Saturday, July 26, 2008

Austin, Texas makes another top ten list.
Best Cities to Live, Work and Play
These ten great places will only get better.
From Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, July 2008
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. When we ran the numbers, some of the names that popped up made us do a double take at first. So we hit the road to meet movers, shakers and regular folks, experience the ambience and take in the sights.
Our 2008 Best Cities at a Glance
How We Ranked Our Top Places
Which City Is Best for You
Complete City Rankings
Find a Home in Your Favorite City
We discovered that our numbers guru, Kevin Stolarick, hadn't steered us wrong. Stolarick, research director at the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank that studies economic prosperity, says: "Our formula highlights cities not just with strong past performance, but also with all the ingredients for future success." One key to a bright future is a healthy shot of people in the creative class. People in creative fields -- scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists and entertainers -- are catalysts of vitality and livability in a city.
The cities that made our list also represent larger surrounding areas. And because we understand that city living isn't for everyone, we've highlighted some great suburbs, too.
Pack a bag and join us on a tour of the Best Cities for 2008 and prepare for some surprises.
No. 1: Houston,Texas
No. 2: Raleigh, N.C.
No. 3: Omaha, Neb.
No. 4: Boise, Idaho
No. 5: Colorado Springs, Colo.
No. 6: Austin, Texas
No. 7: Fayetteville, Ark.
No. 8: Sacramento, Calif.
No. 9: Des Moines, Iowa
No. 10: Provo, Utah

And now; why Kiplinger loves Austin:
No. 6: Austin, Texas
By Jane Bennett Clark, Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
July 2008
Population: 1,506,425Population Growth Since 2000: 17%Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 36.5%Cost-of-Living Index: 92.8 (100 being national average)Median Household Income: $52,882 Income Growth Since 2000: 12.2%
Don’t think for a minute that the laid-back, rockers-and-tacos atmosphere of downtown Austin is all this metro area has to offer. In fact, Austin and the surrounding region offer a strong economy, a solid, moderately priced housing market, a growing population and enough natural beauty to justify staying outside even if the weather weren’t great -- which, by the way, it is.
Take Our Walking Tour Through Austin
Already home to the University of Texas, the state capitol and a bustling music scene, Austin has lately expanded its economy to include digital media, green energy and biotech, creating 114,000 in the area in the last five years. Meanwhile, downtown Austin is in transformation mode. Redevelopment includes the Second Street District and more than a dozen residential developments. Among them: 360, where a two-bedroom, two-bath condo with a lake view starts at about $400,000.
City life not to your liking? Head to Round Rock, an 18.5 mile hike up I-35. This family-oriented suburb boasts topnotch public schools along with a local economy that includes Dell, three hospitals and a brisk business in sports tourism thanks to the playing fields it rents out for tournaments. As for housing, it’s a deal: For $270,000, you can buy a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house in the Teravista community and enjoy its rolling hills, 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and a pool.
Down the road apiece, in the tiny town of Lago Vista, residents enjoy access to Lake Travis in the spectacular Texas Hill Country setting. Once mostly a resort community for retirees, this 11-mile stretch of land increasingly appeals to young families who like the small-town atmosphere and don’t mind commuting to Northwest Austin or to Round Rock.

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 2008 - Value of Austin homes remains stable.

7/21/08 Value of Austin homes remains stable
Real estate market grows due to first-time buyers and young people in their early 20sBy Mohini MadgavkarDespite home price depreciation around the rest of the country, Austin housing is holding its value.

According to an Austin Board of Realtors study, the median price of single family homes is at $200,000, a 4 percent increase from last June.

"Our homes are affordable in comparison. Less than $200,000 is amazing," said Socar Chatmon-Thomas, chairman of the board. "In most parts of the nation you can't buy anything as a first home for less than $350,000."

Sales of single-family homes are coinciding more with national figures, as they have decreased by 20 percent since last June.

"Austin is a vital and dynamic environment because of business growth," said Beverly Kerr, vice president of research at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. "We're a lot less expensive in terms of taxes and regulation than other tech industry centers รข€¦ and we're a great place for quality of life."

Forbes magazine ranked Austin as America's third-most "recession-proof city" in April. At 3.7 percent, Austin's unemployment levels are nearly 2 percent below the national average."

Growth in Austin is really driven by the job market," said Chay Walker, senior agent manager at Austin's Uptown Realty.

However, Walker said, Austin's 6 percent unemployment rates in 2001 and 2002 prevented the city's housing market from growing at 45 percent, the highest appreciation rate seen in some parts of the country, Walker said.

"Austin's real estate market stayed flat," Walker said. "When the rest of the country started having problems, our markets were just coming around."

Austin builders responded to the crisis by scaling back production of new homes, Chatmon-Thomas said. Austin housing appreciation continues to hold steady at around 5 percent.

Chatmon-Thomas said some of Austin's real estate growth stems from an influx of Asian-American and Hispanic first-time home buyers and younger buyers.

"A lot more young people are buying homes in their early 20s," Chatmon-Thomas said. "I think it's that younger people realize the value of a home and realize that 'If I purchase this home now, I can use it as an investment property when I get married or change lifestyles or whatever.'"

The bubble factor

I'm often asked; "When will the Austin market bubble burst? You know like everywhere else" The answer is; "We never had a bubble, there isn't anything to burst"

Austin seemed to have learned from the rest of the country. We're sortof like the Tortoise in the age old story of the tortoise and the hare. And now after watching the rest of the market run faster then its legs could carry it, we are sitting back and enjoying our slow and steady progress.

Consequences of coming from a dead market to a stable market:
Every real estate text book tells you to offer 10 % below fair market value. Good advice. Many clients these days though are coming in from markets where you can get away with offering
15 % or even 20% below market value.

Same rules don't apply in every market.

Often buyers will make those extremely low offers and 1 of 2 things will happen;

1. The seller says no way and won't even counter. (As a realtor I hate this scenario. I beg the other realtor to convince the seller what a dumb idea this is. Please come out and play ball, don't just take your ball and go in the house.)

2. A back and forth of counter offers and in the meantime another offer comes in, the seller takes it just to get over the low low offer first buyer has made. Result: the second offer ends up getting a smokin' deal. The deal the first buyer would have liked to get.

Good news is my clients are smart! They've done their research and they've picked a good realtor who know the market. Together we determine an aggressive offer price that will help us end up at the optimal price, without alienating the seller or losing to another buyer.

Most of my blogs will be articles about Austin. So many places are talking about Austin, it often makes the top ten lists.