A Few Things I Wish Sellers Knew

Thematic Thursday is the day when I post about buying and selling and leasing transactions, which are mysterious if you don’t do them at least every couple of years.

  1. The market does not care what price you need or want to get for your house. The market price is not set by you or by me. It is set by what buyers will pay for it at this time and in this place.
  2. Your house will sell faster, and likely for a higher price, if you make it look its best. This might mean replacing worn floor covering and putting on a tidy coat of paint, in addition to making repairs and making every corner sparkle for the nose, eyes, and ears of potential buyers.
  3. If your house is not going to sparkle, is not going to be repaired, is going to be worn and dated, don’t worry. You can still get lots of eyeballs and potential buyers by presenting a discounted price. Some buyers are looking specifically for a bargain!
  4. As soon as you decide to, or are forced to, sell your home, it becomes a house; a commodity. It is no longer your home. Get therapy, if needed, to get through the grieving process, then do yourself a favor and help me do my job of getting your house sold for the best possible price in the least amount of time. Please take my advice to heart, because I work in this business all the time and I see what is effective for selling and what isn’t.
  5. You will be leaving your house for scheduled showings, and you will be taking the pets with you. Especially the snake. It might be kinder for you and the pets if you can find a  loving and gentle home-away-from-home for the animals during the selling process, so they are uprooted once, instead of daily.
  6. If your house or property has unusual or challenging features, they will reduce the number of buyers from the buying pool for whom the house will be a good match. This often translates into a longer  time on the market before a sale. You might have to go through several rounds of fresh buyers before a match is found. In case you were wondering, this is a LOT like dating- the quirkier or more difficult we are, the more potential mates we have to meet before finding one that sticks. The alternative is to quit being quirky and/or difficult, but this isn’t always an option.
  7. When you pay my brokerage to sell your house and for me to get you through the process as gracefully as possible, you are paying for my experience, my work ethic, and my character, as well as the depth of knowledge and integrity in my brokerage. I draw on all these qualities when working on your project. By way of analogy, in buying art, you are paying the artist for focus, observational skill, imagination, practice, and creativity, all of which are worth far more than these particular molecules of ink on this particular piece of paper.

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    Horse from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook

New Numbers

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Another happy buyer client. “I love my new back yard with all the sunshine and grass! Thank you, Lynn, for helping my human and me find our beautiful new home.”

The clients of Austin Metrostudy are builders and related industries. “Our survey team drives over 8,500 miles and over 1,000 subdivisions every 90 days to provide you with the valuable information you need on future lots, vacant developed lots, homes under construction, and homes that have been completed.”

A representative of the company made a presentation to a group of REALTORS® on Friday and I will give you a brief report from the 5-county Austin area, and the Dripping Springs/Driftwood area, in particular.

Overall job growth in the Austin area has fallen from 45,000 new jobs/year created in 2015 to 30,000 new jobs/year created currently. However, with growth of 30K annually, it is still a hot job market and demand for homes is up with available inventory down. What does this mean? Rising home prices and a real affordability issue for the City of Austin. For the home-buying population in general, the good news is that annual salaries in the Austin area are $20,000 higher than other parts of the country.

New home builders have caught on to the affordability issue and, not wanting to leave any part of the home-buying field fallow, they are building less-expensive homes in the following ways: the homes are being built on smaller lots to reduce the price of land being used per house; some homes have fewer bells and whistles to make construction less expensive; and subdivisions are being developed farther from the city center where the land is cheaper for the developer to buy.

Builders are now experiencing a decided downturn in available workers, so a new house is taking longer to build, including most custom homes. There are fewer workers available to do the same amount of work.

There are certain pockets that have unique building situations, and my home area, Dripping Springs, is one. The land is hilly, so it is naturally more expensive to build on than flat farming lots are. Also, if you recall from my post about septic systems, neighborhoods in this area need to have their own sewage treatment plant, or each home must have extra acreage to accommodate an individual septic system. More land per home= higher price per home. The other unique aspect of the Dripping Springs area is that it is scenic; many lots have expansive views, which, of course, drives up the home prices.

The observed numbers for 2016, fourth quarter are: 473 new home started, and 378 homes sold/transactions closed. There are 2.9 months of inventory in the area (6 months or so is considered a balanced market, with about the same number of homes on the market as buyers looking for a home.). The number of vacant developed lots (the ‘hood has streets and utilities in place) is equal to a 32.8 month supply. There were 741 new lots in 2016, with 8000 future new lots on the books. 1000 of those have streets in, or excavation has started. The average base price for a new home in the Dripping Springs area is $458,000, and this number has not risen recently.

love to keep track of new homes in this area, whether they are truly luxurious, or less expensive, but thoughtfully planned. One new subdivision with prices well below average is easily in walking distance from the business area of Dripping Springs, as well as from an established historic park. Also, see my post on the truly custom homes in Driftwood.

 

 

 

The New Home and Garden Show

Right here, in Dripping Springs, home to thousands of new homes in the next few years- The First Annual Home and Garden Show today and tomorrow. March 25-26, 10-7 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park on Ranch Road 12.

Sponsored by Rotary Club of Dripping Springs, Harvest Rain, and Hill Country View, there is also a kid entertainment zone provided by Costco. They advertise builders, contractors, materials, decks, pools, spas, entertainment systems, storage, plants, landscape displays/materials, and kitchenware information and products on display. With plenty of parking, this sounds like a great day to me!

“What’s in it for ME?”

Second-string

In the Austin market, there are pockets where a home at the right price will be under contract in a day, or two, or three. Happens all the time- far more buyers than sellers= higher prices and fewer houses to buy.

If you, as a buyer, can’t be the winning offer that gets the signed, executed contract, then you can try for second-best. Here’s what you do: you tell your REALTOR® that you want to submit a back up offer, just in case the accepted offer falls through. Your REALTOR® will call the listing agent to make sure the seller is/ still is accepting back up offers. If so, then everything is done exactly like a first offer, except there is an ‘Addendum for “Back-up” Contract’ attached.

The gist of the addendum is that the signed, agreed-upon back-up contract is not in force, unless the first-place contract ‘falls through’ for some reason. At that point, the second-string goes out onto the field to play ball, becoming the first-string in the process. That would be you.

Once the back-up offer is accepted and signed, you still shouldn’t hold your breath, waiting, because your transaction is probably not gonna happen. However…. every once in awhile…. it does (!), and you feel like everything’s coming up roses.

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The Secret Underground Sweet Dough Yeast Roll Recipe

In the previous post, I mentioned the importance of keeping microscopic organisms happy, and in this follow-on post, I give you an easy way to keep yeast happy and make a treat for Sunday dinner.

2 pkgs. active dry yeast

½ c. warm water (the temp that keeps yeast cozy without stressing them and killing them from heat- just stick your finger in the water and see what you think)

1 1/4c. buttermilk

½ c. sugar

2 eggs

5 ½ c. all-purpose flour

½ c. butter, softened

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large mixing bowl. Add buttermilk, eggs, 2 ½ c. flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend 30 seconds with mixer on low speed, scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Stir in remaining 2 c. flour. (Dough should remain soft and slightly sticky.) Knead 5 minutes, or about 200 turns on a lightly floured board. You’ll be using the other cup of flour on the board, on your hands, and on top of the dough as you knead.

Shape into coffee breads or rolls. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Dough is ready to bake if slight dent remains when touched with finger. Bake at 375 degrees F. until golden.

 

The Secret Underground

Although the title could be referring to a book review of Dante’s Inferno, or a report on intrigue in wartime, it doesn’t. Today, we’re going to get the scoop on septic systems. How ’bout THAT?

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Using flushable kitty litter BEFORE we lived with an on-site septic system

This post is for all those folks who never lived in the country. And for those looking longingly at moving out of town and into the hills. And for those who have not experienced septic system technology in the past 15 years.

Living in terrain that is not amenable to pumping sewage vast distances to be treated at a central location means that either you personally, or your new subdivision, will have a small sewage treatment plant on the property. I know a little bit about the single-owner kind because I grew up with a traditional drain-field system at my childhood home, and now we have two dwellings and two advanced systems on our property. Texas A&M Extension Service has the best website for explaining on-site sewage facilities.

You will be surprised to know that I compare the maintenance of a healthy septic system to baking yeast bread. Before I lose you entirely, let me explain:

  1. The principle behind baking great bread is to keep your yeast, a living organism, very happy.
  2. The principle behind maintaining a functional septic system is to keep your beneficial bacteria, a living organism, very happy.

That’s it!

The septic system takes effluent from the house and drains it into a tank where the solids settle out, and the liquid is either treated and partially sanitized in compartments then sprayed out onto the landscape, or it goes from the tank into underground drain fields through horizontal tubes arranged in the pattern of tree branches, to be treated and sanitized by the soil organisms. In both cases, bacteria are the heroes that break down the nasty sludge and the effluent water into soil nutrients plus clean water. We ♥love♥ our bacteria!

Here is what to consider when you are using a septic system to treat your effluent: what will make the bacteria very sad? What will make the bacteria sick? What will make the bacteria die? Avoid these!

  1. Too much water running through the system (a deluge!) at once flushes through the tank way too fast and doesn’t allow solids to settle out. This clogs your pumps or your filters. Yuck! Choose the low-water-use front-loading washer and don’t do all your loads in the same day.
  2. Installing the underground tank where rainwater runoff will enter it quickly creates the same deluge problem.
  3. Antibiotics- whether medicines flushed, antibiotic soap and cleaners used, or other chemicals (bleach! phosphates!) poured down the drain- you’re gonna kill off some, or all, of your bacteria and THEN you’ll be sorry!
  4. It takes ⇐time⇒ for the solids to be decomposed by the bacteria, and if you put more through your system in a short period of time than it is rated for, you are going to create clogs, either in the pump, the filter, or in the drain or sprayer lines. Forget the food scraps and the disposal- too much unprocessed solid material at once. No kitty litter (even flushable), no sanitary products, no wipes (even flushable), no nothing that isn’t natural and mushy! Just figure out a different disposal method, or you will be spending thousands of dollars replacing your system early.

On-site sewage facilities, when properly cared-for, are environmentally-friendly and efficient. You can admire them and how well they do their job without causing collateral damage to ground, air, and water. Yay for the little guys!!! Bacteria are awesome!

Your county is going to require a permit in order for you to create a septic system. This is because the specialists want to look at your plans to make sure the idea in your head isn’t going to come out into the world in a way that will pollute a nearby waterway, well, or adjoining property. Also, your county is going to require you to have on file a maintenance contract with an approved contractor that will periodically inspect your system and keep it functioning. No polluted groundwater, please!

My next post will be my favorite yeast bread recipe. Don’t say I don’t have a sense of humor.

Petal Peepers and History Creepers

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It’s that time in central Texas- wildflower days. This morning was sunny and the air was cool, and I took my mom on a little wildflower drive. According to my mileage app, we drove 90.1 miles. We left Dripping Springs, going west on U.S. 290 and turned north on U.S. 281, traveling through the edge of Johnson City, heading through Round Mountain and on to Marble Falls.

Favorite

Traffic jam in Marble Falls due to construction, but that didn’t stop the intrepid Austinites. Mom recalled living in Marble Falls in the 1920’s, when she was in elementary school. We turned around at Gateway North before crossing the Colorado River and I asked her who had owned the land under us. She said it had belonged to the Micheles, the family who owned the drugstore and the opera house in town. She pointed out the hillside where the Michele house had stood.

In 1927, Mom’s family had been leasing and living on the Lacy Ranch, a hilltop domain on the north side of the river. She remembers standing there, looking down on the little city, watching as a fire consumed a great part of downtown. She recalls that Miss Mattie Houck, the milliner, threw her trunks of hat décor out the second-floor window in order to save her inventory.

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Frank Alexander in front of the Lacy home and ranch he was leasing. Marble Falls, Texas, circa 1927

Mom also reminisced about the beautiful falls on the Colorado River that flowed over marble slabs, after which the town is named. Those were buried underwater after 1951, when Max Starcke Dam created Lake Marble Falls.

We backtracked a bit, going south on U.S. 281 until we returned to Round Mountain and went left onto Ranch Road 962 East. Mom recalled the string of stores on the south side of that road that used to make up Round Mountain; a few little buildings are still there. One, very close to the road, was a shoe repair shop. The Round Mountain Store was a long stone building, set back from the road, but it was eventually torn down and the stones were taken to Austin for some other purpose. The Baptist Church was on the other side of North Cypress Creek from the rest of the town.

The Alexander Ranch, established by Mom’s grandparents, where Mom lived before the family moved to the metropolis of Marble Falls for better schools, was north of Round Mountain, close to Cypress Mills, adjoining the Croft Ranch. The Goethes and Wenmohses also lived in proximity, as did the Fuchs.

Below is a photo of the Alexander Ranch house in about 1910, or so.

Women are Effie, Mamie, and Hassie.
Women are Effie, Mamie, and Hassie.

By the way, part of this ranch, along with parts of several other old ranches make up 178 acres with a beautiful modern home that is currently for sale. If you are interested in a magnificent ranch land purchase, this would be it, and I would be glad to help you buy it.

Traveling to Austin by horse and wagon, or by Model T car, was an arduous affair, but on the few occasions the kids went along (to see a circus!), the family made the best of it, camping near the Pedernales River’s low-water crossing. Mom recalls her father walking alongside the truck, chocking the wheels on the narrow, unpaved road as Grandmother drove, to keep the car from sliding back down the muddy slope on the east side of the river. This is very close to what is now Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. 

Here’s a Dodgen family camping trip on the Pedernales, about 1915:

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Two women and one man on Pedernales-1Dodgens in river-1

Somewhere along the way, the road name changed to Hamilton Pool Road. We came back to Dripping Springs along this route. Mom said that when she was a child, Hamilton Pool Road eventually came into a precursor to U.S. 71, and they followed that to Oak Hill and on into Austin.

In 2017 you can use these links to find your best wildflower route:

http://texas.wildflowersightings.org

http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/maintenance/wildflower-program.html

https://www.facebook.com/TexasWildflowerReport/