The Austin Luxury Real Estate Market

Over 10 years ago, I moved to Austin from the most expensive zip code in the United States.  The reason I left Atherton was simple, the housing just got too expensive.  Don’t mis-understand me, the homes in the Circles (if you know where the Circles are, my hat is off to you) are truly stunning.  Large lots, older homes that have been meticulously updated, and easy access to the Silicon Valley.  It’s an area very much like the Tarrytown neighborhood in Austin. (more…)

Nest Smoke Detector

Starting with the phrase “Protection shouldn’t be annoying”, the creative inventors at NEST have done it again.  First they made  the Nest Thermostat (click here for the video), one that actually saves you money on your energy bills, and us uber stylish, and now they come out with a smoke detector that is equally as great.


Have you seen the new Nest Smoke Alarm?

Have you ever set off the smoke detector while cooking? I know I have.  When the darn thing goes off, I reach up (I’m 6+ feet tall) and twist the shrieking detector right off the ceiling, and take out the battery.  Sometimes I go to bed before remembering to put it back, and that is a huge no-no.  In fact over 70% of smoke detectors fail to go off because of missing batteries or some other reason.

Or, how about hearing that chirp, chirp, every few minutes when there is a low battery.  First you have to find which one is actually making the noise, and then I do the exact same thing.  Take it down, remove the batteries, and go unprotected for up to a week while I find time to hook it back up.

Well, no more.  With the new Nest Protect, all the old problems of a smoke detector go away, using a little technology, and some cool modern styling.

How the Smoke Detector Works

The smart people at Nest have separated the detection part from the alarm part and made a bunch of no-brainer improvements.  It uses both color, sound, and a human voice to let you know there is a problem.  Detecting both Smoke, as well as the odorless and colorless CO2 gas.

If you have multiple units they all link together via Wi-Fi, and you can even monitor them from your cell phone.  It’s a new take on an old technology.

Nest Smoke Detector Colors

The Nest Detect comes in two colors, black and white.  You can get the white one anywhere (Like, but you can only get the black one from the Nest website (see link at end of article.)

Nest Ring Colors - blueThe Nest detector also has a special LED ring on it that changes color based on the situation.  Most old smoke detectors only have a little red light that flashes every so often.

Not the Nest.  It’ has a large colored LED ring that changes color based on the situation.

  • No Color – Most of the time the nest smoke detector doesn’t light up.  That’s OK.  It’s still is working properly.
  • Blue ring – The blue light shows that Nest Protect is active and ready to be connected or tested.
  • Green ring – It is green immediately after setup to show everything is OK.  It also turns green immediately after you turn off the lights for a few minutes signaling that is is active and ready.  Also, it will turn green after an alarm showing that things are returning to normal.
  • White ring – This is the nightlight feature, and comes on when the room is totally dark, to briefly light your way.  This feature is called Pathlight, and is really cool.  I’m guessing the people at Nest have a new product based on this coming soon.
  • Yellow ring – This is a pre-alert – notifying you by both color and voice, that something is up.  It may be that the batteries are low, or it could be that there is an actual fire.  Either way, the color helps you to know what is going on.
  • Red ring – The red light means that Nest Protect has detected dangerous levels of smoke or carbon monoxide. A red light is accompanied by a loud alarm sound and a voice alert telling you what and where the danger is.

How the Smoke Alarm Works

The Nest unit has a two stage alarm, as well as using a real human voice, and colored lights to tell you what is going on.  Old style smoke detectors just make a crazy loud beep.  Not the Nest detector.  It first tells you, in English, that there is a problem, using clear easy to understand language:  “There is smoke in the hall”.  If you have just burned a steak, you can wave your hand at the unit to dismiss the alert.

If however it is a real fire, the notification will escalate, and a loud alarm (one that you expect from a smoke detector) will go off, alerting you where the fire is, and telling you to get out.

It also uses the red color to tell you that either there is smoke or high levels of CO2.

Smoke Detector Batteries

You can get either a battery operated one, or one that runs off 120 volts.  Most houses use a battery operated smoke detector, but I actually have one in my hallway that is hardwired.  I put one in every bedroom (where people sleep), plus one in the hall, one in the family room, and one near my furnaces.

Installing the Nest Protect

Other Cool Features

If you have more than one Nest Smoke Alarm, or a combo of the Thermostats and smoke alarms, they all talk to each other and work together.  What?  How is that possible?  Let me explain.  Say one of the smoke detectors signals there is smoke.  The Nest system works together, alerting you, and turning off your furnace in the case of an alarm.

Plus, if you have more than one detector, they all work together.  One in the kitchen senses smoke, it will signal the one in the hall or bedrooms telling you that there is smoke in the Kitchen (even if your Wi-Fi is down).  Very Very Cool.

Where to buy a Nest?

If you are looking for one, the best place to get it is Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide They are most likely to have them in stock, and ship really fast so you can have one in just a couple of days with no hassle.  If you want a black Nest, you have to order it right from

Seaholm Condos

It is now possible to buy a unit at the Seaholm Condos.  While the condo was being built it was only open for pre-sale for a short while, and then it sold out.  Now that it is finished, you can live in the Seaholm District, and take advantage of all it has to offer.


On the surface, every downtown hi-rise may seem the same.  Tall, shiny glass towers with 24-hour concierge services, in house fitness rooms, and swimming pools high above ground level.

However, upon further investigation, differences appear, and each building takes on a style and feeling of it’s own.

The Seaholm Tower is a brand new building, finished in 2016.  It was part of the Seaholm Development, where the old power plant was refurbished into offices.  In addition to the tower, several other buildings, were constructed around a central square for people to gather, and eat.

Let me say one thing right away, none of the condos are actually in the old Seaholm Power plant.  As cool as that would have been, that building has been converted into offices.  

I’ll be honest (I usually am), and i prefer the northern side of this building to the southern side.  I think they have better views on that side.  Also, there are quite a few condos that have a view of the train tracks.  For a railroad lover like me that is awesome, but from experience, I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm.  Inside, there is nearly zero train noise, but open your patio door when a 3 engine freight train is pulling a mile of gravel cars and you can hear it on the 16th floor.

Like most towers, the Seaholm residences have some incredible views.  

Little known facts:

  • Every unit has a balcony, and most northern facing ones can view the Capital.
  • You can walk to the hike and bike trail – less than one block away.
  • This is the only condo downtown within walking distance to a grocery store – Trader Joes.
  • Grab a dog treat for your pooch from the secret stash on your way out the building.


Where are the Seaholm Condos?


  • Address: 222 West St
  • Approximate Price Range:  $350,000 – Over $1 Million
  • Year Completed: 2016
  • Stories: 30
  • Number of Units: 280
  • Floor Plans:  One, Two, and Three Bedrooms
  • Pets Allowed?  Yes – There is a dedicated Pet area on the 10th floor, as well as access to the hike and bike trail at ladybird lake.
  • Concierge:  Yes
  • Gym:  Yes
  • Pool:  Yes
  • Parking:  Yes
  • Developer: Southwest Strategies Group, Inc., Centro Partners LLC, La Corsha Hospitality Group


Where does the president stay when he visits Austin?

It was recently announced that President Obama will be visiting SXSW this year, missing Nancy Reagan’s funeral.

Senator Barack Obama (D - IL), who is running for President of the United States in 2008, speaks to a crowd of about 20,000 people during his first official presidential campaign rally in Texas, February 23, 2007, at Auditorium Shores, in Austin, Texas.
Senator Barack Obama (D – IL), who is running for President of the United States in 2008, speaks to a crowd of about 20,000 people during his first official presidential campaign rally in Texas, February 23, 2007, at Auditorium Shores, in Austin, Texas.

Since I’ve lived in Austin, the President has visited Austin 3 times – first on the campaign trail in 2008, then for a high-tech tour where he visited places like Applied Materials, and Manor New Tech High School (one of the best in the country). and now he will deliver the keynote at South by Southwest.

As usual lot of people are complaining that the already bad traffic in our town will be crippled to a standstill (I feel bad for people taking an Uber and the surge pricing on friday), but I have to wonder if he will be staying  the night, or if he will jump back on Air Force 1 and head back to Washington.

If Obama does spend the night in Austin (which he might do and raise money for the DNC, which he has done before) where would he stay?

During his last technology visit he ate at Franklins BBQ (and skipped the line).  My sources in Real Estate have told me that he did indeed spend the night, and had a $38,000 per person dinner at one of the most spectacular private homes in Austin.

It was the home of venture capitalists Blaine & Alexa Wesner. They are active supporters of the tech scene in Austin, and it goes without saying have done very well for themselves.

The house is for sale now (at the time of this blog post), and you can learn more, including it’s $16.5 MILLION dollar price tag on the Gottesman website.

The house was designed and built by by Peter Gluck & Partners in 2006, and beautifully integrates modern design with nature in the heart of Westlake, near Austin, TX. The design is elegant and simple. One box seemingly floats on another, at a little bit of an angle. The bottom box is all glass, and has breathtaking views of the area. The top box, is clad in a mahogany veneer, blending in beautifully with the heritage mesquite trees that populate the oversize lot. This makes the upper, private living area just that. Private. The lower level is open and light and airy. The upper looks closed and dark, but in reality is anything but.

You would think that a building as modern as this wouldn’t fit in a natural setting such as this, but it’s quite the opposite. A start contrast between the design and it’s environment, the home is actually integrated with nature. It sits perfectly on the sloped lot, and is angled in just such a way that views of downtown Austin are visible. Spectacular.

On the main level, there is a stainless steel structure that houses all the mechanicals (air conditioning, heating, electrical, and high-tech systems).

And below the main level is a driveway that leads to a garage and a few other rooms…

But enough of this – just check out the spectacular photos by Paul Warchol Photography from his Photoshelter site.

The floating box house in Austin

A circular driveway leads to an underground garage

This angle is a great way to see how the upper level seems to float on the lower one

The lower level of this Austin home is almost completely glass and integrates seamlessly with the environment around it.

Modern houses in Austin

There is a window in the office that shows the deep end of the swimming pool

The modern fireplace is custom built

There are views of the Austin skyline from this home.

This modern home in Austin was designed by Glick

This is actually a 3 story home, with the lower level at grade in the front and below grade at the back, due to the sloped site.

A large, private mahogany upper level rests on air.

Modern Houses in West Lake Hills

Million dollar houses in Austin

Mahogony and glass buildings

Glass houses in Austin

The living room is open and transparent to the outside, and has a modern clean feel

A large steel spiral staircase stretches up through the multiple levels of this Austin home

Beautiful floors and a black spiral staircase turn this home into a piece of art

The modern kitchen is beautifully designed with professional chefs in mind

The bathroom has a large spa like feel with a combination of stone, wood,and glass

This closet has lots of storage and feels like a high end botique

The floating vanity in an additional bathroom mirrors the shape of the home

Modern bathroom design

Floorplan 3

Floorplan 2

Floorplan 1

Lance Armstrong's new Austin house

Designed by world class architect Arthur Andersson, and situated in the ultra private subdivision of Rob Roy in Austin is Lance Armstrong’s new home.  I’ve reported on his old house (which was featured in Architectural Digest), and we were one of the first websites to report that he had sold that home in 2013.

His new home was also featured in A.D. and Dwell Magazines, and sold for approximately $4.3M.  It is quite spectacular.  It was on the market for 178 days before it sold.  Both sides of the transaction were represented by Gottesman Residential.  And the deal was all cash, according to county records.

A 200 foot suspention bridge leads from the main house to the boathouse on the lakeSo what do you get for $4,340,000?  Pretty much everything.  There are 5 bedrooms, and 8 bathrooms on 5 levels, a pool, a boathouse, even a 200 foot suspension bridge on 3.6 acres.  All in all you get 4 buildings, just minutes away from downtown Austin in a private gated community.

The main home is peaceful.  I’ve actually been in this house, and it is very tranquil.  The previous owners told me that it was inspired by monasteries in Europe.  And the inspiration comes through.  Even though a lot of the materials are hard – stone, concrete, and metal, it doesn’t feel like it when you are inside.  The house is exceptionally modern, but blends seamlessly with its environment.   It feels warm and inviting, not cold and sterile.

There is a music room, lots of bedrooms, an art gallery, and an artists studio.  Inside the master suite is a large bathroom with soaking tub, balcony, and separate his and hers dressing areas.

The kitchen is functional, with lots of storage.  The house is designed in such a way that you can easily entertain, an intimate group of 6, or a party of 60+.

The second structure is a guest house located next to the large lap pool and hot tub.  There is a wine cellar, and a 2nd media room as well.  In addition there is a large cabana with a wet bar, and a large covered terrace.

The third building has an indoor sports court, a soundproofed media or recording studio, and an office flooded with natural light.

Finally the fourth structure is an award winning boathouse that is reached by a 200 foot suspension bridge that was flown in by helicopter and spans a nature preserve.  The two story building has a screened in porch, outdoor shower, and a wet bar with a fridge.

The garage houses 2 cars, and has a garden room on the lower level, and a woodworking shop on the 2nd floor.

I wonder which room he will hang his Yellow Jerseys in.

Lance Armstrong's Austin house

Views of Lake Austin and the Hill country from the pool.

The living room

The Library
The Kitchen

The Living Room has floor to ceiling windows with amazing views of the lake and hill country

The dining room

The Breakfast Room and Kitchen

Stairs leading into the downstairs living area


Modern Swimming Pool designs

Polished Concrete Floors

Modern Homes in Rob Roy

Master Bath with stairs leading into tub

Living Room with views of the lake

Living in Rob Roy has some great views

Lance Armstrong's new Austin home

Lance Armstrong's house in Austin

Lance Armstrong Austin House

Concrete Walls and Staircase leading to the basement

Architectural Features

Arthur Andersen designed homes in Austin

A long lap swimmig pool seems to disappear into the hill country

A 200 foot suspention bridge leads from the main house to the boathouse on the lake

 All these images are from Real Estate websites, and were taken before Lance moved in.

If you are thinking of moving to Austin after SXSW

It’s March in Austin.  The weather is absolutely beautiful, and thousands of people have descended on Austin for the annual SXSW festival.  This three week gathering has everyone from bloggers, to movie stars, to the latest and greatest musicians.  Tech companies plan a year in advance to show up with their latest and greatest.  Celebrities can be seen eating a breakfast taco.  It’s a fun time and well worth the trip.

But what if you want to stay after SXSW ends?  What are your options?  What is Austin like the rest of the year?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Austin doesn’t change much once SXSW goes away.  Of course the streets open up to regular traffic, and there aren’t as many hipsters around.  But the tech scene is still here.  And we ARE the live music capitol of the world.  Heck, you can even see a movie star every so often at the Four Season’s Lobby or the Bar at the Driskill.  And yes, about 130+ people move here everyday.

But where will I live if I move here?   That depends.  There are three four main areas of town that most people want to live in, and each has its own feel and price range.  They are, downtown, SoCo, East Side, and of course Westlake.  Some would also mention the Allandale/brentwood/Crestview part of town, but if I mention that newcomers should move there I’d be run out of town 🙂

The AustonianLet’s start with the downtown area.  Austin keeps building new high rises, A lot of newcomers either buy or lease an apartment in them, and get to experience first hand the city center.

Of course the average cost for a new condo has crossed the $1M barrier, and the prices are only going up.  These are perfect for the post IPO crowd that has a bunch of cash burning a hole in their pocket.

A short or long term lease is much more reasonable, that’s for sure.  No matter what you choose, the views are amazing.

Austin SoCoSoCo, or the South of Congress area is one of the places that is going to see a lot of change in the coming years.  It is the heart and blood of what makes Austin the town it is.  Food trucks, funky shops, and some unique locals call this part of town home.

Behind all the cool stores, and restaurants are some great neighborhoods.  Travis heights to the east, and Bouldin Creek to the west.  There are cool old houses (mostly 2 bedroom), and some updated places too.  I’ll be honest, the houses go fast here.  If you want to buy or rent, make sure you have an agent who is used to working in this fast paced market where new listings are active for only a few hours before an offer is in place.

The East side is a large section of town East of highway 35.  It stretches from highway 290 to the north to past ladybird lake at the south.  There really is no eastern boundary to the east side.  The best way to describe this area is Gentrification.  There are some great areas, and some up and coming sections.  Of all the places, this is easily the most affordable, where you can get a decent 2 bedroom house to rent for $1,200/month, or to buy in the low $200,000’s.  Lots of local artists call this part of Austin home, and there are some incredible shared work spaces and holes in the wall to eat at.  But as with any up and coming area, there are good pockets, and other areas to watch out for.

Westlake is the “high rent” part of town.  The homes are very expensive, but are quite impressive.  The schools are the best in town (if you have kids), and a lot of the entrepreneurs own homes in this section.

If you are lime most people, you want to explore the city and that’s totally cool.  I help a lot of people relocate here, and over 80% like to rent for a year or so in an area to get a feel for it.

Also, be sure to check out my apartment database, or condo guide if you want.  They are some of the most popular pages on my blog.

Austin Urban Lifestyle Guide 2013

I want to give a big thank you to the guys at Austin Modern Living.

You see, I just received my free copy of the brand new Austin Guide to urban living.  This thick, little red guide, is the perfect size to fit in my glovebox, and has a ton of great info on all the cool things to do in Austin.

The guide organizes the city by region – Downtown, South, West, North, you get the idea.  At the beginning of each section is a great little fold out map so you can’t get lost, a couple of pages describing the ideal day for each area.  There are suggestions planning out your day – from morning to night, and all the activities support local Austin Businesses.

Then at the back of each section is a comprehensive list of all the different condos and modern co-ops.  There is also a list of all the schools in town, as well as a short list of some of the fantastic things to do each month.

I’m not sure of the official way to get one – I saw a friend with one, so I asked her how she got it, and then I just did the same thing.  I facebooked AML, and then dropped one in the mail to me the very next day.

Thanks Austin Modern Living!

PS:  I don’t know what happened with the photo at the top of the page, but I can’t get it rotated to the correct orientation.  Does it appear right to you?

The average sales price of a downtown Condo breaks $1 Million in Austin

According to a report released on the Downtown Austin Blog the average price of a Downtown Condo in Austin reached $1,061,682.

This data is the average of 124 new sales of units in four of the most luxurious hirises:  The W Hotel Residences, The Austionian, Spring Condos, and  The Four Seasons Residences,  Of course these are the premiere urban living spaces, but even when you take the data from all the other tall residential buildings the result is similar. (more…)