Austin, TX.

Old Jun 10th 2013, 4:50 am
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Default Austin, TX.

Hi there, I've just moved to Austin 5 days ago so would like to meet up with some Brits who can give me some advice on buying a car, getting set up on a cheap phone plan as they all seem to be ridiculously expensive and i'm looking for a job as well so any help would be greatly received. Cheers. Giles
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Old Jun 15th 2013, 5:23 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Hi,

Just so you don't think we are a bunch of miserable buggers here in Central Texas.

Knowing your budget would help when thinking about cars.

And jobs? Well, what do you do??
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Old Jun 28th 2013, 6:28 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

In Austin, TX - I've been stuck here for the past few years. Simple rule of life in Austin is everything costs a lot of money. There is no way around it but in Austin you _need_ a car to live, unless you happen to be able to afford to live and work downtown. If, like me, you are North of Parmer lane then you can forget about any reliable public transport - even the much lauded "metro-rail" only runs until 6pm weekdays, and only goes downtown and back with about 5 or 6 stops. On weekends and in the evenings public transport is non-existent.

For buying a car - every place I have been to in Austin has said that they don't do credit for non-US Citizens, so if you are on a green card then you're stuck to paying cash for a car from craigslist - watch out though because the vehicles on craigslist are usually about 2 to 3 times more expensive than their blue-book value.

Getting a job in Austin is quite hard - there is a finite number of companies, and there are about 120 new people moving to Austin each day. Most of whom are US-citizens moving from elsewhere in the US, so they usually have first picks at any jobs unless you can demonstrate a particular in-demand skill-set.

The bigger companies like Dell and IBM which used to be big in Austin laid off most of their Austin based workers a couple of years ago but still have huge campuses in and around Austin, but be prepared to travel and work long hours. The majority of jobs I have seen in Austin are for state and local government agencies, and for most of those you have to be a US-citizen and able to pass a 10 year background check and security clearances.

For pay expectations - don't expect any great wages. The average wage here in Austin is a lot lower than in other states, at the moment (mid-2013)for the average, middle classed, administrative middle management positions expect a take home of about $20 to $24 grand a year. If you have particular in-demand skill sets and if you are lucky then you might be able to get a job which pays about $15 to $20 an hour, but for the most part most employers stick around the $8 to $10 an hour. Companies here are paying pretty much the same as they were when I first moved here.

As an employee you have no rights - a company can hire you or fire you on the spot without reason, and unless you work in retail you are not legally entitled to lunch breaks, days off, sick days, coffee breaks, holidays, or any time off. Legally in Texas a company can make you work mandatory overtime without notice, and, unless you are working retail, can legally force employees to work unlimited hours each week. Check on the TWC website for current laws on that.


For a phone plan, again, unless you are a US-citizen, you will have to pay a huge deposit for a contract phone - I've been quoted 200 to 500 dollars, so your best bet is an "unlimited" no contract plan with Virgin Mobile US (now wholely owned by Sprint and no longer actually a part of Virgin Mobile) or Cricket or a similar company. You will pay more for the actual phone to start, but less than what a deposit would be for a contract.

For living expenses - expect to pay between $600 to $1000 per month for a one bedroom apartment, with temperatures soaring into the triple digits over Spring and Summer then expect to pay about $200 to $300 per month in electric costs for the average apartment. This will dwindle to about $70 to $100 a month in the Winter though.

For getting an apartment, all apartment offices will require a background history check as well as a deposit. Some places will not rent out to non-citizens, not because of any racial discrimination, but just because many are not experienced with reading the background reports - I've been told that because my social security number was issued almost 30 years after I was born that it must be a fake number, or that a previous address outside the USA was not checkable as a previous address. Apartment communities in Austin operate a leasing history check which is, for the most part, un-governed - which means in effect that if a previous landlord gives you a bad write up (whether proved or not) that you will not be able to rent a place to live in Austin.

Most electric companies in and around Austin will require a deposit or previous references from other electric companies - usually about $200 to $300 - before connecting. If you live south of about Howard Lane then there is only the City of Austin electric company, if you live further north than that then you will have a choice as to electric companies.

Food costs in Austin have tripled over the past few years, as have other groceries costs, but there are still bargains to be had which can help make ends meet.

For nightlife - don't bother with downtown, not unless you want to pay way over the odds and be surrounded by the rich-kids from UT. Most neighborhoods have a bar somewhere near them, but not all. Due to the zoning laws, there are way fewer pubs per capita in Austin as compared to equivalent cities in the UK and Europe.
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Old Jun 28th 2013, 11:14 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

It's illegal under the Civil Rights Act 1968 to refuse to rent a property to someone on the basis of their national origin, which includes people who are LPRs and in nonimmigrant categories.

The quickest way to establish a credit history is to get an Amex in the country you are coming from, they can transfer it to the US. Failing that get a secured credit card.
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Old Jun 30th 2013, 2:58 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Rhendon, thanks for the thorough reply. I have to admit, most of what you say is starting to ring true. The cost of living does seem to be high, my money just disappears very quickly and grocery shopping especially seems to be higher than what I was expecting.
On the job front as well, I have 5.5 years experience in environmental engineering and I have heard nothing back from any of the companies I have applied to. Not even a thanks but no thanks, so that is a coming up to a month now with not very much in terms of replies. I hope the citizens only rule is not going to cause me problems like that as I am starting to think I will not be getting a job in my desired industry.
Time to start re-learning a new skill or start from the bottom up again I guess!
We eventually got a car from a local car mechanic who sells cars on the side, Sam's Auto on Lamar, and I have to say we are very happy with the price, service and reliability of the car. Yes we had to pay the whole lot upfront but at least now we don't have a payment to worry about!
Think I am going to have to go down to the HR department for the Local Government and ask them about jobs as at least I will be able to speak to someone face to face. I just don't want to g o6 months with nothing as I will go crazy!
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Old Jun 30th 2013, 4:11 pm
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Wow, the electricity costs you're quoting certainly don't correspond to what we've been paying. Last month, extremely hot, we have a 4500 sq ft house and paid $180.
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Old Jun 30th 2013, 4:56 pm
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Gilo81 - you're welcome, I'm glad you found a vehicle - you will definitely need it. I used to live just around the corner from Sam's Autos, just off of Manchaca in the '04s, it is a nice neighborhood down there.

If you already have your green card then the citizens only rule only really applies to government jobs if dealing with any sensitive data or classified documents, but since a lot of the jobs are contracted out then those private contractor companies can only hire US citizens for those contracts. Just in case there is any "cross-over" or accidental access to that data those companies subsequently tend to only hire US citizens.

I tend to take a pessimistic view in the hope that life proves me wrong, so stick in there with your chosen profession.


Steve, although yes, it is illegal to deny someone a place to live on the basis of national origin, since this is Texas a landlord or leasing company is free to rent to who-ever they want without having to give a reason, as I said denials are often not down to prejudices against national origin or race, they are more often than not down to not reading background reports properly. A blank space saying "no leasing/residential history in the USA" can sometimes be more damning than negative leasing history.
Leasing is considered on the basis of credit reports as well as leasing history, and although lending and credit laws say in one place that companies can't refuse credit on the grounds of race/national origin those same laws allow companies to take into account immigration status and therefore citizenship status. Companies are playing it safe nowadays, and will reject anything which is not perfect, easy and cheap for them to administer - international background checks are more expensive and it is entirely legal for a company to reject a loan, credit or leasing application on the grounds of extra cost and overheads.
The same principles also apply to jobs. Almost every legitimate job in the USA requires a credit check and background check nowadays - so naturally a non-citizen without employment history in the USA and who has non-US qualifications will cost more to verify and cause more work for the employer than US-citizens.
While it is technically illegal for a company which doesn't deal with government work or sensitive data to deny employment due to national origin, since Texas is a hire-and-fire state companies are also not obliged to provide any reason at all for their hiring choices.

I'd steer away from "secured credit cards" just on the grounds of common sense - secured credit cards only supply as much "credit" as someone gives the finance company - minus application fees, monthly fees and transaction fees. So if you have $200 and get a secured credit card then the company will take that $200 and give you credit for (for example) $150. Then (again just for example) each time you make a transaction you could pay $5, or if you used an ATM then you could pay $5 transaction fee plus a $5 ATM fee. Then you could have a monthly fee charged on top, so add, (for example) $20 a month. All of a sudden your $200 might have turned into $100. Only winner there is the company which supplied you with the secured credit card.
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Old Jun 30th 2013, 6:03 pm
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Ailidh - yeah it surprises the hell outa me too - I put it down to the fact that I live in a poorly designed 300 sq. ft. apartment in a complex built in the early 80s which has no insulation, draughty windows and all original un-efficient appliances - the appliances I know are the original ones since I used to work with someone who lived in the same complex when they were first built and they verified that they had exactly the same equipment back then too.

It is still way better than my old place on Rundberg though. That had lower electric costs since it was City of Austin and not a private company, but the SWAT team seemed to have to be deployed in the neighborhood on a regular basis.

4500 sq. ft. - damn that is a huge house. I know people who would kill to be able to live somewhere so big. Sounds like you are getting a good deal on electric though. For a while I lived in a 2000 sq. ft. house in San Antonio and the electric costs for that size were about $250 a month in the summer.
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Old Jul 1st 2013, 3:38 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Yeah - we bought a new house and the builder (Drees) claimed there were all sorts of energy-efficiency features, so maybe that's true. In any case, we're going to have solar panels put on the roof - with the tax rebates we'll get, they'll only cost about $3K. My sister has them on her house. During the period we paid $180, she only paid $25 for a house of comparable size.

As for credit ratings, we've had issues with that, too. My husband's a Brit and I hadn't lived in the States in 40 years - so no credit rating. We had to pay cash for our house - which, apparently, doesn't help your credit rating! It has taken us about 6 months to build up a rating. We started with an Amex from Costco - not hard to get and a Macy's credit card. I think the improvement in our credit rating is due to that. We've recently got credit cards for our bank accounts, from Sears and offers from everybody under the sun and my husband is considering leasing a car to build up the credit rating further.

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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 6:17 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Originally Posted by rhenden
I'd steer away from "secured credit cards" just on the grounds of common sense - secured credit cards only supply as much "credit" as someone gives the finance company - minus application fees, monthly fees and transaction fees. So if you have $200 and get a secured credit card then the company will take that $200 and give you credit for (for example) $150. Then (again just for example) each time you make a transaction you could pay $5, or if you used an ATM then you could pay $5 transaction fee plus a $5 ATM fee. Then you could have a monthly fee charged on top, so add, (for example) $20 a month. All of a sudden your $200 might have turned into $100. Only winner there is the company which supplied you with the secured credit card.
I disagree, they typically give you in credit whatever you gave them, so if you give them $2,000, that's your credit limit and it works like a regular credit card, I had one at one point. Once you've had it for a year or two they convert it into a regular card assuming you've kept up your payments and give you your money back. They don't charge you higher fees, they can't, it's regulated by the FTC.

It's a very simple method for getting a credit history, although it's not much of a credit history. Plus it takes time, so it's of no immediate use, which is why I suggested the Amex route but you have to do that before you move obviously.

https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit...credit-card.go

https://www.wellsfargo.com/credit-cards/secured/

But you've got to start somewhere.
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 8:12 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

If I had $2 grand spare then I wouldn't need a credit card, I'd be on the first plane away from the USA for damn sure.
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 10:30 am
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Default Re: Austin, TX.

Well let us know in what cheap cost-of-living place you end up - it sure won't be the UK! NOTHING is cheap in the UK... the reason for which we didn't retire there and picked the US instead.
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