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Just Keep Swimming

One day you’ll be in your ocean

WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME!

You’ve landed at my blog, either by intent or accident — and I’m happy to have you!

I started this blog as sort of a catch-all spot to post all kinds of random stuff I’d like to pass along, most of it pertaining to Austin real estate (my own business in particular or market info in general) or interesting/funny tidbits about Austin … or gardening tips, home decor/design ideas, places you should check out, coming events, notes about the weather, or pictures from in and around Austin I happen to like.

Like this one, which I took outside the Palmer Events Center a few weeks ago:

emma-long-ctr

Or this one, of the beautiful Brandy (my son’s dog) playing at Bull Creek Park (Austin being a very pet-friendly city):

brandy-at-bull-creek

Please feel free to leave me your comments or questions or, even better, reach out to me if you’d like to chat about real estate.

If you want to talk about purchasing a home (either now or in the future, for your primary residence or as an investment property), listing your home for sale, or just finding out what your home is worth, these are all things I’d be delighted talk with you about!

You can also check out my Facebook page by clicking the link in the side-bar (and don’t be shy about hitting that LIKE button once you get there — it makes me feel good)!

Sunshine & Graffiti
Austin: Keeping it real, keeping it weird at the Hope Outdoor Gallery

And in the mean time, like the unknown artist at Austin’s graffiti wall says above, “Just keep swimming. One day you’ll be in your ocean.” 

I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I think it’s profound.

Setting Records

Is this another housing bubble?

In case you don’t happen to be regularly clicking on my About Real Estate page for market updates (or my Facebook page, or otherwise following along), I’m re-posting this EYE-POPPING headline I put up earlier from the most recent Central Texas Housing Market Report put out by the Austin Board of Realtors: in May we reached an ALL-TIME HIGH of $1.2 BILLION (yep, you read that correctly — that’s Billion with a big, fat B) in home sales!

From the report:

“Coupled with rising home prices, this recent surge in home sales activity made May 2017 the highest-grossing month for Central Texas real estate in the region’s history. For the first time this year, single-family home sales dollar volume topped $1 billion ($1,234,217,617) in a single month within the five-county area, which is an increase of 18.4 percent from May 2016.”

(And this figure excludes most new home construction, which is similarly experiencing phenomenal growth.   New home construction in Austin is at its highest level since 2007.)

This is obviously very exciting news for sellers.  But on the flip side, this trend may be prompting you to ask a very reasonable question:  Is this another real estate bubble which might burst in spectacularly messy fashion?  We all remember what the country went through less than a decade ago when that housing bubble burst.

So is this another bubble?

The short answer, in my humble opinion, is no.  Or at least not in the way it was in 2008-2010; it’s not a bubble created by a whole host of factors which created an artificial inflation of the market, as was the case back then.

The longer answer should include what is a driving force for this increase: job growth.  (Or as my broker like to say: Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!)  Austin’s current job growth rate of 2.9% puts us in place as the 10th fastest growing major metro area in the country.

As reported in the Austin Jobs Postings Report for May, unemployment is at 3.2% (nationwide we are at 4.3%) and more jobs are coming; several companies have announced expansion plans in the area.  To quote from the report:

“The U.S. News & World Report named Austin as the “Best Place to Live in the U.S.” in 2017.  Savills calls Austin “one of the 22 Cities at the Forefront of Global Tech” while SmartAsset named Austin as one of the “10 Best Cities to Raise a Family”.  Austin also comes in 3rd on Gallups’ “Good Jobs Rate” ranking based on the percentage of adults who work for an employer full-time.  Indeed ranked Austin No. 4 on its “25 Best Cities for Job Seekers” list.”

Dang — if I didn’t already live here I’d definitely want to move here after reading all that!

So, summing up: with consumer confidence high, unemployment low, solid job growth and considerable planned expansion coming to the area, I’d say it’s likely that our housing market will remain strong for the foreseeable future. (Barring any big, national economic crash, anyway — OH NO, I hope I didn’t just jinx us!) 😉

And finally, to any buyers sitting on the fence I’d say, “Come on in — the  water’s fine!”

 

Bragging Rights

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” — Muhammad Ali

I know I’ve mentioned more than once how much I love the company I work for — JB Goodwin Realtors — and just how AWESOME we are.

And I also do recall learning, from about kindergarten on, that it’s not good manners to brag.  Which is technically true, but in the immortal words of Muhammad Ali:  “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up!”

While the Austin real estate market has slowed down a little recently, industry-wide we are still up 4% year-to-date in units sold from this time last year.  Which is not bad at all… until you learn that JB Goodwin agents are actually up 9%!

Whaaaat?!

Yep, it’s true.  We have increased more than twice what our counterparts have done so far in 2017.  Which makes us WINNERS.  Winner winner chicken dinner even! (Because I’m actually 8 years old.) 🙂  JB Goodwin agents are out there KILLING IT on a daily basis!

Another notable bragging point for JB Goodwin Realtors: the Austin Business Journal has released their 2017 list of nominees for Austin’s Best Places to Work — which we WON last year, because of our AWESOMENESS!! — and we are AGAIN in the running for the top spot!  (The winners will be announced June 23rd, so expect me to circle back around on this.)

Also, check out our Google Reviews.  Not for nothing, but we’ve got a 4.9 star rating — out of 5!  So much awesome.

Alright, lest Mrs. Godfrey be tempted to return from the grave and smack my knuckles with her lightning-fast ruler for my boastful nature (as she was wont to do during my second grade year) I’ll button that up now and close with my second favorite Muhammad Ali quote:

“If you even DREAM of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize!”

That has NOTHING to do with this post, I am just really tickled by that quote.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂

What to do? What to Do?

I don’t want to hear anybody saying they’ve got nothing to do this weekend

Our Austin events calendar is usually pretty full — let’s face it: Austin is a VERY happenin’ city — but this weekend seems particularly packed with all kinds of cools goings-on.  Enough to warrant a post in my little blog, at least.

Presented without prejudice and in no particular order, here’s what’s going down this weekend in the ATX:

Eeyore’s Birthday — No, not exactly a kids’ event, though there’s a little something for everybody (and it’s decidedly Austin-weird).

Austin Bookstore Crawl — Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day in style!

Beast of the East Backyard BBQ Cook Off —   The name says it all.

Austin Food & Wine Festival — Food, wine, sunshine.*  What else do you need?  (*Okay, the sunshine might not happen.  Best two out of three.)

Annual Dragon Boat Festival & Races — A family-friendly event, with music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, Taiko Drums, Lion Dance and a Kids’ Zone with special activities for children.  All that, plus dragon boat races on Lady Bird Lake!

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day — Barkworthie’s Chews Rescue program will be funding adoptions for all eligible dogs this weekend through Austin Pets Alive.

Jazz & Art on Main — This event in Cedar Park features arts & crafts, live music & tasty eats.

Vintage Market Days of Austin-Hill Country –  A vintage inspired open-air market in Dripping Springs featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, seasonal plantings and more tasty eats.

Mommy, Daddy & Me Book Club — Featuring children’s book author Yolanda King, this book club encourages children to read with their parents.

The Grease & La La Land Double Feature Sing Along — Double feature movies, music & singing at the Blue Starlight Drive-In — what could be more fun than that?

Daniel Tosh — The star of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 is appearing at the Frank Erwin Center.

Now, I don’t want to hear anybody saying they’ve got nothing to do this weekend!  Even if the weather is looking kinda iffy…  🙂

Have fun out there, y’all, and be safe!

 

Springtime in Central Texas

Time to get your bluebonnets on

I absolutely love living in Austin, and especially so at this time of year.  I love seeing the live oak, cedar and pecan trees get their leaves back, and all the gorgeous wildflowers come out alongside Texas’ back roads and highways (thanks, Lady Bird Johnson).  Taking pictures of your children in a glorious field of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush is pretty much an obligatory exercise for local parents, as my Facebook feed will attest to every year at this time.

Central Texas Flower Child

On a particularly fetching day last week I decided to play hooky (or do “location scouting” as I like to call it) and headed out with my camera for a road trip throughout the surrounding Hill Country area just to see what all was abloom.

Back road in Burnet County

I got off the main highway just outside of town and made my way up and down whatever roads struck my fancy.  These horses grazing in a field of bright yellow caused me to stop in the middle of the road to take their picture — of course, part of the beauty of traveling on back roads means you can easily get away with this.

Ponies & wildflowers

The first part of the day was overcast but the clouds still made for some dramatic scenery.

Windmill & wildflowers

The afternoon skies were perfect and blue with scattered puffy clouds, which made for some cool lighting.  The shadows playing on this field as I was driving past caught my eye.

Live oak trees, cloud shadows and green fields

Staying on the back roads I made my way past the Pedernales River, which was flowing nicely and looked very inviting.  (Yes, I also stopped in the middle of the bridge to take this picture.)

Crossing the Pedernales River

While much of my day was spent going wherever the road took me, I did have one destination picked out for certain: Hamilton Pool Preserve, which, if you’ve never been, NEEDS to be on your list of places to check out in the Austin area!  It was my first time to go, and it’s an amazing spot.

Hamilton Pool

If you’re unfamiliar, Hamilton Pool is natural spring, appropriately located just outside Austin in Dripping Springs, Texas.  Jade green in color, it’s fed by an underground river and is surrounded by lush growth, making for an inviting spot for hiking, swimming or just hanging out.  The remains of a natural dome that covered the grotto before its collapse more than a century ago provides a deep shady overhang, complete with waterfall.  It really creates a stunning display, and makes me wish I were a better photographer to be able to truly capture the beauty of the area.

Behind the main waterfall at Hamilton Pool

Depending on certain bacteria levels the pool is not always open for swimming, which was the case when I went. But when swimming is allowed it is quite a popular swimming hole!  There is a bright white sandy beach area, which stands in stark contrast to the green water and  blue sky.

Hamilton Pool, taken from the beach area

It’s only about a 30-40 drive from Austin, and to get down to the pool there is a relatively easy 1/4 mile or so hike from where you park.  If you’re visiting during the months of May – September you must make a reservation to get in, and outside of those times you may run into a waiting line on the weekends as only a certain number of visitors are allowed in to the preserve at any given time.  But if you do like me and go mid-week in April you can pretty much waltz right on in, which is why I’m kind of ashamed of myself for not having gone before this. (Travel note: bring cash or a local check to pay the $15 parking fee; they do not accept plastic and the nearest ATM is 5 miles away.)

Again I’ll say, if you haven’t gone do make a point to do so.  You won’t be disappointed.

Sunset on a back road

I wrapped up my day’s adventure at sunset, thoroughly pleased with the whole outing and especially happy to visit some new places.  We are so fortunate to have so many gorgeous sites to visit right in our backyard — it makes me even more glad to live where I do, and to have a job where I can take advantage of them from time to time!

Happy trails, y’all!

 

Kitchen Renovation

Curse you, HGTV!

You know that feeling when you’ve been watching too much HGTV and you suddenly find yourself in the mood to undertake some major home renovations?  Well, that was me this past weekend.

While my husband has since talked me down from that particular ledge (for the time being anyway), I find I’m still craving a little bit of that fix.  So after fondly perusing a bunch of the before and after pictures from our home renovation projects last winter, I decided I’d at least blog some more about it and recreate a little of that feeling of “Look!  It’s so shiny and new!”  It’s obviously not the same, of course, but it helps placate the reno beast a little bit.

For now.

So, to that end…

In addition to making over our living room and fireplace as I wrote about previously, we did a full renovation of our kitchen and dining rooms, as well as installing new flooring throughout the whole living area.

We started out by opening up the kitchen to the rest of the living space.  Our house was built in 1979 and featured a closed-off galley kitchen, which was cute its own awkward and dysfunctional way, and came complete with washer and dryer (because who doesn’t love having their linens and towels smell like last night’s dinner?), upper cabinets that didn’t fully close (and were topped by an ugly bulkhead looming pointlessly above them) and an awkward and shallow ceramic sink not big enough to wash my pots in.  Oh, and faux wood vinyl flooring — because 1979!

Step one was actually relocating the laundry out to the garage.  We did that project first, then left the space as-was for a few months, keeping the fabulous accordion doors in place and creating a makeshift pantry/mop closet behind them.

When it came time to really tackle the kitchen, I couldn’t wait to knock that wall down and kick the ugly accordion doors to the curb.  I cannot stress enough how frustrating it was to come in from the garage and run smack dab into those doors (if you didn’t shut them just right they would pop back open and then wait there to trap the unsuspecting upon entering).

So those were eliminated first thing, and then the main wall separating the kitchen from the living room went, opening up the whole space.  My husband and I love to entertain, so our primary goal was to have an open floor plan where we (and by “we” I mean “I”) could continue to labor in the kitchen but still chat (and by “chat” I mean “drink”) with our guests.  After that, there was some shifting around of appliances (the stove/oven combo was replaced with a cooktop and the fridge was moved to the opposite wall, allowing for double ovens to be installed in its old spot), a complete cabinet remake, and the installation of a new stainless steel apron sink big enough to accommodate a Labrador Retriever, should we ever so desire.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.  First, the old kitchen:

The old galley kitchen
The old closed off galley kitchen.  At least it was colorful!

Followed by the new, open kitchen:

03-after

And the other side:

Kitchen window, and the hated ceramic sinck
Kitchen window, featuring the hated ceramic sink and treacherous accordion doors.

Which was replaced with this:

New sink, no more accordion doors
Same window, but new sink, cupboards, countertops, backsplash, and no more accordion doors.

The view of the kitchen from the living room, previously:

The very old living room, with our fancy plaid couch. Don't be jealous.
The old living room, closed off to the kitchen, with our fancy plaid couch. Don’t be jealous.

Same view, including new couch, the tea table we brought back from China, and an updated color scheme:

Seriously, is this even the same room?
Seriously, is this even the same room?

And then there is the dining room.  We went from this:

We had already started renovations when this picture was taken, so the clutter was a bit more than normal
We had already started renovations when this picture was taken, so the clutter was a bit more than normal. But still.

To this:

08-after-08
Built-in buffet, bar area, wine rack and wine fridge. We are seriously set up for entertaining!  Not to mention we have curtains now.

Among the other little gems from the redo was our idea for open appliance shelves.  They are located next to the garage door so access is quite easy, but they aren’t visible from the living room.  I LOVE them! Not having to dig out the Cuisinart or my CrockPot from the very back of the lower cabinets every time I want to use them is such a blessing for my poor, put-upon lower back!

07-after
Open shelving for our large appliances = happiness!

Taking in the whole space, from the living room area:

01-after
Looking at the newly open kitchen, including the new vent hood and pendant lights over the bar top counter.

Taking it all in

fp6

We are delighted with how the project turned out.  It took about 11 weeks start to finish and it came out almost exactly like the plans we drew up beforehand. (We did our own drawings, picked our own design and finishes and did some of our own demo, but we used an excellent contractor for all the work.)  It was a royal pain to live in a construction zone for close to 3 months and we went a little bit over our original budget, but for us it was well worth it in the end!

Now if I can just stop watching “Fixer Upper” we should be good for a while…

🙂

 

 

Why I Love Working With First-Time Home Buyers

I love working with first time home buyers!

I love guiding them carefully through what can be a daunting and confusing process… and then slowly begin burying them under a silent avalanche of paperwork to read, contracts to sign, listings to pour over.

I like watching them struggle to memorize a whole array of terms they’ve never had use for before: appraised value, restrictive covenants, earnest money, warranty deed.

I love getting to know their likes and dislikes as we tour properties, gently reminding that that hideous sofa isn’t actually staying with the house, or that garden gnomes are not immovable fixtures.

I love trapping them in my car to tour just one more property before we call it a day.  Because this one might be THE ONE.

I love seeing their eyes light up when they finally find the right house, like a little kid on Christmas morning spotting a new bike under the tree.  Then, of course, watching that light flicker and dim while we await the seller’s response to our offer.

I love learning new vocabulary words from them in reference to dawdling and obstinate sellers.

I love their sigh of relief when the offer is accepted, and again when the house finally appraises at the right value.  (When I can then much more easily blame any further delays on the mortgage company.)

And I love closing day, when their excitement can’t even be crushed by the titanic mound of papers facing them, each one requiring their signature, culminating in a handover of keys into their eager hands, at least one of which now features acute, tendonitis-like pain.

And finally, because once it’s all done they let you pose them with silly props…

closed-jt
Oh the thrill of new home ownership and balloons

Even upside down props! (Which you are laughing too hard to even notice the fact that it’s upside down…)

closed-al
The key to happiness, or to my room at the loony bin

All kidding aside, it truly does tickle me to work with first time buyers.  Even in our age of HGTV-educated consumers, a lot of folks are still almost completely unfamiliar with the whole process; getting to walk with them through what will likely be one of the biggest –if not THE biggest — purchases of their life is almost as exciting for me as it is for them.

Bless their hearts. 🙂