This year I leased 36 homes through the Austin MLS, plus some that never made it into the MLS. So probably 40+ leases this year. I would have leased another one and moved the people in this Friday the 30th, but they refused to sign the lease, so it didn’t happen.
A lease starts with an Application for Rental. Once a tenant is approved, we send the lease agreement via DocuSign, which allows the tenant to read and sign it securely online. Once I’ve signed off on behalf of my owner client, a copy of the completed lease agreement is automatically delivered via pdf attachment to all tenants who signed.
This paperless system is pretty cool, but it doesn’t provide for the face to face sit down that we had in the old days when we signed leases. Instead, tenants can email or call me with questions about the lease before signing.
The lease we use is the standard Texas Association of Realtors lease agreement. When I started leasing homes in Austin in 1990, the lease we used was 3 pages long. Today’s TAR Lease Agreement is 14 pages. Some tenants sign the lease without reading it carefully, judging by the short elapsed time between me sending and a tenant signing. Other tenants read the entire lease carefully, which is what I want every tenant to do. A lease agreement is a legally binding contract and a tenant should understand the obligations being entered into. Some tenants take issue with terms and conditions of the lease, and want me to make changes, which is what happened on the latest deal. But I don’t alter our leases for anyone, for any reason. Here’s why.
Rents continue to rise in Austin as more buyers opt to be renters and the supply of homes shrinks relative to demand. See the graph below for a snap shot of the wild ride Austin rental rates have taken since 1999.
It took over a decade for Austin’s rental rates to return to their 2001 peaks. Good for renters but it’s been a rough 10 years for landlords. And not all homes are back to pre-2001 rates, these are just the averages.
For November 2011 compared to a year ago, let’s take a look at the chart below.
Almost a year ago I wrote about the Austin Short Term Rental (aka STR, Vacation Rental, VRBO) issues surfacing in the Austin community. That blog article generated 57 comments and a lot of heated back and forth. I eventually had to close the comments for that article because I felt everything had been said that could be said at that stage of the process. This article is an update on what has happened with STRs in Austin since the last blog post, and what will happen next.
The issue has moved forward through a “Working Group” process which concluded last August. City Staff is currently reviewing a draft set of regulations. The full Planning Commission will consider the recommendation after City Staff finishes the review. From there, a Code Amendment and set of new rules will be sent to Austin City Council. That probably won’t happen until 2012.
The Working Group Process
I participated in the Working Group process in the role of a Government Affairs Committee member of the Austin Board of Realtors. The Austin Board of Realtors involves itself in any local issue which could affect the private property rights of home owners. In many ways, ABOR is somewhat of a “Silent Knight'” working for the benefit of Austin homeowners, though most home owners are probably unaware that they are served in this manner.
ABOR seeks to protect the rights of property owners and opposes rules or laws that would diminish the private property rights of Austin property owners. The ABOR position on Short Term Rentals in Austin is, in short:
The Austin Board of REALTORS® supports preserving the character of Austin neighborhoods and protecting the quality of life of its residents. ABoR also believes homeowners have a right to lease their homes, regardless of the length of the lease, without municipal licensing requirements or registration fees. We also believe that the City of Austin should hold formal stakeholder meetings to address the issues concerning short-term rentals and develop a solution that balances the needs of neighborhood residents and residential property investors.
The stakeholder meetings did occur, a middle ground was determined which, as predicted in my earlier article, didn’t give either side the warm fuzzies, but that’s how these things go.
Sylvia and I recently installed new hardwood floors in our entire home. Bedrooms, closets, kitchen, hallway, etc. Everywhere except the laundry room and 2 bathrooms, which received new tile the month before. The process of doing this in an occupied home required a packing and moving of stuff not dissimilar to actually moving. Every part of the home had to be emptied out completely, just not all at once. So we migrated piles of stuff from one part of the house to the other as the new floors were installed. Meanwhile, we lived in a semi-construction zone for 10 days.
I learned a lot about wood flooring and the install process, but this article is about our stuff. I heard myself say at some point, while carting boxes out to the garage, and will now quote myself, “how is it possible that people who have gotten rid of so much stuff still have so much stuff?!”
No joke, our living space over the last 4 homes in 12 years looks like a bell curve. We’ve gone from 2,000 sqft to 3,700 to 3,300 and now down to 1,800 square feet. During each move, we’ve parted ways with what seemed like massive amounts of stuff. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of moving. The cleansing and thinning out of the material barnacles that cling to us as we live life. We could fill a semi trailer with all the stuff we’ve given to Goodwill over the years. Especially on this last move going from 3,300 sqft down to 1,800.
Yet, here I am trying to move stuff out of the way for new floors and I just can’t believe we still have too much. How do people who’ve unloaded so much still have too much? By only getting rid of the easy stuff. Now it’s down to the emotional stuff, and that’s harder. Way harder.
Where exactly is “Westlake” in Austin? Well, it depends on which boundaries you use. In the broadest sense, “Westlake” is considered to be those areas which attend Westlake High School, or those areas within the Eanes ISD boundaries, as shown on this map.
So, in general terms, the area west of Austin known as “Westlake” is everything that feeds into Eanes ISD schools.
If a buyer tells us they want a home that attends “Westlake Schools”, we will restrict the search in the Austin MLS to homes where School District = Eanes ISD aka “Westlake Schools”.
Many people also think of “Westlake” as the 78746 zipcode. In fact, the entire 78746 zipcode is contained within the boundaries of Eanes ISD, except for a small southern portion that crosses Barton Creek into the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Austin ISD. None of that area is developed though, so all homes in the 78746 zipcode attend Eanes ISD schools.
The 78733 zipcode is also contained within Eanes ISD. This includes neighborhoods such as Barton Creek West and Cuernavaca. But if you ask people there where they live, they are more likely to self-identify with the neighborhood rather than say “Westlake”. See map below.
Below are the Austin housing market stats for October 2011 and year to date.
|Austin Sales Market Update – October 2011|
|Homes only (condos, duplexes, etc. not included) compiled from Austin MLS data|
|Sep 2011||Oct 2011||Oct 2010||Yr % Change|
|Avg $ SQFT||$113.57||$115.78||$116.04||-0.23%|
|Not Sold %||44.39%||45.79%||58.29%||-21.45%|
As shown above, average and median sold prices are down 2.3% and 3.6% for Oct 2011 compared to Oct 2010. The number of homes sold increased and the number of failed sales efforts (Withdrawn or Expired) decreased. The sold to list price ratio increased a bit and the Days on Market improved.
Nothing really suprising or new here. The Austin real etstae market is still moving along somewhat, treading water for the most part. See the Year to Date and 44 month graphs below.