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

"...homes 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. "
Click headline above for complete story
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."
Click link above for complete story
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.