Looking to take advantage of low-interest rates and stimulus check savings by buying a used car? Get in line.
Used car prices are soaring nationwide due to a global semiconductor shortage, which has forced some car manufacturers to shut down assembly plants, limiting new car inventory. There's also pent-up demand from consumers, who are armed with savings and ready to spend at this stage of the pandemic.
Killion Auto Sales in Round Rock had just one used car on its lot on Monday, compared to at least 60 normally, and has closed on Saturdays for the foreseeable future. "I am still buying cars, but they are just selling as fast as I bring them," co-owner Nathan Killion told Austonia.
Used car inventory is largely determined by new car inventory, fueled by trade-ins and other turnover. Car manufacturers faced factory shutdowns during the pandemic and are now contending with a chip shortage, meaning new car inventory is severely limited, and demand is spilling over onto used car lots.
Although Killion said demand is high, with stimulus checks and accidents driving customers onto used car lots, it doesn't make financial sense for him to buy used cars at a huge markup because his small dealership handles its own financing. Even if he is able to sell such vehicles at a profit now, the market will eventually correct. If one of his buyers gets into a car accident, insurance may only cover a portion of the car's sales price, leaving him out of pocket. "We've decided that it's better to have fewer cars that I can try to sell for reasonable money and to mitigate that loss when something bad happens," he said.
Still, with sparse lots and eager customers, the used car market currently benefits sellers.
"I just sold one of my cars for nearly the same price I paid for it three years ago," Randy Frederick, Austin-based managing director of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, tweeted on Monday.
Used cars indeed; it's a seller's market. I just sold one of my cars for nearly the same price I paid for it 3 years ago. Sell if you can; don't buy if you don't have to.https://t.co/wyfH3UcCAShttps://t.co/1eIzCIj3Cs
— Randy Frederick (@RandyAFrederick) July 19, 2021
South Austin Nissan is "giving all the money for decent vehicles" due to the nationwide inventory shortage, sales consultant Mark Sanchez wrote in a May 6 Facebook post. "Decent mileage and well taken care of pre-owned vehicles are worth GOLD!"
Carmax, the largest buyer and seller of used cars in the U.S., saw record demand in the first quarter of its current fiscal year, selling approximately 452,000 cars between March and May, up 128% from the same period last year, according to a statement shared with Austonia. The retailer, which has two Austin locations, reports that its sellers often receive a higher offer than they anticipated.
But a seller's market may price out prospective buyers. (Just look at the Austin housing market, where similar supply-and-demand issues are at work.) Overall, used car and truck prices increased 10.5% in June and a staggering 45.2% year-over-year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some used cars now command higher prices than their brand-new counterparts. "Dealers may think used car buyers are willing to pay more for the instant gratification of a lightly-used vehicle they can drive right off the lot rather than waiting for a new one," iSeeCars.com Executive Analyst Karl Brauer said in a recent analysis.
Killion anticipates it will take at least a year for new car inventory to catch up to demand after various delays. In the meantime, he has four or five notes on his desk from people who are looking to buy a used car, if only he can find one. "Having transportation in Austin, Texas, is not exactly optional," he said.
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Flyers are less satisfied with the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport than a year ago, a new study shows.
Research firm J.D. Power placed ABIA at No. 15 on a list ranking overall customer satisfaction at large airports, a slip from last year’s spot at No. 7. Other Texas airports secured rankings ahead of Austin, with Dallas Love Field at third, Houston Hobby at eight, and San Antonio International Airport at ninth.
Dallas/Ft. Worth ranked eight in the "mega airport" category.
The study examined airports based on the following factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
On a 1,000-point scale, Austin-Bergstrom received 785 points this year compared to its score of 819 in 2021.
Passenger experiences at Austin-Bergstrom have been influenced by population growth in Central Texas, which has brought record traffic and longer wait times at TSA. And a recent power outage at Austin-Bergstrom caused flight delays. Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power., said that consumer satisfaction with flying has decreased overall.
“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Taylor said.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, commented on the ranking.
“We're grateful that AUS customers continue to rank our airport above average, especially during this year that saw air travel disruption here in Austin and across the globe as airports, airlines and the air travel industry continued navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” Grimmett said. “We look forward to delivering near-term and long-term improvements through our Journey With AUS program to improve the passenger experience.”
That program is slated to bring a new midfield concourse to increase gates and connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal through an underground connector tunnel.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.