Sylvia and I usually attend an annual Austin Real Estate Economic Update to find out what the coming year holds. This year, I exclaimed to her, “Why bother? It’s going to be full tilt boogie, just like 2013“. I mean, Austin is rumbling along with all cylinders firing. There is nothing I need to hear about 2014 that I don’t already know. We’re gonna be working our butts off and house prices are going to keep rising.
For many, this is good news. If you’re going to sell a home in Austin this Spring or Summer, you’ll be happy. If you’re buying a home in Austin, you better have an “A Game”, and you better be ready to bring it. And I mean bring it. You don’t buy a house in Austin anymore, you compete for one. Oddly, you’ll be happy too, when you finally win a multiple bid competition and pay too much for a house.
Many of our Realtor friends had record production years in 2013, as did Sylvia and I. Most are looking forward to another busy year in 2014. But I don’t like it. I don’t want to be this busy. And I think, to some degree, these manic real estate swings and rising values are ruining Austin, and the real estate profession. Everything has become hyper-instant. Everything is Urgent. Sylvia called on a new listing the morning of Jan 2nd which had already gone under contract with 7 offers New Years Day. This wasn’t even in a “hot” area. Why aren’t people sleeping in on New Year’s Day instead of out fighting over a house?
I know. It’s a weird thing to complain about, being busy, doing well, enjoying professional success. Shame on me.
And real estate is a cyclical business, so the ups and downs are “normal”. Last year we put in many 15 and 18 hour days. Up at 6AM getting on top of emails, still up at Midnight sending an Addendum or Offer to a client. Working deals while on an attempted vacation. Stopping at a McDonalds with the laptop while on the road to get on WiFi to write an offer for a client who stumbled into an open house that already had multiple offers. (Our buyer won that one by the way). Listening to the kids say “can you please stop talking about real estate” when we are supposed to be having family time and a fun night out on a Florida vacation, but we spend most of the time working instead because it just never stops.
Then rinse and repeat the next day, the next week, month and now, year.
Feast or Famine, as the saying goes. So after the down years between 2008-2011, when we (Austin Realtors) all had to tighten our belts, this “up market” is suppose to be the reward for those who survive and hang in there instead of dropping out of the real estate business. And many, many did drop, like flies. Good riddance.
But something feels different. Austin is changing, and we’re in the middle of it as Realtors, seeing it happen on the front line. It’s exciting and fantastic, but something seems off and not right on the whole. And somehow I feel responsible, though I know it’s not my fault personally.
If you’ve kept up with the news in Austin at all this past year, you know that Affordability and Traffic are becoming the two big issues for Austin’s future. Many just can’t afford to live here anymore, at least not Central. Families are fleeing to the suburbs where they find more home for the money and better schools. And more traffic and longer commutes. In becoming a big event destination city and party playground for the world (yes, the world), Austin has become a victim of its own success. It’s changing and will never be the same. It’s hard to watch. The Disneyfication of Austin. It’s all a Theme Park now.
For those of us who’ve lived in Austin a while (me since 1985, Sylvia since childhood), it’s with mixed emotions that we witness these changes. That said, I’m sure there were people in 1983 complaining about all the growth back then, and how it was ruining Austin. And in 2035 there will be someone saying “when I got to Austin in 2015 it was awesome, now it’s just over priced and overcrowded“. We all think 20 years ago was a magical, better time and that it’s now all going to hell. People in every city think this about their city. I understand that.
But still. Something different is going on in Austin. More than just the demise of the Slacker Culture, it’s the birth of the single wealthy Techie, like what happened in the Bay Area. This will at the same time make Austin better and worse. There remains much to love about Austin, but plenty to mourn as well.
Thinking of moving here? Come on in, the water’s great. Though you may need to lay your towel in Pflugerville because all the other spots are either taken or too expensive.