I’ve been working with buyers recently looking in Central Austin neighborhoods. A recurring scenario always develops. Buyers are in love with neighborhoods such as Allandale, Travis Heights, Zilker, Barton Hills, Hyde Park, East Austin, etc., but cannot find an acceptable home to purchase in the Central Austin areas they love.
A couple of months ago we did get lucky and find a newer home in an older Allandale area and my buyers got exactly what they wanted at the price they wanted. More recently though, after exhausting all available inventory in Allandale, a different set of buyers finally gave up. We eventually found a great house in a Northwest Austin “family subdivision” of cookie-cutter homes that is now awaiting closing. The buyers are, however, very, very happy with the home they are buying, having decided against being hard core Central-Dwellers.
This is a common outcome for buyers who start off in love with Central Austin. Many end up in a newer subdivision further out because the just can’t handle the Central Austin housing stock.
This morning, I received a call from an agent about a lease listing I have in East Austin. “Will the owners consider selling instead of renting?” she wanted to know. “Let me guess”, I responded. “Your buyer wants East Austin but you’ve shown all the available inventory and it’s all either over priced or too ratty, or you keep losing out to multiple offers”. Bingo.
The buyer, I was told, has lost out on multiple instances of multiple offers, losing the last one even after bidding $14K over list price. Ouch. Been there, done that with buyers myself. Very frustrating. Welcome to the Central Austin home buying experience.
So, the Austin everyone falls in love with – the non-cookie-cutter central areas with charming homes on tree lined streets close to everything, walking distance to the funky little coffee shop and the hip new restaurant and 6-12 minutes from work – contains these older Austin homes that are actually not suitable for the majority of buyers who fall in love with the neighborhoods in which they are located. That’s the reality of it.
It’s sort of like being enamored by the aura and ambiance that cool, funky hippy chick you met at the party last Saturday night. The conversation was great and you had the time of your life! You think about her constantly for three days and you’re certain it’s real love. Then over lunch in the light of day three days later you realize she has some deal breaker “issues” going on that you’d really rather avoid dealing with.
Central Austin is that cool hippy chick and you’re just some poor dude with good credit who wears Dockers, works in a cube and wants desperately to be anything other than a bland, normal person. You want to be a cool Austinite, or that cool couple living in Central Austin, near a park where your dog can run. But when you and/or your wife get inside that charming Craftsman in Hyde Park and get your first look at that grungy small bathroom, you immediately feel repulsed and rule out that house. Could you really be expected to get by in a 5×8 master bath with a commode, standard tub and a one pedestal lavatory sink? “Who can wake up to that every day?” you might wonder.
And this continues until frustration and deflation cause a rethinking of either your price range, home size/condition and/or location. Suddenly, Circle C, with big soaking tubs and separate showers, separate commode closet, double vanity sinks and huge master closets seems much closer to downtown than before, especially when you walk into a $350K home in Circle C and compare it to what you get for $350K two blocks from the cool coffee shop.
So how does one actually find a suitable home in Central Austin? You have to either lower your standards or raise your price. One word: Compromise.