Despite a pandemic and record-low inventory, the Austin housing market had a record-breaking year in 2020.
The median home price in the five-county Austin-Round Rock metro increased by nearly 16%, to an all-time high of $370,000, in December, and residential home sales increased more than 16% year-over-year, according to the latest monthly and year-end reports from the Austin Board of Realtors.
The city of Austin saw even more dramatic growth, with the median sales price rising nearly 19% to $461,000—a new monthly record—in December. Residential home sales increased 16.4%, year-over-year.
ABoR officials attributed this growth, in part, to the impact of COVID-19.
"The pandemic only increased demand for all types of housing across the region, pushing inventory to near-zero levels and creating the strongest sellers' market Realtors have ever seen," ABoR President Susan Horton said in a statement.
Dr. James Gaines, former chief economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center, added: "The pandemic fostered an environment where many families increased personal savings, helping some transition from renting to ownership while others needed to 'move up' for more space while working from home."
Extremely low housing inventory factors into these jumps, with a record-low amount of housing inventory reported in the metro last month, according to ABoR.
"The complexity of a home sale is at an all-time high as it has become commonplace for homes to receive multiple offers well over list price," Horton said.
Horton's predecessor, Romeo Manzanilla, raised concerns about this trend.
"Central Texans who could not find a property within Austin's city limits have historically been able to expand their searches outward to find a home," he said in a statement last month. "But, when the entire region has virtually zero inventory, its leaders must think about how such a broad lack of housing will ultimately impact Austin's sustainability as a destination for business and economic growth."
Demand for housing is amplified by an influx of new residents.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal dubbed Austin a magnet for new corporate jobs, thanks to its lower costs (and taxes) compared to San Francisco and New York City. And LinkedIn reported that Austin gained the most newcomers of any city in the country, based on an analysis of its 174 U.S. users.
Overall, Gaines said the outlook for the 2021 housing market is "very good."
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.