According to the September 2014 Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released today by the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), Austin-area single-family home prices set a record for the month of September. At the same time, Austin-area single-family home sales rebounded from the last two months of home sales declines, increasing 10 percent from September 2013 to 2,524 home sales.
Bill Evans, 2014 President of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, explained, “September’s 10 percent increase in home sales, despite ongoing issues in housing affordability, is a testament to the strong population and job growth that the Austin area and its economy continue to enjoy. However, these records in home prices also show that area homes continue to become more and more unaffordable for Austin homebuyers. ABoR encourages Austinites to take action on Nov. 4 by voting for City Council candidates who will prioritize housing development and affordability issues in 2015.”
Median price for Austin-area single-family homes increased eight percent year-over-year to $240,000 and average price rose seven percent year-over-year to $308,514 in September 2014. These are the highest figures recorded for both median and average price for the month of September.
At the same time, Austin-area monthly housing inventory slipped back to 2.8 months, despite a year-over-year increase of 0.1 months from September 2013. This is still well below the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University’s balanced housing inventory level of 6.5 months.
While Austin-area homes continue to sell quickly, the average number of days single-family homes spent on the market remained unchanged from September 2013 at 44 days. This is the first time that the average number of days spent on the market remained statistically unchanged year-over-year since September 2011.v In September 2014, active listings increased eight percent year-over-year to 6,469 listings and new listings rose four percent during the same time frame to 2,586 listings. Continued gains in single-family home listings over the last few months are having a positive effect on pending sales, which jumped 11 percent year-over-year in September 2014 to 2,201 pending single-family home sales.
Evans concluded, “Recent reports from a national real estate advertising company have claimed that the Austin-area housing market is overvalued, but local economic experts continue to point to our region’s strong economic and population growth as foundations of a healthy market and indicators that those claims are not true. The 110 people who the City of Austin says move to Austin every day need homes to live in, and the real issue at hand is whether those people can afford those homes.”
September 2014 Statistics
- 2,524 – Single-family homes sold, 10 percent more than September 2013.
- $240,000 – Median price for single-family homes, eight percent more than September 2013.
- $308,514 – Average price for single-family homes, seven percent more than September 2013.
- 44 – Average number of days single-family homes spent on the market, unchanged from September 2013.
- 2,586 – New single-family home listings on the market, four percent more than September 2013.
- 6,469 – Active single-family home listings on the market, eight percent more than September 2013.
- 2,201 – Pending sales for single-family homes, 11 percent more than September 2013.
- 2.8 – Months of inventory* of single-family homes, 0.1 months more than September 2013.
- $778,689,336 – Total dollar volume of single-family properties sold, 18 percent more than September 2013.
The following sections describe trends in other sectors of the Austin-area real estate market.
Townhouses & Condominiums
The volume of townhouses and condominiums (condos) purchased in the Austin area in September 2014 was 245, which is four percent less than September 2013. In the same time period, the median price for condos was $205,500, which is one percent more than the same month last year. These properties spent an average of 41 days on the market, two days fewer than September 2013.
In September 2014, a total of 1,444 properties were leased in Austin, which is eight percent more than September 2013. The median price for Austin-area leases was $1,480, which is 10 percent more than the same month last year.
If you’re looking to sell your home quickly and for top dollar, there are some lesser-known words that match the importance of the famous real estate phrase “location, location, location.”
Those all-important words? Curb appeal. As the saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” When people drive up and first see your house, you want them to think of it immediately as a home that has been maintained and well cared for. “It’s you putting your best foot forward,” says Christy Biberich, owner of Christy B. Design in Los Angeles who appears on the HGTV show “Brother Vs. Brother.” “We do judge a book by its cover.”
While curb appeal gets buyers in the door, sellers who want to move their homes quickly need to take other steps. The strategy varies by neighborhood and market conditions, but staging a house to appeal to the maximum number of buyers can make difference in how fast the home sells. “Every property is completely different,” says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in San Diego, a company that helps sellers make improvements designed to get them top dollar. “The little things that get people through the front door matter first.”
Obviously you don’t want to spend money that you won’t get back. Christian advises seeing what improvements house flippers are making in your neighborhood. Comparing the sales prices of, say, homes with older kitchens to homes with kitchens that have been updated is also a good idea. If you see about a $50,000 difference, a $25,000 remodel is likely a smart investment. If homes with original kitchens are fetching close to the same price as those with renovated ones, save your money, since sometimes “it also depends on how hot the market is,” Christian says.
You should also spend time scoping out the competition by viewing listings and photos of similar homes for sale and attending open houses in your neighborhood. Once prospective buyers are inside your home, you want to make sure the entire house puts its best foot forward. That starts with cleaning and decluttering, two improvements that cost little money and provide a big return.
Next, focus on low-cost “transformative improvements,” Biberich says. “The No. 1 thing you can do is paint.” She advises using neutral tones, but that doesn’t have to mean just white and beige, as brown and cream are also safe choices. Since every dollar counts, hold off on pet projects and only devote your time and money to renovations that’ll bring you a return. “If you’re looking to sell, do not do the improvements that you’ve always wanted to do,” Christian says. If, like most sellers, you have a limited budget, here are a dozen home improvements you can make to sell your house for top dollar.
Improve your landscape. Put down fresh sod, replace tired bushes with new ones and add some color, either with flower beds or potted flowers. “Even just a little bit goes a long way,” Biberich says.
Spruce up your entryway. Buy a new front door or paint the old one. If your house number and mailbox look tired, buy and install new ones.
Change out light fixtures and plumbing fixtures. Gold light fixtures are long outdated, and brass is less popular than brushed nickel. Replacing outdated ceiling fixtures and bathroom faucets can give your home a modern touch for a minimal investment.
Clarify any spaces that might confuse buyers. If you have an odd alcove, add a desk or a dresser – something that will suggest how the space is best used. “Most homes have some funky or dysfunctional things that can be corrected,” Biberich says. Don’t keep would-be buyers guessing.
Do partial renovations. Rather than gutting an old bathroom, for example, consider getting a new vanity and refacing the existing tub. In the kitchen, keep the old cabinets but replace the countertops and the hardware.
Consider removing popcorn ceilings. “Half the folks are going to walk out the front door” as soon as they see those, Christian says. But you need to be careful because the popcorn ceilings of pre-1979 homes are likely to contain asbestos, he says. That means this is far from a do-it-yourself project, and you need someone licensed to remove it. Newer ceilings, on the other hand, can be wet and scraped. Or, if it’s feasible and the ceilings are high enough, just drywall over and create new ceilings.
Remove window treatments, unless they are current and high-end. That cuts the risk of turning off would-be buyers who don’t share your taste. Uncovered windows also let more light into the rooms. “You can never outguess buyers on window coverings,” Christian says. Once you’ve got a contract, you can always offer buyers the ones you took down.
Return rooms to their original uses. If you’re using your dining room as an office, turn it back into a dining room. If your third bedroom is an office, turn it back into a bedroom. You can, however, display a photo of the room’s other potential use.
Replace dirty or worn carpet. You might try cleaning it first, but dirty carpet is always a turnoff for buyers. In some markets, you’re better off removing the carpet if there are hardwood floors underneath.
Depersonalize. That means packing away family photos and taking the children’s drawings (and everything else) off the refrigerator. You want a new family to envision themselves living in the home.
Clean thoroughly. Do a deep cleaning before you put your home on the market so everything shines. Be sure to wash the windows.
Paint. Your daughter may love her purple room, but a prospective buyer probably won’t. Repaint all rooms in neutral colors. A fresh coat of paint also makes the house look newer and more modern.
By Teresa Mears
It’s a great time to clean your gutters, swap out seasonal clothes and wallow in favorite fall traditions. What’s on your October list?
By: Laura Gaskill
With the air turning crisp, leaves falling and farmer’s markets overflowing with squash, gourds, apples and potatoes, October is a time to celebrate the harvest — and button up the home and garden for the winter ahead. From raking leaves to sharpening knives, see which of these 13 to-dos make your list this month.
2. Clean gutters and downspouts. Schedule rain-gutter cleaning for after most of the leaves have fallen. Inspect gutters and downspouts for cracks and loose parts, and make repairs as needed.
3. Put up storm windows and doors. If you use storm windows or doors and haven’t put them up yet, now is the time.
5. Shut off exterior faucets and store hoses for winter.Disconnect, drain and roll hoses before storing them indoors for the winter. Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets to prevent frozen pipes.
7. Launder and iron holiday linens. Get ahead of the holiday crunch and prep your linens — roll up the freshly laundered and ironed linens on old wrapping paper tubes to prevent wrinkles.
10. Swap seasonal clothes.Depending on where you live, September can be a fickle month — but now that October has arrived, it’s time to settle into more predictable fall weather. Gather up stray sandals and lightweight clothing that you don’t plan to wear again until spring, and pack it away. Also look over your fall and winter clothes, and note anything you will need to replace this year.
12. Start planning or making holiday gifts. I know it seems like the holidays are still a long way off, but that’s exactly why it’s smart to start thinking about gifts now. Especially if you have hopes of making anything by hand! At the very least, start a gift list that you can add to as you think up ideas.
Are You Ready to Become a Homeowner?
Whether you’re becoming a homeowner for the first time or you’re a repeat buyer, buying a house is a financial and emotional decision that requires the experience and support of a team of reliable professionals. Read more »
Get a REALTOR®
In the maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing and negotiating, it makes sense to work with professionals who know the community and much more. Those professionals are the local REALTORS® who serve your area.Read more »
Get a Mortgage Pre-approval
Most first-time buyers need to finance their home purchase, and a consultation with a mortgage lender is a crucial step in the process. Find out how much you can afford before you begin your home search. Read more »
Look at Homes
A quick search on realtor.com® will bring up thousands of homes for sale. Educating yourself on your local market and working with an experienced REALTOR® can help you narrow your priorities and make an informed decision about which home to choose. Read more »
Choose a Home
While no one can know for sure what will happen to housing values, if you choose to buy a home that meets your needs and priorities, you’ll be happy living in it for years to come. Read more »
The cost of financing your home purchase is usually greater than the price of the home itself (after interest, closing costs and taxes are added). Get as much information as possible regarding your mortgage options and other costs. Read more »
Make an Offer
While much attention is paid to the asking price of a home, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms. In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value – or additional costs – for buyers. Read more »
No sensible car owner would drive without insurance, so it figures that no homeowner should be without insurance, either. Real estate insurance protects owners in the event of catastrophe. If something goes wrong, insurance can be the bargain of a lifetime. Read more »
The closing process, which in different parts of the country is also known as “settlement” or “escrow”, is increasingly computerized and automated. In practice, closings bring together a variety of parties who are part of the real estate transaction. Read more »
You’ve done it. You’ve looked at properties, made an offer, obtained financing and gone to closing. The home is yours. Is there any more to the home buying process? Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a repeat buyer, you’ll want to take several more steps. Read more »
Here are four things you should have before you take the plunge into homeownership. If you have them, buying may be a smart move.
1. An emergency fund
If you have avoided or paid off debts, your credit is healthy and you are saving for retirement, you may feel good about your financial situation. Before buying a home though, it’s important to go another step further: Focus on building up an emergency savings fund.
While everyone should really have an emergency fund to cover unexpected costs, it’s especially important to homeowners. This should be in addition to the money you plan to use as a down payment. If you have enough liquid cash to cover three to six months of your living expenses, you are much more prepared for homeownership.
This way, in case your steady income is interrupted, you can still afford mortgage payments while you get back on your feet.
2. A proven ability to stick to a budget
A track record of maintaining a budget can be a good sign. Because you already have a budget, try adjusting it to fit your new financial life as a homeowner before you buy. This should include mortgage payment, utility bills, homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and upkeep costs. It’s a good idea to even try living on that new mock budget for a few months. If you can do that comfortably, it may be a good time to buy.
3. A steady income
With mortgages usually 15 to 30 years in length, buying a home is a serious long-term financial decision. When calculating how much house you can afford a consistent income that covers monthly payments and miscellaneous home expenses is important.
You may want to consider your other goals beyond buying a home. This may include how your financial situation will be affected if you plan to go back to school, start a family or change careers in the near future.
It’s important to keep in mind the average time it takes to recoup your buying and selling costs is three to five years. If you sell before then, you risk losing money on the deal, so it’s good to look at buying a home as a long-term commitment.
4. A good credit score
When you go to a lender to apply for a mortgage, they will also look at your credit score in addition to your income. It’s important to know where you stand before you actually apply for the mortgage, since there may be incorrect information on your credit reports that you can correct. And since your credit score will be a major factor in determining not only the interest rate you’ll qualify for, but also whether a lender can even lend to you.
What is a pre-approved loan?
Every potential homebuyer should start the process of looking for a home with a visit to a reputable mortgage lender. While a lender can give you a pre-qualification for a home loan based on your credit score and your stated income and assets, a home seller wants to see you’re completely pre-approved for a loan.
To find a lender who will help land your dream home, try a pre-approved loan service like the one featured on the realtor.com® individual listings page. By checking the box that says, “I want to get pre-approved by a lender” you’ll be connected with up to three lenders right away.
A pre-approval requires complete documentation of your finances. Be prepared to provide these piece of information:
- A review of your credit report
- Verification of your income and employment history
- Bank statements to prove you have the resources for a down payment, closing costs and cash reserves
- A calculation of your debt-to-income ratio based on your gross monthly income and the minimum payment on all recurring debts
Your lender will review your documents and discuss loan options with you, so you’re prepared to close as quickly as possible once you have a signed contract. The pre-approval will be based on all elements of the home loan other than the specific property you intend to buy.
The lender will tell you the maximum loan amount you can qualify for, but you should also be certain you understand the monthly payments associated with each loan—don’t get in over your head.
After you have a pre-approved loan letter in hand, it’s important to maintain the same credit profile so that you can be certain that your loan approval is valid.
Be sure to keep a paper trail of all unusual deposits and pay your bills on time. Don’t apply for new credit, close any credit cards, or take on new debt—these actions can impact your credit score and force your lender to re-check your credit before closing.
How a pre-approved loan can help you compete
If you’re competing with other buyers, a mortgage pre-approval makes your offer stronger. While many buyers today have a pre-approval handy, you can use yours to win the bidding war by providing a financial statement along with a pre-approval letter from your lender with your offer.
If your pre-approval letter is for an amount above the asking price for the home, this will give the sellers confidence in your ability to easily finalize the loan. You also can ask your lender to call the listing agent directly to emphasize your ability to close the deal and to discuss how quickly the contract can go to settlement.
Most real estate contracts include a contingency: the offer depends on the buyer obtaining financing. If you have a strong pre-approval letter and feel your lender is dependable, you can remove the financing contingency or shorten the contingency term.
Sellers are happy to see an offer without a financing contingency, because it proves the buyer has confidence the loan will close on time. However, waiving this contingency can be risky because if your financing doesn’t come through you could lose your earnest money deposit and even run the risk of being sued by the sellers.
A shorter contingency might be safer and still garner you the attention and confidence of the sellers in a competitive situation.