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.