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Posts Tagged ‘Real Estate’

PostHeaderIcon State of the Austin Market

Today’s post is brought to you by our guest blogger, Anne Haikola of Violet Crown Realty.


Dear OffAssist blog readers,

Everywhere I go someone inevitably asks me “How is the real estate market in Austin?”

This guest blog post is an opportunity for me to give everyone a proper, detailed answer, complete with supporting data and charts, so here goes…

The unfortunate truth is that media coverage of the real estate/mortgage mess, particularly in 2008, has really done a number on consumer confidence. Many people are taking a, “wait and see,” attitude towards real estate purchases.

Below is a chart of closings on a month by month basis for the past 5 years. You can see that this year is not as awful as the media makes it out to be; 2008 is tracking with 2004.

However, compared to recent years sales in the Austin market are definitely off for 2008.

Home inventories in Austin are up and I have provided you with a summary of what that looks like in our various MLS areas.
As a frame of reference, real estate industry standards say that the transition from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market take place when an area has a 6 month or greater available inventory. The Austin MLS area-wide inventory is just a little over 6 months – which means we are leaning toward a buyer’s market.
However, when you look at some of the more popular Austin areas, the months of inventory range from 2.62 to 17.2 months. Keep in mind that the data is skewed by neighborhoods with $ 1 Million plus homes, which always take a long time to sell.

The areas with more affordable housing – with average prices less than $200,000– tend to have smaller months of inventories. The inventory in some of the “pricier” areas is growing; as a result, average prices are sliding (buyer’s market).

Austin MLS Area Map

Consider Area 1B: This are contains some old, established neighborhoods like Tarrytown, Pemberton, Brykerwoods, and Clarksville. If you’ve always wanted to live in one of these neighborhoods, now is a good time to look, especially if you have good equity in your current home. With a 10 month inventory of homes, there will be better opportunities for price negotiation.

Of course you have to be in the market for at least an average home in the area – which is around the $575,000 price point. The theory with “laddering-up” is that you might take a hit when you sell in a down market, but if you upgrade you are likely to get more for your money.

On the other end of the spectrum, people with a home to sell in MLS areas N or 10S should be able to sell their home quickly and close to asking price. I say that assuming that a seller in these areas is planning to work with a qualified real estate professional (me!) to prepare and market the home to its best advantage. I am also asuming that the asking price is in line with average home prices for the area.

What else can I tell you about the Austin market? Well, actually, a lot. If you have questions about a particular part of town or property values, please just give me a call and I’ll be happy to discuss your specific questions or concerns. I am constantly looking at the market data and studying the inventory and can easily provide you with a more focused analysis.

In closing, I would like to say that other national real estate markets are fairing far worse than Austin. Some states and cities will probably sustain a much longer term depression in prices. As long as Austin remains affordable folks will continue to migrate this way.

There is a feeling among local real estate professionals that the bottom is probably behind us. We anticipate sales picking back up and a surge in the Spring, based on historical trends, from seasonal need and a pent up demand from those that want to wait and see, but really need to move.

Personally, I believe that this market presents one of the best opportunities to buy a home in the Austin area in quite some time. I think now if the time for investors to scope out rental properties and homeowners should feel privileged to have been able to enter the market at such a good time. Please do not sit to wait for prices to plummet and miss the already closing window we have for good deals in the market. Once Spring rolls around, those that are waiting may realize it is too late.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope you find the information in it helpful.

Anne Haikola

By the way, if you or someone you know needs a great realtor to represent them, feel free to contact me at

PostHeaderIcon JP Morgan Chase Moratorium on Foreclosures

It got a bit lost in all the election hubbub, so I thought I’d mention it now. JP Morgan Chase, the bank who bailed out/bought Washington Mutual, has changed how they are handling mortgages, particularly those inherited from the banks that failed. In the meantime, they have issued a 90-day moratorium on foreclosure while they implement the new plan.

The cynic in me can’t help but notice the great PR for JP Morgan Chase:

We may have to foreclose down the line, but it’ll be after the holiday season so we’re not kicking anyone to curb at Christmas/Hanukkah/the Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa, et al. Go us!

More details from JPMC (can these merged banks please pick just ONE name! lol) at, here.

For a real-world explanation that boils it down for homeowners, check out this recent NPR interview.

PostHeaderIcon Buy a Dollhouse, Get a Real One Free!

Yep, times are hard.

Gerry and Cindy Mann of Michigan were having such a hard time selling their home they decided to try a brand new gimmick. When their children were young, Cindy’s father created a scale replica of the family home, to scale (1ft to 1in) and all handmade. The dollhouse is worth a couple thousand dollars, but if you pay $169k for it you can have the full-size version, too.

This story broke about a month ago and I haven’t been able to find an update anywhere on the web, including in the local Michigan paper. If you know anything about this, please let us know in the comments and we’ll do a follow-up.

PostHeaderIcon Bailout

I am not Candy, she who is CRESS designated. That means when she asked me to blog the whole Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac thing I smiled and nodded and like I always do…Glad she couldn’t see over IM how cross-eyed and teeth-gritting I was.

The sum total of my knowledge of mortgage finance is where to mail my mortgage check, and that I have to look up every month. So, I’ve been learning this week. And, honestly, I still don’t get it.

But these folks do, so I’m going to send you on a link tour to people who can talk about the bailout knowledgeably–unlike me.

Under New Management: Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae
What rescue means for mortgage rates
Dollar climbs after mortgage bailout
Fannie and Freddie 101
Fannie & Freddie: Buying Friends in D.C.
Fannie, Freddie storm wallops insurers, too
Dems: Departing mortgage execs pay ‘too high’
Fannie’s borrowing costs plunge
Mortgage rates drop after Freddie, Fannie bailout
Treasury offers mortgage takeover FAQ
Greenspan: Government Faces Tough Decisions in Lehman Case

PostHeaderIcon Picture THIS!

We all know the housing market is in a slump and sellers are having a rough time of it, but still…

A Photo Contest with a HOUSE as the Prize?

Yep. Read the article with a bit more detail (legal questions to answer, hoped for minimum number of entries, etc.) here. Then click on the link above if you want to get out your camera and try your luck. Just do it fast since the entry period closes this Friday, 8/15/08.

PostHeaderIcon Time to Buy?

If you are reasonably sure of your job, iffy in this economy, it is looking more and more like a great time to buy a home.

There are fewer homes on the market now, and that number has declined every month for the past 12 months, BUT, that is due far more to a construction slow-down than to any significant market improvement.

If you are a first time buyer you should know that single-family home prices hit a new low in March. While things might perk up a bit for the summer, since that is traditional moving season for families, it doesn’t look like the market is going to improve (for sellers) anytime soon.

Foreclosures are having a real negative impact on prices as well, and inflation is keeping many families who might like to move in their current homes.

For more, check out the Reuters’ article from May 27th on this very topic.

PostHeaderIcon Housing Crisis GOOD for Landlords?

Okay, I admit it. I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the “mortgage crisis,” which is why I didn’t comment when Candy posted about it last week. I have my house, I’ve been paying for it for years, and will continue to do so.

I do know enough about the market to know that I can’t afford to move any time soon. We bought in the tail end of the housing boom in Austin in 2000. Now our home is worth less than we paid for it. This is thanks to both the housing slump and the urban sprawl that has grown up around our once semi-rural suburban neighborhood.

Landlords, on the other hand, seem to be doing pretty well. Check out the details at Reuters. It is a combination of being able to acquire new properties for reduced prices and an increased demand. Even those who lose their own home need a place to live, and many have to rent. With an increase in both supply and demand, it’s a pretty good time to be a landlord.

PostHeaderIcon The mortgage crisis…

A bookkeeping and accounting nerds email list group I am a part of was recently discussing the mortgage crisis and, well… I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject… so let me ask any readers here… and feel free to comment… who do you think, either in whole or in part, is responsible for the mortgage and lender crisis the US is starting to see?
The individual homebuyer for getting in over their head?

The lenders for approving those for “too much” house?

The real estate agents for pushing too hard?

The title companies for closing so quickly?

The closing agent for not making sure they understand what they are signing?

Who else is “responsible”? Is no one responsible?



PostHeaderIcon You Can Go Home Again

And apparently a lot of people are going home to Austin.

Local Realtor Dee Copeland has an interesting article on her blog about what she calls “Boomerang Buyers”, people who leave home to pursue higher education and careers, then move back to their hometown in their 30s.

I have to say, though, this is not a new trend. My parents did this exact thing in their 30s. They moved away, joined the military, traveled the world, then about the time my younger brother was old enough to go to school they moved back to the town where THEY went to high school, both out of nostalgia and a need to be physically closer to aging parents.

Check it out! Dee’s also got some great tips for sellers on ways to make their property more appealing to these buyers.