Navigating Downtown Austin

Central Library

Last week I spent a bit of time downtown for work and play. For work, I showed some condos in the Posada Del Rey condominium community at 505 W 7th Street. If you haven’t heard of this community, that is partially due to its small size and has units available for lease more frequently than for purchase. While searching for parking, I circumnavigated the old Extended Stay Hotel, which will be the home of the new 6 X Guadalupe tower at 400 W 6th Street. This will be a mixed-use tower comprised of office spaces, 349 residences and ground floor retail. After driving around in a circle for a bit, realizing my parking karma wasn’t with me that day – I settled on a parking garage. Continue reading

Pool Time in Austin

Akoya AustinSwimming pools are an instant source for entertainment, relaxation and exercise. They provide a backyard retreat, a tranquil view and a luxury marker some buyers dream about having. For those Austin home buyers who want a pool, houses with them are much easier to sell. Forget the condition of the house– that oasis in the backyard, especially on a hot day kind of sells itself, doesn’t it?

Pools can often be a hindrance more than a help when selling. Not everyone wants a pool. In fact, I would say 70% of people don’t. Pools cost money and time to maintain. In addition, there are safety concerns for people with small children and pets. They can also take up a lot of yard space.

Swimming Pool Tips for both Buyers and Sellers:

Swimming Pool Owners and Future Sellers

•Maintain and update your pool. Nobody wants to buy a money pit (literally).
•If you can afford to switch to saline – it is a selling feature.
•If you own in a subdivision where most homes have a private pool…buyers will be comparing your ‘pool’ appeal.
•Make sure the pool area looks clean, maintained and inviting.

Buying a Home with a Pool

•A general inspector will not inspect a pool, but many pool companies do. Have a pool inspection – they can be costly to fix.
•If you want to know how much it costs to maintain a pool including chemicals, electric and water, the answer is: you don’t want a pool! They can be costly, and if you are already watching your budget — a pool is going to blow it.
•Remember, pools limit your potential number of buyers, so they can take longer to sell when the time comes.

Community Pools in Austin

Austin Texas has a variety of options for people who want to enjoy a pool, but don’t want to maintain one. Many planned single family home communities in Austin have pools that are included with HOA fees or may require a nominal additional fee. Condominium communities in Austin often have a private pool as well for residents. An automated home search can be customized to only include properties with pools and/or community pools.

Public Pools and Swimming Holes in Austin

There are many public pools in Austin as well. There are 29 neighborhood pools and 6 municipal pools in total. The most well known pool is Barton Springs, located in Zilker Park. Centrally located in the neighborhood of Barton Hills, Barton Springs Pool is spring fed, just over 900 feet long and maintains a consistent temperature of 68 degrees year round. Hamilton Pool Preserve is a unique, historic swimming hole located just outside of Austin in Dripping Springs. The canyon, grotto and waterfall provide a picturesque and popular summer attraction within the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

Real Estate in the Rain

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My client’s foundation was poured just before May’s rain days began

I think Mother Nature got a bit confused last month.  April showers are supposed to bring May flowers – not the other way around.  May, after all, is prom season, graduation season, wedding season and to many, the start of home buying season.  For many, May is simply the busy season which often requires a lot of planning and with all of this rain – re-planning. Lake Travis is now almost 70% full, which is good news, but as we well know it came at a cost to many with so much rain in so little time.

Home Shopping in the Rain

Looking for a house to buy in the rain creates opportunity for some buyers and disadvantage for others.  My advice varies based on the mindset of my client, the property description and what the must-have feature is.

Safety First

If I know that even in the rain, my buyer will right an offer – I advise that to go see it.  I am talking about light rain days like we experienced in early May, not the Memorial weekend storms.  In addition, if you are not familiar with an area, it is best to wait for a sunny day.  The threat of flooding in some areas is common even with very little rain, so if you don’t know an area well – it’s best to stay home.

Austin Real Estate Rain or Shine

On a typical rainy day, if my buyer is all about the kitchen and the yard is simply a place to let the dog out – we should go look at houses.  If we looking at an Austin condo – we should go see it as well. There are not very many outside features in a condominium you cannot see from a window, especially if it is located in downtown Austin.  If my buyer needs to see the condition of the exterior of the house or needs to walk the yard prior to making a decision – we should not go look.  The Austin market does not cater to looky-loos.  With so little inventory – the market is not waiting for good weather either.

Austin Weather

The weather can be very different when driving from North Austin to South Austin or vice versa.  Austin weather can also change very quickly.  There are weather apps you can download to watch the local radar on your phone.  Whether you look at houses in rain or shine, it is best to look when you are a ready, willing and able buyer.  If you are not willing to write an offer in the rain then wait.  The sun will be out tomorrow and if it is meant to be – the house will be waiting for you.

Stay safe, stay dry and donate to those in need.

Buying the Perfect Home

house graphSo you think you’ve found the perfect home, but is it perfect for you? The path to actually buying it can prove otherwise if you haven’t done your homework. The Austin Real Estate market is very strong. Interest rates are low, the current unemployment rate is 5.1% (a six-year low) and companies are consistently moving in creating more opportunities.

Austin Texas Homes for Sale

There is a consistent supply of willing and able buyers in Austin that for the most part, still out number the amount of properties for sale. The demand as we have moved into the fall season has remained high for Austin housing. Finding the perfect house today without knowing if it is affordable, may only be setting yourself up for disappointment. After all, if you can’t afford it…the house is not so perfect anymore.

Housing Financial Criteria

Whether purchasing a first home or simply want to move to another, you need to do some homework and come up with a plan. Everyone has an idea of what they want to spend on a home, but many don’t know how that translates in terms of how much of a house they can actually afford. Your debt to income ratio is only part of the formula. The other consideration that lenders look at is your credit score. Many buyers I talk to have no idea what their credit score is. Credit scores run between 300 and 850. A credit score of 650 – 699 is generally considered moderate, while numbers between 700 and 850 are considered good to excellent. The combination of the debt to income ratio, credit score and available down payment will determine what loan programs are available, what the interest rate will be and ultimately how much you will qualify for.

Housing Lifestyle Criteria

A lender will explain what your options are and then we will talk about them. I always try and keep lifestyle in the mix to help you decide what you want to spend. You may need to be at the high end of what you can qualify for if living near Downtown Austin is important. Likewise, if you are planning to expand your family or will need to purchase a car and know your monthly expenses are going to increase as a result; you may want to spend less. Once you do your homework, you will find a home that fits your financial and lifestyle criteria. It will be the perfect home – that is perfect for you.

Click Here for the One Minute Housing Report

Negotiating Space when buying a Austin Downtown Condo

Downtown Austin
Many buyers are looking to live in the downtown area of Austin. Downtown condo buyers enjoy going to the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail, the convenience of living a close distance to a variety of eateries and entertainment venues and can often walk or bike to work.

Buyers choose living in an Austin condo because they don’t want the maintenance of a house and the yard that typically accompanies it. Every buyer is moving from somewhere, whether it is from an apartment, a house, a condo or even mom’s house. Knowing how much space you need can be challenging for some especially when downsizing.

Downtown Austin Condos for Sale

There are different types of space to consider too when deciding if condo living is right for you, specifically for living, storage and for guests. For most buyers, living space is easy enough for gauge especially if a unit is already staged. How does your couch or TV compare to the size that is there? How big is your table? Do you need a table? In other words, living space has parameters and within every given space you can either make it work – or you can’t.

Storage space is subjective which makes it a little harder to determine. This is when knowing thyself really well comes into play. Some of us are pack rats so unless a zen moment comes along, paring down is going to be a challenge. Sometimes we want that challenge. Downtown condos in Austin often have limited closet space but additional storage space may be available or assigned to a particular unit in the parking garage.

Downtown Condominium Amenities in Austin

Guest space is another thing to consider when moving into a downtown condo in Austin. There are some condominium communities that have a suite available for out-of-town guests. The suite is an amenity for residents and can usually be reserved several times a year at a rate less than a hotel room. The guest suite takes the question of where visitors might sleep when space is limited.

The typical Austin downtown condo buyer wants convenience and often enjoys the simplicity of limited space. Living with less space and more convenience is often a bit a negotiation. For those who can make it work – the trade-off is worth it.

SXSW 2013

sxsw-2013-logoAustin became center stage again for the annual SXSW film, interactive, music festival and conference. SXSW was scheduled to bring 300,000 people to Austin over its 10 day run. Stages and exhibits were built on every available flat piece of real estate in Austin’s downtown district, including areas that would typically be parking lots.  Many of Austin’s downtown streets were closed for 9 days to accommodate foot traffic and provide space for additional venues.  Austinites needed to either embrace the gridlock of South by Southwest or stay clear of it. There really wasn’t a choice.  For those who embraced the buffet of entertainment options… it was quite impressive. Well known musical talent this year included Green Day, Justin Timberlake, Prince and the Sound City Players.

South by South West Festival and Conference

Selling real estate during SXSW isn’t about selling a particular house or condo in Austin.  During spring break many of many local Austin buyers leave town or take a break from looking for a home. South by Southwest sells Austin to the world and helps turn visitors into future permanent residents.

SXSW Austin area Homes for Sale

Want to live in the heart of it all?  Here is a link to homes for sale in downtown Austin.

Austin Multi-Family Investment Properties

The Austin real estate market has experienced just as much sales growth over the last year for multi-family residences as it has for single family houses. Austin duplexes, tri-plexes, four-plexes, condominium and apartment developments are all considered multi-family real estate. Low inventory coupled by high occupancy and higher rents are creating increased positive flows which is fueling demand. So, how did we get here?

It all comes back to lack inventory and what had been a slowdown of development projects. The recession and the collapse of the sub-prime market are associated with job loss with increases in foreclosures and short sales. When banks started losing money they tightened the criteria for getting a loan, but also cut back on the development capital used to fund multi-family projects.

Investing in Austin

Two tenant profiles spiked very quickly in a short amount of time: the single family home owners who now have to rent and the first rental opportunity for the graduates who are now employed. What did not spike initially were the multi-family development projects to house them.

Four years ago we had plenty of housing. Although the downtown Austin skyline changed very quickly in 2007, it leveled out fairly fast. Some condominium development was even altered or placed on the backburner which help prevent what would have been over saturation.

Austin Multi-Family Homes

Now Austin is playing catch up. You only need to take a short drive around Austin to see that times have changed and new projects have broken ground. As Austin investment properties continue to be developed, lease amounts will level out a bit. Keep in mind though that Austin keeps growing. Half of my active client base right now does not even live in Austin – they are moving here. The need for Austin multi-family properties will always be in demand for both investors and tenants alike.