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. "

Click headline above for full story

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. "

Click headline above for complete article

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.
Click headline above for complete story

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.