Austin's housing market is hotter than ever before, and it's showing no signs of slowing down. With nearly 200 people arriving in Austin per day, housing inventory is sparse, and with an influx of California money rapidly coming in, property costs are skyrocketing.
Buying a house just isn't as easy as it used to be, according to Austin Board of Realtors 2021 President Susan Horton, who sat down with Austonia to give some tips on how to make it out alive in a "fast, furious" and "cutthroat" real estate market.
Know what you want and have a plan
Follow Horton's advice and don't buy with your "eyes and … heart instead of what there is on the need list."
it's easy to get distracted by glamour while you're shopping around, so sit down and lay out your needs, wants and dreams for a house before you shop.
Horton says you can't know what you want until you figure out what you need. Don't jump straight into looking at houses or get distracted by glitzy exteriors before you know exactly what you want in your future abode: good schools, proximity to downtown, a short commute, or perhaps a jacuzzi, open floor plan or friendly neighbors.
Don’t go it alone—build a support team
When you're searching for a home, Horton said it is important to gather professionals who can help guide you through the complex, lengthy and, at times, stressful and frustrating process of buying a house.
Don't try to navigate the process without a trusted real estate agent and lender. Why? A real estate agent has studied the market, can help buyers identify which areas meet their needs, walk buyers through copious hurdles that can arise, connect them to a trusted lender and above all, save them tons of time.
A lender can help buyers understand financing options and manage their money to avoid unnecessary spending and heartache because Horton says buyers are "not going to find anything if they're not going to be able to move."
Start shopping around as soon as possible
While starting the process can be scary, Horton says you have to have to get in as soon as possible. "You can't be afraid (and) you can't be fearful because the prices are going to continue to go up," Horton said.
Once you've lined up everything you need and have a good support group around you, the final step is being ready to pull the trigger. According to Horton, the average home will stay on the market for 17 days, but some can go as quickly as four days compared to an average of 91 days across the state of Texas. Since Austin has a pretty steep housing inventory shortage, buyers need to be ready to make a decision —and fast—if they think a certain home is right for them.
Know when renting is a better option for you
While Horton works hard to get every set of buyers into a house that will work for them, sometimes it just doesn't work out.
Horton says it's important to understand when the time is right. If you've been searching for more than six months, it might be time to take a pause and save up while you rent for a while. While you're renting, your realtor can continue to monitor the markets you're interested in and you continue to house hunt, Horton said. "If that means that we have to buy out of your lease, then we'll do it, but I try to give them an option that's going to keep them in the home buying process."
Horton's dos and don'ts
Horton recommends prospective buyers follow these tips to make the process as seamless as possible:
Do look at several homes before you make a choice. You don't want any "what ifs" while buying a house, so make sure you will be satisfied before making an offer.
Don't overbid—stay within your financial limits. That doesn't mean you're not going to pay over the asking price, but it will keep you closer to your limit.
Do ask questions. Stay in constant communication with your house-hunting team and let them know your concerns because they are there to help.
Don't buy based on the beautifully-staged decor— buy based on the bare bones of the house. Some houses may look perfect, but that doesn't mean they will be perfect for your needs.
Do get a house inspector when you decide on a home because you never know what's hiding behind a pretty exterior.
Don't get frustrated if the process isn't going the way you envisioned. Austin's housing market is red-hot, and unless you have a lot of cash on hand, you're probably going to have to be patient.
Do continue to pay down debts. You want your credit to be squeaky clean. Although lenders are looking at certain types of debt, like student loans, in a different light, sellers are going with whoever's record looks best.
Don't make any major purchases if you can avoid it and certainly don't make them without talking to your lender. Your lender needs to be in the know about your financial decisions lest you make trouble for yourself down the line.
Follow all those tips and Horton says you are more likely to have a "clean, clear, smooth, closing." Happy hunting!
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🗓 All weekend
Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities
All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park
This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.
6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.
10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park
Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.
Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.
11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway
Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”