Buy | Rent | Resources

6 Must-Do Move In Tasks

Moving into a new place is exciting, especially when purchasing a home. You can finally change the paint colors, hang things wherever you like, and update fixtures, lighting, etc. While these are all important rites of passage, there a few ‘less fun’ tasks that should be on your to-do list.

1. Locate the water shutoff and main circuit panel for your home

Emergencies happen and can be entirely out of your control. It’s a good idea to know how to turn off all the water to your house in case of a plumbing crisis. The shut-off valve is usually located somewhere in the garage, or at street level.

Having an accurately labeled circuit breaker panel can also save you a huge headache if a fuse ever gets blown and you need to reset the electric in all or part of your home. Understanding where these fixtures are located and how to use them before you need to will generally serve you well.

2. Schedule routine pest control

It’s no secret that Texas has plenty of bugs and creatures that love to sneak into homes. Whether this bothers you or not on a principle basis is a personal matter, but from a maintenance standpoint pests should be kept at bay. Luckily, there are several affordable and reputable pest control agencies that can do on-demand or routine treatments to keep your home pest-free. Contact me if you need a referral.

3. Install a water softener

As a whole, Texas has hard water. Simply put, hard water contains a high amount of minerals, usually calcium and/or magnesium. Over time, hard water can wreak havoc on a home’s pipes, leading to potentially huge and expensive repairs.

Hard water can also affect your skin, hair, and health, so there are many reasons to look into purchasing a water softener. These can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars but pale in comparison to the cost of having to re-plumb your home.

4. Check to see if you have gutters

The purpose of gutters is to route water away from a home’s foundation and allow for proper drainage. Failure to have an adequate drainage system can result in the soil around your home eroding and the foundation becoming unstable.

Many homes come with gutters, but not all do. New construction homes in particular often leave this as an add-on for the homeowner to address after closing. Check to see if your house has gutters. If it does not, look into having them installed to protect your foundation. Once you do have gutters, be sure to keep them free of leaves and debris.

5. Make a list of an emergency plumber, handyman, and HVAC technician

A 3am emergency is not the time that anyone wants to be researching who to call to fix a leaking faucet or broken A/C unit in the middle of July. Contact me for some quality referrals or take some time to do a bit of research on who your go-to emergency repair contacts are. Ask important questions like how long wait times generally are, and what the costs are for basic services or inspections. You’ll thank yourself later!

6. Find out what size air filter you need and schedule regular changes

Air filters are an item that I see many clients forget about both when renting and buying homes. In either scenario, you’ll want to change the filter every 1-3 months. Air filters are inexpensive but do a very important job of cleaning the air that circulates through your home by filtering out things like dirt, dust, and pollen.

Not changing your filter regularly can result in higher electricity bills, slower heating and cooling times, growth of mold or bacteria, and damage to your HVAC unit. For a simple solution, use a program like Second Nature to get deliveries to your door whenever it’s time to change the filter.

Preventative maintenance for a home can go a long way. If you have any questions about buying or settling into a new place, please reach out!

August 22, 2019

Buy | Rent | Resources

Does it cost more to Rent or Buy in Austin, TX?

The rent vs buy debate is common in Austin, TX. With almost 52% of Austin residents renting, it’s easy to see why. The truth is, there’s a fair argument for both renting and buying, and the answer varies depending on how long you plan to do either. 

Let’s take a look at a cost breakdown for rent vs buy over 5 years for an Austinite. We’re going to assume ‘Robert Resident’ wants to live in a modest 2 bedroom apartment if renting, or a 3 bedroom single family home if buying.

First, let’s keep it simple and just look at the dollar for dollar costs over 5 years. The average rent increase in Austin is 4% each year, which is what the ‘rent payment’ column is based on. For the ‘mortgage payment’ column, let’s assume Robert buys a $250,000 home and puts 5% as a down payment. His all-in monthly payment would be around $1913 every month on a 30-year mortgage.

As you can see, for years 1-4, Robert does save some money by renting (though the savings is negligible by year 4). On years 5 – 30 however, Robert saves more money by owning his home because he avoids any rent increases.

Next let’s take a look at all the other costs involved in a home purchase, along with tax and equity savings over 5 years.

After looking at this chart, you’ll see that over 5 years, though the costs aren’t too far off, they do slightly favor the renter up until the last two rows, time and equity. Let’s take a look at the two biggest factors that tilt the scales towards buying.

1. Equity buildup. Austin has been appreciating an average of 7% over the last 5 years. I used a 5% appreciation number for this example to more closely reflect the national average in case of market changes. After 5 years of owning his home, Robert will have ‘earned’ roughly $62,000, while he’ll have $0 if he chooses to rent. This is one of the biggest upsides to homeownership.

2. PMI Dropoff. If Robert chooses to buy, he’s only planning to put 5% as a down payment. The downside to this is he’ll carry a fee called ‘private mortgage insurance (PMI)’ for the first few years of his loan. This fee is factored into the $1913 monthly payment. Once Robert reaches 20% equity in his home, the PMI charge will fall off and his monthly payment will decrease by about $100 a month for the rest of the 30 years. in this example, Robert already has over 20% equity in his home by year 5. The remaining years of his mortgage will have a payment closer to $1,800, which is only $100 more per month than the initial rent payment.

The Bottom Line
Renting or buying is a personal decision and there are certainly other factors that play into it besides money. If you’re planning to stay in the Austin area for a while and are still renting, let’s grab a coffee and see if it makes sense for you to continue to rent, or think about taking the leap to home ownership.

I’d love to be your resource for all things real estate, so please reach out any time!

May 17, 2019

Buy | Rent | Resources

How Much House Can You Afford?

If you’re paying more than $1,600 for rent in Austin, you can probably afford a mortgage on a house. The question then is; exactly how much house can you afford?

If you’re buying a home in cash, the answer to this question is simple: how much cash do you have? That’s how much house you can afford. However, if you’re like most American homeowners who get a home mortgage, your affordability is largely based on your DTI, or debt to income ratio.

Lenders use the formula below to make sure that the loan you say you want is a loan you can actually pay back every month.

All monthly debt payments ÷  gross monthly income = DTI ratio

Here’s how to calculate your own DTI to find out how much home you can afford:

Step 1: Add up your monthly expenses, including:

• Your monthly rent or mortgage payment
• Monthly student loan and auto loan payments
• Any other monthly loan or financed payments
• Minimum monthly credit card payment
• Alimony or child support

There may be additional debts that your lender will include, but these are the basics.

For example: Let’s say Bob Buyer rents a place for $1,500 per month, pays $250 towards his student loans each month, owns his car outright ($0) and has two credit cards that he pays off each month, but both have a $25 minimum payment. His total monthly debt equals $1,800.

Step 2: Divide your total monthly debt by your total gross monthly income (income before taxes).

The result should be a decimal or percentage, which represents your debt to income ratio.

In our example, pretend that Bob Buyer brings in $5,500 per month in pre-tax income. When we divide his monthly debt of $1,800 by his monthly income of $5,500, we get a debt to income ratio of 0.32, or 32%.

Generally, the max DTI allowed is ~45% 

Once you have your current DTI figured out, you can plug in different numbers for your hypothetical monthly mortgage amount to see the max you could pay each month while staying under 45% DTI. From there use an app like this one to see how that monthly payment translates to a purchase price.

To learn more about buying a home, contact us!

September 8, 2018

Buy | Rent | Resources

North Austin Neighborhoods You Can’t Miss

The Austin housing hype is usually focused around South Austin and East Austin. Known best for their proximity to downtown and “Keep Austin Weird” vibe, both areas are highly desirable locations for renting, purchasing, and investing. While real estate in these areas certainly has its perks, prospective homebuyers should consider the benefits that North Austin offers before making a final decision. Here are four North Austin neighborhoods to keep an eye on as our city continues to top the charts on best places to move to.

1. Gracywoods/Walnut Creek

2017 Median Home Price: $235,000

What was once a quiet residential area is now one of the hottest areas to live in North Austin. The Domain put these neighborhoods on the map, and its office space brought hundreds of tech workers to the area. The Gracywoods and Walnut Creek neighborhoods also have unique access to green space in Austin. Residential streets weave in and out of the Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park and the Northstar Greenbelt. Both green spaces offer a plethora of hiking and walking trails, dog parks, and play areas.

2.  Milwood/Riata Crossing

2017 Median Home Price: $310,000

Employers like Apple and Oracle have situated themselves in northwest Austin. Consequently, the Milwood and Riata Crossing neighborhoods have become a great landing spot for corporate relocations. Much of the Milwood neighborhood is zoned for Round Rock ISD, giving access to highly rated schools while still having an Austin zip code. Several neighborhood parks are scattered throughout the area providing plenty of opportunities to enjoy Austin’s outdoor scene. The commute to downtown is 20-35 minutes depending on traffic; a modest drive compared to many other major cities.

3. Great Hills

2017 Median Home Price: $530,800

When it comes to home buying, there may be some sticker shock compared to other neighborhoods in North Austin. However, houses in the Great Hills neighborhood can be purchased for a fraction of what they cost in West Lake Hills, Great Hills southern sister. Hilly treetop views are not uncommon in the Great Hills area, a perk residents can enjoy while still being minutes away from grocery stores, shopping, and dining. Easy access to 183 and Mopac makes commuting anywhere in the city relatively convenient.

4. Avery Ranch

2017 Median Home Price: $345,000

The 78717 zip code stretches the length of Avery Ranch, which sits at Austin’s northernmost boundary point before Cedar Park. The Avery Ranch HOA has a multitude of parks, pools, workout facilities, clubhouses, and play areas. Lakeline Mall is just minutes to the west, while mixed-use retail and shopping areas are placed at each end of the neighborhood. Avery Ranch residents will be zoned for either Round Rock or Leander school districts, both of which are rated highly.

The Verdict

The North Austin vs South Austin debate will likely continue for many years to come, and there are definite advantages to both parts of the city. Before staking roots in one spot vs the other, send Homespace Realty an email for a personalized tour of both areas. Wherever you decide to live, it’s best to know all of your options. Sound off in the comments which part of Austin you’d love to live in and why!

March 19, 2018

Buy | Rent | Resources

What’s Going On in East Austin?

If you’ve taken a drive downtown lately, you may notice that there’s a ton of new construction going up in East Austin.

The City of Austin has zoned almost everything from Airport to Downtown to be redeveloped. The impact this has had on East Austin is massive. It’s drawn flocks of investors to the East corridor for home teardowns, renovations, and new projects.

If you’re thinking of living or investing in the next trending Austin neighborhood, here’s a couple new developments to keep on your radar.

1. Tyndall Condos

On the east side of I-35 next to AMLI and Eleven apartments, a new 176-condo complex is well underway. Renowned designer Joel Mozersky has created gorgeous interiors, and the builders angled Tyndall so that almost every condo has a downtown view. Pricing just increased with the announcement of a new Whole Foods just blocks away, but units can still be purchased under $350,000.

2. Plaza Saltillo

Where will the new Whole Foods be? Plaza Saltillo! What was once a series of distressed blocks is now zoned to become Central East Austin’s first office tower. The plaza will also hold 800 apartment units and more than 100,000 square feet of retail space by mid-2019.

3. Osten Hall

Just a block east of I-35 is an old parking lot and warehouse recently approved to become a five-story creative office building with ground-floor retail. The project will be a loft-based design with a variety of community spaces. To accommodate cyclists and commuters, there will be an open-concept lobby that integrates with the sidewalk of East Sixth.

4. Main Street Hub 

Main Street Hub is moving from Downtown to East Austin. The new building will be constructed on East 6th between Chicon and Robert Martinez, Jr., and is slated to open in 2019. The building will have 114,000 square feet of office space, an outdoor balcony, rooftop patio, bicycle storage, and showers. There will also be designated parking for food trucks.

These are just a few examples of what’s coming to East Austin. If you are interested in talking investment details or are thinking of eventually buying in the area, contact me to talk about what timeline makes the most sense before prices rise.

If you’d like to stay up to date on Austin real estate tips and trends, sign up for my newsletter here.

February 21, 2018