Archive Monthly Archives: February 2007

Austin McMansion Ordinance May Be Undone by TX Leg

This article below is from the Austin Business Journal today. It’s a recurring scenario for Austin, where those who don’t like the local Austin laws or ordinances passed by Austin Lawmakers take their case to the State Legislature and push for laws that supersede or nullify local Austin laws. The Texas Legislature is forbidden by the Texas Constitution from passing laws that target specific cities, but somehow they wiggle around that by passing State Laws which in fact accomplish the same thing. Now, they are going after Austin’s so-called McMansion Ordinance, which was approved last June 2006, and which limits the sizes of homes that can be built in certain areas.

I’m neither for or against the Austin McMansion Ordinance. It’s one of those issues where I can clearly see both the pros and cons, but the issue was studied to death and the law was a compromise between many different factions with opposing interests. I can live with that.

Bill takes hard look at home sizes
Austin Business Journal – Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A bill recently filed in the Texas Legislature could essentially nullify an Austin city ordinance that restricts home sizes in certain neighborhoods.

Rep. Edmund Kuempel (R-Seguin) has filed House Bill 1736, which would require that cities only regulate home size on one of three criteria: impervious cover, footprint of the lot or floor-to-area ratio. An ordinance passed in 2006 by the Austin City Council limited home sizes on all three criteria–an effort to stem new construction not in keeping with the character of Austin’s more established neighborhoods.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

What Price Constitutes a Luxury Home in Austin?

I was reading the news short posted below, regarding falling Luxury Home prices in California, and noting that the “average” prices of “Luxury Homes” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego range between $2M and $3M (see article below)

What is considered a Luxury Home in Austin? $750,000 and above if you talk to agents such as our fellow Keller Williams agent Dee Shultz who specializes in Luxury Homes in Austin.

$750K would get you a “move-up” tract home in many parts of California and would not be considered a Luxury Home. But in Austin, $750K will put you in a fairly impressive home. Builders I’ve talked to recently confirm the $750K mark. That’s about the price-point where you start seeing tiled roofs and the type of expensive custom finish-outs and details that separate a custom luxury home from a mearly well built custom home in the $600,000’s to $700,000 range.

What’s the average sales price of an Austin Luxury Home? In Austin in 2006, 661 Homes sold for a price greater than $750K for an average sales price of $1,257,241. The highest price sale in Austin in 2006 was a home that sold for $4,525,000. At present, there are about 700 homes listed for sale in Austin at $750K or higher, which is about 10% of the total current homes listed.

From Realtor Magazine Online:

California Luxury Home Prices See First Slip Since ’04
During last year’s fourth quarter, luxury home prices in California declined for the first time since 2004 and sellers received fewer multiple offers, according to a report by First Republic Bank in San Francisco.

The bank tracks the price of numerous upscale homes across the state. “The housing market is softening from its runaway pace and heading toward a balanced market,” says First Republic Chief Credit Officer David Lichtman. The latest index shows:

Los Angeles values slipped 0.8 percent from the third quarter of 2006 to the fourth quarter and were up 2.9 percent from a year ago. The average luxury home in Los Angeles is now $2.35 million.

San Diego values declined 1.3 percent from the third quarter of 2006 to the fourth quarter and gained 3.3 percent from a year ago. The average luxury home in San Diego is now $2.15 million.

San Francisco Bay Area values fell 1.5 percent from the third quarter of 2006 to the fourth quarter and gained 1.5 percent from a year ago. The average luxury home in San Francisco is now $2.92 million.

“Buyers stayed away and sellers pulled their homes and said they’d put them out in the spring,” says Maxine Golden, a broker with Re/Max Real Estate Services in Newport Beach.

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Why I Like Expensive Plumbers

When it comes to house repairs, nothing is more frustrating than a problem which can’t be remedied. One of our Buyers made a request for the Sellers to “have a licensed Plumber locate and cure leak at Master tub exterior wall as noted on inspection report”.

This was a leak that was showing up outside the home, leaking from the top of the slab where the Master Tub is located. The day we were there with the inspector, the area in question was wet. We assumed it had to be a small supply line leak or a drain leak. The Sellers had no idea such a condition existed and readily agreed to have this taken care of prior to closing.

Yesterday, a day before closing, we got the documentation of the repair work from the listing agent, which included invoices from two plumbers stating that no leak could be located at the tub. The other agent explained to me that they tried real hard to find the problem but two different plumbers told them there was no leak. One invoice stated:

“tested lavs, tub and shower for slab leaks. found shower caulking to be leaking. re-sealed shower pan and tub step. after testing we found no trace of leak and believe that slab discoloration is not due to a leak”

Both plumbers had run the water, run the separate shower, filled the tub (which was a big soaking tub), drained the tub, but no leak had revealed itself and the outside area that was wet during our inspection stayed dry the entire time.

I discussed the matter with my buyer and our inspector. I was skeptical. The water had to be coming from somewhere the day we saw it. We were not satisfied with simply leaving it as an unsolved mystery. We decided to have one of my plumbers look at it before the closing today.

I met Michael for Johnny Rooter Plumbing at the house at 8:30AM this morning and he identified the problem in less than 60 seconds. In fact, he told me he knew what it was before he even showed up, based on my description. He simply unscrewed one of the screws (item 4 on the diagram) on the face plate of the tub overflow drain and held it up so we could see the rust, and said “here’s your problem right here”.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Austin Real Estate Sales Update – Jan 2007 Stats

The Average Sales Price for single family homes in Austin was up 4.8% from the year before, to $246,595. The number of homes sold sales was down 5.4% from January a year ago, probably due at least in part to freezing weather that shut the city down for several days, and otherwise cold weather in general. Our Median Sales Price for Jan is up 3% to $176,305 and the average price per square foot of homes sold is up 5.4% to $118. I haven’t had time to get the area breakdowns done. I may start doing those quarterly.

From an anecdotal standpoint, Sylvia and I are busier than we’ve been since last summer. Seems like once the cold weather broke, activity literally spiked overnight and we’re on pace for a personal record month – in February of all months, with many of our Buyer deals encountering multiple offers. Stats chart is below. Also, in case you missed it, the End of Year 2006 Austin Real Estate Market Summary breakdown has a lot of info and appreciation stats for the Austin Real Estate market.

Austin Sales Stats January 2007
Previous Month and Year Comparison
All MLS Areas - Houses Only

Dec 2006
Jan 2007
Jan 2006
Yr % Change
# Sold
Avg List Price
Median List Price
Avg Sold Price
Med Sold Price
Avg Size SQFT
Median SQFT
Avg $ per SQFT
Avg Days on Mkt
Median Days on Mkt

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

The Joy of Hauling Junk to the South Austin Dump

junk I made 3 trips to the South Austin dump today, helping a dear friend clear junk in preparation for a move. It’s one of the obligations of being a truck owner – helping friends with no truck get things done which require a truck.

I have a confession to make. I have a charge account at the dump. I’ve had one since 1995, when Sylvia and I were remodeling a fixer-upper that required over twenty 16ft trailer loads of junk and debris to be hauled from the home, the rear part of which we demolished and tore down.

I opened the commercial charge account for convenience back then, but it’s been handy to have ever since. I just drive in and park on the scales, walk to the window and give my name, then stop on the scales on the way out. The bill comes at the end of the month.

I used to joke that having a charge account at the dump makes me a sophisticated redneck. (yes, I’m a Jeff Foxworthy fan).

Another confession – I enjoy going to the dump and being at the dump. Wearing my ratty old Levi’s that are inappropriate for any occasion other than hauling junk. Putting on my work boots – the same old ones I had in 1995. Getting dirty and tossing worthless stuff out of the back of a pickup truck. Breathing the foul air. Getting a scratch on my un-calloused hands. Feeling like I’m doing actual physical work instead of just pecking at a computer, talking on the phone, or driving around all day showing or previewing homes.

There’s something cleansing and freeing about the physical letting go of clutter and junk – even stuff that’s not mine. And it’s a nice break from the normal day-to-day grind of being a Realtor.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Keller Williams Austin

Last week at the Keller Williams Family Reunion in Las Vegas the Austin Southwest Market Center was again named the Number One Real Estate office in the WORLD for Closed Units! That is for all real estate offices in the WORLD, not just Keller Williams!

Sylvia and I are proud to work out of the Southwest Market Center at Keller Williams in Austin. Other independent agents and Brokers we’ve know for years in Austin wondered why we went from being Crossland Real Estate, a small Mom-and-Pop Property Management and Sales company, to the other end of the spectrum in joining the single biggest real estate office in the world. “Why would you want to share your commissions when you’ve already proven you can make it as an independent Broker?” is a common question we’ve heard.

Well, let’s look at the math. Essentially, we pay Keller Williams $18,000 per year plus $80 per deal for E&O Insurance. What do we get in return? A lot. Going back on our own means we’d have to rent an office, furnish and equip it with everything we need, plus keep our home office equipped since that’s where we work from most often. Our insurance costs would be very high compared to what we pay now. We wouldn’t have the free training (yes, even after 16+ years we still constantly attend trainings) and “Lunch and Learns” (free lunch AND education!).

Most of all, we’d lose the culture, camaraderie and synergy that comes with being in constant contact with so many other Keller Williams agents who are at the top of their game. When we were Mom-and-Pop, there were nice aspects of that also, but we were isolated and left to our own means when a tough problem or question came up. We mainly only bumped elbows with other agents when we were doing deals, and that’s not the same as sharing ideas and information with peers. With Keller Williams, we have incredible resources at our disposal which benefit us and our clients and the constant contact with other agents helps us stay focused on our business.

Finally, the Keller Williams footprint in Austin is huge. Keller Williams sells about 1 out of 5 homes in Austin. We’ve had clients choose us simply because they wanted a Keller Williams Agent in Austin, and we’re the ones they found when they typed a search. It’s hard to put a value on that sort of intangible benefit.

Thinking about a career in real estate? Call me or Sylvia and we’ll give you the scoop – the good, bad and the ugly – of working and surviving in real estate and working with Keller Williams.

Posted by Steve
9 years ago
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