Should you keep your Austin rental home or sell?

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on January 11, 2016 · 1 comment

It’s the start of 2016 and already I’ve received a few inquiries from my investor clients wondering whether they should hold on to their rental property, or sell this year. It’s a conversation I have multiple times with multiple clients each year, and it’s a question Sylvia and I sometimes ask ourselves about our own rental property. Especially given the appreciation gains of the past 5 years in Austin. So this article will walk through some of the questions you might ask yourself when contemplating whether to sell your real estate asset, based on how I look at the question with my own rental properties.

The first questions to ask yourself are:
1) Do you need the money? and
2) What will you do with the money?

I normally don’t make it past those two questions, because the answers for me are are “no” and “I don’t know”.

For most, the equity would simply go into almost zero-interest savings or CD accounts, or into the stock market. Having just watched The Big Short, watched my Mutual Fund IRAs tread water last year, and then take a dive the first week of 2016, I’m pretty OK with leaving my real estate alone.

But if you have a defined purpose for the money, such as purchasing your retirement home, or funding a child’s college costs, those reasons can make sense. Using it to fund lifestyle adventures, like buying a boat or an RV, would be a bad idea though, in my opinion. Unless it’s part of an overall “next chapter” of retirement, and it’s time to spend that money. [click to continue…]

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Austin Affordability: The High Cost of Living Apart

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on November 20, 2015 · 4 comments

In an increasingly “unaffordable” Austin, it occurs to me that many of us could live way cheaper if we could just get along and live in extended family groups or roommate groups. I’ll use my own family as an example to explore this CRAZY idea for curing Austin’s affordability problem.

Sylvia and I live in a home in SW Austin with a $3,000/mo mortgage. Our utilities average $250/mo for everything, plus yard care of $80 per month, and of course repairs and maintenance as needed. We intentionally downsized to this home from Westlake, because we want to live more “affordably” and we no longer needed to live in Westlake Eanes ISD after our girls graduated high school.

My mom, in her 70’s, lives three blocks away in a home I purchased as investment (but for her to live in). I charge her $1,200/mo rent (market rent would be $2,000, my payment/cost is $1,800/mo), and her utility bills average about $180/mo, plus lawn care. I cover the repairs and maintenance.

Sylvia’s brother lives in an efficiency apartment in Hyde Park, which is $1,000/mo, plus about $100/mo utilities.

My oldest daughter graduated college this year, has a salary job, and is living at home still for now, but plans to get her own place after the new year (and after saving some money first – smart move). A modest place would cost her $1,000/mo to live alone, or $800 if she pairs up with a roommate or two. But let’s call it $1,000/mo for a 1/1 to keep the math simple, plus $100 utilities.

My youngest daughter is a freshman in college, and I’m paying for a dorm room, so she doesn’t necessarily count in the equation, except for the fact that I’m paying for two places for her currently – her college dorm and her room at home for visits and during summer. So I’ll ignore the dorm costs and count her as living at home still.

So, in summary, we have mine and Sylvia’s 3 bedroom house, my mom’s 3 bedroom house, my brother-in-law’s no-bedroom efficiency apartment, my older daughter’s future 1 bedroom apartment.

That’s a total of 8 sleeping spaces, 6 bathrooms, 4 kitchens, 4 utility bills for 6 people and 5 cars. Total monthly outlay for mortgages + rents is $6,800, utilities $630, yard care $150, plus repairs and maintenance for two separate houses. Grand total $7,580/mo for 6 people with 5 cars. More about vehicle expenses later.

What if I just bought a 5 bedroom 3 bath house and we all lived together?

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New Realtor.com Agent Beta Profiles now Live in Austin

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on October 3, 2015 · 0 comments

I attended the Presentation in Austin this week announcing the Beta rollout of Realtor.com’s new Agent Profiles. Austin is the only city in the US with this live, though it will soon also be turned on in the state of Rhode Island.

Though not fully baked, I’ve set up my profile. The “Sold Listing are not yet populating, but should be on the map by mid October. There will also be a Team Profile. Here is what it will look like when viewing a map of Sold Listings in Austin.

Map Showing Realtors who closed the sales

Map Shows Which Agents were involved in closed sales. Coming to Austin in Oct

Pretty cool, right? Are Realtors happy about this? Many are not. The Realtor online forums are ablaze with ignorant complainers, moaning and griping about this, and how it’s “unfair” to populate Realtor profiles or Sold Maps with actual closed sales because it makes the Newbies and part timers look bad.

Those of you agents complaining are missing some important data points. Namely, consumers want this. That is a settled question, supported by research and surveys of consumers. Realtor Reviews are here, whether we like it or not.

It was gross neglegence when the real estate industry fought online listings back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. It was the height of stupidity to do so. The void was instead filled by portals. Thus we have the useless but popular Zillow.

Zillow is not consumer-friendly. It exists for one purpose only, to sell advertising space to Realtors so they can appear next to listings they know nothing about. That does not create an informed consumer, nor connect a consumer to a “good” agent in their area, nor is it supposed to. Zillow is NOT consumer friendly. But consumers like the entertainment value Zillow. It’s fun to surf and look at houses.

Realtor.com can be way better for the serious consumer though, as its data comes directly from MLS feeds, and now instead of finding an “Advertiser” agent, you’ll be able to quickly rule in those agents who are actually active and relevant in the area in which you live or wish to live. [click to continue…]

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Texas Buyer Inspection Deadline to Move to 5PM Instead of Midnight

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on August 18, 2015 · 1 comment

Inspection DeadlineOne of the more vexing and frustrating aspects of managing a Texas real estate transaction is what we agents call “clearing the Option Period”. The Option/Inspection Period is the agreed upon number of days during which a Buyer can unilaterally terminate the purchase contract. It’s usually 5-10 days. The buyer doesn’t need a reason. It’s a straight up right to terminate, for which the seller is paid a nominal fee, usually less than $500.

The problem is that, per the current contract language, a 7 day Option Period ends at midnight on the 7th day. I don’t know about you, but whether you’re a buyer, seller or agent, none of us like being up at 11:45PM waiting for an Amendment and wondering if the deal is going to crater. It’s one of the stupidest things we do, and nobody likes it, but it happens repeatedly.

A proposed change to the One to Four Family Residential Contract (sales contract) will move that deadline to 5PM on the final day. This makes me very happy. Agents need to learn to take care of business during business hours. Real Estate is not a 9-5 profession, but neither is it supposed to be the graveyard shift at the end of every option period.

From a listing agent standpoint, it’s not our problem, or the seller’s, if the buyer agent and buyer can’t complete their “due diligence” within the first few days of the contract. We do with our buyers because we’ve already talked to the inspector and know his availability, and we have plumbers, electricians, HVAC people who can do followup evaluations same or next day. Every buyer agent worth his or her salt should be providing these resources and pre-established vendor connections to their buyers. Those who can’t or won’t should get out of the business.  [click to continue…]

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Zillow and Trulia Remain Irrelevant in Austin Real Estate Market

March 30, 2015

Both Zillow.com and Trulia.com could vanish tomorrow, completely – websites crash and stay down forever –  and it would make ZERO difference, at all, in the successful sale of any home in Austin TX, or elsewhere in the U.S. Period. There is no hardship or selling disadvantage created for sellers or their listing agents if […]

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Austin Real Estate Predictions for 2015

January 2, 2015

What will the real estate market in Austin do for 2015? Most likely, more of the same. More of what we saw in 2013 and 2014 Spring/Summer selling seasons, which was strong price increases caused by limited supply and increasing demand. Especially in the central core areas of Austin but not limited to just those […]

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And just like that, we’re moving again

May 23, 2014

Have you ever woken up on a Friday morning with no intention of moving and by 5PM that day have submitted an offer on a home? That’s what Sylvia and I recently did, and it’s not the first time. We really thought our current place in Westlake would be our “forever” retirement home. We’ve slowly […]

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Every Austin Real Estate Offer is an Emergency Now

February 11, 2014

Life as an Austin Realtor requires a varied set of skills. Add to those now the ability to operate under constant Red Alert conditions if you hope to be an effective Buyer’s Agent. Here is the latest example. Sylvia had buyers in from out of town last Saturday. Both houses they liked already had multiple […]

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Enjoying the Quiet Uncrowded Austin

January 20, 2014

I often experience something many Austinites will never know. A quiet uncrowded Austin. No traffic. No noise. No crowds. Just peaceful serenity and bliss. There is no turning back – no solution – for Austin’s traffic problems, congestion, growth, commercial encroachment into central neighborhoods, and myriad other small and big annoyances caused by Austin’s economic […]

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Austin City vs Metro Home Prices 2013

January 12, 2014

When you read a news article about Austin real estate that reports average and median home prices, the values quoted are often those from total Austin MLS sales. Those sales figures are compiled from the entire Austin MLS service area, including suburbs, nearby cities as well as some far flung areas. The “Austin MLS” might […]

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