Ask an Agent: Showcasing Austin for visitors
South by Southwest attendees by the tens of thousands have come to our fair city and might be thinking about coming back for good.
We asked local real estate agents what visitors should know about our real estate market before they decide to move here and what makes Austin different than other cities.
Byron "Buddy" Schilling, President of J.B. Goodwin Realtors: "Keep Austin Weird" is a favorite slogan in Austin. It refers to the eclectic vibe of the town.
Austin also could be described as "weird" when you talk about its economy and real estate market. Economically, Austin did not participate in the recession to the extent the rest of the country did. We have jobs and our real estate did not go down in price. In fact, between 2006-2011 Austin is ranked third in highest job growth for an American city. More than 37,900 jobs have been added.
The forecast is even better. Economist Ray Perryman predicts Austin will add 20,000 jobs a year for the next five years. And economist Angelos Angelou predicts Austin will add 45,000 jobs in the next two years and 88,000 new people.
That many jobs has attracted a lot of people to Austin. Our real estate market did not have a bubble and did not burst. The median price of a home in the Austin area has gone from $184,000 in 2007 to $190,000 in 2011.
The national median price for 2011 was $166,100 and was driven down by a surplus of foreclosures. Austin did not experience a great increase in foreclosures during the recession.
The rental market also has not seen a price decline. As of February, the total median rental rate was $1,300, up 8 percent from 2011, and the median rate for single family homes was $1,400, up 4 percent from 2011.
Austin is hot. Hot for jobs. Hot for real estate. And a "cool" place to live. I moved to Austin 30 years ago from the Chicago area. I have never met anyone who lives in Austin who does not absolutely love it. You will, too.
Kay Andrews, Amelia Bullock Realtors: This city is so alive, vibrant, energetic, educated, diverse and artistic.
There are so many reasons we want to live here — perhaps it's the climate (except August); the protected environment; the trails along the lake (Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson and Ann Butler); the food (Paul Qui of Uchiko just won "Top Chef"); the culture, from the Long Center (Thank you, Joe and Teresa Long and Jeff and Gail Kodosky) to Bass Concert Hall to the Ransom Center; and University of Texas sports (Hook em Horns).
Austin has made just about every Top 10 list except one, and that's Best Dressed; Austin is and has been always casual.
Austin's economy is healthy. After the Texas oil bust and the dot-com bubble burst, there was a collective "we've been there, done that, learned our lesson and have the bumper sticker to prove it," and we went back to basics.
We've always had the stability anchor of government and UT, but we diversified — music, arts, food, movie production, high tech.
Austin's real estate picture is stable — closed sales for December and January surpassed those of 2010 and 2011.
Our challenge is buyer expectations; values have dropped in other parts of the country and the expectation is that Austin values have dropped as well. Not so. Our values did not rise as significantly as other parts of the country, thus our drop was not as drastic. Yet, Austin sellers are being impacted by the expectations of buyers from other states.
Our listing inventory is down from this time last year, pending sales are up and the solds are up.
Ray Perryman, economist and CEO of the Perryman Group, says that the Austin metropolitan area will remain one of the strongest performing spots in the nation in the coming years. We've still outpaced most of the nation in job growth.
Austin is a great place to live on its own, but with the relatively strong economic base in Central Texas included, we definitely are the envy of the nation.
Brian Talley, Regent Property Group: Living in Austin year-round is as cool as SXSW makes it look. We have live music every day of the year, a lot of outdoor activities for healthy lifestyles, a laid-back and diverse culture, and great homegrown establishments.
If you're considering making Austin your full-time home, first figure out your desired lifestyle, and then focus your search efforts by geography. Austin has a variety of living-space options, including condos (mainly downtown), central and west Austin luxury homes, historical districts south and north of downtown with homes going back to the early 1900s, Hill Country living west of MoPac Boulevard, waterfront homes on Lake Austin and Lake Travis, and more affordable housing far north, south, northeast and southeast.
It's important to know that the Austin real estate market is relatively stable compared with other cities around the country. Austin real estate is on an upswing, with very low inventory and multiple offers for desirable homes in the lower price range of $200,000 to $450,000.
There is still good value, especially at higher price points, but the landscape is changing quickly. Obtain a good real estate agent to learn about the best options on and off the active market, and when you find the right home, don't wait for someone else to discover it — make an offer right away, with your loan preapproval letter in hand.
Ryan Roderick, Spyglass Realty and Investments: Austin's current real estate market is very competitive, especially in Central Austin. Buyers need to be prepared to have all their ducks in a row before they look at properties. We are seeing listings go into multiple offer situations more than we have in a long time.
If you really like a property, be prepared to put in a near-full-price offer, especially if it's recently listed and located in Central Austin. Buyers need to understand that it's not the same buyer's market here as in many parts of the country, where markets are softer. Homes here are selling very close to (or in some cases, at) asking price.
For now, the situations in the outlying cities of Austin aren't quite as competitive, though quality properties are selling. We have our clients gain as much approval from their lender as possible so that when we are making an offer, we can tell the listing agent that, not only are the clients pre-qualified, they are pre-approved — meaning that not only have credit checks been performed, but the incomes and assets have been verified. We want to make sure that our clients' offers carry as much weight as possible in this competitive market.