Austin Real Estate Market Update Aug 2018

The Austin real estate market has begun to level off and slow down a bit, but that fact is not yet fully reflected in the market statistics, other than Days on Market creeping up. Nevertheless, Median Sold price is up to $322K, an increase of 8% over August 2017.

I see more price drops coming across the listing update feeds I follow as well, and I also see more “back on market” listings.  This softening of the Austin real estate market may more fully appear in the September through December stats as I expect Days on Market to keep rising and price increases to slow.

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How to Save for a Home Purchase In Austin TX

Austin median home values 2008-July 2018

Historically in Texas, homes have appreciated at 4.5% annually (according to Texas A&M Real Estate Center). This is the expected appreciation we use when making real estate investment assumptions as well. For example, a $200,000 home would increase in value to $209,000 if appreciation was 4.5% for that year.

If you wanted to save for 1 year a 5% downpayment for a $200,000 home in Austin, you would save 5% of the future value of the home, not the current value. You would save for a $209K purchase, $10,450, not $10,000, if saving just for 1 year.

Starting in about 2012, homes in Austin have appreciated at a much greater rate, closer to 8% annually. This makes it harder to save for a down payment, like chasing a vanishing horizon. Also, there are no more $200,000 homes. The median value of a home in Austin is now about $400,000 if you want to actually be in Austin itself, versus the greater Austin outskirts areas.

So, today, if you want to save for a $400K median value Austin home, and you want to buy it in 3 years with a 5% downpayment, for example, and 8% annual appreciation rates continue, you will need to assume the median value Austin home will cost $503,885 in 3 year. That really sucks doesn’t it? If you are trying to live cheap and save for a downpayment? Waiting 3 years will cost you another $100K in purchase price.

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The Growing Acceptance of Real Estate Value Inaccuracy

What is my Austin Home Worth

What is your Austin home worth, right now? When considering a sale, it’s generally worth “market value”, defined loosely as the highest price a buyer would pay, and that a seller will accept in an open, competitive market. This assumes neither buyer nor seller are under any undue stress or duress external to the transaction itself.

Many homeowners want to know their home value even when not considering a sale. Such as when protesting assessed property value at Travis County. Or maybe you are just curious, or you want to update your Net Worth spreadsheet with a current value.

If you don’t want the “market” to determine your home value, because you don’t want to sell, there now exists a plethora of “Automated Valuation Model” (AVM) tools that will tell you the supposed value of your home online based on mathematical algorithms and data. The most well know is perhaps the Zestimate on Zillow.

Let’s take a look at these AVM tools and see how accurate they are. I’ll use a home I own in SW Austin as the subject property, as I am preparing to sell it and in the process of determining the best list price.

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Should you keep your Austin rental home or sell?

Is Rental Property Investing in Austin Still Profitable?

It’s the start of 2016 and already I’ve received a few inquiries from my investor clients wondering whether they should hold on to their rental property, or sell this year. It’s a conversation I have multiple times with multiple clients each year, and it’s a question Sylvia and I sometimes ask ourselves about our own rental property. Especially given the appreciation gains of the past 5 years in Austin. So this article will walk through some of the questions you might ask yourself when contemplating whether to sell your real estate asset, based on how I look at the question with my own rental properties.

The first questions to ask yourself are:
1) Do you need the money? and
2) What will you do with the money?

I normally don’t make it past those two questions, because the answers for me are are “no” and “I don’t know”.

For most, the equity would simply go into almost zero-interest savings or CD accounts, or into the stock market. Having just watched The Big Short, watched my Mutual Fund IRAs tread water last year, and then take a dive the first week of 2016, I’m pretty OK with leaving my real estate alone.

But if you have a defined purpose for the money, such as purchasing your retirement home, or funding a child’s college costs, those reasons can make sense. Using it to fund lifestyle adventures, like buying a boat or an RV, would be a bad idea though, in my opinion. Unless it’s part of an overall “next chapter” of retirement, and it’s time to spend that money.

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Texas Buyer Inspection Deadline to Move to 5PM Instead of Midnight

Inspection Deadline

One of the more vexing and frustrating aspects of managing a Texas real estate transaction is what we agents call “clearing the Option Period”. The Option/Inspection Period is the agreed upon number of days during which a Buyer can unilaterally terminate the purchase contract. It’s usually 5-10 days.

The buyer doesn’t need a reason. It’s a straight up right to terminate, for which the seller is paid a nominal fee, usually less than $500.

The problem is that, per the current contract language, a 7 day Option Period ends at midnight on the 7th day. I don’t know about you, but whether you’re a buyer, seller or agent, none of us like being up at 11:45PM waiting for an Amendment and wondering if the deal is going to crater. It’s one of the stupidest things we do, and nobody likes it, but it happens repeatedly.

A proposed change to the One to Four Family Residential Contract (sales contract) will move that deadline to 5PM on the final day. This makes me very happy. Agents need to learn to take care of business during business hours. Real Estate is not a 9-5 profession, but neither is it supposed to be the graveyard shift at the end of every option period.

From a listing agent standpoint, it’s not our problem, or the seller’s, if the buyer agent and buyer can’t complete their “due diligence” within the first few days of the contract. We do with our buyers because we’ve already talked to the inspector and know his availability, and we have plumbers, electricians, HVAC people who can do followup evaluations same or next day. Every buyer agent worth his or her salt should be providing these resources and pre-established vendor connections to their buyers. Those who can’t or won’t should get out of the business. 

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Austin Real Estate Predictions for 2015

Austin home sales 2005-2014

What will the real estate market in Austin do for 2015?

Most likely, more of the same. More of what we saw in 2013 and 2014 Spring/Summer selling seasons, which was strong price increases caused by limited supply and increasing demand. Especially in the central core areas of Austin but not limited to just those areas. Even homes in Pflugerville get multiple offers now.

The increasing demand is coming from job growth in Austin, which is showing no signs of abating in 2015. Unemployment in Austin is a low 4%. Simply put, barring a major macroeconomic event that affects our local economy and job growth, our housing market will keep chugging along and prices will continue to rise. Nothing will stop it short term, but it will top out eventually and take a breather. Maybe in 2 or 3 years from now.

The recent drop in oil prices will affect Texas to some small degree, maybe Houston mostly, but represents nothing more than a pothole in the road for Austin currently. If anything, it could free up a bunch of construction labor that fled to the oil fields for higher pay, which would help the new home builders increase volume. New home construction is currently restricted by labor shortage and low availability of build-ready lots, which exasperates the effort to meet demand.

Current, Past and Future Values
The median value of a home in the Austin Metro area is now about $250,000. Average value will probably break $350K this summer. A decade ago median sales price was about $150,000 and the average was $225,000. That’s really only a 5% annual increase roughly, which is what we expect over a decade of time, but so much of it has happened the past few years that it feels like too much too fast.

Also, and of concern, much of the appreciation is concentrated in the central “core” areas of Austin proper, which is no longer affordable to service workers or median income families. I sold a home last summer in 78704 zipcode for $290K which sold for $58K 18 years earlier. That’s bumping a 10% annual appreciation rate over two decades. Same with a home we bought in Westlake in the low $300s in 2010 and sold for $500K in 2014. That’s a 10% annual increase over 4 years.

And wages haven’t kept up, so the median income buyer who wants to live in Austin proper, close in, will continue to be pushed out into the suburbs like Leander where a home at or near $200K is still doable, but where they will have to endure ever worsening and soul crushing commutes on our congested roads.

How Should Austintes feel about this?
The value appreciation of Austin home prices gives me mixed feelings.

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