A view of what kind of view $13 million can buy on Lake Travis

Let's face it—we're all tired of staring at the same four walls during this pandemic. Here are a few homes that have hit Austin's booming luxury real estate market, because we're in the mood for a little escape.

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(Moreland Properties)

This 4-bedroom, $10 million Westlake home is privately listed by Moreland Properties. ModernWestlake.com

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When businesses closed their doors in March, Austin realtor Cord Shiflet did not think he would sell another house this year.

To his surprise, this has been the busiest month he has ever seen for well-funded buyers moving to Austin.

"In my 23 years of doing this, the last month has been the craziest, most active market I've ever seen, with big buyers moving into Austin," said Shiflet, who works for Moreland Properties. "COVID has set our market on fire."

Austin realtors say business is booming in luxury real estate, which is a pleasant surprise after expecting sales to plummet due to coronavirus.

The majority of his big buyers have usually come from California, Shiflet said, but now he is seeing a drastic increase in New York executives and business owners who want to move to Austin.

After months of stay-home orders and working remotely, people from both coasts seem to be reevaluating where they live.

"We've just been seeing New Yorkers coming out here in droves," Shiflet said. "They can work from really anywhere in the world, and these people don't want to live in the tight spaces that they're currently in."

Texas has long appealed to people living in more regulated states due to a business-friendly climate and lack of state income tax. Shiflet said realtors are struggling to keep up with the increased demand from new buyers, many of whom are shocked to see how much further their money can go in Texas.

"We're going through our Rolodexes and knocking on doors, trying to find the quality product that these people want," Shiflet said. "They have a hard time believing they can have so much house and so much space and land around them as opposed to the apartments they're coming out of in New York."

Michelle Dolch, a realtor from Austin Luxury Group, said she has experienced the same thing—she even has a few buyers who are looking in the range of $20 million and above.

"We don't really have a lot of real estate in that market," Dolch said. "Our inventory is really stressed."

In addition to those from California and New York, Dolch has seen an increase in buyers coming from Seattle and Chicago, citing complaints about coronavirus and taxes.

"It just seems that a lot of people that have been considering moving here over the years are now coming here all at once," Dolch said. "A lot of people have always considered Austin as a place they'd like to live in. They're not considering it anymore—they're moving forward with it."

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Homes sales in the city of Austin decreased by 33.1% in April when compared to last year, showing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the local stay-home orders that took effect in late March, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.
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(Austonia staff)

It was already going to be a weird year at TCAD. (Austonia)

Before the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Austin, the Travis Central Appraisal District was preparing for its busy spring season, when appraisal notices are mailed and protests filed.

It was already going to be a weird year. After TCAD received a cease-and-desist order from the Austin Board of Realtors last May, preventing access to home-sales price data, Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler announced in February that the district would not re-appraise residential properties in 2020.

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Adobe

While some renters are postponing moves, others are taking advantage of lower rents and other specials offered as property owners try to adapt to the current marketplace. (Adobe)

Peter Northfelt is graduating from the University of Texas-Austin with a master's degree in advertising this May. Before the coronavirus pandemic, he planned to move to Los Angeles. Now, he's moving back to Phoenix, where his family lives, because many advertising companies aren't hiring and he's unable to support himself on unemployment benefits alone.

"I was graduating anyway, so I was going to move," Northfelt said. "It's just a matter of, the world was really big and then the world became really small."

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Katharine Jose

"We will see in April the true effect of the pandemic," said Romeo Manzanilla, AboR president. (Katharine Jose)

Home sales got off to a strong start in the Austin-Round Rock market in 2020.

On Jan. 2, Zillow declared Austin the nation's hottest market due to the city's affordability, low unemployment, attractiveness to young people and booming tech industry. Even March sales figures were in the black, showing a 2.2% increase over the previous March, as the coronavirus pandemic grew.

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(Kerry Tate)

Kerry Tate (left) and Dawn Moore are founding partners at Moore-Tate Projects+Design. (Kerry Tate)

About 60,000 to 65,000 construction workers are on the job in the Austin area today. They are working on towers rising high over downtown, or on apartments and homes fanning out from the city.

Like most of the rest of us, the developers and builders, the ultimate bosses of those workers, retreated to the safety of their laptops on dining room tables in mid-March. As we did, the COVID-19 outbreak began to cast a lengthening shadow over Austin.

Kerry Tate sees a disparity in this.

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