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5 Austin suburbs that are unlocking affordable homes for first-time buyers

Any hope of ever buying an “affordable” home in the city of Austin is fast fading, especially for first-time home buyers.

In January 2022, the median selling price of a home within the city limits soared to $550,000, up 20.9% from the same period a year earlier, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Even the median sale price for the entire Austin metro area is increasingly out of reach for many first-time home buyers – $476,000 in January 2022, up 30.4% from compared to the previous year.

However, some Austin suburbs allow first-time buyers to get more bang for their buck. Although they may be quite a distance from Austin itself, a number of suburbs offer home prices at least $100,000 below the median price for the area.

In alphabetical order, here are five affordable suburbs for first-time buyers, at least relative to the median sale price in the metro area. All median sale prices for these suburbs, courtesy of residential real estate brokerage Redfin, are from January 2022.

Median Selling Price: $295,000
The official sausage capital of Texas and the brick capital of the Southwest, Elgin was home to nearly 9,800 people in 2020. It is about 25 miles east of Austin.

One of Elgin’s strengths is its 14-block historic districtcomprising commercial and industrial buildings which were constructed from 1872 to 1947. Most of the buildings are of locally produced brick.

Of course, Elgin is also known for its highly respected sausage producers: Meyer’s Elgin Sausage and Southside Market & Barbecue. Both companies are barbecue mainstays in the Austin area.

While few major employers are located in Elgin, the Bastrop County suburb’s proximity to Austin and Round Rock makes it relatively easy for residents to commute to work.

Median Selling Price: $358,000
Longtime Austin-area residents vividly remember what put Jarrell on the map: a powerful tornado in May 1997 that wiped out an entire subdivision and killed 27 people. Twenty-five years later, the tornado is a historic note for some people, but it is not forgotten by those who lived through it.

Jarrell, a Williamson County suburb with a population of over 1,200, is more than its past, however. Home building is booming today, thanks in part to the city’s proximity to Georgetown (nearly 20 miles southwest of Jarrell), Austin (about 45 miles southwest), and Fort Hood ( nearly 40 miles northwest). Jarrell also benefits from being located along I-35.

Median Selling Price: $251,000
While Elgin reigns as the sausage capital of Texas, Lockhart can boast of being the barbecue capital of Texas. Popular barbecue restaurants in Lockhart include Black’s Barbecue, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market.

However, the chest isn’t the only draw in Lockhart, a Caldwell County suburb with a population of around 14,400. Several breweries and antique shops operate in and around Lockhart. Meanwhile, the County Courthouse is said to be the most photographed courthouse in the state, thanks to the lineup of movies and TV shows filmed in Lockhart.

Residents of Lockhart can work or patronize a number of local businesses, but they can also take advantage of employers, restaurants, entertainment venues and other amenities in Austin (nearly 35 miles northwest of Lockhart) and San Marcos (18 miles west). Lockhart is conveniently located along the 85 mph SH 130 toll road.

Median Selling Price: $367,000
Located along SH 290 near SH 130, Manor sits at the hub of growth in the Austin area. Its location just 12 miles east of Austin gives Manor relatively inexpensive suburban status with easy access to workplaces and more. Nearby employers include Applied Materials, Samsung and Tesla.

It’s no wonder, then, that suburban Travis County’s population skyrocketed 171% from 2010 to 2020, reaching over 13,600. Given continued population growth, Manor continues to see an explosion of residential construction activity. US News and World Report ranks him among 25 Best Small Towns to Live in the USA

Median Selling Price: $327,000
The Williamson County suburb of Taylor, about 35 miles northeast of Austin, might not have been on your radar until November 2021. That’s when Samsung announced it would be building a Taylor’s $17 billion chip factory that promises to employ more than 2,000 people. It is by far the biggest thing that has ever happened in this city of nearly 16,300 people.

Even before the Samsung bombshell, Taylor was thriving “in a booming cultural and business hub,” according to Aquila Commercial, an Austin-based commercial real estate firm.

Commercially, Elgin is home to employers such as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Durcon, Burrows Cabinets, and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Some of Taylor’s notable cultural features include the nine-block downtown historic district, barbecue grills, five parks, and music venues.