Looking for a sign? Rollingwood quarantine project springs into citywide effort to 'bring some positivity into our lives'
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Late at night on April 23, under the cover of darkness, John and Marilee Eitel drove around Rollingwood on their golf cart, planting signs in their neighbors' yards.
They featured song lyrics from Willie Nelson ("I just can't wait to get back on the road again"), The Little Mermaid ("I want to be where the people are"), Talking Heads ("Home is where I want I want to be") and Bob Marley ("Everything's going to be alright"). One version included advice from Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey ("Just keep livin'").
"The next morning it was super fun to wake up and see the Instagram posts and Facebook messages and NextDoor messages with people saying, 'Have you seen the really cool signs?'" John said. "It started to get even more interesting because people are like, 'Look, there's more of them.' 'I found them over here.' It became kind of an Easter egg hunt, and no one knew who did it."
Rollingwood residents responded to John and Marilee's signs on social media. (John and Marilee Eitel)
John got the idea to make the signs a few weeks into the coronavirus quarantine, during which he got into the habit of walking along a four-mile loop in Rollingwood. "My wife and I started to see that as our outlet to the outside world and our chance to socialize and see neighbors," he said.
One night, on a whim, John broached the idea of making signs. He works for Canva, a company that makes graphic design software, and—after drumming up about a dozen different sign ideas—reached out to a coworker, who printed 50 and shipped them to the Eitels.
Since the signs made their debut, John has revealed his identity—and is now fielding requests from neighbors near and far. John placed a second order for 50 signs and then a third for 100 more. "It's been neat to see them popping up in lots of new neighborhoods," he said, citing appearances in Clarksville, Tarrytown and even on someone's boat dock.
(John and Marilee Eitel)
A Google form used to corral orders revealed crowd favorites, such as the Beatles' lyric, "All you need is love." John said he's enjoying the crowdsourcing nature of the project and making connections with Austin residents he might not have met otherwise, especially at a moment when our worlds feel smaller than usual.
On Wednesday, John is expecting his fourth shipment, which will bring the total number of signs to 400. When they arrive, he and his family will help prep the deliveries, with Marilee delineating orders with Post-It Notes and their children driving them to their new homes.
"I hope that my kids come away from this with a really positive memory," John said. "How we were able to make a small impact on people's lives and bring some positivity into our lives."
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.
Holland says that while the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is often mentioned in the media, the most popular loan that he's seeing now is a 7/1 adjustable rate mortgage, which has a fixed rate for 7 years and then adjusts every year based on market rates, with a limit on how much it can increase each year. The interest is amortized over a 30-year period. Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) offer lower rates than fixed rate loans.
Here are the numbers, which are examples. In practice, exact numbers vary with a buyer's credit rating and overall financial situation, and with the rate, which can move up or down at any time.
- $650,000 home purchase price
- 7/1 ARM at 5.875%
- 5% down payment, equals $32,500
- 95% financed, equals $617,500
- $4,990 payment, including principle and interest (P&I), insurance, and property tax
- Typically, a borrower's debt to income ratio needs to be at or below 45%. So for this mortgage, a borrower, or borrowers, would need income of roughly $11,100/month, or $133,200/year. That number could be higher, depending on the buyer's outstanding credit balances on things like credit cards and car loans.
Holland says he's had a lot of clients approved for loans who were house hunting but have put that on hold, hoping prices come down.
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