Should I Bother Going to Open Houses?

It’s Sunday afternoon, and you are thinking about buying a home. Is it worth it to go driving around the neighborhood or area that you are interested in to see if there are any open houses in the area?

What are the Benefits of Attending an Open House?

  1. Open Houses are a pain free way of viewing several homes in one particular neighborhood or area. Yes, you do have to sign in with the realtor who is listing the open house. Yes, they may follow up with you in the future. If you are looking for a realtor, this could be the easiest way to find one. Make sure to be honest with the realtor about where you are in your home buying journey. If you are just looking, indicate that on your information form and let the realtor know that you are not seriously in the market yet.

  2. Open Houses are a great way to compare the finishes of the homes in a particular neighborhood. Getting a feel for if most of the homes have tile or wood floors, granite countertops, custom cabinetry, etc in a neighborhood will help you recognize both what the norm is and what homes exceed the standard with special upgrades and finishing touches.

  3. Open Houses help you to understand different floor plans and what you like/don’t like in the layout of a home. Make sure to take notice of things that delight you about each home. This will help focus you on the essentials when it is time to seriously look into buying.

  4. Open Houses can help you understand more about the neighborhood and history of the home and its buyer. Make sure to ask the representing realtor any question you have about the street, school, history or area.

  5. Open Houses also help you acclimate to the pricing of homes in an area. Comparing several different open houses, what each home offers, and the price will work together to give you a better grid for your affordability, amenities, and ideal neighborhood.

What Should You Be Making Sure to Take Note of as You Are Looking at an Open House Home?

  1. Look for evidence of DIY in the home. Are there some finishes/repairs that appear to be a non-professional, DIY fix? Take note of these, as they probably reflect the overall quality of the repairs/upkeep in the home.

  2. Make sure to look up at ceilings and under sinks, etc. Water damage is a serious issue and you want to keep your eyes out for any visible signs of leaks or mold.

  3. Look at cracks and crevices. Straight line settling cracks are normal in a home, but if you start to see abnormal lines that jut out from the seams of a home, then you might have an indicator of foundation problems.

  4. Take note of any areas of neglect in the home. Do you see any places (pool, yard, air filters, etc) that obviously have gone overlooked for a long period of time? These areas will most likely take a lot of effort to restore or replace after long periods of neglect.

  5. Take note of the scent of the home when you first walk in. Often times scents are hard if not impossible to get rid of. Even after long periods of time, if a house is closed up for a while, it can go back to smelling like it did when you originally purchased the home. See if you can discover what is causing the scent (pets? mold? smoke?) and determine if you think that could be changed over time.

  6. Make sure to take note of the amount of storage in the home. Storage is extremely important as you go through different stages of life and can be the reason why you outgrow a home. So, make sure that any home you move into has ample storage space from the onset of purchasing the home.

  7. Take a look at the neighborhood around the home. Does the neighbor have an RV parked in the front yard? Is there someone across the street whose garage is always stuffed to the brim and wide open? Do others leave their trash cans out on the street for multiple days at a time? Watching the way that others in the neighborhood move and operate can give you a feel for the maintenance and overall feel of the neighborhood.

  8. When you are in the home, take note of all of the views out the windows. For example, when you are cooking, what will you be looking at everyday? If you have a view out the master bedroom, is it a peaceful one or will you have a neighbor so close that they can see in and comment on what you are doing? Make sure your views and positioning of the home afford you the privacy and aesthetic that you need to truly feel at rest in your space.

  9. Make sure to consider traffic on the street that you are considering purchasing a home on. Go outside to both the front and the back yard, and listen for road noise and any other city sounds.

  10. Finally, take notice of the property taxes and HOA fees assessed on the property. Compare the figure to other similar properties or neighborhoods in the area. Sometimes two relatively similar homes in different neighborhoods can have a drastically different monthly price tag when taxes and HOA fees are considered.

So, how about checking out your local open houses this weekend? Click on the button below to get started!


How Do Austin Schools Stack Up To Those In Surrounding Suburban Areas?

The Texas Report Card has come out for the 2017-2018 school year and the encouraging news is that Austin ISD has great schools in the urban core that stack up equally to those in the surrounding suburban areas. In fact, one of Austin’s top high schools racked up the honor of best public high school in Texas: Liberal Arts & Science Academy (LASA), a public magnet school located on the LBJ campus, earned the distinction from the neighborhood and school review site Niche.

Three other Austin-area high schools also cracked the state’s top 25 list: Westlake High School in the Eanes district ranked no. 5, Westwood High School in Round Rock’s district placed no. 8, and Vandegrift High School in Leander’s district landed at no. 14.

So how are the school’s measured, exactly? The Texas report card takes the following categories in mind when scoring its schools:

Overall Ranking: is a combined score after looking at the accountability rating of each school, data from the Texas Academic Performance Reports, and financial information.

Student Achievement: Students are assessed through the STAAR test in the Student Achievement Domain. Additionally, high schools are assessed on College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) and Graduation Rates.

School Progress: Evaluates proficiency and growth as well as school progress through comparison of school districts with similar socioeconomic status. This domain is extremely important to campuses that are labeled Improvement Required (IR) as they make measured progress in meeting state standards.

 Closing the Gap: Takes into consideration successes of various student groups such as students enrolled in special education, economically disadvantaged, or English learners.

Taking these scoring system into account, let’s take a closer look at how Austin measured up compared to Rock Rock ISD and Leander ISD:

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So, the good news is this: whether you desire to live in the urban core of Austin or prefer the suburbs, great public schools are accessible in all areas of greater Austin.

Also, a piece of real estate advice: even if you don’t have kids, pay attention to what school the home you are buying is zoned to. Depending on its scores and reputation, the school you are zoned to can have a big impact on the value of and appreciation of your home.


More Amazon Jobs Coming to Austin

Austin continues to boom in the tech sector, now with 800 more Amazon jobs coming to Austin by the year 2020. As a result of the failed NYC Amazon expansion, Amazon will now increase jobs and sectors at its 17 locations around the country. Amazon already employs around 6200 people currently, bringing the new count close to 8000 Amazon jobs by the year 2020. According to the Austin Business Journal, this will put Amazon on the list as one of the biggest employers in town (see below).

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Just where will this Amazon expansion happen, exactly? Amazon has leased a large section of Domain 10, an office building currently being constructed at the Domain in North Austin. Amazon will also have tech savvy neighbors in Domain 11 (Home Away) and Domain 12 (Facebook).

As these tech centers are being constructed and more tech jobs come to town, look for housing prices in this area of town (Domain Northside) to be impacted positively! If you plan on buying in that area, purchase sooner rather than later and watch your investment pay off tremendously in the next 2-3 years.

New Train Station Coming to Downtown ATX

This past Monday, thanks to a $50 million grant by TXDOT, Capital Metro broke ground last Monday on a brand new Downtown Austin train station on Fourth Street between Neches and Red River Streets.  This new station will have a much bigger platform than the previous one, allowing several more trains to travel to downtown at the same time.

Upon completion (projected spring of 2021), the new rail station will expand to two platforms and three tracks instead of its current one platform and one track. Capital Metro hopes to grow its ridership substantially by 2039, aiming for half of all Austin commuters to use some form of public transit.  With a city population that looks to grow by about 2 million people in the same time frame, strengthening our public transit system now is smart growth. 

The builder of the new Downtown train station is Jay-Reese, who is also known for other Austin builds such as the Second Street Bridge near Austin Central Library, the Pfluger pedestrian bridge over Lady Bird Lake and the hike-and-bike trail boardwalk off East Riverside Drive.

Plaza Saltillo, a New Multi-Use Development, Coming to East Austin

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Delivering in 2019 along the rail tracks of the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood just east of I-35 is the Plaza Saltillo multi-use development.  Plaza Saltillo will occupy six blocks from I-35 to the Saltillo Rail Station, which is a Capital Metro Stop.   

The 10-acre Plaza Saltillo site will feature a mixture of 800 apartments, 110,000 square feet of retail space, 120,000 square feet of office space and over an acre of open green space tailored to both pedestrians and bikers.  This open space will have expansive sidewalks, pocket parks, and an extension of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, which connects East Austin to downtown.  The acre plus of open space will be ideal for picnics, outdoor activities, rest & recreation.

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 Restaurants that have already signed on to lease a space in Plaza Saltillo include Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Pinch Boil House, Dolce Neve, Barcelona Wine Bar, Snooze, Epoch Coffee, Tarka Indian Kitchen, Austin Juicery, The Ginger Man bar, and Stout Burgers and Beers.  In addition to the restaurants that have signed on, Whole Foods Market has leased the largest space to build a 30,000 square-foot store. Although originally intended to be a Whole Foods 365, the less expensive and more local version of Whole Foods, the company has now decided to cease opening more 365 concept stores and to just focus on strengthening its Whole Food brand instead. 

The developer for the Plaza Saltillo project is the Endeavor Real Estate Group, a local company best known for its work developing the Domain in north Austin.  What impact will the arrival of Plaza Saltillo make on the East Cesar Chavez housing market, which had a median price of $479,700 in 2018? East Cesar Chavez will continue to be a hot spot for real estate development and growth as multi-use sites like Plaza Saltillo contribute to the revitalized interest in the area.

Are you interested in an East Cesar Chavez Property? Check out active listings below!