforms what’s always been there.

“Rainey Street in general is super sad because it felt like part of that culture of Austin was part of Rainey Street,” Jones said. “And I don’t think it’s ever going to come back.”

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We're so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind today's send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.