Longtime Austinite Carlos Garza has recently toggled between the local rental and housing markets. He sold his Southwest Austin home last October, after living there for around a decade. Within two days of listing the property, it had received multiple offers; he ended up accepting an offer slightly above asking price within the week. "We were very pleased with the process," he told Austonia.
Since selling, Garza has rented an apartment while he decides what he'd like in his next home. Although it was a bit of sticker shock compared to what he paid to rent 10 years ago, he knows that rent is "relatively low" compared to recent years.
Since the pandemic began, Austin's housing and rental markets have taken divergent paths. Across the five-county metro, the median sales price increased nearly 20% to $365,000 year-over-year, according to the Austin Board of Realtors's latest market report, which was published Thursday. Between March and December of 2020, however, the local apartment market slumped, with both rents and absorption rates in decline compared to the previous year, according to ApartmentData.com's February report. These trends are good for sellers and renters but cause challenges for prospective buyers, who face steep competition and high prices, and landlords.
"The main reason is the bifurcation of the economy," said Dr. Luis Torres, a research economist at the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University.
On the up and up
The Austin housing market was strong going into the pandemic and quickly rebounded due to a number of factors: continued job creation, especially in the tech and professional services sector; a healthy rate of relocations; a millennial-heavy population, with many members starting families and looking for more space at home.
"Because of the pandemic we saw an enormous amount of families decide after 90 days living in one tiny space with no backyard, 'Oh my gosh, we need to make a change,'" ABoR President Susan Horton told Austonia.
In addition to sustained demand, the housing market has long faced low supply. This is good for sellers, like Garza, but provides challenging when they need to buy a new home in turn, prompting some to rent in the short term.
During the pandemic, this challenge has been exacerbated as potential sellers, worried about the risk of exposure to COVID and the challenge of finding a new place to move into, held off on listing their homes, pushing prices even higher.
"Despite developers building as quickly as they can throughout the region and more than 6,000 homesites projected to come online within the next six months, the overall number of lots in development is only just able to keep up with current demand," Zonda's Austin Regional Director Vaike O'Grady said in a statement Thursday. "This means that homes will continue to sell as soon as they hit the market, and prices will continue to rise steadily in the months to come."
(Austin Board of Realtors)
The success of the Austin housing market indicates that prospective homebuyers have largely been shielded from the financial impacts of the pandemic, Torres said. Demographically, this crowd typically tends to be more educated and earn higher income than renters. Since the pandemic began, they are also more likely to have had the option to work from home, which may make a move to the suburbs more appealing—both for the additional space and because there's no commute to worry about. There's also the added benefit of historically low-interest rates. As a result, he said, "People who were renting became homeowners."
The apartment market slump
The local rental market was impacted in almost the exact opposite way: its target audience was more likely to have suffered job loss as a result of the pandemic or to work in an industry that did not allow for social distancing, such as hospitality, and a glut of new construction in recent years meant that supply outpaced demand.
Unlike the housing market, which has seen record-low levels of inventory, the rental market was "saturated" with available units, Horton said.
This graphic, from ApartmentData.com's February market report, shows how rent and occupancy rates have fallen in Austin over the course of the pandemic.
This is good for tenants. "It's a great time to rent right now generally because prices are down nationally," Apartment Guide Managing Editor Brian Carberry said.
But it's tough for landlords, whose tenants may be transitioning to homeownership or in need of rental assistance, according to the Austin Apartment Association's state-of-the-industry report, which was released Feb. 1. "By most measures, single-family is outperforming multifamily, due to the pandemic-related demand for more spacious residences in suburban locations that accommodate learning and working from home," TXP President Jon Hockenyos said in the report.
The advent of COVID-19 has also led to job loss and reduced retail sales. "These loss-of-income and consumer behavior trends produced a double-whammy effect on the apartment industry, which houses many hourly-wage workers needing housing assistance," AAA President Emily Blair said in the same document.
But things could be worse, Torres said, pointing to the role stimulus checks and unemployment benefits have played in keeping the rental market from slumping even further. He also added that, as the pandemic lessens—and unemployment rates and business restrictions do the same—there will likely be a rebound. "When we start seeing all of these things, I think the apartment market will be much better," he said.
When this happens, the rental market's surplus supply will come in handy. Meanwhile, low housing inventory coupled with the likelihood that interest rates may soon begin to rise could spell a slowdown in that market, Torres said. But he added: "It's still going to be strong."
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May's second election is here, in which voters will decide on the candidates to represent their party in the November general election after the winner in some March primary races was unclear.
Just like the March primaries, voters will choose which party they choose to vote in. Then based on location, each ballot will show which races are in a runoff.
In Texas, candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to be elected. In the races where the top candidate only received a plurality of votes, a runoff is being held.
Here's everything you need to know before heading to the polls.
Know before you go
Early voting for the Texas primary runoff election begins Monday and will last through May 20; Election Day is May 24.
The registration period for this election has passed; check if you're registered to vote here.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. As long as you're in line by 7 p.m., you can vote.
You'll need a valid photo ID to present once you're at a polling location.
Here are the early voting locations in Travis County.
View wait times at polling locations here.
Races to watch in Travis County:
- Republican: Incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Mike Collier and Michelle Beckley are vying to be the Democrat candidate on the ballot.
- Republican: Incumbent AG Ken Paxton is fighting for his seat against George P. Bush.
- Democratic: Rochelle Garza and Joe Jaworski will face off to be the Democratic candidate in this race.
View all the statewide races on the ballot here.
U.S. House of Representatives
View the district you live in here.
- Republican: Incumbent Chip Roy won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Claudia Andreana Zapata and Ricardo Villarreal are hoping to secure this vote.
- Republican: Dan McQueen and Michael Rodriguez are going head to head to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Former Austin council member Greg Casar won this race in March.
- Republican: Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry are vying to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Pam Baggett won her primary in March.
Texas has been home to some of the country’s biggest celebrities of all time—think Amarillo resident Georgia O'Keeffe, Lubbock’s Buddy Holly and Corpus Christi’s famous singer Selena.
The Pudding’s People Map of the U.S., which shows each city’s “most Wikipedia’ed” resident, placed celebrities from all walks of life on the Texas map. As for Central Texas celebrities, there are some interesting (and not so surprising) names on deck.
Proving that Austin is “alright, alright, alright,” Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey is both Austin’s and Uvalde’s top Wikipedia’ed resident. McConaughey, who was born in San Antonio adjacent Uvalde, has deeply ingrained himself in Austin by studying Radio-Television-Film at UT Austin, starring in the Austin-filmed movie “Dazed and Confused” and investing in Austin FC.
Heading down just a few miles south, San Marcos claimed former president Lyndon Baines Johnson as Texas State University’s most famous alumni, who graduated in 1930, and was also named in Fredericksburg. LBJ wasn’t the only ex-president on the map—George W. Bush was listed as the top resident in Dallas, Midland, Houston and Crawford.
You’ll see some other names with ties to Austin strewn around the state: Janis Joplin in Beaumont and Port Arthur; Stone Cold Steve Austin in Victoria and Edna; Dan Rather in his hometown of Wharton; and Waylon Jennings in Littlefield.
Venturing outside of the central areas, there are big celebrities who call Texas Home. Actress and artist Selena Gomez dominated search traffic in her hometown of Grand Prairie, musical artist Post Malone was most “Wikipedia’ed” in Grapevine, and Shaquille O’Neal was named in the city where he went to high school, San Antonio.
Plus, Thomas Haden Church, Angela Kinsey, Jessica Simpson, Chuck Norris, Roy Orbison, Ron White, Jessica Alba, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Dean and Johnny Manziel all had at least one city covered on the list.
Where’s Texas’ newest resident, Elon Musk? You’ll find him still in Los Angeles, as his foray into Texas living has just begun.Click here to view the full map.