“Once you come here, it’s hard to leave,” said Ms. Duff, whose film roles include “Napoleon Dynamite” and “The Wedding Pact,” and who spent time this year shooting a movie in Fort Wayne, Ind. She noted that each of the friends booked gigs not long after closing on their Austin homes, which felt like a nod from the universe.
“I almost feel more connected to my craft and why I love acting,” said Ms. Sigler, who had just returned from recording dialogue at a studio in downtown Austin for an ABC pilot she shot in Los Angeles. “When the calls come in, it’s a beautiful surprise. I’m still on things and I’m still a businesswoman and it’s still my career, but I don’t feel the pressure around it because we took a stand for ourselves and we made decisions for our families.”
With its bohemian charms, natural splendors and lack of state income taxes, Austin has been courting California’s twin economic engines, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, for years, all while trying to maintain its cherished “Keep Austin Weird” credibility. According to Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, about 90,000 Californians moved to Texas in 2018 and 2019. The pandemic has only deepened the romance. Austin enjoyed a P.R. blitz of high-profile corporate relocations and expansions last year, with tech giant Oracle moving its headquarters there from Redwood Shores, Calif., and Mr. Musk announcing Tesla’s $1 billion “gigafactory” on the southeast edge of town.
The housing market, already in a decade-long development frenzy, wound up defying the pandemic and roaring back to life. In May 2021, the median sale price in the Austin metro area hit an all-time high of $465,000, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. High-end home prices spiked 24 percent, according to Redfin, the most of any area in the country.
Still, anyone used to California prices sees Texas as a bargain, said Scott Michaels, an Austin real estate agent with Compass, who described cutthroat, all-cash bidding wars that drew 40 to 60 offers on a single property. “It’s a challenge because we’re competing with people moving from out-of-state, and there’s just not a lot of inventory on the market,” he said.
For Ms. Sigler, who is from Long Island, Austin’s square footage and outdoor space were revelatory. “There was a lot of like, ‘Oh my God, look what we can get for this. Look at the life we can give ourselves,’ you know, compared to what we’re able to afford here in L.A.,” she said. “I just feel like we’re taking a big, deep breath since we got here.”