This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Sarah Hollingsworth, 35, about her experience moving from San Antonio to Austin in 2019. Hollingsworth founded Poppylist, a parenting-advice and baby-registry platform, in 2020. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
My six-month-old daughter, Amelia; my husband, Scott; and I moved to Austin in August 2019 from San Antonio — literally an hour and a half away.
I was so naive and thought we were going to sell our house in San Antonio and it would be so easy to find a house in Austin. We ended up staying at Scott’s aunt’s house for four and a half months, which I don’t recommend any family with a newborn do.
Buying a house in Austin was so much harder than we expected
I just had no idea what to expect in the housing market. It was really hard and really daunting, and very defeating.
For being in our young thirties, I felt like we were relatively successful. We had been really smart with our finances. It was a hard pill to swallow like, “Man, how did we not get that house?” We were just up against people that were completely out of our league.
We made multiple offers on multiple houses and we were constantly outbid. We were going up against people making cash offers from out of state, sight-unseen. Trying to find a house in the neighborhoods that we wanted to live in was extremely challenging.
All I wanted to do is be in a house and create a home with my family, and it took so much longer than I was expecting.
We decided to expand the perimeter in which we were willing to live. We found ourselves buying a house in West Austin, in the neighborhood Bee Cave.
We closed in March 2020, and truly, I think it was the universe’s way of saying, “No, this is the right place at the right time,” because then the world shut down. But we had a neighborhood community with sidewalks and parks and we were thankfully in our home.
I feel so fortunate that we bought our house when we did because if we tried to find this house today, we would be completely out-priced.
It’s three bedrooms, two baths, with a two-car garage, and a pretty small backyard, but it’s the perfect size for my now two kids. It cost around $400,000 and is about 1,700 square feet.
We bought our house in San Antonio for much less. It was $325,000 and was similar in size. We basically just moved to a more expensive city for pretty much the same house that would cost a little bit more.
I felt like I hit the jackpot when I moved to Austin
The main motivation for moving to Austin at the time was my husband was looking for a career change. We were both working at a tech company headquartered in San Antonio. There really just aren’t that many high-paying tech jobs in San Antonio and we both loved that industry and wanted to stay in it.
Austin, being the next-closest tech city, had an abundant amount of high-paying tech jobs. My husband was recruited and ultimately ended up working at a tech company in Austin.
So I was in tech when I moved here in 2019, but I actually resigned from my position in January of 2020, because I had this idea for my startup, Poppylist.
I enrolled in the Entrepreneur Center of Austin, which San Antonio doesn’t have. Capital Factory, a co-working space in Austin, always had tech and coffee chats that I would attend. I was completely immersed in events.
I am never afraid to go to places where I might meet people that I could learn something from or who could potentially be helpful. I went to Techstars Austin demo day, sitting in the audience and listening to people pitch their ideas and meeting the Techstar staff. There were just so many opportunities in Austin for someone with no entrepreneur experience to get fully immersed and start learning and meeting people.
I think I would’ve started Poppylist no matter where I was located, but I don’t know if I would’ve been able to accelerate that business idea and get it off the ground as quickly. I think Austin and the people I met and got to know really helped move things forward, and I got to connect with people pretty fast.
I felt like I hit the jackpot when I moved to Austin.
The proximity to outdoor activities is unbeatable
I think the biggest thing that we realized after living in Austin is just how much we love walking and being outside. Austin is not a walkable city by any means, but we have miles and miles of sidewalks in our neighborhood.
I think one of the things that we were so grateful for was access to outdoor activities. We have access to Greenbelt trails in our neighborhood, and Lake Austin. They just built this beautiful trail from the beginning of our neighborhood all the way down to the water through the country. We can walk down our neighborhood and go jump in Lake Austin.
San Antonio is getting better on outdoor activities, it’s not really an active city. There’s not a ton to do outside — it’s not anything like Austin.
I love the energy this city has. I love the way the city feels in the fall and in the winter when people are outside and the music festival scene starts happening, like Austin City Limits. It’s like everyone’s been hibernating and trying to survive the grueling summer, and then it’s like everyone reemerges and there’s this new energy in the city.
I love the access to water that we have. I love our international airport and the flight options that we have versus San Antonio. I love the connections my daughter has made at her school and seeing her thrive has been a huge joy. And I love just the opportunities that my husband and I have both had with our careers because of Austin.