Austin Homes For Sale

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.


Property Taxes...Should I Escrow or Not?

Many first time homeowners have questions about taxes + insurance and how they will impact a monthly mortgage payment. When you set up your mortgage, you may have some choices in regards to how often you pay toward your property taxes and insurance, but first it’s important to see what category you fit in to better understand your options:

Category One: If you are putting less than 20% down on your home OR if you have an FHA loan, you will likely be required to set up an escrow account with your lender. An escrow account is part of your loan paperwork and agreed upon at closing. Each month, your lender collects the required insurance and tax payments from you along with your mortgage amount. The money then gets held in an escrow account and used to pay off the insurance and property taxes either annually or semi-annually, whenever they are due. The lender takes care of these payments for you out of your escrow account and pays directly into the insurance company and county tax office for you. While these payments are collected at the same time as your monthly mortgage payment, they are technically separate. The convenience of an escrow account is that it forces you to save for these big annual or semi-annual bills every month along the way. However, many times the lender does not grant any interest on the money sitting in an escrow account whereas if it were sitting in your own private account, the same money could have some interest earning potential.

Category Two: If you are putting more than 20% down on your home or have your home paid off, you have some different options when it comes to property taxes and insurance. Instead of setting up a required escrow account, you can accumulate the money you need for insurances and taxes on your own, earning interest on that money all the way up until the time it is due. When the bill comes, you are in charge of paying the taxes directly to your county tax collector and the insurance payment directly to your insurance company. In Austin, the tax bill always arrives around Christmas and is due at the end of January. The disadvantage to this method is that it requires discipline to make monthly payments to yourself in your savings account and earmark that money for insurance and taxes. You do not want to be surprised by a hefty annual bill (right at Christmastime) and have no accumulated savings to pay it. However, avoiding escrow does ensure that your mortgage payments are consistent from month to month throughout the year. If you have an escrow account and your property tax bill or your insurance premiums suddenly jump, you might not be made aware of the change until the end of the year when you see the breakdown from the lending company.

Whatever your decision when it comes to paying insurance and property taxes, it is important to discuss your options with your realtor and financial lender to make the most financially sound decision for you!

Supply and Demand in the Austin Housing Market

Real estate is a business of supply and demand.  For the past four years in Austin, Texas, there has been less than four months’ worth of housing inventory available. Data shows that low supply in the housing market also drives up the median home price.   

In a relatively short period of time, there’s been a dramatic shift in home sales by price range. In 2011, 67 percent of houses that were sold were priced below $250,000, while 32 percent were priced from $250,000 to just under $1 million. By 2017, those percentages flipped: 63 percent of sales were above $250,000, and 35 percent were below.

The trends of low supply and high demand look to continue as Austin’s population is projected to increase from 1 million in 2014 to an estimated 2.3 million in 2020.  In 2017, Austin saw 151 net new people move to Austin every day. 

In the past 10 years, the median home price in the Austin area has soared as well. In 2018 so far, the Austin median home price is $319,000, up 66 percent from $192,000 in 2008, and median home prices in recent years have seen a year-over-year increase of 5.4%.  

What does all of this mean for the continued growth of the housing market?  There are some that think there will be an inevitable “normalization” of this strong market curve, while others that think the housing market will continue to boom as the city’s economy and job markets proper. 

What, if anything, could cause a downturn in the market in coming years?  Perhaps a 2020 U.S. presidential election? Other potential factors could be trade/tariff issues, labor shortages, increased traffic and potential water-supply developments as the city continues to expand. 

However, for now, we are enjoying a real estate market that continues to boom with demand significantly higher than supply in Austin, Texas. 

Are you wondering what the fair market price of your home is?  Contact me for a complimentary home evaluation today!

 

 

 

Articles sourced:

1. http://austin.culturemap.com/news/city-life/09-15-15-what-will-austin-look-like-in-2020-new-lawnstarter-report-confirms-rapid-growth/

2. https://www.statesman.com/business/20180627/expert-outlook-bright-for-austin-economy-housing-market

3. https://communityimpact.com/austin/central-austin/development-construction/2018/02/01/austin-housing-market-expected-to-continue-growth-despite-low-supply-and-increasing-interest-rates/

4. https://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2018/03/22/austins-population-keeps-popping-heres-how-many.html

The Four Keys To a Successful Inspection

As a prospective home owner, what key items should you look for when the inspection report comes back?  How do you know what items might be potential deal breakers and which are simple repairs? I recommend you start by looking into these 4 categories of major home repairs.

1.     Roof- How old is the roof?  Has it had any previous repair? Have there been any leaks due to problems with the roof? 

A standard roof life is 15-18 years and can cost between $6,000 and $16,000 to repair, depending on the size of the home and on insurance coverage.

2.     Foundation- Has there been any significant shifting or cracks along non-natural seam lines?  Does the floor dip or shift in some parts?

You are looking for the inspection report to say that there has not been any standard significant movement of the foundation.

3.     Electrical- Is the wiring aluminum or copper? Copper wiring is more widely used in homes today due to its greater conductivity and heat resistance.   Aluminum wiring can still be found in some older homes.  Aluminum is much harder to repair than copper wiring, does not conduct energy as well, can tend to overheat and cause damage, and greater care has to be taken to install it properly in the home.  

Ideally you are looking for the inspection report to say that the home uses copper wiring and that no significant electrical issues were detected.

4.     Plumbing- Is the plumbing cast iron or PVC?

Cast iron plumbing will eventually rust from the inside out and should be cleaned out annually to remove build up.  Cast iron was used heavily in construction during the WWII era, so many older homes might have cast iron plumbing in use.  Cast iron is not a deal breaker, but it requires more upkeep and maintenance and can require contractors to dig underground through the slab to get to the pipes. 

Look for the use of PVC piping in the inspection report. If cast iron is used, make sure you understand how it can be accessed for future inspection and repairs and get the inspector to give you a status report on the integrity and lifespan of the cast iron used.