Lady Bird Lake or Town Lake as it was formerly known, is a dammed portion of the Colorado river situated just south of downtown Austin. Currently the lake and its surrounding hike and bike trails serve as an attraction for locals and visitors alike. However, Lady Bird Lake was not always as beautiful as it is now.
The lake was created in 1960 as a cooling pond for the adjacent Holly Power Plant. In its early days, Town Lake, as it was known at the time, was an eye-sore. In the early seventies, the Mayor of Austin, Roy Butler, established the Town Lake Beautification Committee. Lady Bird Johnson was appointed the honorary chairman of this committee. In this role, she led the planting of hundreds of plants and trees and the establishment of the hike and bike trails around the lake.
When Lady Bird Johnson died in 2007, Town Lake formally changed its name to Lady Bird Lake in her honor. If you’re visiting Austin, I highly recommend you take a visit to Lady Bird Lake. While you are not permitted to swim in Lady Bird Lake, you can use non-motorized water boats. As a kid, I remember renting a pedal boat for an afternoon on Town Lake, but now stand up paddle boarding is by far the most popular recreational activity on Lady Bird Lake.
If you don’t want to be on the lake, you can take advantage of the trails surrounding Lady Bird Lake. A ten-mile loop offers the perfect landscape for one to explore Austin by bike, or if you feel like walking or running you can also make a shorter loop.
This post originally appeared on activerain.com
If you’re considering buying a home in Austin, it’s a smart idea to consider the property tax rate of prospective houses. Property tax rates can vary significantly throughout central Texas, and oftentimes your property taxes are going to make up a significant portion of your monthly mortgage payment. In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of purchasing a brand new home. If you’re looking to buy a brand new home in South Austin, you may want to consider purchasing in one of these three great communities. Each of these new home communities in the Austin area has a property tax rate under 2%.
Hills of Bear Creek
The Hills of Bear Creek Development by Milestone Community Builders is located approximately 14 miles south of downtown Austin off FM 1626 in the City of Manchaca. Homes in the Hills of Bear Creek are the most affordable on this list starting at 290K. The Hills of Bear Creek is a multi-phase development that is more than 50% complete. They have inventory and soon to be completed homes available in Phase 4. If you would like to choose your lot and selections, you can do so in the last and final Phase 5. The community offers 9 unique floor plans that all come standard with desired features such as granite countertops, open floor plans and energy-saving technology. Additionally a plethora of community features such as a pool and grilling area offer even more reasons to consider the Hills of Bear Creek home. Click here to view available homes in the Hills of Bear Creek.
Bear Creek Crossing
MI Homes’ Bear Creek Crossing neighborhood feels like you are in the middle of the country. In reality, the community is less than 15 miles from downtown Austin and about 10 minutes from the South Park Meadows shopping center which has just about every large retailer you can think of and a plethora of restaurants. Homes in Bear Creek Crossing range from 1,825 to 4,000 square feet, and are priced from 313K. Tall ceilings, 42 inch kitchen cabinets, and a plethora of options for customization make Bear Creek Crossing homes a great fit for almost everyone. The tax rate for Bear Creek Crossing is the lowest of all the homes on this list at 1.86%. Click here to view available homes in Bear Creek Crossing.
Enclave at Estancia
The Enclave at Estancia is a gated community built by Lennar. The Enclave at Estancia is the only gated community on this list, and the community features a gorgeous community park and pool; homes here start from 335K. All of the homes at the Enclave at Estancia come standard with top of the line features like stainless steel appliances, dual vanities in the master bathroom, and a home automation package. Additionally, the homes all have a TAEXX® Built-In Pest Control System. I had never even heard of this feature before visiting the Enclave at Estancia, but it’s essentially a pest control system of mini tubes that are built in to the walls of your home with an exterior receptacle for pest control service providers to deliver treatments in to the home.
There are a variety of different floorpans available at the Enclave at Estancia. However, one of the more unique offerings is the Giallo II home within a home floor plan. It’s essentially a 3 bedroom, 3 bath home with an attached guest suite with 1 bedroom, 1 bath a living room and a kitchenette. This ‘“guest suite” has its own access from the outside, but can also be accessed from the interior of the main home. It’s a great floorpan for families with have an elderly parent or parents with boomerang children. While the tax rate for homes in the Enclave at Estancia is 1.87%; please note homes in this community must also make annual payments towards the PID. Click here to view available homes in the Enclave at Estancia.
Would you like more information about other homes that are located in an area with a property tax rate under 2%? Contact me today to learn about other areas in Austin.
On the national scale, there are rumblings of a market shift in the real estate market. However, at the local level, real estate sales remain strong. According to Steve Crorey, President of the Austin Board of REALTORS, "Sales are up 3.3 percent year-to-date for 2018”. The Austin-Round Rock MSA experienced growth in both the number of homes sold and the median sales price while the City of Austin revealed fewer sales, but a higher median price. As prices within the city limits continue to increase, buyers are moving farther out in search of an affordable home.
In the Austin-Round Rock MSA, the sales volume increased slightly to 2,201 sales last month while the median home price increased to $301,391. As would be expected, there was an increase in all stages of listings year over year: new listings (+1.7%), active listings (+11.5%) and pending sales (+2.5%).
Within the City of Austin, median sales price rose 5% to $374,900. At the same time, November home sales in the City of Austin decreased from 653 sales in November 2017 to 618 sales in November 2018. The total sales dollar volume for the City of Austin remained the same at $288,251,771.
In my opinion, the strength of the Austin real estate market is directly correlated to the health of the Austin job market. The local unemployment rate is extremely low, 2.6%, and major businesses continue to move here or expand operations in Austin such as Apple announced this week.
Furthermore, Austin will also always be home to both the University of Texas and government employers. There are over 50,000 students enrolled in undergrad or graduate programs at UT, and the vast majority of these students stick around and call Austin home. With Austin being the state capitol of Texas, it is also home to a number of other government agencies such as the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; Texas Department of Transportation; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Water Development Board, and the Texas Department of Health. The bottom line is that Austin has a healthy local economy with a variety of high tech businesses built upon a backbone of government and education. As long as there are jobs, the real estate market will stay strong.
If you’re interested in moving to Austin, contact me today for more information about how you can call this wonderful city home.
Looking for a unique gift this holiday season. Why not consider something for the home that the entire family can enjoy? I’ve curated a list of my favorite home items that are sure to make an impression on anyone on your list this year. Some of these are decorative items, some of them are incredibly useful, and others are a mix of both. Take a look at my top picks below, and try to remember this is the season of giving even though you may be tempted to buy them all for your own home!
These adorable little planters will seriously brighten your day. I have two on my windowsill and every time I look at them they bring me so much joy! They are playful and easy to care for with minimal maintenance. You can buy them locally at Maya on South Congress or on Etsy for about $20
Have someone on your list who always wants the latest tech gadget? Consider a ring doorbell. This modern doorbell features a camera that displays straight to your smart phone so you can know who is at the door without even getting up. Find it on Amazon from $99
Faux Animal Head
Looking for a unique gift for someone you love? Consider getting them a Faux Animal Head that will seriously turn heads! White Faux Taxidermy makes a variety of beautiful animal heads that come in assorted colors to match any rooms décor. In true Austin fashion, I chose a longhorn skull for my home, but they also have deer and elephant heads as well as more imaginative ones such as their unicorn mount. Find them at White Faux Taxidermy; prices range from $40-$140.
Map of The World Scratch Off
The map of the world scratch off poster is the perfect gift for the world traveler in your life. Recipients can scratch off all the places they have been, and continue to scratch off locales as they travel. This map has outlined states for the US and Canada so they can mark their domestic trips too! Get it from Amazon for $27.99
Looking for the gift that keeps on giving? Consider an automatic vacuum that will keep floors sparking all the time. No one enjoys spending time cleaning floors, so consider gifting that special someone in your life a robotic vacuum cleaner. The iRobot Roomba learns your home’s floor plan, can be set to a schedule to go off at a certain time each day, and the latest model even empties itself. Find it at Best Buy or Amazon starting at $249
Buying a home can be super exciting! You’re likely looking for something that has enough space for your family, is convenient to work or in a good school district. You may be looking for something that is your style, or maybe you’re looking for something with good bones that has the potential to be your dream home. No matter which of these items you are looking for in a home, you should also play close attention to the physical elements of the home. Understanding the expected life expectancy of the various aspects of the house will help you make an informed decision and save you from unexpected expenses down the line.
When I am helping a client find a home, there are a few areas I look at right away to determine if they are in decent condition. Before I even step foot in the home, I like to look at the seller’s disclosure notice. This will inform me of any known past or present issues with the home. If there is anything of note, I will make sure to take a closer look when I get to the home. The seller’s disclosure sometimes includes the age of the roof. Oftentimes, the current owner may not know the age so, the first thing I do when I get to the home is take a look at the roof. Rarely can I fully view the roof from the ground, but I can see if there are tree limbs that may be damaging it. Sometimes, I can visibly see the roof is in poor condition.
Next, I enter the home. One of the most-costly home issues is a home with a poor foundation. If the foundation is not performing as designed, the entire home can have various issues. I am not an inspector, nor a foundation expert. However, I do know of some tell-tale signs of foundation issues. Uneven cracks in walls, a floor that feels un-level, cracks in the exterior of the home are all signs of foundation issues. These characteristics could also be entirely unrelated to a foundation problem. A floor may simply be uneven due to a poor sub-flooring job. But, If I suspect foundation issues, I will let my clients know. This way, they can then make an informed decision if they want to still pursue the house, and then hire an inspector and foundation expert to give their professional opinion.
In Texas, a good AC system is important. I want to take a look at the system right away, and see if I can ascertain more information about the home’s HVAC. Simple things like dirty filters can tell you if a person takes care of their system or not. I also like to look at the condenser unit and see if I can find a serial number. The serial number of most appliances is coded to tell you the age of the appliance. A simple google search will usually help me decipher the code for any given manufacturer and consequently the product’s age.
As I mentioned before, I am not a home inspector. However, if I can identify a potential major money pit simply from walking through a home, I’m going to make sure my clients know. This way, my clients don’t end up getting their hopes up about the home, spending money on an inspection and then realizing the home is going to be too problematic in the long run. When you’re looking for a new home, make sure to keep an eye out for more than just a gorgeous master with his and hers closets. Also, look at these important elements of a home to make sure you are not moving into a money pit. If you’re considering buying in the Austin area, contact me today, or take a look at these homes for sale in Austin.
This popular Texas town is where many adventurous souls come to have a good time. And, with so many documented accounts of paranormal activity, it’s no wonder that one of the favorite pastimes of residents and visitors alike is investigating the city’s most legendary haunted places.
12. The Inn at Pearl Street
Built in 1896, the Inn at Pearl Street, was once the private residence of Judge Charles A. Wilcox and his family. Almost a century later, after years of neglect, the home was purchased by new owners who restored it to its former glory and opened a boutique hotel commonly known by locals and repeat guests as “The Pearl.” What the new owners did not anticipate was the presence of a couple of friendly spirits. Reports soon surfaced of strange noises, including disembodied footsteps and music, as well as an apparition of a woman floating in the halls to a chair where she rocks her twin boys to sleep.
11. Austin Tavern
This tavern, believed to have once been a sporting house, is said to be haunted by a young prostitute named Emily who was killed here along with her daughter in the 1940s. Reports include people being tapped, pinched and feeling as they are being watched by something unseen. Other reports include seeing hazy apparitions, feeling cold spots, and hearing the sound of footsteps and a phantom pool game.
10. Metz Elementary School
When this century-old schoolhouse was demolished and replaced with a more modern building in 1990, the demolition process did not go smoothly. Many of the heavy machinery operators reported that their machines would unexpectedly and inexplicably turn off during operation. There were also several reports of workers falling from ladders and tools that went missing during the rebuilding process.
Frightened workers at the site demanded an exorcism be performed after several within their ranks reported seeing children's writing mysteriously appear on classroom chalkboards and the appearance of ghostly children in the old building's restrooms.
9. The Omni Downtown
The Omni Downtown is a hotel that offers a pleasant and restful experience for most people traveling through the city of Austin. However, for some unfortunate individuals, it offers up something much more sinister—encounters with the ghost of a man named Jack who committed suicide by jumping off the balcony while staying at the hotel. Numerous guests and employees of the hotel have reported hearing his ghost moving around in the vacant room.
8. The Texas Governor's Mansion
One would anticipate that there would be countless stories attached to the Texas Governor’s Mansion, which dates back to the 1850s. What one might not expect is that these stories would include hauntings by former guests and residents of the mansion.
Two of the most notorious ghosts of the mansion were both former governors. Numerous people over the years claim to have seen the ghost of Sam Houston, whose ghostly figure is said to linger in the bedroom he once occupied while governor. The ghost of Pendleton Murrah, also a former governor, has also reportedly appeared inside the mansion and on the grounds.
The mansion’s most famous ghost story, however, is the tragic account of a young man in his teens who was courting Murrah’s niece. When the girl rejected his marriage proposal, the young man killed himself in his guest room in the mansion. Since his death, there have been frequent reports of paranormal activity in that room. People living in or visiting the mansion cite the room as a constant source of unpleasant noises, including moaning and the sound of someone gasping for breath.
7. Oakwood Cemetery
When looking for haunted spots, no ghost tour or paranormal investigation would be complete without including a cemetery. Established in 1839, the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin spans 40 acres and is the final resting place for more than 23,000 souls. Many people travel here with the hopes of seeing the ghost of General Sam Houston who is buried at the cemetery. Some have captured pictures of orbs at his grave and other graves in the cemetery.
6. The Texas Capitol
The Texas Capitol has had its share of people going in and out of the building since it was first built. Today, visitors and people who work in the Capitol are not the only souls to be found in the building, which is said to be haunted by a number of people. Some witnesses claim to have seen the ghost of Robert Marshall Love, who was killed in the building while sitting at his desk. Others report an apparition of a lady in red on the third floor who is said to visit a stairwell hoping to have a rendezvous with a man. Many people have also reporting seeing former Governor Edmund Jackson Davis stare at people from the first floor window until they move out of his line of sight.
5. The Walter Tips House
Built in 1876, this stately residence was home first to Walter Tips and his family, then later Theo P. Meyer, both successful businessmen in their own right. The house, which was moved to its current location for restoration purposes and now functions as a bank, is regarded by many as one of the top haunted sites in Texas.
The ghosts or spirits that reportedly haunt the house today seem to be very angry. It is said that when people approach the house, they get the distinct impression they are not wanted there.
4. St. Edward's University
St. Edward’s University, a center for higher learning that has educated many students over the years, has a history of spooky happenings and there are claims it is home to as many as three ghosts.
The ghost of a young man who committed suicide by hanging is said to reside in the Mary Moody Northern Theater. Witnesses report seeing his ghostly body hanging from where he perished and, despite not seeing the rope, many have heard the sounds of it creaking as it swung back and forth.
Premont Hall is said to be haunted by a former resident advisor who died in the showers. The slamming of doors and windows is one way this ghost makes his presence known. The unhappy ghost is also said to turn all the showers on simultaneously. The final ghost, found in Doyle Hall, appears to be that of a nun who also enjoys turning on the showers in the building.
3. The Driskill Hotel
Colonel Jesse Driskill built the now historic Driskill hotel in 1886. From the outside, the famous hotel is an amazing piece of architecture that has welcomed thousands of people through its doors during its 100- plus years. However, some of the people that stayed at the hotel never left, according to reports.
Feeling as though someone has brushed up against you is a common occurrence at the Driskill. There are those who state Driskill himself roams the hallways of his hotel, and occasionally employees and guests can smell the scent of his favorite cigars. A little girl also haunts the stairs and other common areas of the hotel and can often spotted holding flowers. But one of the creepiest locations in the hotel is Room 525. According to reports, two different brides committed suicide in the room, 20 years apart. The presence of the women is often felt in the unhappy room.
2. Shoal Creek Indian Massacre Site
When Gideon White decided to build a home in close proximity to Shoal Creek, many people told him it was not a good idea. Ignoring their advice, he built his log cabin in 1839.
Things were fine for roughly three years when, according to reports, White was killed by some Native Americans. People who have visited the area since his death have discovered many graves, including White’s and those of many people who died from yellow fever, cholera, and other tragedies.
With so many bodies buried in the location, it is not unusual to feel cold spots, hear strange noises, or see apparitions. Because of the high amount of paranormal activity in the area, people are not permitted to visit the creek after 10 p.m.
1. Littlefield House
Built in 1894, this beautiful, yet creepy looking home was where Major George Washington Littlefield and his wife lived without any children until they both died. Upon his wife’s death, the home was bequeathed to the University of Texas at Austin.
The house remains in the same location near the campus grounds and the university often uses the first floor of the building as a site for university events. The staff who work in the building say you can see Alice’s ghost roaming around the grounds and in the house, and some say you can hear Alice playing the piano at all hours of the night.
This wonderful list of Austin’s haunted spots was thoughtfully crafted by my friends at First American Title.
The Austin Board of REALTORS® just released the September 2018 Austin Market Report. According to the report, September data shows a stall in home sales growth. Regardless, median home sales prices continue to rise for both the City of Austin and the Greater Austin area.
The home sales volume stall that the board report magnifies as its report title is quite slight. Compared to September 2017, there were 22 fewer single family home sales in the Austin – Round Rock MSA this past month. Within the City of Austin, home sales decreased from 708 last year to 702 home sales in September of 2018. This is hardly a drastic change in the market. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist and senior vice president of research at the National Association of REALTORS®, the flat sales growth in the Austin area could be due to rising interest rates. This is a valid argument; interest rates have rose about three quarters of a percent since last year. However, there are many other factors that could be at play here, such as the lack of housing available and the increasing rise in the median sales price.
In the greater Austin Area, the median home sales price increased to $302,250 last month. This is almost eleven grand more than the median home sales price of September 2017. Within the city limits, the median sales home price increased to $365,000. The combination of increased prices and higher interest rates leads to less purchasing power for home buyers.
The average days on market (ADOM) for homes in the greater Austin area and homes within the city limits has not changed much since last year. Homes within the City of Austin spent a few less days on the market this year compared to last year. This month, City of Austin homes had an ADOM of 38 compared to 42 days last September. In the greater Austin Area, the ADOM was 53 days. The exact same figure as September of 2017.
If you’re interested in learning more about the exact market conditions in your neighborhood, contact me today. I’d be happy to prepare a specified report for your area.
In many ways, listing a condo for sale is similar to listing a house for sale. You must determine an appropriate asking price, prepare the home to go on the market, and then advertise the home to prospective buyers. Digging up relevant home documents such as the ones listed in this post, are helpful when selling a home or a condo. However, there are a few additional items you will also want to research prior to listing a condo for sale.
First, you will want to find out what types of financing can be used to purchase a condo in your complex. Why should you care what types of loans a buyer could use to purchase your condo? Well, not all condo complexes qualify for all types of loans. Let’s imagine you receive an amazing offer on your condo. You accept the offer and begin preparing to move. A few weeks go by and then you are notified that the buyer can no longer purchase your condo because the condo project does not qualify for the loan product the buyer planned on using to purchase your condo. In this scenario, it’s possible they may not be able to qualify for a different type of loan, and you will be back at square one. To make matters work, your home will have been off the market for a few weeks - valuable time you could have used to identify a buyer that is truly qualified to purchase your condo.
You can see how it makes sense to understand what loans buyers can use to purchase your condo. This example sheds light on the greater issue of making sure a buyer is thoroughly vetted to ensure he or she can qualify for the purchase. Whether you are selling a house or a condo it’s important to verify with a buyer’s lender that the buyer is truly qualified and that the property is eligible for their specific loan product. When selling a condo specifically, I would check to see if the condo building qualifies for FHA financing. You can check to see if your condo project is FHA approved on the HUD website. Additionally, I recommend determining if the condo is warrantable. This one is a little trickier; however, this post outlines some of the factors that influence whether a condo is warrantable or not. You should also check with an experienced mortgage professional.
There are a few other things you will want to know about your condo before listing it for sale. Understanding what your HOA fee covers and how much it is monthly will help you better market your condo for sale. You also want to find out how much the resale certificate costs and what the HOA charges for transfer fees. And, you want to find out how long it usually takes the HOA to provide the resale certificate. All of these items are on the sales contract. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, how can you intelligently negotiate an offer you receive? Contact your HOA for detailed information on these items.
Researching all of these pieces before you list your condo for sale ensures a smooth closing. As an experienced listing agent with a plethora of condo sales under my belt, answering all of these questions is part of my listing checklist. If you are interested in selling your Austin area condo, contact me today.
If you’re looking for a great investment opportunity in the Austin real estate market, you may be considering purchasing a property to use as a full-time vacation rental. With the rising popularity of websites such as Airbnb, VRBO, and homeaway visitors to the Austin area have simpler ways to identify places to stay besides hotels. Furthermore, renting out a property as a short term rental (STR) may be even more lucrative than a traditional long term rental.
Unfortunately, in order to use a home as a short term rental in the Austin city limits, you must have a permit. At this time, they are no longer issuing any more Type 2 permits. Type 2 permits apply to single family, non-owner occupied homes. Even if you find a home for sale that is currently operating as a STR with a Type 2 permit, that permit does not transfer with the sale of the home.
Thus, if you would like to purchase a property to use as a full-time short term rental in the Austin area, you have two options. Find a condo that allows short term rentals, or look for a property outside the city limits to use as a short term rental. Homes located in the City of Austin’s ETJ can be used as vacation rentals, and do not require a permit. Homes located in the LTD do require a permit; however, they do not have to pay City of Austin hotel taxes.
If you identify a property outside of the city limits that you would like to use as a short term rental, you must verify that there are no HOA restrictions that prohibit the use of the home as a vacation rental. You will also want to check that the home is not in another city’s jurisdiction. For example, the City of Lakeway has developed its own guidelines and regulations regarding short term rentals.
If you are looking for a property to use as a short term rental in the Austin Area, you may be interesting in reading these other posts.
SHORT TERM RENTALS- UNDERSTANDING REGULATIONS
FINDING AN AUSTIN INVESTMENT PROPERTY TO USE AS A SHORT TERM RENTAL
Contact me today for help finding the perfect investment property for your needs.
The Westlake area is home to some of the priciest residences in the Austin area. The convenient location with a close proximity to downtown coupled with the exemplary schools makes this area highly desirable for many families. Unfortunately, many home buyers may find this neighborhood to be at the top of their budget. Last year the median home sales price for residences in Eanes ISD was $860,000. However, as prospective Westlake home buyers know, there are many homes that sell for far more in this neighborhood.
Fortunately, now is a great time to buy in Eanes ISD. Historically, home prices in Westlake tend to soar in the late spring/early summer. Since this area is family oriented, most buyers prefer to move in the summer months when the kids are out of school. However, if you are willing to move in the fall/winter, you can get a much better deal on a home in Eanes ISD. Historically, the median home sales price tends to be the least in Westlake between September through January.
That means now is a great time to be looking at homes if you want to get a fantastic deal on a home in Eanes ISD. There are currently 69 homes under 1 M for sale in this great school district. There are two definitive clusters of moderately priced home in Eanes ISD; homes in Lost Creek and homes in Cuernavaca. However, there are also homes at this price point scattered throughout Westlake.
If you are willing to consider a condo for your residence, there are many great options including the new construction condos at the Walsh, the condos at Davenport Ranch and condos on Lake Austin off Westlake Dr. There’s also this great modern condo in Lost Creek with beautiful views and a plethora of energy efficient upgrades.
Thinking about purchasing a home in Westlake? I highly encourage you to consider buying in the “off-season”. Click here to view all homes for sales in Eanes ISD for under one million.
Erika Rae Albert
Sharing my Austin real estate updates, home owner tips, & more.