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April 2020 Central Texas Housing Market Report

Austin-area home sales feel impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Signs of optimism remain

AUSTIN, Texas—Austin-area home sales declined across most of the region in April as the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and local shelter-in-place orders was felt in the housing market, according to the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR) latest Central Texas Housing Market Report.

Compared to April 2019, residential sales in the five-county Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) decreased 21.6% to 2,611 sales, while sales dollar volume fell 18.3% to $1,060,228,668. A 7.3% decline in active listings to 6,349 listings drove housing inventory down further to 2.1 months, 0.2 months lower than this time last year. At the same time, median sales price increased 3.2% to $325,000 and homes spent nine fewer days on the market, or an average of 43 days.

“We anticipated a sharp decline in April home sales activity, as it directly correlates with the decline in listings activity recorded in March due to government stay-at-home orders,” ABoR President Romeo Manzanilla said. “Even with the impact to home sales, homes still spent less time on the market and sold at higher prices than last April. Austin’s housing demand is undeterred, and possibly strengthened by declining inventory.”

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Continued declines in listing activity in April 2020 could mean a second consecutive month of declining home sales. During the same period, active listings dropped 7.3% to 6,349 listings, new listings declined 21.1% to 3,516 listings, and pending sales declined 25% to 2,801 sales.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist and senior vice president of research at the National Association of REALTORS®, said while Central Texas has not been more negatively impacted than the U.S. housing market at large, he anticipates improvement in the market.

“As the economy steadily reopens, expect more listings to pop up, which will help ease the housing shortage. By the end of this year, home sales could be at levels comparable to 2019,” Yun said. “The local economy will also get an additional boost from more home construction that is needed for improving the market going into the next year,” Yun concluded.

Manzanilla is equally optimistic on the resiliency of Austin’s housing market. “It could have been much worse. Efforts to recognize real estate as an essential business helped lessen the negative impact of the pandemic during April; now listing and showing activity is already on the rise again. We’re hopeful this growth will continue in the coming weeks and months.”

City of Austin

In the city of Austin, the median price for residential homes experienced a double-digit increase of 12.3% year over year to $421,000. Residential sales decreased 33.1% to 759 sales, and sales dollar volume dropped by 23.9% to $387,921,787. During the same period, new listings decreased 24.8% to 1,158 listings, active listings fell 6.2% to 1,631 listings and pending sales declined 39% to 814 pending sales. Monthly housing inventory decreased 0.1 months year over year to 1.6 months of inventory.

Travis County

At the county level, residential sales declined 28.6% to 1,223 sales, and sales dollar volume dropped 23.7% to $602,124,601. The median price for residential homes increased 9.7% year over year to $395,000. During the same period, new listings decreased 26.5% to 1,779 listings, while active listings declined 12.8% to 2,929 listings. Pending sales also dropped 34.4% to 1,331 pending sales. Monthly housing inventory decreased 0.3 months year over year to 1.9 months of inventory.

Williamson County

In Williamson County, April residential sales decreased by 23.1% to 887 sales, and sales dollar volume declined 19.2% to $292,880,025. The median price showed resiliency and rose by 6.6% to $300,000. New listings declined 16.4% to 1,140 listings, while active listings slightly decreased 4.4% to 2,046 listings. Pending sales decreased 17.8% to 982 pending sales. Housing inventory declined 0.2 months year over year to 2.0 months of inventory.

Hays County

Despite the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, Hays County residential sales in April spiked 16.2% to 395 sales, and sales dollar volume jumped 18.6% to $136,147,504. The median price for residential homes declined by 1.6% to $284,950. During the same period, new listings increased 4.4% to 475 listings, and active listings increased 4% to 945 listings. Pending sales slightly decreased 1.9% to 368 pending sales. Housing inventory decreased 0.1 months to 2.8 months of inventory.

Bastrop County

In April, Bastrop County residential sales dropped 6.5% to 87 sales, while sales dollar volume marginally increased 3.1% to $24,229,255. The median price for residential homes increased 10.6% to $260,000. During the same period, new listings tumbled 41.7% to 98 listings, active listings slightly increased 0.9% to 339 listings and pending sales fell 9.3% to 98 pending sales. Housing inventory decreased 0.3 months to 3.6 months of inventory.

Caldwell County

In Caldwell County, April residential sales declined 36.7% to 19 sales, and sales dollar volume decreased by 45.2% to $4,095,899. The median home price slightly dropped 1.9% year over year to $202,500. During the same period, new listings fell by 51% to 24 listings, active listings decreased 10% to 90 listings and pending sales declined by 12% to 22 pending sales. Housing inventory decreased 0.5 months to 3.6 months of inventory. 

For more information, and to download the April 2020 Central Texas Housing Market Report, visit http://www.abor.com/statsapr20. All information taken from the Austin Board of Realtors March 2020 Central Texas Housing Market Report,

 

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Property Tax Protest FAQs

About this time of year, we get a lot of questions from clients, friends and family about property taxes, property tax protests and exemptions. We’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions to help, but you can always reach out to your best TJ Lewis Real Estate agent to help!

How do I protest my property taxes?

There are different steps and stages to protesting your property taxes, but most start with filling an appeal online on your county’s appraisal distract website.

What am I protesting?

You are protesting your homes valuation, not the amount of your taxes or your tax rate. You cannot argue the tax rate – that is set by the different taxing entities (state, county, ISD, MUD, etc.) and is usually between 2-3%. The amount of your taxes is Your VALUATION (minus any exemptions) x Your Tax RATE. So if your valuation is $400,000 and your rate is 2% than your taxes for the year are $8000. What you are protesting the your valuation – the amount the county is saying your home is worth.

What property tax exemptions might be available to me?

The most common property tax exemptions are the exemptions for homestead, disability, senior citizen, agriculture and disable veteran. Here is a link to a video explaining a lot of details about exemptions.

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How do I know if I should protest my property taxes?

This is best determined by comparing the valuation from the county with the current home market. Your valuation is based on the a single date – January 1st of that year – and it is compared against the values for similar properties for the previous year. If you are using sold comparable sales data, you can only use properties that sold in the previous calendar year. For example, for protesting your taxes this year, you would compare it to sales in 2019. To determine the fair market value for your current property, contact a top TJ Lewis agent.

Can I protest my property taxes on my own?

 

Yes, you can but sometimes it is worth it to hire a professional to help you with the process. There are a number of local companies that specialize helping homeowners with protesting their taxes. Their fee is usually a percentage of the tax savings that they earn for their customers and they can also tell you if it is actually worth it to protest your taxes.

Why do my taxes go up?

Your taxes go up for two reasons. First, your taxes increase because your tax rate goes up. From time to time, counties increase taxes to pay for bonds and similar programs. School districts adjust their tax rates to track with their budgets. Many of these rates require local votes and others have caps from the state government. The second reason your taxes go up is that your home’s valuation has increased. Your taxes are based on home much your home is worth – when your home is worth more, you pay more in taxes.

How does a Homestead Exemption protect me?

A homestead exemption protects you in two ways – it exempts you from paying taxes on a percentage of your homes value thereby reducing your property taxes. The exemption also places a 10% cap on the increase a county can make on the valuation of your home each year.

How can I protest my property taxes?

 

There are three main types of property tax appeals – a market appeal, an equity appeal and an appeal based on characteristic correction. A market appeal is based on the believe that your homes valuation is not in line with the current market value of your home if you sold it (remember, you have to use the previous years data for this). An equity appeal is based on the values the county has assigned to similar properties or yours. If they have valued other homes similar to yours at a lower level, you can appeal based on this inequity. An appeal based on characteristics is made when the county has incorrect measurements or structures added to your home. If the square footage they have recorded for your home is higher than the actual square footage, you can argue for a reduced property tax valuation based on the incorrect data. Another example would be if their notes list a pool, shed or other structure in your backyard and have increased your value based on this when you do not actually have that structure, you can get an adjustment based on the county having these characteristics incorrect.

What is the difference between a online/E-File protest and an informal/formal hearing?

 

The online/e-file protests are done completely online and are a lower risk/lower reward system. They take less time as they are done online but any reductions in your value are usually less than what you might be able to get with the in-person informal/formal reviews. However, the online protest cannot result in an increased valuation, something that could happen through the other way. The informal/formal reviews require you to meet with different people at the appraisal board but can usually net you a higher reduction. They can result in an increased valuation if the board feels your value is actually too low. The tax protest professionals are especially good in these reviews.

These are a few Frequently Asked Questions about property tax protest and we hope this has been helpful for you! If you have specific questions about your home, your homes value or protesting your property taxes, contact your top TJ Lewis Real Estate agent and we would be honored to help!

 

 

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Best Burger Restaurants in Austin

Burgers are a staple of any classic American cuisine and Austin’s food scene is no different. From local fast food joints to “hole in wall” Austin classics or gourmet creations, the Austin area has a little bit of everything. Here is our list of some of the top restaurants to enjoy a burger at in our hometown. Some we like because of the amazing tastes, meat or creations and others we like for the history, ambiance or overall meal. If you want our FAVORITE burger or restaurant, ask your local TJ Lewis agent – we’d love to help!

In alphabetical order…

3

Arlo’s

Arlo’s serves plant-based comfort food in a bistro style setting for the Austin nightlife scene. Their food is designed to satisfy omnivores and herbivores alike, offering a fantastic alternative to the usual late night trailer eateries.

Clark’s Oyster Bar

Don’t be confused by the name – the Pan Roasted Black Angus Hamburger at Clarke’s is one of the top burgers in the Austin area!

1

Dan’s Hamburgers

Dan’s has been an Austin tradition since 1973 and is still family owned and operated – one of the Austin “Classics” you should check out!

Hat Creek 

Another Austin trailer restaurant that grew into much more, now with locations all over Texas. Hat Creek is a great environment for kids and adults to enjoy amazing burgers, fries, and shakes (their lettuce wrap burger is delicious!). 

5

Hop Doddy’s

An Austin original that where it’s gormet burgers might actually be outdone by it’s shakes. And we didn’t mention the parmesan truffle fries with Truffle Aioli…Yum!

2

Jewboys

JewBoy Burgers is a food truck that mixes a US/Mexico Border Culture and a traditional Reform Jewish upbringing together to make burgers and latkes that honor both cultures. 

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Mighty Fine

Another Austin original with delicious burgers, fries and shakes but set apart with their fanatical focus on quality and service. So much so that they were the recipient of a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award: the nation’s highest presidential honor for performance excellence!

4

P.Terry’s

Austin’s fast food burger stand – a simple menu with an open kitchen, featuring premium quality ingredients, all served at affordable prices. To the burgers, add fresh-baked cookies, banana bread, house veggie burger and fresh-squeezed orange juice and lemonade!

Phil’s Icehouse

Started in 2003 by Steven and Amy of Amy’s Ice Cream (another Austin original servicing made to order ice cream creations), Phil’s Icehouse has burgers named after local Austin neighborhoods. It’s a popular spot with kids as each location has an enjoyable outdoor play area. 

Sandy’s

A favorite for true Austinintes, Sandy’s has been serving burgers, fries and ice cream on Barton Springs Rd for generations – since the 1940’s actually! Perhaps your most afforadalbe burger in Austin – taste the history of Austin!

Top Notch

If you are not from Austin, you might recognize Top Notch Burgers from the 1993 movie, Dazed and Confused. Austinintes have been coming here since 1971 for the charcoal-grilled burgers and fried chicken. 

 

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Should I Refinance?

One of the most common questions we are getting over the past few weeks is coming from homeowners who are wondering if now is the time for them to refinance their mortgage. Interest rates have been very low and in the new we have all seen the the Fed cut its benchmark to almost 0%! Does this mean that we can get a mortgage for 0%?! 

We would like to answer some of the most common questions about refinancing here, but if you have particular questions unique to your personal situation, reach out to your TJ Lewis Real Estate agent and he or she would be happy to help!

Does a 0% Fed rate mean I can get that interest rate for my mortgage?

Unfortunately, no, you cannot get a 0% mortgage interest rate. The Fed rate does have an impact on mortgage rates but there not directly related. A reduced Fed rate usually means you can get a lower interest rate but they will not be equal for a number of reasons we will not get into here – ask you real estate agent or lender.

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How do I know if I should try to refinance my mortgage?

There are a few situations that if you find yourself in right now, you should consider refinancing:

  • Your current mortgage interest rate is above 4%. You can likely get a new lower rate and it should be worth it for you to refinance. 
  • You have equity in your home and you are looking to “Cash Out.” A cash out refinance converts some of the equity you have in your home to cash in your bank account. Your mortgage balance will increase but the you might be able to keep the same payment because of the lower rates or by adjusting the length of your mortgage.
  • You have an adjustable rate mortgage. Adjustable rate mortgages can be great for short periods of time but are not ideal for the long term. Your rate could go up significantly and is unpredictable. Refinancing to a low, guaranteed rate could be a good idea. 
  • You need to consolidate debt. This is similar to the concept of a cash out refinance but you are using the cash to pay off other, higher interest debt. Maybe you have an car note or student loan that has a higher interest rate – you could refinance to consolidate that debt to a single, lower interest payment with your mortgage.

Ok, at least one of those answers describes my situation, what should I do next?

  • Contact your lender to get some basic questions answered. Do they have a program for me? How long does their refinance process work? What interest rate could be available to me?
  • Check your eligibility. Just because you own your home right now does not mean you automatically qualify to refinance right now. Contact your lender to check your eligibility. 
  • Get your document in ahead of time. The process to refinance can take 30-60 days so getting your documents in ahead of time could mean that your lender is ready to lock your rate as soon as it reaches the right rate. Rates fluctuate and your lender can be watching for the perfect time. If you wait until rates drop to the right level for you and then start the application process, you might miss out.

Are there any other benefits to refinancing?

When you close on your new mortgage, your next payment is not due until the second month. So if you close on June 15th, your first payment should not be due until August 1st – you’ve effectively skipped two payments!

If you have a question about refinance your home or need help finding the right lender, contact your TJ Lewis Real Estate agent and he or she will be happy to help!