Stage 2 Water Restrictions 2012

Well, the city of Austin did it again, the lake levels have fallen over the summer, and we are in Stage 2 water restrictions.  Last night the City of Austin posted a press release on their website.

We all like to have nice yards.  I know when I moved here from California, the first thing I did was a lot of landscaping, and gardening.  In northern California, where I was born and raised, you could grown anything.  My grandma had quite the garden in her back yard, with everything from Lemon and Fig trees to a 10 foot tall cactus.  Bulbs would bloom throughout the spring, and everything was lush and green.

As soon as I bought my house, my green thumb was activated, and I spent a lot of money on pretty bushes, bulbs, and perennials.  I worked hard to amend the soil in my front yard and for the first year, everything looked incredible.  I had the best yard on the block.  A fantastic green lawn, pretty seasonal flowers would bloom and add color, and my trees were healthy and well watered.

Texas landscaping bookThen I got my water bill for the summer, and I was paying 3x more than anyone else.  The plants that I put in were not Texas natives, and although I was able to keep them alive with much work, it wasn’t the most efficient landscaping I could have done.

So the next year, I cut back on my watering, and as  non-native plants would slowly cook in the Texas heat, I’d replace them with plants I I saw on this incredible gardening blog, or ones that I purchased at the Wildflower Center semi-annual sale, or that were recommended to me in this fantastic book Texas Home Landscaping (find it on Amazon).  My yard began to require less water, and the plants could tolerate the brutal summer months, even on reduced watering.

These reduced watering schedules would have killed my old yard completely.  I see many neighbors who are experiencing this.  Their lawns turn brown,  there are empty spaces in their planting beds, and nothing is blooming or flowering.   That doesn’t have to be the case.  Even with restricted watering

Even though, The summer of 2012 has gotten a bit more rain than usual (I know I haven’t had to water my front lawn as much) earlier in the yard.  The city of Austin has put us on Stage 2 watering restrictions again.  We got a lot of rain in the late spring, and even a couple of early summer showers to soak the ground, and keep everything green.  There was even a big rainstorm during the downtown Art festival this year in April, and that was able to keep us going through most of the summer.
Thankfully, It looks like the city recognizes that we may be entering a stage of less rain, and more draught.  In years past they have had 3 levels of water restrictions, but now, there are 4.  On Aug 14 of 2012, the city voted for a new plan that recognizes the extremes in weather and works to protect our resources and keep the city’s urban landscape and tree canopy intact.

That’s new.  The old system was quite severe in the times that people could water.  Now under the new system, homeowners have a more flexible window and a few more options.  You still have to follow the rules, and only water on your designated days (and violators can be reported with hefty fines), but the new system will fit more people’s schedule better.

Here’s a rundown of the Stage 2 watering restrictions:

Austin stage 2 restrictions

You CAN’T

  • During Stage 2, the washing of vehicles at home is prohibited. If you need to wash a vehicle, you may do so at a commercial carwash facility.
  • Charity car washes are prohibited
  • Restaurants can only serve water upon request
  • All fountains with either a fall or spray of water greater than four inches are prohibited; unless necessary to preserve aquatic life.

You CAN

  • All hose-end irrigation may take place between midnight and 10 a.m. and between 7 p.m. and midnight on your designated watering day.
  • Your automatic irrigation system may operate between midnight and 5 a.m. and between 7 p.m. and midnight on your assigned day of the week. Please reduce your run times to ensure you can fit within this schedule.
  • The use of drip irrigation is exempt from the schedule, due to increased efficiency.
  • For the purposes of watering trees only, soaker hoses may be used under the drip-line of the tree canopy or you may use your automatic tree bubblers.  Irrigation of trees in this manner is exempt from the watering schedule
  • Commercial properties (including restaurants and bars) may only operate patio misters between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight; this includes but is not limited to restaurants and bars.

It is possible to have a great looking yard with the reduced watering schedule, you just have to do a little more planning, and select native plants.

July 2012 Austin Real Estate Statistics

Every month the Austin Board of Realtors puts out some statistics for the Real Estate market in Austin. I’ll be honest. Sometimes they are hard to understand. And I used to be a biochemist who worked in a bioanalytical lab.

What does that mean, exactly? It means I would look at pages and pages of data. Time points from experiments. Drug levels, and kinetics. Rates of absorption and chemical formulas. My job was to look at all those numbers and pull out something of significance. To use all my training and find a result in pages and pages of numbers.

This is exactly like what I do now. I take the data presented by ABoR, and find the neighborhoods that are appreciating the fastest. I look for areas where homes sell the fastest, and for the most money. I find great values in properties that are undervalued for first time home buyers.

So I present my infographic of the Austin Area Real Estate Statistics. Over the last few days I’ve been paying with these infographics, and I think they are a great way to present real estate data.

Some of the charts are interactive, so use your mouse to roll over slices in the pie chart, or click on the different series of data to get more detailed info.

Of course, if you want an even more detailed analysis of a specific neighborhood, or even your home, give me a call, or send me an email, and let’s chat.

 

“July Austin Real Estate Stats” Click to Tweet

How many people move to Austin?

We all know Austin is HOT! It seems like Austin makes everybody’s top ten lists, I know my inbox keeps getting filled with Austin is best for this, or Austin is #1 for that.

Maybe that’s the reason people keep moving here.  I think it’s because we have a great economy and lots of jobs.  Lots of companies are moving here, including rivals Apple & Samsung.  Marriott hotels is building their largest hotel downtown, and there are lots more developments too, not just with the big companies but with lots of smaller tech firms and other industries.

Austin is in the news all the time.  Austin is on the TV all the time, too.  Property Brothers routinely films shows in Austin, as does House Hunters.  And movies are filmed here all the time too.  Everything from Machete to Spy Kids 4.

We even have our own fashion week, and fashion bloggers who write about it.

So it’s no wonder everybody wants to come to Austin, but just how many people do?  The answer will surprise you.

 

I want a 2 bedroom cottage in central Austin for $1000 a month.

As a licensed Realtor, I sometimes help clients find places to lease or rent for a year or so.

The Holy Grail of Austin Renting

I’ve been calling this the Holy Grail of Austin renting, as it is just about impossible to find.  And when I do find one here’s what happens:  Everyone wants to sleep on it for one night.  Let me say right now that if you find a place to live in Austin that you love, you need to jump on it if you are renting.  If you hesitate, someone else won’t and in just a few hours the place will be rented.

It’s quite common for people to want to try out an Austin neighborhood for a while before they buy in it.  So, usually I am finding a place for a friend of a friend or a son or daughter of a previous client, and everyone always asks for the same thing:

  • $1,000 Budget
  • 2-bedroom
  • hardwood floors
  • In a central Austin neighborhood (Allandale, Rosedale, Brentwood, Hyde Park, or Crestview)

And about 50% of the people asking say they have a dog, and need it to be pet friendly, too.

I do this every day – You do this once every 12-18 months.  Believe me!  Trust ME!  I’m telling you the truth!

For instance, just this last weekend, I took a couple by the cottage in the photo at the top of this post.  It was adorable.  A house in Crestview for $1,150 a month.  Exactly what they wanted.  It had hardwood floors, a cute kitchen with a dishwasher, and large fenced backyard for a dog, It was perfect!  I would have killed to live in a place like this when I was just starting out.  Places like this come on the market once or twice a month, and when they do, they are hotter than two hamsters farting in a wool sock.

We saw the place on Saturday morning at 10:00.  It had been on the market for 1 day.  When we walked out, the couple said they loved it, and I encouraged them to fill out the rental form on the spot, but they wanted to see a few more places before they made a decision.  So we drove around, looked at some other condos, a few other garage apartments, and  by noon, they decided they wanted to put in an app on the cute cottage.  So we went back to my office, and filled out the paperwork.  I had it submitted by 12:30.

In the 2 1/2 hours since we saw the cottage first, 2 other couples walked through, and also submitted applications.  Even though we were first through it, we were third in applying, and didn’t get it.

I’ll never say I told you so to your face (but I might write it on my real estate blog).  I see this happen over and over.

If you are looking to Rent a house in Central Austin, be prepared.  Things move super fast anytime of they year.  I know what to do to get you the perfect place, so when you find it, let’s do the paperwork.

I help lots of people every month find places like this.  I can set you up with automatic emails that notify you when places come on the market instantly.  I can get you access into the best cottages and duplexes.  I know exactly what paperwork needs to be filled out, and can help you.  Just give me a call today.  Quit trying to do it on your own, and let a professional help.

 

 

“The Holy Grail of Austin Renting” Click to Tweet

Finding an apartment in Austin is like watching the Perseid Meteor Shower

As the hot Austin summer enters it’s apex in August, you can count on two things:  The Perseid Meteor Shower, and a fast moving rental market in Austin.

Once a year, in the late summer, the Earth passes through the Perseids, a stream of debris in outer space left behind the Swift-Tuttle comet.  (Wow, I totally nerded out on that last sentence.)  When it does, the night sky is lit up with tons of shooting stars.  During it’s peak, you can see several dozen shooting stars per hour without too much trouble.

At about the same time the Austin rental market begins to heat up, too.  Every year around 48,000 students begin their yearly migration to UT, and they all have to live somewhere.  A lot live on campus, but a lot also want to live off campus in their own place.

For investors, this is a great time.  Your rental property will be in demand, and you can be picky about the kinds of tenants you get in.

But if you are a renter, be prepared.  Things move very fast.

This week, has been a whirlwind – I’ve been getting calls from people interested in renting a garage apartment, or a studio, or a duplex.  When I do, I know I have to act fast, because the good stuff doesn’t stay on the market very long.

Cute cottage in Austin
Take for instance this cute little cottage in Austin.  It’s a 1 bedroom, one bathroom, with a cute little breakfast area, a beautifully maintained garden in a great neighborhood, and centrally located, too. All this for less than $1,000/month.

Guess what?  It rented in 3 hours.  And multiple renters tried to get it.  I was told that 6 different applications were received within 30 minutes of the listing going on-line.

What does this mean for the average renter?  A couple of things:   You need to have your application ready to go.  Also, at this time of year you can’t be picky.  Currently we are at a 98% rental occupancy rate.  If you see something you love, there may not be time to “sleep on it”.  You have to act fast, especially for the good ones.  I’ve got some other tricks up my sleeve that have worked in the multiple offer rental situation.  (My client actually got this cute cottage on a 1-year lease because of my tactics).

Make a wish, because finding the perfect place to lease can be like wishing on a star, unless you have a great Realtor in your corner.

Meteor Shower Photo credit:  David Kingham Photography licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution

Oops, the owners are here!

The title pretty much gives away this story, but it’s still a good one to tell, and has a great ending.  I promise!

My regular readers know I like to hold an open house every weekend, even 2 or 3 depending on the weekend.  It’s a great way to meet people and just chat about real estate and houses.  If you want to see the houses being held open this weekend – CLICK HERE.

Last monday I arranged to show a house for a colleague down in Onion Creek.  This place was right up on the golf course.  Had a great patio, a nice open floor plan, fantastic chandeliers, and more.  I was super excited to show it.

(more…)

Austin is the best city for …

Lately it seems you can’t read a blog without finding some kind of list where Austin is ranked as the best city for such and such, or so and so.  If you are like me, you know Austin is a fantastic city, but is it really the 7th best city for Vegetarians, or the 14th biggest city in the US?

It’s been a well kept secret for years what a great city Austin is.  But now someone is letting the cat out of the bag.  Austin is making all sorts of national top 10 lists.  Based on the variety of the different categories, I’m guessing we are going to continue to make the national top 10 lists for some time to come.

Some reports say that Austin will be adding 45,000 jobs over the next two years, and then continue to add an additional 20,000 per year after that.  Maybe that’s why some have nicknamed us Silicon Hills, because we are copying the growth of the Silicon Valley in the 90’s.

Here is a baker’s dozen list of top things about living Austin:

#1 Best City for Jobs

According to Forbes magazine in 2011 the Austin area was the best place in the country for non-farming jobs.    This includes both long and short term growth, – so even if it isn’t 2011 anymore the idea is still the same.

#2 Fastest Growing Metro Area

The US Census reports there are around 1.8 million people in the Austin Metro area.  This is no surprise.  Just take a look at our incredible skyline – new skyscrapers are going up every year, and these aren’t just business towers, but residential condos, too.

#3  Best city for Business Investment

Grubb Ellis, a commercial real estate advisory firm with global reach providing Brokerage, Property Management and Consulting services reports that investing in Austin is a solid choice.

Best Dating City#4 Best city to find a Date

The Daily Beast says that if you are looking for Love, you should come to Austin.  It’s no wonder, with all the great jobs, so many activities, and so many people moving here, there is quite a dating pool.

#5 Best  BBQ in America

My friends know that I’m no expert on BBQ.  So when US News reports that Austin has the fifth best ‘cue in the country, I can’t vouch for it.  But I do think they might be on to something.  Even if they have an agenda for some things, I don’t think it extends to food, so the ranking is probably OK.

#6 Best city for Men

Men’s Health Magazine analyzed exercise, employment, air quality, heart disease, diabetes, and depressio
n and came up with Austin as the sixth best place for guys to live.
Vegetarian Mac and Cheese

#7 Best city for Vegetarians

Here’s one I can get on board with.  Grub Hub, a popular foodie website places Austin as the 7th best city for vegetarians.

#8 Best city for Staying Young

According to Real Age magazine, they analyzed a bunch of factors ( cholesterol, smoking, marital status, eating habits, stress, employment, social life, and alcohol), and determined that we are number 8!

#9 Best places for Business and Career

Forbes ranks Austin as #9 due to our 6.2% growth rate over the next 3 years.  Obviously if we are making all kinds of Forbes lists, we are doing something right.

#10 Best city for College Grads

Rent.com puts Austin in the top 10 (barely) with lots of jobs, easy to find housing, and affordability.

#11 Best city for the Outdoors

We have less than one inch of snow.  The sun shines here more than 60% of the time.  16.5% of our city land is dedicated to parks.   Less than 10 days a year are smog days.  People love to be outside in Austin.

#12 Best Shopping City

Lucky Magazine took all kinds of factors, high end to low end stores, how easy it is to get to shopping centers, and even analyzed social media to see what areas of the country people were talking about great shopping.  Guess what?  Austin is #12 for shopping.  I know my wife does her part.

Biking in Austin#13 Best Bike City

Bicycling magazine calls Austin one of the best bike cities in the country.  It’s no secret Lance Armstrong lives here, and is a big advocate for the 2-wheeled crowd.  Every year Austin increases the number of bike lanes on streets, and encourages people to get out and ride.

“The ultimate Austin is better than your city list” Click to Tweet

Bad Etiquette and a Deal Killer

Today started out like any other Tuesday, and as I write this I could have never predicted what would ultimately be a deal killer.   You just can’t make this stuff up.  Read on to see what I mean.

Every Tuesday, at 9:00 i’m encouraged to attend the weekly sales meeting at the office.  Since I have a 9-week old, sometimes that can be quite a challenge, and more than once I’ve been read to go out the door, when little Ari spits up on my white button down, and by the time I change, it’s too late to make it.

But today I did make it in on time, and was rewarded with some potato & egg Rudy’s breakfast tacos, a short talk on a great condo community on 360 near 2222, and of course all the real estate numbers for this incredible seller’s market in Austin.

Later in the day I had a 2:00 with a client to look at a house in one of my favorite areas:  Highland Park West (it’s the area just west of Mopac and north of Camp Mabry).  As I was sitting in the office looking up some other properties in the area I got a Hot lead about a gentleman who wanted to rent a luxury apartment near UT from our leading agent.  I knew it would be a solid lead, and result in an easy lease.

So I called the number given, and of course the voice mailbox was full.  So I did what any agent does in 2012.  I texted him, and immediately got a response.  He was driving around, saw the for rent sign put up by my fellow agent Gay Puckett wanted to see the place at 1.  Cool.  He wanted to see a couple of other places, too, so I began to research some other places nearby, too.

Then around 12:45, after skipping lunch, and working at my desk for both clients I get a text from Mr. Luxury Lease stating that he couldn’t meet me due to a conflict between agents?  What?  I didn’t even know about this.  How many agents were involved?  Who had he met with before me?  What was going on?

It’s pretty much a common thing that the first Realtor to work with the client.  There are some agents who will do anything, but those douche-bags will get what they deserve someday.  Karma’s a Bitch.

I called the guy up, to get the skinny, and he told me he was just driving around looking at for rent signs and calling the realtors.  Pretty normal stuff, and a lot of people do that, but usually I’m the first to return the call, and I was only beat out by a couple of minutes.  He did the right thing and went with the first person he called, and of course I was disappointed, but backed off after a short clarification.

This wasn’t the deal killer, and As it was I still had to get ready for my 2:00 in Highland Park.

I met with my client in front of the house.  She brought her friend, and we headed to open the door.  It was a spectacular inside, and the place just showed itself.  All I had to do was walk around and smile.  The place was so light and airy, I didn’t even need to turn on any lights.

So we are doing the tour, and head outside to look at the pool.  On a little bistro table outside there is an empty wine bottle, a pack of cigarettes, and a 9mm.  Just sitting there.  Nobody in sight.

Needless to say, this was a bit unnerving to my client, and she said to me, cross this house off the list.

 

Negotiations, Escrow, and Closing

After the comprehensive marketing has successfully found a qualified buyer who submits an offer, there are still many important steps to be considered and handled.  Maybe just one offer will come in, but my clients usually get multiple offers, which need to be  analyzed and negotiated.

Negotiations:

In Austin’s housing market today, when your house is properly priced, and successfully marketed, you most likely will receive multiple offers.  What exactly is a multiple offer situation?  It’s one where you, as a home seller get to choose from several people who are interested in buying your home, and have submitted an offer.

In a multiple offer situation, you will need to choose which offer you want to move forward with.  Sometimes the choice is easy, more often there are confounding factors that can cause problems down the road.  Here’s a situation I found myself in a little while ago:

A house was priced at $695,000, exactly in line with the neighborhood and style of home.  After a little less than 2 weeks after listing it, three buyers were interested and submitted offers:

  1. The first offer was for ALL CASH, but was at $675,000
  2. The second offer was for full price, but the buyer was trying to qualify for a Jumbo loan with 3% down.
  3. The third offer was for full price, but the buyer was putting enough down to only need a conventional mortgage.
Each of these situations has benefits and drawbacks.  I’ll help you determine which situation is best for you. In the end, we were able to leverage #2 and #3 to get the third buyer to put a little bit more in, and since the loan was for a lower amount they qualified more easily, and the seller got over market price.  But every time the situation is unique, and that’s where I come in to provide guidance.

Escrow:

Once you have received and accepted an offer, escrow begins.  This is the time of deadlines and paperwork.  Typically the buyer has more paperwork to do, because they have to get their finances in place, but there still are steps the seller needs to do, and I’ll  make sure everybody stays on task, and gets their job done in time for closing.

In addition to keeping you updated of where we are in the process, I’ll communicate with the buyer’s agent and follow their process, working to avoid common pitfalls, and prevent disappointments.

Closing:

After successful negotiations, and choosing the best buyer from a multiple offer situation, and following Escrow, when everything needed for closing has been prepared, we sit down to sign the paperwork.  If you are in town, I’ll attend the closing.  Alternatively I can be available via phone, or Skype, if you are out of town, to answer any questions.

I’ll guide you through the paperwork, explaining everything you are signing, and review each document for completeness.

Then we can celebrate!  You’ve sold your home.  Time to take the next step and begin to buy a new house either as a primary residence, or as an investment property for future financial growth


How does one communicate they are a great negotiator?  I really don’t know.  All I can do is let you compare my website, with that of ANY other Real Estate Agent.  I try to let my personality show through, here, and in the signing room. I know my stuff, and won’t get caught flat-footed, which ultimately could loose you money.