A Buyer’s Guide to Purchasing a Home While Sheltering in Place

People who want to stay safe and shelter in place, but also want to buy a home, may be a bit confused about what their next steps should be. That’s great news because there is so much you should be doing and can be doing – from home. I tell buyers all of the time that looking at homes in person, is really the only fun part of the home buying process. Some people might disagree, but really if you consider the steps – you will probably agree. Some people stress about spending money. Not everyone enjoys a new time-consuming task to fit into an already filled day. I have also yet to meet someone who enjoys filling out paperwork.

There is paperwork aplenty. Back in the day, we printed everything and I used to include myself as one of those tree killers. Nowadays, so much of what I do is online, there is no guilt anymore. My buyers can buy a home completely paperless if they choose, but the paperwork still exists, now as online forms, and there is plenty of it. There are many forms that are required to be filled out in order to buy a home. All of that can take place on-line. All of it takes time. All of it can be done from the comfort of your own couch. Continue reading

Buying a Home amid COVID-19

I hope you and your families are in good health and good spirits as we collectively fight COVID-19. I have already connected with some of you and will continue to do so. Please reach out to me as well if you want to talk about real estate, are on the lookout for a supply you can’t find, looking for a new show to stream or are just bored and want someone different to talk to. Working from home can be very isolating, trust me I get it. I can certainly provide some tricks and tips to help you schedule your day a bit.

Austin Homes Sales are Strong

The Austin real estate market is strong, and that includes all of Central Texas. Yes, we have changed some business practices, but new homes are still coming on the market daily, houses are still being shown (with some precautions) and sold. Closings still happening virtually, with limited attendance and even taking place outside. Continue reading

Put Your Smart Phone to Work When Moving

Schools are back in session and traffic is back to normal which can be helpful when trying to estimate how long it takes to get from point A to point B. If you are looking for a home in a new area, I always recommend using the navigation app on your smart phone.

Real Time Data

Type the proposed area of your new home to your work address, at the time you leave for work. Reverse the search again at the end of the day. Doing this a few times will help you start tracking drive times to and from the area you are considering moving to. Continue reading

Austin Home Buyer Style Guide

They say you are what you eat. What kind of home you purchase can say something about you as well. Austin is known for being weird. The eclectic mix of art, music and culture are as unique as the architecture, landscaping and aesthetic designs of Austinites who call this city home. There is quite a buffet of homes styles in Austin to choose from.

Homes for Sale in Austin offer a unique blend of vintage and modern designs. In Austin, you can turn a corner and be in a different neighborhood with a completely different vibe. I’ve had clients in the past who refer to master planned communities as ‘Disney Word’, because all of the homes conform to the same aesthetic tone. Other neighborhoods in Austin look like something out of storybook with bungalow style homes and lemonade porches.

Bungalow homes for traditional buyers in Austin

I have found, more often than not, that who you are, as a buyer, has a lot to do with what type of home you pick. Buyers who like antiques, nostalgia or tend to like structure in their lives, tend to like colonial and bungalow style homes. These buyers don’t care if the floors creek, have no finish and are original from the 1940’s. To them, the floors as real wood and they appreciate the history and authenticity they represent. These traditional buyers also like defined rooms. They like a formal dining room, separate from the kitchen and other rooms, because to them every room has a unique purpose and therefore should have a unique identity.

Dated homes ready for a remodel attract creative types in Austin.

Unlike traditional personalities, progressive buyers roll with the times. In my experience these buyers tend to be creative, artist types who don’t always look at a house for what it is… but rather what it could be. These buyers are deciding what walls they are knocking down and how to expand the kitchen. These are the dreamers who know very well they may never get to every project they envision, but see the potential and possibility.

Modern homes in Austin for buyers who think out of the box.

Modern buyers are similar to progressive type, but have a flare for drama. These buyers are drawn to open floor plans and like mid-century, contemporary and trend setting designs. They feel boxed in with too many walls. They like vaulted ceilings with a uniform tone between living areas. To some people, these homes look like office buildings, but to modern home buyers, they are dramatic and unique – a work of art in their own right.

The funny thing is that you typically don’t like what you grew up with. For example, I grew up in a mid-century modern single story home, but my brother, sister and I have always lived in 2-story traditional homes. I find this to be the case with more of my buyers than not. Maybe it’s the rebel in us or simply that we know deep down change is good.

Austin New Home Building

UpgreadesAUSTIN, TX – New construction is happening all over Austin.  Having a home built is an attractive alternative to for many buyers. Building, however, comes with a price which is not what is advertised.  Understanding the real cost of a new home before walking into the sales office saves time to focus on details and a bit of frustration as well.

Austin New Home Search

The starting price can be a little misleading when it comes to building a new home. Buyers often think that houses can be purchased at the starting price.  In reality, every new home build has a starting and ending price.

Replacing the word ‘starting’ with ‘base’ clarifies the marketing message to buyers who want to have a home built. The total cost is built off the base price through the selection process for line items like lot premiums and upgrades.

Austin New Home Building Prices

The elevation and floor plan will initially set the base price. Both the floor plan and elevation will be available to be built on specific lots. The master plan for the community will limit and vary the elevations based on lot location. Limiting floor plans creates an architectural balance throughout the community. Lot sizes and set back requirements will also limit what floor plan can be built on any specific lot.

Once a floor plan is selected, a buyer will then select a lot based on those that will accommodate that particular style. Lot premiums are added to the price of the house and will vary greatly based on size, location and desirability. It is not unusual for lot premiums to cost anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000.

The Process of Building a New Home

If the buyer can get passed the cost of the lot premium and floor plan, upgrades are often a larger hurdle, but can be managed with some self control. Some buyers feel overwhelmed with the selection when they go the design center, while others feel like a kid in a candy store. Regardless of what end of the spectrum the buyer is on, everyone tends to feel a bit overwhelmed in the end. Upgrades can be pricey.

New Home Features and Upgrades

Frugal and savvy buyers will go with as many base levels as possible and only upgrade a few features they don’t want to replace or install later on. Tile would be a good example of something to upgrade. Nobody wants to replace tile down the road. Paint color is another popular upgrade. Standard choices are often white, white or white. Painting can be a big project not everyone will want to tackle later with a different color.

Buyers need to approach upgrades just like shopping for groceries. They should go with a budget and a list of a few items that may be worth upgrading. They should also go alone. There will be time to show friends and family everything later. Bringing friends to the design center can be like taking kids to the grocery store. Suddenly, the basket is full with a bunch of items that are nice to have, but not really necessary. The extra $100 spent at the grocery store, equates to about $10,000 at the design center.

There is nothing like a new home. Brand new appliances, fresh paint and new carpet under your feet are an experience, as a whole, you only get once – if at all. With a bit of a frugal mindset and understanding that the starting price is typically about 10-20% less than the final cost – you can do it.

Navigating Austin

traffic jamI used to commute 42 miles in 40 minutes to the office and back everyday. On a snow day, I could easily add an hour, maybe even two, in a really severe storm. While Austin weather is a little more stable then the North East the population here is not. I still hear we have a net gain of 100+ people moving here a month. In addition, it’s always Sunday fun day in Austin with regular events bringing in visitors from all over the world for festivals, Circuit of the Americas (COTA), concerts and marathons. It is never a dull moment here. Construction projects are around every corner as well, lending to road closures, delays and detours.

Moving to Austin

Whether a buyer is moving to Austin, or simply moving to another area of Austin, I always encourage taking the time to do a ‘test drive’ during the week.

Weekday Traffic

Looking at homes on weekends is great, everyone is relaxed and we can see more homes in a short amount of time, because there are less cars on the road. Weekend tours can easily give a false impression of what a weekday commute with Austin traffic might look like. After all, drive times on Mopac and I-35 at 5pm on a Saturday when you are rolling, will be far different then when you are idling during the week.

Commuting in Austin

Now if it’s just impractical to take a day off of work to ‘test drive’ the morning and evening commute, at least leave work one day and head to your future living destination. If you don’t live in Austin, plan on spending a weekday here and do a mock commute. Taking the time to do your homework upfront, will amount to hours spent where you want them; not waiting to get where you’re going.

Virtual Driving

For tech-savvy consumers, many smart phones have apps like Google Maps and on-board GPS devices can also be helpful. No matter what technology you use, current traffic conditions are taken into account when the program is calculating the estimated travel time. You can often see where traffic is on the device and sometimes even why. Plugging the address into these devices when you would normally be doing the drive will help you estimate commuting times as well.

Austin Garden Homes

Cottages at Northwoods

Cottages at Northwoods at Avery Ranch

A client is in the process of building a garden home in Northwest Austin in the Cottages at Northwoods. Garden home communities in Austin are a very popular alternative to traditional condominium and suburban living. Whether referred to as a village, enclave or garden home in Austin, the look and expectation are the same. The community consists of +/- 40 single family detached homes that ooze with the charm of traditional architectural styles including bungalows, cottages, and even French quarter. These are master planned communities all the way down to the landscaping and fencing choices.

Single family houses in a condominium regime

Garden home communities typically have one main entrance and are often designed with a circular drive with lot sizes typically much smaller than average (about an 1/8 of an acre). These communities are typically developed as a condominium regime and therefore have a mandatory Home Owners Association (HOA). A condominium regime is not platted out with individual lots that have metes and bounds with individual surveys. Like with a traditional condo, you have a percentage of ownership interest in the land and may even have shared utility lines like water.

Austin Garden Home Communities

Not all garden homes are in a condominium regime, but managed by an HOA like the Village at Kinney Court in South Central Austin. Depending on how the community is designed will determine what elements are ‘common’ and therefore managed by the HOA, who will ultimately set the fees.

At the end of the day, the structure and operation of these communities does not detract from their  appeal. The attraction lies in the location, which is often not far from an urban setting, little or no lawn maintenance, a cozy community feeling and the grace of yesteryear.