Matthew Congrove got the first offer on his house one month into the pandemic. Now, says Congrove, who lives in an eclectic neighborhood on Austin’s east side, he gets about a half-dozen all-cash offers every week. They come by phone, via text, in the mail, hanging on his doorknob, and slipped under his door. In the boldest attempt, a stranger simply showed up at his home unannounced and asked to buy it.
For years, Austin has attracted far-flung newcomers with its food and music scenes, along with low taxes and cost of living. The city grew 30% from 2010 to 2019, making it the fastest-growing major metro area in the country. It was adding about 170 people per day by the end of that period, according to the latest census count. So while rapid growth is nothing new for the city, the population shift associated with Covid-19 has intensified the struggle to, as the motto goes, “Keep Austin Weird.” Even Congrove—a software engineer who moved from Florida seven years ago—is most concerned about how the new wave of tech workers is affecting his adopted city’s culture. Lately, he’s seen more T-shirts bearing startup logos than band names. New condos have sprouted up where quirky bungalows once stood. And the commute time to his downtown office has tripled.