Much of the news about the housing sector of the United States economy discusses inventory and sales activity in the "national market." However, real estate is inherently a local business. Most people understand, without explanation, that comparing sales and sales prices in San Francisco to those in Kansas City or Dallas or Miami may be interesting. But it doesn't really tell you anything useful about the health of any of those market areas.
The fact is that real estate is actually "hyperlocal," with sales and
property values varying widely from one neighborhood to another within
the same city, and from the central city to the suburbs. The
Austin MLS segments listings and sales activity in dozens of "MLS
Areas." Those areas can be aggregated, which
allows consideration of market status in larger, fairly logical, "MLS
Regions." I discuss historical property sales and values with
clients frequently, and it is completely clear what a buyer wants and
and is willing to pay for inevitably lead to decisions about location
(or strong location preferences require realistic expectations about
what is available within a given budget).
the city of Austin, what can you get for your money? Here
are a couple of views of 2010 sales:
The average size of single family homes sold in
2010 ranged from 1,570 to 3,171 square feet and average sale prices ran
from a low of $132,741 to a maximum of $536,710. I am frequently
asked about the "price per square foot" in Austin, and I suppose based
on this data it would be accurate to give the simple answer of
$143.00. How useful is that answer, though, when houses
sold last year were valued from $75.77 to $253.40 per square foot?
The same is true for condos and townhouses, but in that segment the
availability of properties varies significantly from region to region:
So ... it's fine to decide that you want a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home,
with 2,500 to 3,000 square feet. It's also great to love the
convenience and the "vibe" of Central Austin. But it is not
realistic to expect to match those objectives with a budget of
$300,000. It is also perfectly within your prerogative to decide
you want to live in a condominium in Southwest Austin as long as you
understand that it could take a while: there were a grand total
of 36 sold in that area in all of 2010.
There are obviously many other factors that vary from location to
location -- age of home, style, access to public transportation,
"walkability" to certain schools and employers, etc. You will
also find significant variability among neighborhoods, even within
these MLS regions, but this data represents the "big picture" in Austin
real estate. Sure, you may enjoy driving around every weekend
looking at homes you like in the area where you want to live, but if
they're priced at twice your budget it's just entertainment.
Likewise, you can probably find a way to spend $500,000 on a home you
love in the suburbs, but if everything around it is valued at $300,000
don't be surprised if a profitable resale is difficult in a few years.
These are all things that a prospective home buyer must take into
account. Among many other roles, you should count on a real
professional to help to calibrate your expectations. If your
honest goal is to own a home, the search must begin on the basis of
realism. I find that too many real estate agents are shy about
having this conversation, but he or she owes you this counsel.
Market knowledge isn't your job; it's your agent's.
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