Can Contingent Contracts Work in Austin’s Real Estate Market?

kitchenWhen you are both buying and selling a home, oftentimes you will want to have the proceeds from the sale of your current residence as the down payment for the next home. Making that work requires a Contingency – you will close on the purchase contingent of the closing of the sale. In the hot market we have in Austin, contingent sales are sometimes impossible to negotiate, but not always. It all depends on the agent’s ability to handle these types of transactions as well as the specifics of the homes being bought and sold. For example, a home that is in a highly desirable neighborhood where there is low inventory, priced within the average price range or below, and in excellent condition, is likely to receive multiple offers and a contingent offer is likely to be disregarded, unless the agent does an incredible job negotiating. However, a home that is in a desirable neighborhood but with higher inventory, priced on the high end and maybe not in perfect condition, that seller may not receive multiple offers and therefore might be more likely to accept a contingency. The buyer agent’s job in any of these situations is to provide good written data showing the contingency is low risk for the seller, and therefore should be accepted. Home builders are also often willing to make a home purchase contingent on a sale, but each builder and each community will have different stipulations. Having an experienced agent on your side can make a huge difference when you are moving.

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REALTORS® comment on paint colors for 2017

interior-colors-gray-tones2When selling your home, what color should you use to paint the walls if it’s time for an update? I just read an article about grays going out in 2017, and greens and subtle blues taking over. The original article was posted on a UK blog, and was picked up by Inman News. Sometimes I find the comments after an article just as interesting as the article itself. In this case, most of the Realtors who commented said they are still using grays for walls, with accent colors.  A favorite shade of gray is called “Agreeable Beige” – ironic! Personally, in the Austin real estate market, I am still seeing a lot of gray tones. And when I take buyers into homes with the tans / earth tones, they don’t react favorably. So, at least for now, I’d still advise going with a light gray, possible Agreeable Beige!

Now for something really interesting, one of the Realtors commented that he is working on a paint fillable wall. Ever heard of that? I hadn’t. He says you can change the colors daily with the press of a button. Too much? Well, for those who are undecided, what fun! Maybe it will be the invention that a decade from now we all say, “I should have thought of that.” Or maybe not.

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Given Austin’s Traffic, Wouldn’t You Like to Live Near the Metrorail?

metrorail-trainNew housing developments are sprouting up all over the place in Williamson County: Leander, Georgetown, and Liberty Hill are all growing fast. So how do you choose one neighborhood over another? Well, if you are interested in commuting to downtown Austin using the Metrorail, you might like the new neighborhood of Northside Meadows. It is actually within walking distance of both the Leander Station and a huge HEB at the corner of 2243 and 183. The homes in Northside Meadows are built by DR Horton and are from about $250K-$325K. Jim Plain elementary school is within the neighborhood, and next door is the Leander Station Senior Village (apartments). The neighborhood also feeds into the new Tom Glenn High School not too far away. Coming soon to the area is an ACC campus, the San Gabriel Campus, opening in Summer 2018 off San Gabriel Pkwy near 183A. This will certainly spur even more demand for housing for all the ACC employees and students.

For those who want to use the Metrorail, but don’t necessarily want to be within walking distance, there are many other neighborhoods within a short distance of the park and ride facility. The benefit of using this Leander Station stop is that it is the end of the line. In the morning rush hour, boarding at the first stop is advantageous… you are sure to get the seat you want. Whereas, by the time the train gets to the 3rd or 4th stops, seats may be few and far between. Now that the taxpayers have paid for the mass transit, why not take advantage?

Another unique feature of the Northside Meadows neighborhood is the MultiGen floor plans offered by DR Horton. These floor plans have a home within a home – ideal for multigenerational families living together. The smaller home has it’s own bedroom, bathroom, living area and kitchenette allowing for privacy within the larger family home. Given the price of housing these days, I can certainly see this could be a benefit for many families.

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Learn About the Neighborhood Before Buying a Home

summit-springs-antelope2I did something unusual with my time last Saturday… I went to a neighborhood POA (property owner association) meeting, and I don’t even live in the neighborhood. I went along with my client who is buying a lot to build on, so she doesn’t even live in the neighborhood either.  However, it was time well spent as she (and I) learned several new things about the neighborhood which reinforced her decision to live there (I think). At the very  least, it gave her good information that she wouldn’t have learned otherwise, and could have been a surprise later on.  For anyone considering moving to a new neighborhood, particularly one that is just getting started/developed, I highly recommend doing some investigating first.  Talk to neighbors, ask about the HOA/POA, visit the amenities, and visit the neighborhood several times before making a decision.  At the very least you’ll be better informed and are less likely to have a surprise later on.

One of the things we learned at the POA meeting is that the neighborhood is responsible for road maintenance, and that can be costly. What it means for the owners is an annual increase in their POA assessments so they can accumulate the necessary funds by the time the road needs to be repaved. We also learned that the neighborhood, Summit Springs at Cypress Mill, has 98 homesites, 10 completed homes, and 4 homes currently under constructions. At the meeting, we had the opportunity to meet the POA board members, including the new members that were just voted onto the board. Five people ran for 2 open slots on the board. That tells me the community has involved neighbors who are concerned about maintaining the value of their homes. They even had one homeowner talk about his experience with building his home, sharing some great insights for those lot owners who are getting ready to build.

Since a typical HOA/POA may not have frequent meetings, you may not have the opportunity to attend one before buying a home in a neighborhood. If you don’t have the opportunity to attend a meeting, you can certainly find out who the HOA/POA President is and ask that individual for the highlights of the last meeting, and any insights they can give you into the neighborhood.  Bottom line is, do your research to avoid surprises.

As a final note, the antelopes pictured here were in the neighborhood, Summit Springs at Cypress Mill, when we drove through after the POA meeting. I took a photo of one antelope, and the 2nd one was watching. He quickly walked over to stand next to the one I photographed, and stood still so I could take another photo with both of them! One of the neat features of the neighborhood is the herd of antelope (and deer) that live there and provide an ag exemption for property owners within the neighborhood (on all but 1 acre of their properties, I believe).

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Foundation Warranty Considerations

img_2239One of the biggest concerns buyers have when buying a home is how well the home was built from the foundation up.  Probably the most expensive repair you can have is the foundation if it fails, so buyers want to know they are buying a home with a strong foundation.  When homes are built, they often come with a 10-year warranty.  But I’ve recently learned that not all builders provide that 10-year warranty anymore.  The only builder I’ve come across that doesn’t is Taylor Morrison, who in a recent email to me stated they are “America’s Most Trusted Home Builder 2016”.  Why doesn’t America’s most trusted home builder provide a 10-year foundation warranty on their new homes?  And why would they ever balk at fixing a foundation that has obvious cracks and issues?  Well, that’s what I have been asking myself for weeks now… as my client is trying to work with Taylor Morrison to fix the foundation that has led to cracks including the one pictured here.

So, if you are a home buyer, please ask up front, before falling in love with a community or home, does it come with a 10-year foundation warranty.  If you are a REALTOR, do the same and make your clients aware that it is no longer required by law that a builder provide a 10-year warranty.

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Hill Country Views near Austin

There are a number of places to go to find beautiful hill country views near Austin: Spicewood, Wimberley, Lakeway, to name a few.  I recently showed a home for sale off Hwy 71 in Spicewood in a neighborhood called Fall Creek Estates.  While the neighborhood is a bit secluded, the views are incredible from 1300 Alta Vista Rd. Currently available for $549,000, this home sits on 5 acres and includes a garage at the lowest level, along with a workshop and utility room; a master bedroom, kitchen, living room and office on the middle or ground level, and a couple more bedrooms on the upper floor.  The views just don’t stop at this house – almost every room has a view of hill country as far as the eye can see. The upside is apparent, the downside is that the floor plan may not be ideal for all home owners with a smaller kitchen and an unusual layout on the upper floor. The other downside is the distance from everyday needs like schools, grocery stores, medical centers, and employers. Still, the serenity of the surroundings is hard to pass up.

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Highmark Townhomes – South Austin, 78745

Today I was out looking at some townhomes and condos in South Austin.  This new community along South Congress caught my eye, so I stopped in.  The community, Highmark, is so new that there are only the two models that are complete so far, but they have started framing several more homes and poured the foundation of some others. When complete, there will be 50 townhomes in all.  There are 4 different floorplans and range from roughly 1800-2200 square feet. Prices are from $309K-$334K.  The community will be gated and is located South of William Cannon, not far from Southpark Meadows.  A good number of the units will back up to a greenbelt area with some nice tall trees there currently. I like the floor plans – both have good-sized kitchens that are open to the living/family room.  The models of course have many upgrades and show very well. Meritage has a number of energy efficient features they put in their homes. I think this will make another nice lock-and-leave community for South Austin.

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