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Startup born from California wildfires hopes to spark innovative housing in Austin

A startup built from the ashes of the devastating California wildfires is now setting its sights on a new crisis: Austin's housing market.

It's no secret that Austin is the nation's current "boomtown," as billionaire resident Elon Musk said in January. With an exploding tech industry and a steady surge of newcomers, Austin's housing market is high on demand and recently devastatingly low on supply.

The median sales price in Austin rose 16.4% from 2020 to 2021, according to the Austin Board of Realtors' year-end report. As prices rise, many prospective buyers get boxed out of the market—if they can even find an available home in the first place.

California-based Homebound hopes to balance Austin's growing market.

The company, which offers a comprehensive online homebuilding service, was founded in 2017 after cofounder Jack Abraham lost his home in the California wildfires. Since then, the project has become a one-stop shop for customers looking to choose how their home is constructed.

While Austin has not been devastated by wildfires, it does have a dire need for new homes. By customizing the construction experience, Homebound hopes to give prospective buyers the option to build instead of buy.

With their team of construction, real estate and technology experts, Austin's newest contractors help buyers every step of the way- from finding a plot of land to adding final touches to the home. Customers can choose from a variety of plans that cover hundreds of steps within the financing, architecture and design, lot preparation, construction and move-in processes. Customers can find a lot of land through Homebound or purchase a lot already owned by the company.

With Austin's drenched market, it's sometimes less expensive to build than to buy. By giving homebuyers a simplified building option, Homebound can help create a more affordable alternative within the metro, according to the company's website.

"While home prices are skyrocketing, construction costs remain low, making Austin a builder's paradise," the website's Austin page reads.

Not including land cost, building costs start at around $300,000, CEO and co-founder Nikki Pechet told TechCrunch.

Eventually, the company hopes to bring affordability and simplicity to home markets across the country, including other tech hubs like Miami and Charlotte, Pechet said.

"This is just the start," Pechet told TechCrunch. "We're taking the platform to markets across the country to help exactly with this issue."


A mortgage banker walks us through the math on purchasing a 'mid-price' Austin home

So you want to buy a house?

To anyone trying to get on the "housing ladder," it's been a discouraging couple of years as prices skyrocketed in a market crowded with buyers bidding against each other for just about any available home.

Things may be calming down, with the Austin Board of REALTORS reporting fewer sales and more available homes this summer.

Mortgage rates have more than doubled in the last year, from around 3% to well over 6% on a 30-year fixed rate loan, getting even more of a bump this week after the Federal Reserve raised bank rates on Wednesday.

So how affordable are homes right now? That, of course, depends on what you want and how much you're able or willing to pay, but here are some rough estimates of what a typical buyer would pay to buy a $650,000 home, which would be considered "mid-price" in today's market.

Mortgage banker Chris Holland (NMLS 211033) of Austin's Sente Mortgage ran some numbers for Austonia to illustrate a typical purchase.

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