Mid-Century Modern in Austin

A rare gem designed by Austin architect and builder, A.D. Stenger

On a property tour this week I had the uncommon opportunity check out an absolutely stunning, mid-century modern home designed by famed local architect and builder, A.D. Stenger.  Although each one of the 100 or so homes built by Stenger from the 1940s to 1990s was unique, they share a few common characteristics in addition to their simple, modern lines, such as low pitch gable roofs, the use of clerestory windows and expansive stonework both inside and out.

2302 Rundell Place

Stenger homes are mainly found in the Austin neighborhoods of Rollingwood, Zilker and Barton Hills.  Because they were built in some of the most prized (and expensive) areas for Austin real estate, many have been torn down over the years by folks looking to build larger, more contemporary and/or functional homes, though this has led to conflicts with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.  (Not to mention earning the ire of Stenger enthusiasts; Stenger homes enjoy an almost cult-like following among Austin architecture buffs, and with good reason!)

With only a few dozen or so of them left standing, these homes don’t often come on the market — so when they do it tends to make kind of a splash.  The one I toured this week was just listed by one of our top agents and sales manager, Dorothy Palmore.  It has been thoroughly and thoughtfully renovated very much in keeping with its mid-century modern aesthetic, but with contemporary conveniences and design touches added.  It’s listed at a cool $1.5 million, and to my eye worth every penny — it’s out-and-out gorgeous!

Although I only had my iPhone camera with me and my limited photography skills, I think this home’s unique beauty and style still shines through:

Stenger home hallmarks: fireplace and rock wall, with clerestory windows
Bringing outside in — notice how the rock wall continues from exterior to interior?

Although not original to the home, I love the dining room light fixture and the cool pattern it casts on the ceiling:

Another stylish lighting fixture in the bright and airy kitchen, and more clerestory windows:

High ceilings and clean lines, and awesome marble counters with waterfall edge

In the center of the home is a private zen-like atrium, open to the live oak trees above.

Tranquility abounds

Or if you’re feeling more like entertaining than meditating, the home features a wet bar nestled in between the kitchen and living room:

This property really is sublime.  If you’d like more information about it or to schedule a showing, please contact Dorothy Palmore at 512-925-0045.

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 to Austin after reading all that!

So to sum it all up: with great livability, high consumer confidence, low unemployment, 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!”

 

Why I Love Working With First-Time Home Buyers

Almost as exciting for me as it is for them

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. 🙂

 

Lessons Learned at Open House

“Um…no. There should only be chocolate chip.”

At my open house over the weekend a delightful family came through — mom, dad, and two ridiculously cute little blonde, curly-headed girls.

They were all very friendly and chatty, and seemed to love the house.  The girls especially, who were quite taken with the outdoor spiral staircase leading to the upstairs lanai.  Seriously, those girls must have made at least 10 trips up and down, giggling all the while!  (Ah, to be possessed again of youthful knees and boundless energy that make one actually relish repeated stair-climbing, and not just in an attempt to combat a sagging posterior!)

The girls also loved the sunken living room, upstairs laundry chute, the brass dinner bell affixed to the kitchen wall (which only got about 4 loud clangs before mom stepped in with the “Okay, that’s plenty, honey!” directive) as well as the now non-functioning but still awesome intercom feature, with AM/FM radio options. (The house was built in the 1970s, if you hadn’t already figured that out.)

Yes, had the girls been granted sole decision making authority, I feel fairly confident I would have gotten them under contract on the spot.  Or at least I would have until my MASSIVE FAUX PAS was discovered on the cookie tray, which then called into question my judgement.

As delighted little eyes were taking in and little hands were hovering over the temptingly arranged tray, the eldest daughter, Molly, squealed in delightful anticipation of what she thought were fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies…only to have her little hopes dashed by my announcement that those were actually oatmeal raisin cookies.

Her hand paused mid-air, her features composed themselves into a mask of incredulity/dejection as she asked politely but still plaintively, “They’re NOT chocolate chip?!”

Me: “Oh no — sorry, sweetheart! You don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies?  Well, what about these ginger chewies?  I thought everybody would like those!”

Molly: “Um…no.  There should only be chocolate chip.”

Oops.  My bad.

With this pronouncement she gave me a polite smile to let let me know we were still friends, but I could see in her eyes her estimation of me had gone down substantially.  It was plain to see my lack of discernment about what should properly go on a cookie tray and what should not didn’t sit well with her.

So, lesson learned.  I am holding the same house open again this coming weekend and you better believe there will be chocolate chip cookies — and nothing but! — on that cookie tray.

You can thank Molly for that.