Spring and summer is typically the busiest season for Austin's real estate market. But since the pandemic hit in March, only the housing sector has seen improvements.
The Austin metro saw a 21.5% year-over-year increase in home sales last month, with the median sales price climbing more than 10%. Rentals, on the other hand, are still struggling to recover from the financial hits.
"[March to July] is our peak leasing season, so historically there are usually pretty good size gains month over month this time of year," said Cindi Reed, vice president of regional development for ApartmentData.com. "This is not typical for this time of year."
On the homefront
Recent strong home sales indicate that the local market is bouncing back, despite the ongoing pandemic.
"July was a very encouraging month for the Central Texas housing market," Austin Board of Realtors President Romeo Manzanilla said in a Wednesday press release. "[W]ith two consecutive months of positive numbers, we are growing more confident that this is sustainable and can help be the spark that gets our economy back on track."
Manzanilla attributed the recovery to Austin's "dangerously low" housing inventory, which makes the housing market "ultra-competitive," and with "historically low" interest rates.
Recent economic development initiatives may also responsible.
Laura Huffman, president and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said demand for housing is driven by the recent arrivals of electric car manufacturer Tesla, which promises 5,000 jobs at its forthcoming Southeast Travis County Gigafactory, and defense contractor BAE Systems, which announced last week plans for a new campus at Parmer Austin Business Park that will house more than 1,400 employees.
"Even amidst the pandemic, Austin still shines as a magnet for companies that appreciate our robust business climate and abundant talent pool," Huffman said in the same release.
The median home price in the city of Austin is now $423,000, up 11.3% from last year, according to ABoR data. This growth extends to the surrounding areas, including Williamson and Hays counties, which both posted double-digit year-over-year increases in overall sales and median home prices.
A renter's market
The Austin apartment market, however, is another story.
Since March, the average monthly rent in Austin has declined by about $37, or around 3%, according to a market report compiled by ApartmentData.com.
Reed attributes this to a combination of factors, including low interest rates spurring homeownership; a large amount of new and forthcoming inventory, including at least 49 Austin complexes in the pre-leasing stage; and what she feels is a decline in the number of people moving.
Class A, or luxury, apartments, have seen a more "significant decline" in Austin, with their average monthly rent down nearly 5% in the same period. Downtown, which primarily offers Class A units, has proven to be one of the worst performing submarkets during the pandemic period.
"I have to speculate and wonder: Who wants to pay the high price to live downtown but you don't get the benefits of the urban lifestyle?" Reed said, explaining that COVID has temporarily shut down a lot of the bars, restaurants and music venues that draw people to the area.
While there are some signs that the rental market may return to its pre-pandemic state—including a slight increase in the average rent from June to July and the return of students to college campuses—the apartment industry is still vulnerable to the COVID-19 recession.
Many landlords are worried about rental collection now that stimulus funds have likely run out and evictions remain on hold.
"There's a lot of fear of what's going to happen moving forward," Reed said. "It could go either way."
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The city of Austin is warning residents of toxins that are dangerous to both humans and animals in Barton Creek waters at Sculpture Falls.
Concerning levels of cylindrospermopsin were discovered on Sept. 22 after a person got sick and samples were sent to get tested on Sept. 9. Signs will be posted at access points to Sculpture Falls that people and their pets should not injest or swim in the water.
Unlike the harmful algae making dogs sick in parts of Lake Travis and Lady Bird Lake in past summers, these toxins are found in the water, the city says. Barton Creek visitors are asked to avoid stagnant water especially.
The toxins also result in different health effects than the harmful algae in Lady Bird Lake, including liver and kidney damage. If exposed, people can feel:
- Bloody diarrhea
TinyFest Texas 2021
When: 10 a.m. Saturday – 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms, 10621 Pioneer Farms Drive
What: Tour tiny houses, van converstions, shipping container homes and more at this year's TinyFest. Grab tickets here for a weekend of speakers, workshops and panel discussions plus live music, food and more!
Fierce Whiskers Grand Opening
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fierce Whiskers, 5333 Fleming Court
What: Fan of whiskey? Come along to the free grand opening of Fierce Whiskers Distillery's new tasting room. Enjoy bites from a food truck, oysters, musical performances and a raffle.
Austin Summer Carnival
When: 6 p.m. Saturday – 2 a.m. Sunday
Where: The Venue ATX, 516 East 6th St.
What: Don your dancing outfit for this carnival that celebrates the African heritage with Brazilian, Latin and Caribbean rhythms in Austin. Snag your tickets here.
Beginner's Succulent Arrangement and Planting
When: 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Succulent Native, 5501 North Lamar Blvd.
What: Calling all first-time planters: Get your hands dirty and learn about succulent and cactus arrangement and care. No tools required! Grab your tickets here.