West of Weird

Guess ‘weird’ is a matter of opinion, but I went on my first “West of Weird Property Tour” with lender Trey Powers today. ‘Weird’ is a self-proclaimed descriptor of Austin, and Dripping Springs is west of Austin, so…. you get the idea.

The big draw for me was a twelve-and-a-half acre property with large home right in the middle of the new Arrowhead Ranch subdivision. This is close in, and I mean Close In to ‘downtown’ Dripping Springs. The ranchette and subdivision are beautiful, with live oaks, wet-weather streams, and rocky outcroppings.

The ranchette is the remnant of the ranch which contains the main house, built in 2000, with horse barn and amenities. Somebody has GOT to buy this for a bed-and-breakfast or related retirement project right in the middle of the town which calls itself the “Wedding Capital” of central Texas. Please call me if you know someone who wants to buy this jewel.

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Entry

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View outward from the front of the house

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Nice pool off the outdoor kitchen, no?

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Yes, that’s a library with fireplace through the door in the center of the photo.

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Example of good planning: the antler chandelier can be lowered by pulley for cleaning.

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These were the ones that weren’t standing in the middle of the road when we were leaving.

While we’re on the subject of views, the first home we looked at this morning is lovely- spacious and only one story with this view from the back verandah:

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The title company could find no restrictions on what could be built on this property, so you could have your own business and a lovely home. But, please keep in mind that if you have no restrictions on your property use, your neighbors have none on theirs. Anyone up for a little acreage on a hill with a beautiful Texas hill country view from the house?

You can find me at 512-970-9121.

EXTRA: Here’s something to do this weekend. I am the president of The Austin Mosaic Guild and I am always promoting this art and this organization of wonderful people. We were invited to exhibit with the Texas Society of Sculptors at its annual Sculptfest, so, if you feel like dining at The Oasis this weekend, you can see and purchase indoor or outdoor sculptures to complement your new hill country views.  Here is the link with photos and hours and address:

Sculptfest 2017

New City-planning Maps for Austin

If you’ve been keeping up with CodeNext, Austin’s evolving zoning ordinances, you know that January’s release of new ordinances without an accompanying release of maps caused angst in the neighborhoods whose inhabitants have spent years trying to keep the  feel of those neighborhoods the same as it has been for decades.

Fitting more people and their activities into the same-sized space requires denser building. Closer together and higher. That is the geometry of the situation.  Totally different feel from vistas and trees, right?

Today, the city released the initial zoning maps. Here is a link to the article in the Statesman: CodeNext zoning maps. You’ll find more links within this article, so study to your heart’s content.

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H2O

Went on a property tour this morning in the Dripping Springs area. Lenders and title companies often arrange these affairs on a regular basis for real estate agents and brokers who want to see a sample of what’s available ‘this week’.

It was rainy today. Really rainy. Not too many of us on the property tour. But, you know what? I love to tour properties in the rain, whether with clients, or just for my own education. That’s how you know what the drainage issues are. It’s fun to see how drainage problems have been solved, or forestalled, by French drains, dry streams, foundation grading, walls, etc. It’s also illuminating to see what hasn’t been solved: creeks over sidewalks, water running close to the top of a foundation.

Rainy weather when house-hunting also makes you super-aware of which roads are likely to be impassable in a storm. A phone app I like to use is ATXfloods.com. Shows me a map of all the low-water crossings in the area and which have been closed. Especially important in the hills!

It’s helpful to go house-shopping in the rain so that you can see if there are drainage issues.

By the way, I saw some properties on the market in Dripping Springs this morning that ranged from perfectly charming to gorgeous.

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.

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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/

 

 

Terrestrial Tuesday- What’s My Commute Time?

terrestrial adj. relating to the earth, or land

Don’t we all start noticing geography when we are planning our next drive? Do we want the fastest, the shortest, or the most scenic route? Sometimes, we focus on the route which, for a variety of reasons, is the least personally annoying.

Your daily commute, if you have one, is something we can take into account when we are looking for your new home. The local multiple listing service (MLS) buys a program called DriveTime® from a company named Inrix. It uses the same GPS information that mapping programs use, gleaned from our cell phones, to map likely drive times according to desired arrival time.

Below is a map I created based on these criteria: address of destination (which happens to be a church), desired time of daily arrival, which I set for 8:45 am, and maximum amount of time I want to spend driving, which I set at 30 minutes. The map shows the (blue) areas in which I should look for a home if I work at this church and want to spend no more than 30 minutes commuting in the morning.

I can also calculate the evening commute in the opposite direction. Furthermore, I can overlay two different commutes on the map, so that two people in the same household will have their own commute map, and we can see the area where the two maps overlap. THAT’S the sweet spot in which we’ll look for their new home.

We all know that driving in a congested urban area is no fun, but we can take your personal preferences and use them to find the best solution for your commute problem.

By the way, I have been known to pick the most scenic route locally, rather than the fastest route. It feeds my spirit and lessens my personal annoyance at the traffic.

Terrestrial Tuesday- Rolling Waters

Can we stop and just talk about flooding for a few minutes here?

Near Wimberley: The Blanco River in winter, being pretty and not killing people

May 2015: The Blanco River after it has killed people and caused untold property damage. Those are cars you see in the foreground.

The north, east, and south side of the central Texas area is pretty flat and used to be clay-soil farmland, after it was no longer range for hunters following the game. The west was ranch land after the native people were driven off, because it had thin rocky soil and hills- not great for a farm, but perfectly fine for herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. Now, people are engaged in turning this farmland and ranch land into subdivisions of houses as fast as they can get them built. We are growing!

The area is laced with creeks and rivers, and when it rains a whole lot at one time, those creeks turn into torrents and the rivers turn into monsters. It’s pretty much the case that, in the west, if you build your house far up a hill, you aren’t likely to get flooded. But, in the north, east, and south, the water has room to spread out over the prairie, and you can’t be sure where the next flood will hit.

Nobody got too excited when the farmland flooded, or the rivers in the west turned into torrents on the ranch land. But, when buildings are involved, people sit up and take notice. That’s why FEMA flood maps exist. They show where people are required by law to carry flood insurance. They also show where you probably should buy flood insurance, even if you are not required to.

No one can predict where the next high-precipitation supercell will occur, and sometimes homes in our region will get flooded, even where no flooding has occurred since people have been keeping track. These areas are not marked as flood zones on the Federal Emergency Management Agency maps, but they may be flood zones the next time the maps are updated.

I can use our local multiple listing service to easily look up any property address and see a map of the flood zone for that property and neighborhood. The various flood zones are labeled according to the calculated percentage risk per year of a foot of water covering the ground.

When we have big storms, I call friends all over the area to see if they have had flooding, wind, hail, or tornado damage. When somebody has been flooded unexpectedly, or when flooding has occurred in a neighborhood for the first time, I file away that information for future reference (and go help out the victims). You can be sure that if you are looking at houses in that area, I will be showing you the flood maps AND I will be knocking on doors to ask what the residents saw the last time the area flooded.

There is nothing certain in this world, but if you and I can reduce the chances that your new home will be in a flood zone, that is a good thing, right?

Have you experienced a flood?

Memorial Day flood 2015

Halloween flood 2013

 

Sunbathing in the Woods

img_2444What happens when a very creative homeowner buys a home on an acre of Texas Hill Country woods? She builds a Moorish/Asian/Mexican winter sunbathing mecca, of course!

She generously shared her space with me and then sent me her personal photos to use on this blog. I really wanted you to admire her vision and I wanted to give you courage to live your own fantasy, too.

img_2445No resting spot complete without a cat!

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Fantastic! Do you have a favorite spot you’d like to share with us?