Shepherd Mountain

Anyone who has moved to Austin in the last 10 years knows that the really expensive properties are on the west side of Mopac.  Sure there are some great homes in Pemberton Heights, or Old Enfield, but the old money usually lives in Tarrytown, and the new generally has a home somewhere off 360 with a view of Lake Austin.

Unless you buy an old lot and tear down a house, there are very few opportunities for new luxury homes in these areas.  That is, until now.  A large tract of unprecedented Lakefront Property is coming on the market in the next few months.

 New luxury development for Austin Real Estate

Situated on a prominent ridge adjacent to one of Austin’s most famous landmarks, the Pennybacker bridge, is 144 acres that has spectacular views, of west austin, and has never before been developed.  It’s called Shepherd Mountain.

There is still a mystery surrounding who owns the large untouched land just off 360 and lake Austin.  But recently the Austin American Statesman learned that the land is owned by Exxon Mobil Corp.  Originally they planned on developing the land, but that was more than 30 years ago.  Since nothing was done, they are now considering releasing the land to developers.

In the past, when large tracts of waterfront land in Austin have gone on the market, they are quickly snapped up by high-end developers who create large parcels (usually 1+ acres) for homesites.  The last time any significant developments went up it was in the late 90’s and the style of homes reflects that.  My regular readers know that I love modern architecture, and I sincerely hope that whoever develops this land incorporates more modern design trends, as well as using more sustainable materials, and building in energy efficiency.  I, for one am tired of showing house after house that is Tuscan or Contemporary in style.

Shepherd Mountain

Who Owns Shepherd Mountain?

According to the Tax records in Travis County, the land is owned by 360 Camelback LLC (Recently changed from Camelback Corp.)

The Austin business journal is reporting that the land is coming up for sale.  I’m not sure if they are going to sell the whole lot as one parcel, or if it will be subdivided into sections.  Either way, just about anywhere you stand on this land, you are going to have a spectacular view of the Bridge, and Lake Austin.  I also imagine the sunsets will be near perfect, nightly.

Of course the lots that will be closest to the water will have a premium, and the areas farther back will be more affordable.

Views from Shepherd mountain

Shepherd Mountain is behind the Pennybacker bridgeThe best way to see the land is to take the Northern Bridge Point Parkway road, that’s the one off of City Park and 2222 (on the other side of 360)

One of the most popular photo locations in Austin is on a ridge overlooking the bridge, and if you are standing on this spot, the area is behind you, and to your right.

In addition, you may have views of Cat Mountain, Lake Austin, or the Austin Country Club.

The land is being sold by Jones Lang & Lasalle ( a Global Commercial developer), and if you are interested in learning more, give me a call.

Neighborhoods in Crystal Falls

I’ve got all the info about Crystal Falls homes for sale.  Some might even call me a neighborhood expert.  I know the best builders, the fastest ways to get around, and of course I’ve got the 411 on all the different neighborhoods, too.  And I want to share it with you, of course!

There are 5 major sections – each with it’s own feel, and style of homes.  As you drive further down Crystal Falls Parkway, and go deeper into the subdivision, the views of the hill country keep getting better.  Not to worry though, near the front of the neighborhood is the challenging Crystal Falls Golf Course, and there are many homes that line the fairways. (more…)

Map of Crystal Falls Leander

Have you been to Crystal Falls Leander yet?  Only about an half hour north of Downtown Austin, this beautiful 5,000 acre award winning master planned community has tons of great new homes, and features for your family friendly lifestyle.

In addition to fantastic amenities (see below), there is convenient shopping with nearby grocery and specialty stores, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and much more.

Plus Leander has some great schools.  Some of the best in the area.  If you get a chance, and you are looking for a new home, you should spend an afternoon checking it out.  And when you are ready to see some great houses, you should absolutely give me a call.

Crystal Falls Map

I’ve got two maps that I got from the Crystal Falls neighborhood center,  You can click on them to see them bigger.

Crystal Falls Leander MapThe first is an area map, showing exactly where this new development is located.  You can find Crystal falls by travelling north on HWY 183a , and heading west when you reach the Crystal Falls Exit.



Map of Crystal FallsThe second map is of the area itself, showing an overview of the different neighborhoods, features, and services.  It shows the schools, golf course, and even where the model homes for the different builders is located.



Homes for Sales in Crystal Falls

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Crystal Falls Amenities


Crystal Falls GolfI’m not a big golfer- in fact I won’t play because It won’t be any fun for me, and loads of fun for you.  I’m that bad. But there is a great course within the subdivision:.  The Crystal Falls Golf course has amazing views, and is called “Most Scenic Public Golf Course in Central Texas.”  But don’t let that be the only reason you head out with your clubs.  It’s got challenging hazards, tight fairways, and some extreme terrain.  It’s a short 18 holes, so you won’t spend all day (unless you suck like me) on the greens.

Visit their website to learn more, or to book a tee time.  Owned and operated by the City of Leander.

Amenities Center

Located near the corner of Lakeline Blvd and Osage Dr, is the Quarry Park amenities center which serves all the residents.   Have a match of tennis with your friends, or enjoy a picnic on the massive limestone tables, or cool off on the splash pad.  Kids and adults of all ages can do laps or just frolick in the Junior Olympic sized pool.

Plus there are some Austin-ey activities, too.  Like frisbee golf, or hiking in the area on some nature trails.  Whatever you decide to do, it will be fun, and close to home.

Crystal Falls HOA

The neighborhoods in Crystal Falls fall under the jurisdiction of a neighborhood HOA.  In addition to publishing a newsletter, they ensure the homes follow the rules set out and voted upon by the neighborhood.  Visit their site to learn more, or pay your dues (Around $500 yearly).

Search for homes in Leander

Besides Crystal Falls, there are a lot of other, older neighborhoods in Leander.  Search for homes in Leander for free, without ever registering your email or phone number.

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Getting your house in the newspaper

Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

One great way to marketing a listing is to get your house in the newspaper.

Regular readers (folks who love real estate)  know that I got into Real Estate because I saw a gap in the way Realtors  use the web.  I think there is a better way, and that way is fully using technology.  But sometimes old school, traditional marketing, like newspapers, can be helpful to selling a house.  Especially when it comes to Open Houses. (more…)

What happens if my appraisal comes in low?

The other day I was helping one of my friends sell their house.  It was a beautiful 2-story David Weekley house in North Austin.  They had built it from new, but now needed to sell after only 9 months.  Located in a great subdivision close to HWY 183 and 45 all the houses in the neighborhood were 1-2 years old, and this was the first one to go up for resale.

It was a fantastic 4-bedroom, 3 full bath house, with an office, large family room downstairs and a game room upstairs.   Great for entertaining, or daily living, this place looked like it was decorated right from a Pottery Barn catalog.

Because it was so new, there were no resale comps that I could use to set the price.  For those of you who don’t know, Realtors have access to all sorts of data, including what nearby homes actually sold for (not just their listing price).  We use actual sold prices which can be quite different from the asking price to determine what a place should sell for.  Since I didn’t have any comparable resale properties, I used data from the most recently completed similar homes in the subdivision.

Unfortunately the most recently built homes in the area were all 1-story, and I had a 2-story.  FYI – 1-story homes typically for a little bit more, generally 2-3%, than a two story house.  But since my listing had 2 bedrooms, a family room, the kitchen, and an office on the main level (only 2-bedrooms and a game room were upstairs), I decided it was OK to use these numbers.

Anyway, the house got a great offer within days of being on the market, and the sellers decided to accept it.  We were under contract, and everything was going very smoothly.

Until 5 days before we needed to close.

That’s when the carefully constructed house of cards that is a home sale began to collapse.  It started with a text from the buyer’s agent to me that read “call me, we have a problem with the appraisal”.  I knew immediately that this could be a problem.

Sending out a home appraiser.

Real Estate Appraisal
Getting your house appraised

The bank who was financing the loan sent out an independent 3rd party appraiser to the house several weeks before to evaluate it.  To see if it was actually worth what the buyers were going to pay for it.  They do this to cover their asses.  In case the new buyer defaults for some reason, the bank wants to know they  can quickly sell it and get their money back.

In this case the appraiser did his job, but instead of choosing the same comparable properties I did, the most recently sold houses, he went back a bit further and selected only similar 2-story homes.  As a result, even these houses are older by 6 months to a year, they had lower prices, and the numbers came in 1% less than what the buyer and seller had agreed upon.

The bank was only going to finance what they thought the house was worth, and in this case we were short about $5,000.  Which really in the case of this home wasn’t a whole heck of a lot.  It was very close, but still off, nonetheless.

When an appraisal comes in low, one of four things can happen:

  1. The seller can lower the sales price of the home to meet the appraisal
  2. The buyer can bring more cash to the table to cover the difference between the appraisal and sales price
  3. The buyer and seller can meet halfway (or some other percentage between)
  4. The deal can die.

Scroll down to see a more complete description of each option.

Of course my favorite option in this case is #2.  But, after talking with the involved parties, I knew we were going to have to compromise.

After several tense phone calls, we decided to keep the deal going, and came down the difference.  To make it official, we did a simple 1-page amendment to the contract with a new sales price that exactly matched the price of the appraisal.

The deal was still on, and we closed on time with no issues.  Everybody was happy in the end, especially because my sellers got over $60K in a profit after only 9 months of ownership.

The four things you can do when your house doesn’t appraise:

The seller can lower the sales price of the home to meet the appraisal

This is the best deal for the buyer, and hurts the seller the most.  This is when the seller concedes, and lowers the agreed upon sales price to match what the bank thinks the home is worth.  A new contract is written up, or an amendment is created, with the new price.

The buyer can bring more cash to the table to cover the difference between the appraisal and sales price.

This is the best deal for the seller.  It is when the buyer brings more money to the table and gives the seller the difference between the bank’s appraisal price, and the contractual price.  Usually in the form of a greater down payment or extra cash written into the special provisions.  In this case, an amendment to the new contract is needed as well.

The buyer and seller can meet halfway (or some other percentage between)

Each party brings 50% of the difference.  This is the best case for a fair and equitable distribution.  An amendment to the contract is written in this case, and the sales price is lowered by 50% of the difference, and the other 50% is written into the special provisions as cash brought to the table.

The deal can die.

And then both parties walk away.  The listing agreement is still in place, and the house goes back on the market.

In the end, you have to do what is best for your client (or for yourself, if you are not an agent).  Just always be sure to look at the big picture, and what your overall goals are.  That’s what I always tell my clients.

Do you have a story about appraisals?  I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Google Alerts for Real Estate

Did you know you can get a message delivered right to your email inbox whenever anybody mentions you on the web?


It is really easy, if you are using Google alerts in your real estate business.

What are Google Alerts? One of the most powerful, and little known features that Google offers.

You get an alert anytime any phrase that you select gets indexed.

It’s so simple. And so very powerful.

I have several dozen set up (and keep adding more all the time), and I’m going to show you exactly how I use Google Alerts for real estate.

To get started just visit:

The set-up is really simple Just type in what you want to be alerted for, and a live preview of your results appears. I don’t change any of the settings, and just select my primary email so they are delivered to my inbox every day.

You can set up as many as you want. There is no limit (that I know of)

Monitoring yourself

The first thing I did was to make a few alerts to see if anyone is talking about me, and to see if my marketing efforts are working.

These are the search phrases I use:
“eric estate”

Monitoring your competition

Did you know that when I was in the 5th grade, I wanted to be a spy.

I was fascinated by all the cool little gadgets that Q-branch thought up for James Bond. The cool watches that had lasers, the belts with grappling hooks, and the neat little spy cameras.  It was a cool job to keep track of your enemies, and not get caught.

Today, it is much easier to track your competitors, just set up an alert for them.

I use Google Alerts to do just that

I won’t get into the exact specifics, but I did it just like the examples above.

Searching for leads

I also use google alerts to search for leads. How is that even possible? Well, a lot of people use message boards to ask questions about Austin. They ask about crime rates, good schools, and which are the best neighborhoods.

I’ve set up alerts to notify me when people ask those kinds of questions

You can use “quotes around a phrase” for an exact match, and you can use an asterisk * as a wildcard.

For instance the phrase

“what is the best * in Austin”

could return the following results:

what is the best school in Austin
what is the best restaurant in Austin
what is the best neighborhood in Austin
what is the best real estate agent in Austin
what is the best breakfast taco in Austin and much more

Then I visit the site where the question was asked, and answer it personally. I look like a neighborhood expert that way!

Another way is to use the phrase “moving to Austin” or “relocating to Austin”

Keeping track of your listings

Another way I use Alerts is to keep track of my listings.  I set up a watch for the exact match on the address, and another for the mls number.

How do you use alerts?  Just use your imagination! There are so many different options.

I’d love to hear how you use Google alerts in your real estate business. Share or ask questions in the comments below!