Inhabit Index for January 2008

27 02 2008

Looking back at January, the index rose 5 percentage points to 15%. Current market conditions are still favoring buyers throughout the Austin metro area.  The inventory of homes on the market has grown to nearly 7 months; I expect a further increase as we approach the heat of the selling season. The good news is that new construction starts are down, which should help mitigate an oversupply.

So if my prediction for a growing inventory holds true, any future increase would give Austin buyers a larger pool of homes from which to choose. Advantage buyer. However, knowing that, many buyers and sellers are waiting it out in anticipation of such a development. I wouldn’t advise either side to continue with such a strategy.

Ok. I know what you’re thinking. But before you pass that last sentence off as biased-Realtor fodder, you might want to seriously consider it, lest you find yourself in this scenario put forth in a recent Time magazine article.

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NY Times Article on the Austin Real Estate Market: A Backcountry City with Manna from Heaven?

21 02 2008
Lady Bird Lake

This goes to show you, not all news is bad. But as John Stewart aptly stated [referring to mainstream reporting] last night in a humorous interview with Larry King, “at this point, unfortunately, you have to judge each piece of [news] material. There are very few [news] organizations left that have a credibility savings account that they can draw on anymore.”

So while this piece comes as a breath of fresh air in the long chain of doom and gloom national market reports, I caution readers from reading too much into the headlines [both positive and negative] simply because the national media says it’s so. If you are buying or selling in Austin, study the market and more importantly the neighborhood and street in which you are looking, then make your assertions about the market.

That being said, I did agree with much of what the article had to say, minus the characterization of Austin as a backcountry city. It has its quirks, no doubt. But for a city that doubles in population every 15 to 20 years and has the number 1 projected GMP growth for the entire US [32% over the next  5 years],backcountry it is not. The secret is out, Austin continues to be a destination. 

Here’s the NY Times article:

February 15, 2008
Some Cities are Spared the Slide in Housing 
By Clifford Kraus and Ron Nixon
Correction Appended

AUSTIN, Tex. — The real estate market these days is a tale of two Americas, and one of them is not doing too badly.

In the America of big-city housing markets, especially on the coasts and in the struggling industrial Midwest, the huge run-up in values in recent years has given way to big drops in prices and sales volume. Millions of people owe more than their houses are worth. 

But in the other America, specifically in cities like Austin; Grand Forks, N.D.; Yakima, Wash.; and Salem, Ore., the available evidence suggests the real estate market is holding up. Prices there never boomed as crazily as they did in the big cities, and now, even though volume is down almost everywhere, prices in many of these towns are firm or rising.

Consider the experience of one Austin resident, Dan Clark. Forced by a job change to put his house here on the market, he wondered whether he would get anything like the $385,000 he paid for it a year ago. He was floored when the second potential buyer to look at the place snapped it up for $429,000. “Manna from heaven,” he said.

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CNU Austin 2008: New Urbanism and the Booming Metropolis

20 02 2008

“How do we make New Urbanism flourish in the suburbs and boomtowns of high-growth America? How can regions preserve their local character and environment while creating vital new and renewed communities? From new rail systems to infill transit-oriented development to the downtown high-rise boom, Austin is the place to see how New Urbanism is making a difference on the front lines of American growth. Attend the premier gathering of new urbanists April 3-6, 2008.

New Urbanism takes hold in one of the Nation’s fastest growing cities. See how the principles of New Urbanism are finding their way into projects, public conversations and City policy.” –

Related Post: 51 Reasons Why Downtown Austin is Home to New Urbanism.

Video provided by: russhea

12 Remodeling Projects that Add the Most Value to Your Home

15 02 2008


2007 Cost vs. Value Report

I’ve been getting calls lately from multiple clients that are planning to sell in the near future and want to know which remodeling projects produce the best returns upon resale.

I love talking with these clients because they have a good grasp of current market conditions and understand the ingredients for a favorable sale, namely a competitive price and desirable condition.

That being said, in their pursuit of the latter ingredient, they don’t want to throw money at a remodeling project that will yield little or no return. So where should they start?

Every year, Hanley Wood, LLC. produces the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. The report surveys the entire U.S. by region and then by major markets within each region. Data taken from Dallas and San Antonio, although not entirely representative of the Austin market, will help sellers decide which projects are producing the best returns.

Here’s a look are the top projects:

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The Inhabit Index for 2007

6 02 2008
December 2007 Inhabit Index

The December numbers are in and the Inhabit Index should be back on schedule with the upcoming review of January. Looking back at 2007 we cleary saw a Seller’s market from January towards the end of July.  By October and November, the overall market creeped into the buyer’s territory.

Hindsight is particularly revealing when it comes to trends; because if you notice on the index, the market began its shift in early spring of 2007. This points to the degree of difficulty—and in my view the impossibilty—of timing the real estate market since most analysts rely on historical data. That is not to say, you can’t forecast and make predictions about what’s ahead, but the exact timing of it all is purely speculative and can drive you crazy if you let it.

During the spring and even late into last summer multiple offers were quite common throughout the city. Some homes were selling for more than list price, and in certain neighborhoods, they were sold within a week on the market—my personal best came in August with a listing under contract within 16 hours of putting it on the market. So, even in August the market was shifting, but not many took notice—and even still, they may not have believed the numbers if the were paying attention to the index. Homes were selling, and very quickly.

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