Monday, December 15, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN REAL ESTATE: Featured Property- 12702 Wittmer Dr Austin, TX 78729

Northwest Austin Real Estate: Featured Property- 12702 Wittmer Dr Austin, TX 78729
This beautiful home is situated on a quiet street in the much sought after subdivision of Milwood Northwest Austin.
This is a property that I have listed currently and it has a NEW REDUCED PRICE!!! This property has been PRE-INSPECTED! Fresh Paint! PERGO floors! New black matching appliances! Oak cabinets with adjustable 2-way under cabinet lighting. This home is close to area park, playground, hike and bike trail, and pool. Excellent local schools. Round Rock ISD. Huge trees in front and back that have been professionally cared for. Storage shed in backyard. Make this Northwest Austin house your home!
If you are interested in making an appointment to view this property or any property currently listed with any broker, please contact me.

Posted by Brian W Martin is a REALTOR for The Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams that enjoys working with home sellers locally in Northwest Austin.

Friday, December 12, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Hunters Chase and Milwood Subdivisions- What can you get for the money?

Northwest Austin Real Estate: When people are looking to purchase a home in Northwest Austin, there is definitely a selection of homes in a range of prices. If you are looking in 78759 around Balcones Woods, prices can range from about $230,000 to well over $350,000 whereas if you travel north on Highway 183 about 2 miles to the subdivisions of Hunters Chase and Milwood in 78729 comparable homes sell anywhere from $170,000 to $270,000.

Hunters Chase and Milwood are similar in location and home values. The area generally referred to as Milwood or Hunters Chase has boundaries of Anderson Mill to the North, Parmer to the East, Highway 183 (Research) to the West and McNeil Dr. to the South. Older sections of Milwood extend south of McNeil and West of Parmer. Hunters Chase is part of a POA (Property Owners Association) and Milwood is not part of a POA or HOA. Otherwise, to most people they are generally seen as the same in terms of value, house types, schools, age, and amenities.
I live in Hunters Chase and work with numerous buyers and sellers in the area. Both subdivisions have area pools, parks, playgrounds, soccer fields, tennis courts and there are various hike and bike trails. The amenities for Hunters Chase are paid through POA quarterly installments. Rattan Creek park has great amenities including a larger pool that homeowners can purchase memberships for use.
Another big draw for buyers of Northwest Austin Homes is the central location for those working in Round Rock, Cedar Park, North Austin, and even Central and Downtown Austin. It is very close to area mega corporations such as; Freescale, IBM, Apple, and Dell.
Hunters Chase and Milwood are great areas for families because the schools are a part of Round Rock ISD (RRISD) and the schools have an exemplary rating. Most of the homes in this area were built around 15-25 years ago. Many of the homes have been updated to some degree. You get a great value for what you pay. For around $240,000 you can find a large 1 or 2 story about 2300-2700 sq. ft. that has been recently updated. If you don't mind doing a little updating yourself, you could find a similar home that might need minor updating around 200,000 to 235,000. Currently, I have a listing in on a quiet street in Milwood Austin. Check out for more details. There is a good selection of other homes in the NW Austin area, Click HERE to search for other homes that are currently available.
In Hunters Chase I have a listing that is currently under contract. It was placed under contract in only 54 days! If you are thinking of selling, contact me to find out how we got it SOLD!
Posted by Brian W Martin REALTOR for The Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams enjoys working local and Assisting Buyers and Sellers of homes in Hunters Chase and Milwood in Northwest Austin, TX

Friday, December 5, 2008


NORTHWEST AUSTIN REAL ESTATE is bucking the national trend right now. Historically slow time in other parts of the country gives us a lot of national news that makes buyers and sellers weary of doing anything real estate related. Well, in Austin, Sellers are still selling and buyers are still buying. This brought up an idea for a blog post. We focus so much on how to sell your house or how to get the best price selling your house but, what happens when your prospective house is under contract?? Time to move...

I personally have a good amount of moving experience. It is definitly a task. I often get asked for recommendations when it comes to movers but recently was asked by the owners of one of my listings for any resources for boxes. I understand this question all too well. Of course he wasn't asking where the boxes are, anyone can spend a ton of money buying boxes from uhaul or a "box place". He wanted to know how to save some money and still safely pack their belongings. I started by telling him that I had a personal stash of boxes, wardrobe boxes, moving blankets and even a furniture dolly in my attic. I offered these to him to borrow and he gladly accepted. Later in the day, he stopped by and I helped him load the supplies in his car. There are some good resources if you dont know someone with their own stash.

-Watch the free section on search "boxes" they go quick so you may miss out if you are casually looking. Some people also sell gently used boxes on craigslist. Thats cool if you dont mind going to someones house in the hopes that the boxes are actually "good" boxes.

-I was told there are decent deals at Home Depot.

-I have had some sucess by calling the local market or even supermarket and asking to speak to the manager. It is best to speak to the overnight/morning manager. Let them know your situation and see if they can keep some boxes for you. If you dont call they will bale all of the boxes they have from re-stocking before you wake up. The main thing with this idea is to not wait until the day you want to pack. Start early!

-Today I came across They not only have new boxes but used boxes, box kits and free next day delivery in Austin for orders over $95. Otherwise you can pick up in Round Rock near Mopac and 35 or in Del Valle.

I really like the idea of used boxes because boxes can be used numerous times and it is a good way to prevent waste and save a bunch of money. The boxes that I stash in my attic have been used a few times and they have plenty of life left. I will gladly loan them out again. If you have a chance to check out ecobox or have other ideas, let me know.

Posted by Brian W Martin REALTOR for The Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams truly enjoys Assisting home owners to sell a house in Northwest Austin, TX

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Featured Listing: 8111 Flashpan Cove Austin TX 78729

8111 Flashpan Cove Austin, TX 78729
Check out this great house! Located on a large lot on the corner of a cul-de-sac, this home is centrally located in the much sought after subdivision of Hunters Chase in NW Austin. Exceptional Round Rock ISD Schools. Short walk to elementry school and area pool, tennis courts, park, and playground. Beautiful landscaping in front and back. Enjoy your evening with a built in hot tub in the back yard. Trampoline and Playscape can convey.

UPDATE!!!: This home is currently under contract but please contact me if you would like to find a great home to buy. This home is also accepting back up offers in case you are interested.

If you would like to view this property in person, please contact me.
Posted by Brian W Martin REALTOR for The Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams that loves to help local home owners sell in the shortest time possible. Brian is a RESIDENT REALTOR in HUNTERS CHASE Austin, TX

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Austin Real Estate: A new building material emerges

Austin Real Estate: Greenstar Blox are a new product that is developed in Mason, TX. They are similar in the way the can be used to cinder blocks. They are different because they are produced with 65% recycled paper and lottery tickets. The new blox are twice as strong as cinder blocks and 1/3 the weight. The blox are also fire, water, termite, mold and bullet proof. They are also an extremly efficient product working as added insulation in buildings providing drastically lower utility bills. What does this have to do with Austin Real Estate? Everything. As new products are developed, the way homes are built have the possibility of changing dramatically. As the focus of companies shifts to more energy efficient projects and procedures we should see a bunch of new materials like this emerge. Are you interested in buying an energy efficient home? Give me a call.

Posted by Brian W Martin REALTOR for The Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams likes to stay on the cutting edge of green homes in Austin, TX. Brian is a RESIDENT REALTOR of Hunters Chase Austin, TX.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Austin Real Estate: Search for Homes

AUSTIN REAL ESTATE: SEARCH FOR HOMES IN THE MLS- I just wanted to update everyone to let you know that I have added a search button at the end of this post. If you are thinking of buying or know someone who is this is an extremely helpful tool. It allows you to save your searches (with a simple registration) and you are able to access all of the listing currently available in the Austin MLS. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Posted by Brian W Martin REALTOR for The Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams specializing in Assisting Internet Savvy of Residential Real Estate in Northwest Austin, TX

Thursday, August 21, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Make sure you understand what you are reading about Austin Real Estate

"Central Texas home sales declined for the 13th consecutive month in July, and a record 10,913 homes were on the market. The picture could worsen for the next 18 months before a turnaround comes, a veteran mortgage broker predicts.
Austin-area real estate agents sold 2,071 homes, down nearly 21 percent from a year ago, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. From January through July, 12,971 homes were sold, an 18 percent drop compared with the same period last year.
The year-to-date declines were evident in all price ranges, with the steepest drops at the high and low ends of the spectrum.
Sales were down 30.6 percent for homes priced between $100,000 and $129,999, and down 33 percent for homes costing $1 million or more.
The drops were lowest for mid-price homes, with a 5 percent decline in sales between $200,000 and $249,999.
Rising foreclosures are adding to the housing troubles. In Travis County, foreclosure postings for the September auction are up 45 percent from last year. They're up 34 percent in Williamson County, according to Foreclosure Listing Service Inc. in Addison.
Still, experts continue to say that Austin's market is the envy of many other cities. The median price continues to rise, up 3 percent last month to $195,000."

Click here for complete story
This is an article from the Austin American Statesman yesterday. The article is using information to highlight a downturn in the Austin Housing Market. I will never understand what the media has to gain by making the housing market seem worse than it really is. People see headlines that say home sales down 20% from last year and they think,"Oh, that means a $200,000 valued home in 2007 is now worth $160,000 because that is 20% less". The 20% thata the stats are based on is 20% less volume not sales price. The problem is that is not spelled out in the article they just say 20%......20% of WHAT?

There are plenty of reasons why there is less activity this year than prior years. There are less lenders, more strict qualifying for home buyers, the disappearance of no down and some low down loan programs and a weakening economy. Also, the article focuses on differences in properties in extremely high or extremely low price ranges. In the $200,000 to $250,000 price range which is the average Austin area home, has seen a difference in volume of 5%. The extremly low priced houses are not moving as much because "no-down" programs have gone away for buyers and investors alike. Higher priced homes are effected by the strict standards for jumbo loans and premium rates for higher loans.

In a lot of areas in Northwest Austin for example, homes are taking a little longer to sell but the home prices are continuing to rise. The homeowners that are losing money on their homes right now are the people that need to sell now for relocation or financial reasons. In this market, it is essential to plan ahead, price the home competitively, and make sure the home appeals to a large group of buyers by taking personal effects out of the home and changing personal paint or decorations so prospective buyers are not distracted from the home. The homeowners that make the neccisary changes are selling their homes and moving on. If you would like my help in getting yourr home ready for the market, contact me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Wrap Around" Financing?? No Thank You!

We’ve all heard the term, “wrap around,” but what exactly does it mean? A wrap around mortgage, or simply a “wrap,” is an agreement where the buyer of a property makes monthly payments to the seller of a property, who then pays the original lender each month. This is perceived as a way of an owner “selling” a property to a buyer without the buyer obtaining conventional financing.
While a wrap can be viewed as a traditional sale, in reality it’s anything but.
All mortgage loans contain a “due on sale” clause. That means if the current owner of the property sells or otherwise transfers ownership then the lender can immediately call the loan in completely. In other words the lender says, “Okay, you sold the property, we want our money.” In the past, the due on sale clause was not as prevalent, but now all mortgage loans contain such language.
So how would the lender ever know? First, if it’s a legal transfer of ownership, the sale would be recorded and therefore become public record. Lenders would receive notice from the companies they employ to monitor such transactions. The lender could also find out following the change of the original owner’s mailing address.
Now say the owner of the property tells you that they could “carry the note” for you if all you did was make monthly payments directly to him or her. If your agreement was to pay $2,000 per month, those funds could then be directly applied to their original mortgage payment.
Many wrap arrangements require a substantial down payment from the buyer along with the agreement to make a mortgage payment above and beyond what the real mortgage payment requires. Wraps are typically made because the buyer, the seller or both are unable to secure financing. While it may appear to be a solution to a tough problem, a wrap around mortgage is inherently problematic (and generally not worth the trouble).
For example, what would happen if the seller was notified by the lender that an illegal transfer of ownership took place and the lender activates the no-sale clause and wants all its money back?
First, the seller would have to immediately refinance the current note, which would be nearly impossible because the property would have been sold. A new lender wouldn’t finance the new deal nor would the buyer, because the lender wouldn’t recognize the new owner.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, what if the buyer indeed made the monthly payments on a regular basis but the owner somehow fell behind and didn’t make the payments to the original lender? The lender would be forced to foreclose on the original owner, meaning that the new buyer would lose the down payment and payments to the original owner!
A wrap around isn’t a “last resort” method of financing, it’s a “no resort.” Violating the terms of a mortgage, having the mortgage called in by the lender and the buyer losing his down payment and presumed equity with no legal ownership rights is a losing proposition for everyone!

Monday, July 14, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Want to buy a home? Need help with the down payment? The government may be able to help


For first-time buyers, often the first thought that comes to mind is, “I need a down payment.” This is often followed by the question, “Now, where do I get that down payment?”
Depending upon the loan type, a home mortgage typically requires 3 to 5 percent down. If you have the money, then you’re set. But what if you don’t? What if you’re renting? You can afford a mortgage within your means, but coming up with the down payment money needed to begin the transaction can be challenging. So, where can you turn?
One of the most overlooked sources of down payment funds is likely right under your nose—in the form of government bonds and local grant programs.
These programs either provide outright monetary grants for down payment or money to buyers in the form of a forgivable loan. In essence, the government will help you buy your home and you typically only have to pay back the money if and when you sell that same property.
In the past it was challenging to find these special programs, but now all you need is your agent, a computer, an Internet connection, and a search portal such as Google or Yahoo. Enter the search terms “down payment assistance (followed by your city, state or province)” and see what pops up! It might just be the answer to helping you buy your first home. Contact me if you would like additional information about how one of these programs may help you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Affordable Housing in Mueller Airport Development

"The new Mueller Foundation gave the couple an interest-free, no-payment second mortgage to cover the $55,000 difference between the $165,000 they paid and the market value of the house. When the couple eventually sell the house, they will have to repay that loan plus share part of any profit with the foundation to help future buyers with below-average incomes. Those include first-time buyers, teachers and retirees who otherwise would not be able to afford a Mueller house."
Click here for complete story
This housing development is located at the old airport near 51st and Airport in North/East Austin. The thing that makes this development different than others is that they have formed a foundation that assists people that would like to purchase a home but they can not afford to live in a central location in the city. The foundation helps to keep homes affordable in the way of a no interest second mortgage. Here is an example of how it works, if the market value of the home is $200,000 and the home buyer gets a loan for $150,000, the foundation gives them a second no interest loan for the additional $50,000. If in a few years, the home is sold for $300,000 the buyers pay back the original $50,000 and a portion of the profit made. In this case, the home owner would retain $75,000 and the development would receive an additional $25,000. The home buyers will have an affordable monthly payment and when the home is later sold, the development makes their money back in addition to a portion of the profit. The foundation then uses a portion of that profit to continue to offer affordable housing for future home buyers.

25% of the homes, apartments, and condominiums within Mueller are available as affordable housing. Home buyers must make 80 percent or less of the area's median family income, which is currently $56,900 for a family of four. The affordable homes are sprinkled throughout the development and are similar to the market value homes but may have different options included.

This is a great way to help someone that would like to be a homeowner and qualifies for this program. In today's economy, I speak with a lot of prospective home buyers with a decent salary and good credit but can not really afford the payment of a house that is centrally located. On one hand the home buyer is giving up part of the potential profit they could make while owning the home but they would probably not be able to afford to live there otherwise. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future of this development. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

According to Forbes, Austin is "Recession Proof"

"3. Austin, Texas
Median home price: +6.4%
Unemployment: 3.6% (from 3.8%)
Key growth: Natural resources and construction, +5.1%; leisure and hospitality, +5.3%
One of the hippest cities in the country has one of the lowest unemployment rates. The Austin region is home to Dell, and many tech companies from Apple to Sun Microsystems also maintain a significant presence. One difference between "Silicon Hills," as some call Austin's tech sector, and Silicon Valley? In Austin, the median home price is still under $200,000."

Click here to see which other cities made the list.
Forbes announced that Austin is among a list of cities that they consider "Recession Proof". They factor in things like the stats above- Unemployment Rate, Median Home Price and different industries that make up the local work force. This is nothing but good press and Austin gets this kind of advertising on pretty much a daily basis. As I have said in previous posts, the more people that would like to live hear is what drives businesses to base their operations here and directly influences current and future home prices to increase. What a great way to build your investment. What do you think?

Friday, June 20, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Austin named #6 in top ten cities to live and work


"Our approach this year to picking the ten best cities in which to live and work was simple: Look for places with strong economies and abundant jobs, then demand reasonable living costs and plenty of fun things to do."

Click here for complete story

Kiplinger Magazine recognized Austin as one of the top ten cities to live and work. Austin has been on plenty of "top ten" lists over the last five years or so. This absolutely helps our economy and housing market by bringing the city of Austin to the forefront of the minds of people looking to relocate as well as businesses looking to start a new division. With more businesses and people moving to Austin daily it will bring house prices up and with so many people relocating here, it is not hard to realize why our housing market is going strong. It was interesting to see other cities on the list like Provo UT, Sacramento, CA (where I grew up) and Houston. Check out the article when you get a chance.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beware of buying a home with "no money down"

"It's still possible to buy homes with no money down. In fact, it's possible to borrow as much as 105 percent of the purchase price, leaving the buyer with more debt than the house is worth.
It might sound like a pitch from a late-night infomercial, but the offer comes from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two government-chartered companies with potentially conflicting mandates to uphold prudent lending standards and make home-ownership more attainable.
Freddie Mac says its "HomePossible" mortgages can help buyers with limited credit or savings such as teachers, firefighters and members of the military."

Click here for complete article.

This is a news story from the Austin American Statesman that was published yesterday in the paper and online. Since lending issues became big news back in September of last year with the sub-prime lending fall out, I have been answering all kinds of questions about lending practices and what types of programs are still available. The lenders that I work with most often, have some really great plans available and rates have been low lately although they are rumored to rise in the somewhat near future.

This article is about how Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have mortgage programs that allow home buyers with limited credit or savings to borrow up to 105%!!! I really don't think this is a good move for most people in this situation. Home ownership is a big responsibility. I think a homeowner should be able to save at least 3-5% for a down payment on a home. Any less than that and the buyer is putting themself at a huge risk. Lets say Buyer "a" buys a $250,000 home with 10% down. They pay $25,000 at closing and owe $225,000 on the home. Buyer "b" purchases a $250,000 with no money down. Buyer a will not only have lower monthly payments because they owe less but also because they will probably qualify for a lower interest rate. If both of these buyers needed to sell their home in 6 months to a year because of an emergency or if they are being relocated for work, Buyer "b" would be in a pickle. They will be hard pressed to sell their home for an amount that will cover their mortgage, REALTOR commissions, and closing costs. Since they didn't have savings in the first place they may not have any at that time and they would be unable to close without a loan from another source. If Buyer "a' was in that situation, they could try to sell the home for at least what they bought it for and while they would see a loss, the sale is possible because they have equity in the home.
Some lenders have programs where the lender pays the buyers closing costs to help homebuyers with limited savings. These programs usually require at least 5% down but it does end up saving the buyer some of the money they need upfront.
Definitly plan ahead when thinking about buying a home. Please contact me if you think that now is the right time for you to buy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Round Rock man scams people looking to lease a house by posing as a Real Estate Agent

"Timothy Alonzo Nero did everything he could to convince customers he was a legitimate real estate agent, Round Rock police say.
The 25-year-old had business cards, a convincing company name — BGN Management— and two office addresses. In at least one case, he had a key to the home he was trying to rent out.
But after Nero collected $25 for an application fee and $499 for a discounted first month's rent, his potential renters found that the key he'd given them to 1008 Howell Terrace Place home didn't work, police say."

Click here for complete story

He found these people through advertising on There is a lesson to be learned here. If you are working with a Real Estate agent, you can verify their identity with the Texas Real Estate Commission as well as the Austin Board of Realtors.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gas prices drive up bus, rail ridership in Austin. How will it affect Real Estate?

"For the first four months of this year, Central Texans took 677,914 more trips system wide than during the same period in 2007--a 6.1 percent increase in ridership, according to data from the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Capital Metro's Park and Ride usage is also up this year, 13.3 percent over 2007. "

Click here for complete story

It is going to be ineresting if these gas trends continue (economic indicators say they will) to see how people change the way they use public transportation here in Austin. I imagine the resale price of my Prius is probably going up not down. It will be really interesting to look back in a year or two to see how home prices are going to be effected for properties that are closer to the new commuter rail, park and ride lots, or bus stops. I think the price will rise based on making that a more desireable location (similar to living closer to downtown) This is also a time that we will see a rise in home values in areas like Northwest Austin, Cedar Park and Leander as we get closer to the opening of the NW Commuter rail. What do you think?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Austin named #2 Metro area to offer the best job opportunities for young adults.

Group No. 1 consists of the 11 major markets where more than 25 percent of all residents are 18 to 34 years old. Group No. 2 contains 14 metros where fewer than 22 percent are young adults. Here's how they match up:
-- The young markets have been experiencing population growth of 2.1 percent per year since 2000. That's seven times the growth rate of 0.3 percent for the old markets.
-- The annual rate of job growth is 1.9 percent in the young metros compared to 0.4 percent in their older counterparts.
-- Personal income is climbing at a median pace of 3.4 percent per year in the young markets. The corresponding figure is 2.8 percent on the old side.

Click here for complete article

On they have writen some articles and and published charts recently based on a study of the 67 largest metro areas in the USA and Austin is ranked as the #2 city to currently offer the best job opportunities for young adults. It is based on crieria that they have set forth and you can read more of that in the article.
The meat is basically that 29% of Austinites are between the ages of 18 and 34. That is the heaviest concentration of young adults of all metro areas. Who cares? You should... especially if you are a homeowner. Some of these people own homes. Some do not. Austin has a lot of college students that lease properties while they are in school. If there are job opporunities for those students here in Austin, those students will purchase homes and continue to live in the area.
Students from the other larger metro areas will also consider Austin for its job opportunities, culure, lifestyle, and cost of living. This will have a positive affect on any homeowner or investor in the area because it creates a constan flow of young people wanting to move to the area usually from areas that are more expensive to live. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Austin area home sales fall for 10th month in a row

"Sales of existing homes fell 14 percent to 1,981 compared to the same month last year, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.
It was the highest number of sales so far this year, indicative of the seasonal increase seen during spring and summer months. The median price was $187,900, inching up 2 percent from last year."

Click here for complete article.

I always find articles like this to be very interesting. They are using statistics to draw conclusions but their conclusions are based on their viewpoint. At first glance it appears that people are buying and selling less homes this year than last year. Does this mean that less people are moving to Austin? No. Are less people moving up to different neighborhoods? Maybe. Or does it means there are simply less volume of homes that are being bought or sold this year than last? It doesn't explore the cause of why that could be. What do you think?
I think it has a lot to do with the sub-prime fallout and strict mortgage qualifications that have been effecting home sales or the last 8+ months. Austin and its surrounding areas are doing much better than other cities in the nation. Houses are still selling and people are still buying. The difference between this year and last is that people hear a lot of negative, national real estate news that says now is a horrible time to purchase a home. The truth is that now is a great time to buy a home. People that are financially stable and are able to qualify for funding, can get a great deal on a home. The seller of that home can in turn, get a great deal on the purchase of the home they will then purchase and so on. Prices overall are still rising. Make sure that when you read a headline like this to think about what it really means. Less buyers overall=less sales overall. Finding the cause is simple and there is a basic relationship between the buyer pool and # of overall sales. Let me know what you think in the comment section.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Northwest Austin area Commuter rail: Pay more to go more?

"Capital Metro officials are considering "zoned" prices for commuter rail, setting up a tiered fare schedule so that the farther passengers travel, the more they would pay." Click Here for complete story

The Map above shows distances between stops on the new Capital Metro Commuter Rail that will begin operating later this year. Basically, if you are getting on the commuter rail from the Leander or Lakeline Stations and riding it Downtown, the fare will be $1.50, which is almost twice as much as the proposed regular fare. This could potentially mean higher cost for residents of Cedar Park, Leander and Northwest Austin. The issue is that if someone gets on the Train in Leander but is not riding all the way downtown, would be riding a shorter distance. How will they track how far you are going so that you do not have to pay $1.50 for a few miles? They are not sure yet. It makes sense to me that a person riding the commuter train could purchase credits on a card and swipe the card at the station that they get on the train as well as the station they get off. Then it could be computed how many miles were traveled. Then they could have a flat fee for under a # of miles and another fee for over a # of miles. If there are not sufficient credits when they arrive additional credits would need to be purchased to exit the station. Train security could still swipe cards in a reader to make sure everyone has a "ticket". The subway in New York has a card system that every rider must use. There are no tickets and the cards are rechargeable. This way people that are taking advantage of the longer distances that the commuter rail provides, are contributing toward the cost of build and maintenance and the riders that ride a short distance are contributing accordingly. What do you think about this?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Web sites changing how we buy and sell houses

" in her price range that are sent to her automatically from her agent's Web site. When she sees something interesting, her agent sends her the full listing. Rarely do they speak on the phone."

In todays Real Estate marketplace, the internet is a great vehicle for interactioon between a REALTOR and a home buyer or home seller. I use automated searches for my clients that are in the market for a home. I ask questions of the home buyer to find out exactly what they are looking for and develop a list of criteria and set up an MLS search that finds homes that meet their criteria. When new listings come on the market, clients are updated with the new information sent directly to their email. If something looks interesting, we set up a time that works for them and we see the homes in person.

I am suprised when I get phone calls from my listings that already have a pending contract. By law, I am required to ask if they are working with an agent. If they say yes, it makes me wonder what has happened. Does the agent not know how to set up a search that alerts a client when a property is new on the market? Why would a buyer work with an agent like that? In some areas, homes are on the market less than two weeks. If a buyer can be notified quickly when a new property is available, they will be able to react quickly.

For sellers, I get feedback from agents that bring their clients to my listings and ask questions about their opinion and the prospective buyers opinions of the home. This helps my client, the seller, make any nessisary changes that they have not already made and may bring to light any concerns of a prospective buyer. If the concern is a misunderstanding of some kind, I can contact the agent and explain what is going on.

If you are thinking of buying a home get in touch with me and I can set up a search to help you find the perfect home.
Posted by Brian Martin. Brian is a REALTOR with the Pinnacle Group of Keller Williams. Brian embraces technological advances in Real Estate that allow them to find the perfect home.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

UPDATE: Austin Board of Realtors presents alternate home efficiency proposal

"Austin Board of Realtors said energy-efficiency audits should be performed when the name on the home's utility bill changes and space would be provided to specify energy audit results on seller's disclosure forms. Any upgrades would be voluntary, with city incentives such as sales tax exemptions on the materials needed."

Click headline above to read full article

This is just an update about the energy efficiency audits that the city of Austin has been talking about implementing upon older homes.

The new proposal was brought forth by the Austin Board of Realtors and I think it is structured a little better than what the working proposal is. Under the ABoR proposal, The homes would still be updated but it wouldnt be a stipulation of the sale of the home. It also has ideas about how there would be tax incentives for sellers that choose to do the updates before selling the home. If this were the case, it would also be a selling point for a home that had already been updated because the prospective buyer would not have to deal with it.

This is an update of a previous post that you can read here. I will update again as more information becomes available on this topic.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

City of Austin to improve recycling program later this year

The city of Austin is introducing a program that they call "single stream" recycling. The program will be implemented in Fall '08. The city will deliver new 90 gallon bins to homes and the list of materials that will be accepted has expanded so now we will be able to recycle more of the products we use all in the same bin.

What goes in the recycling cart?
(newspaper, office paper, junk mail, cereal and
soft drink boxes, corrugated cardboard)

Aluminum and metal cans: food cans
(labels left on OK), soda cans

Glass: Jars and bottles

Rigid plastics: # 1 through # 7,
including yogurt and margarine tubs

What cannot be recycled?
bags, Styrofoam
(cups, egg cartons, take-out containers)

I think this is a big step in the right direction. The city of Austin is seen as a "green" city and these are the types of programs that enforce that reputation. If we can make it easier for people to recycle, what reason do they have to waste by just throwing recyclables in the trash? My wife and I recycle as much as we can and it really cuts down on the amount of trash we put in our bin. Since we will be able to recycle more products, the next step for the city should be to deliver smaller trash bins to encourage people even more to recycle. What do you think about this program?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Court sides with homebuilder who donated to justices

"The nine justices on the all-Republican panel, whose decision overturned two lower-court rulings, have each received thousands of dollars in contributions from Perry's family. "
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This is a pretty interesting article. It is about a couple that purchased a home from Perry Homes in the Fort Worth area back in 1996. The home was later found to have structural and framing defects. The couple was awarded $800,000 through arbitration. A district and an appeals court both had judgements against the home builder. At the state level, they judged in favor of the builder, which is not surprising considering the fact that Perry and his family members made major campaign contributions to the nine justices of the court.

Do you think their contributions had anything to do with the judgement being overturned? I do.

When I represent clients that are interested in buying a new home through a builder, I approach the situation in a similar way that I approach a purchase on a resale. These home builders are usually part of a big corporation with lawyers working on their side to give them an advantage in a lot of the paperwork of transactions. If a buyer is concerned with the structural integrity or the build quality of the home, I suggest the buyer hires an independent inspector that specializes in the area of concern. Home builders have a lot more money, lawyers, and in this case campaign contributions that work in their favor if a homeowner has a dispute that goes beyond arbitration. My advice is to document interactions with a builder going into a deal with a builder or on any repairs that need to be done. Get it in writing, get it in writing, and get it in writing.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Who will pay for older Austin homes to go green?

"We want the citizens of Austin to realize that the City of Austin is trying to mandate what they have to do to their homes in order to sell their homes," Socar Chatmon-Thompson, of the Board of Realtors, said. "You could be forced to retro fit your house with expensive upgrades before you can sell it."
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This has been a buzz in the central Austin housing market the last couple of weeks. There have not been enough decisions made for people to oppose or agree with legislation that might be propossed in the future. The basic idea is that older homes would have to be updated with more modern electrical and gas systems that would make the homes more energy efficient. This will cost buyers and sellers more money in the long run. If a home seller needs to do a bunch of work to bring their home up to code in order to sell, the cost will be passed on to the buyer one way or the other. It also makes for a longer sales process. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I like making choices to make my own home more efficient but by making it mandatory for the sale of an older home is going to cause problems for those people who need to move and can't afford to make the changes to their home in order to sell it. I will post an update when the story develops more.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mandatory Austin watering restrictions start May 1

"New City of Austin water restrictions will begin May 1 and end Sept. 30.

They include:

*No customer may run yard sprinklers between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

*Odd-numbered residential addresses should water Wednesdays and Saturdays

*Even-numbered addresses on Thursdays and Sundays. "

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The City of Austin has new restrictions on when residents are allowed to water their yard. I personally dont have an issue with the city trying to conserve water. We all know it heats up in the summertime and the water can get pretty scarce. There is a hefty fine in place that would cost a violator $500. They also have an annonymous phone hotline and website to report those that disregard the "suggested" watering schedule. On the one hand, I think that having this system will help to conserve water through the summer months and on the other hand, I'm not really a fan of "big brother". Can't the city monitor water usage to particular residences and fine individuals for excessive totals? I understand setting up some regulations and restrictions on the amount of water but I would suggest using a different approach.
They have a schedule that makes it that if you follow the rules, you are watering at most 2 days per week. That could probably work most of the time but when it gets really dry two days may not be enough. Part of the restriction is that if it gets really dry, they will have even tighter restrictions. Like what? One day a week? I'm pretty sure people will have a dead lawn in the front yard pretty quickly under those circumstances.
How does this effect the housing market? A house doesn't look as appealing with a yellow or brown lawn in front. Especially if the buyers are from out of town and are from an area with a lot of vegetation. Home purchases are largly influenced by the buyers emotion and we all know that if the buyer doesn't like the home or has an issue with the home(including landscaping) it means the home will be on the market longer or a low offer or both.
Dont get me wrong, in my household we try to find as many ways as possible to conserve energy, water, and money. I just think their approach may be a little off.

Monday, April 28, 2008

NORTHWEST AUSTIN HOMES: Interested in a house in Northwest Austin? Check out Google Street View

This is a little video created by Google as a short tutorial about Google Maps Street View. This is something that has been in the works for quite some time but now almost all of Austin and its surrounding areas have been documented. The images are taken by Google cars outfitted with special cameras that record 360 degrees of what is going on as they drive down the street. Its pretty fun to look at where you live or used to live.

Is this an invasion of privacy? Google doesnt think so. They say all of the images are taken from public property but there are some pretty funny pictures that people have get from Google maps street view. Check out some of them here.

In my neighborhood, Street View is off a little bit. My address actually brings up a photo of a house down the street.

How is this about Real Estate?

Mostly it is just a cool way of checking out the neighborhood if somebody is interested in a house. It is also a way to see what a house really looks like from the front when its not all spruced up for picture day. Like I said before, it is really only useful if you have an idea what it is supposed to look like at a certain address because a lot of them are not filed correctly. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Texas still has some of biggest paychecks

"Texas remains a strong spot in a slowing economy, with job and wage growth ahead of national averages. A new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows average weekly paychecks in the third quarter of 2007 and where the 23 largest Texas counties stand.
Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley workers brought home the most money. But Texas did a lot better at adding jobs. "

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I get a lot of questions from home sellers about the economy and job growth in Austin. Jobs and the economy are definitly important when it comes to Real Estate. In 2007, there were 35,000 households of new people moving to Austin. This translates to 80,000 new people overall. What is driving these people here from other areas of the country? The weather? The culture? The music? The food? Yes, but it is also because buisnesses are creating new jobs in the area.
People are drawn to an area that they can make a similar salary that they could earn in a large city with a higher cost of living while living in a city that has a lot to offer culturaly with a low cost of living. Of course when more and more people move to Austin, it is driving home prices higher. The areas around Austin are growing and as the infrastructure of outlying areas is put into place, the population of that area will grow. Home prices of that area and anything that is closer to central Austin will see home prices increase accordingly. This is great news for home owners who are keeping an eye on the market value of their home.
What do you think?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Realtors say strict signage rules sinking sales

“The people they are hurting are the homeowners who want to sell their house or new homeowners who want to buy their houses.”

Amy Kerr lives in Steiner Ranch and said she is surprised by the sign restrictions. She has lived at Steiner Ranch for two years and has never been bothered by the signs.

“I would think it [getting homes sold in our neighborhood] would be something that the HOA would be for,” she said.
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This is a quote from an article about sign restrictions for Realtors in Steiner Ranch. Realtors use these signs to help advertise a house for sale. The HOA has made it so Realtors all need to use one small, brown, Steiner Ranch sign for directional purposes. With small signs that all look the same it is hard to differentiate between houses that are for sale and in areas that are further off main roads it would be difficult to lead prospective buyers to the house that the sign is intended for. Steiner has been an increasingly popular place to live but the truth is will prove to take longer to sell homes with the new sign restrictions in place. If homes take longer to sell, it will eventually mean a decline in potential value. If the HOA does want a restriction, it should be more in the form of a sticker permit that is placed on the sign with a limit as to how many directional signs are allowed. This would cut down on the volume of signs and violaters of the program could be easily identified. This has happened in other areas of Austin and its surrounding cities and although it is less convenient than no restriction at all, it could be a healthy compromise.