Monthly Archives: March 2014

Battleship Texas 100 years! By Jeff Stewart

Battleship Texas

Weekend before last, we made the journey down to Houston for the 100th anniversary celebration of the USS TEXAS. Since I serve on the State Park Advisory Committee, I felt like it was the perfect time to go investigate the battleship’s present condition and discover what our options are for its future.  Other than some pesky showers, it was a grand day with tours of the ship, a WWII reenactment, exhibits, and a concert finished off by Robert Earl Keen and spectacular fireworks that silhouetted the great ship.

Many will remember that the TEXAS has had major leak problems in the recent past. Currently the State is spending $18,000,000  on the old ship to keep the engines from falling through the rotten keel.  In the very near future, Texans will have to decide if they want to spend huge dollars to save the ship, or spend huge dollars to scrap the one of a kind vessel. We were given a tour by the engineer in charge of the repairs and he provided an up close look at the corrosion problems  below the waterline. It is believed that the costs to do either may end up about the same.  The ship is so fragile that it cannot be towed for fear of sinking in the Houston Ship Channel.  It must either be dry docked where it is, or a salvage yard will have to be built in the park in order to cut it up.

Berthed in the San Jacinto State Park, the very location of the Battle of San Jacinto, it is often argued that the Battleship should have been placed elsewhere.  Of course it is too late in the game to alter that.  San Jacinto has many supporters who want the site to be returned to the condition it was at the time of the Battle. I would expect that much of that restoration will take place.  The big question is will it take place with the battleship standing majestically to the side, or will it be removed in pieces and sold by the pound.  Only time and the Legislature will tell.

Jeff Stewart, CCIM

Stanberry & Associates


Austin makes the short lists!

By Jeff Stewart, CCIM

It would be difficult to imagine how a town could be more energized than Austin is right now. Austin is on quite a roll.  As I write this, we are in our second week of SXSW and the global attention it has drawn is beyond anything any of us could have imagined just ten years ago.

Austin continues to make everyone’s short list for all sorts of categories.  Last year Austin was ranked number one on the following lists according to Gracy Title:

Top Economies in the Country (The Business Journals, Oct. 2013)

Fastest Growing Cities (, Jan. 2013)

Best Cities for Job Growth (, Aug. 2013)

Top Cities to Be A Moviemaker (, Mar. 2013)

Biggest Boomtowns in the U.S. (, April 2013)

Best Cities for Twenty Somethings (, Oct. 2013

Best Cities for Small Business (, Aug. 2013)

Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs (Under30CEO, Mar. 2013)

Those were top rankings.  We also were ranked in the top five of the following categories:

Best Cities for Veterans to Find Work (USAA, Oct. 2013))

Hardest Working Cities in the U.S. ( July 2013)

Lowest Crime Rates in the U.S. (CQPRESS.COM, Feb. 2013)

Best Cities to Start a Business (, Aptil 2013)

Best Cities for Young Adults (BusinessInsider, Nov. 2013

Seattle and Portland, by comparison, made a few of the lists in the various polls but almost never ranked as high as Austin. Austin has had a good “buzz” around the country for years, but that buzz is now more of a roar.  I have been contacted twice this week by prospects wanting to move to Austin and NEITHER has ever even been here.  That is quite a buzz.   512-923-1669


By Jeff Stewart, CCIM   Stanberry Commercial

Recently we had representatives from Austin Community College (ACC) speak to our office about the new master plan for Highland Mall.  I think Austin is going to be very surprised with the grand vision  guiding this transformation . . . I know I certainly was.

A prime location with 80.8 acres, the failing mall is expected to be a premier development project for a number of years to come.  As I understand it, the existing mall building (which still has a few stores) will be steadily converted to ACC classrooms and offices as enrollment demands. The surrounding parking lot will be developed into a 200+ room hotel, 1200+ residential units, 800,000+ square feet of office space, and 150,000+ square feet of retail shops.  Instead of surface parking, the developer told me they will be utilizing parking garages in order to absorb the new buildings.

While the old anchor stores’ exteriors were unattractive, white boxes, the new exterior look features an extremely modern, expansive design with walls of glass. The grounds will feature acres of open space and 1000+ new trees.  This is going to be an exciting addition to North Austin!


Beating A Path To Austin

By Jeff Stewart, CCIM      Stanberry Commercial

Companies continue to relocate to Austin in astonishing numbers.  The Austin Business Journal (ABJ) had a great article in which they explored where the jobs are coming from.  The Austin Chamber of Commerce provided the ABJ with some startling numbers.  The past year (2013), 4,955 jobs have been relocated to Austin.  The Chamber breaks the jobs down by state and California has been the big loser.  Here is a sampling of where the jobs have moved from since 2011 according to the Chamber:

*  California                      9,354

*  New York                         960

*  Michigan                          728

*  Illinois                               404

*  Florida                              275

*  Maryland                          225

*  International                   249

*  Texas (other areas)     2,027

Is your real estate still a good fit for your lifestyle?

By Jeff Stewart, CCIM

An old friend and client recently called and asked for a favor. He was concerned that his family would be unable to handle his real estate in the event something happened to him, and he wanted permission to state in his will that I was to assist them in deciding what to do with the properties. It is not an unusual request, and I am happy to help if needed.

Yet, my first thought was that it is better to develop a plan now, instead of forcing heirs to deal with it unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we postpone the uncomfortable. People’s reasons to avoid dealing with their changing real estate needs probably vary: “I do not want to pay capital gains taxes.” “My kids may want it someday.” “I promised Uncle Alfred I would never sell the farm.” “What do I tell the neighbors?” The circumstances are as different as the families and the properties. Perhaps you have been procrastinating because you have a few reasons of your own. Accumulating real estate required years of hard work and planning.  Doesn’t that justify having a well-thought-out plan for the future, too?

The first step in devising a plan for your holdings would be an open and frank discussion with your family and accountant. Some important questions might be:

  • What are the likely tax scenarios involving this property?
  • Who can manage it if I am unable?
  • Will I need additional income in my later years?
  • Do my heirs want the property, and can it be split easily among heirs?
  • Is the property close to where my heirs live?
  • Is the property being maximized? (Do we still use the lake cabin?)
  • Have my needs or interests changed in regard to the property?
  • Is the property well-maintained? (Is anyone caring for the lake cabin?)
  • If I leave the property to my heirs, will they use it or sell it?
  • Is anyone willing to step up and help me maintain/manage the properties?
  • What is the current and future cost of maintaining a particular property?

A trained, experienced, caring real estate professional can assist you with discovering these answers and possible solutions. The key is listening to all the parties involved.

If a greater cash flow is needed, several options should be considered. A lease vs. sale analysis might be appropriate. If the property is essentially an unused asset, selling the real estate in a manner that minimizes capital gains taxes should be considered. If the heirs have expressed a lack of interest in a property, perhaps the time is right to explore alternative investments rather than saddle them with something they care nothing about.

The goal is to discover what works best for you . . . and the people you care about most. If you have the need to make changes and have been hesitant, now is the time to call a professional who can help you formulate a plan that works for you and your family.

Jeff Stewart, CCIM

Stanberry & Associates





Austin housing is heating up! – October 2, 2012


By Jeff Stewart, CCIM, Stanberry & Associates

Anyone who has been hiding and waiting for the Austin housing market to return to normal . . . well, they can officially come out to play now. The median sales price is now up 9% from a year ago.  Home sales are 21% higher than July 2011.  And don’t miss this, for the 15th consecutive month sales have exceeded the sales total for the previous annual period.(Check out the graph furnished by Austin Title.)

While inventory has been low, it continues to drop.  We now have 17% fewer homes on the market than we did a year ago! The MLS reports that pending sales are up 23% and that we currently have only 4 months of inventory.  A six-month inventory is considered a good balanced market, so a 4-month inventory would indicate that sellers have the upper hand.  In fact, expect it to remain a seller’s market for the foreseeable future.  This month Barron’s predicted that Austin would experience the third hottest housing market in the nation, and that we would see a 17% increase in housing prices over the next three years.  The hottest market?  Houston.  Predicted to see a 26% increase in just 36 months.

For more MLS statistics, check out the following link: / 512-327-9310

Rent houses pave the way to financial freedom. – Oct 2, 2012

By Jeff Stewart, CCIM / Stanberry & Associates


Not everyone is cut out to be a landlord, but for those who have the interest, now is a great time to begin investing.                                                                                                                        Record low interest rates, almost no vacancies, solid appreciation in the 3rd hottest market in America . . . that spells opportunity

I can think of few things better than having a few tenants pay off a rent house that will later pay for a youngster’s college education or help fund a more comfortable retirement.  That has a nice sound to it, doesn’t it?

I’ll offer this personal example.  In 1977, I built a duplex in South Austin. My labor and a $34,000 note was our total investment.  We still own it.  It would be interesting to know just how many times over our tenants have paid for that duplex.  They paid for it.  We just maintain it . . . and cash the checks.

More on this soon

By Jeff Stewart… – Oct. 2, 2012

By Jeff Stewart, CCIM / Stanberry & Associates

Austin, Texas

Since I have been suggesting investing in rent houses (or office warehouses, etc.), maybe I should touch on my philosophy about being a landlord.  Being a landlord is not always a picnic, but a few basic rules really limit my problems.  Having done property management for thirty-seven years, I have established some very simple guidelines that minimize the headaches.

  •  Absolutely no pets.  Period.  No exceptions.
  •  Require virtually perfect credit.
  • Carefully explain what I expect of new tenants.
  • Treat tenants with respect.
  • Respond to any repair request ASAP
  • Try to maintain property as if we were living there.

Through the years, I have come to realize that people with practically perfect credit, take pride in most  everything  they do .  My rental problems became almost non-existent once I started holding out for great credit scores.

Citywide rents in Austin are averaging right at $1.10 per square foot and hardly a “For Rent” sign is to be found.  It is a fun time to be a landlord. / 512-327-9310


Challenging times for appraisers

Establishing value is one of the most challenging aspects of real estate. The open market is perfectly efficient in determining ultimate value of property. The problems arise when we try to determine the market value without placing a property on the market where buyers and sellers determine the eventual sales price. Even though housing values are rising again, I have numerous clients who are disappointed to discover that their properties often do not bring what they had been told they were worth when they last refinanced.

No matter how skilled an appraiser might be, the appraised value is still just an opinion. Similarly a broker’s opinion is often just a well educated guess, especially in a surging market. An good example would be the last six months here in Austin. We have seen a solid increase in values for most areas. As agents and appraisers, we are operating with lagging indicators. Ideally we use sales comps that are less than six months old, but when the market makes a rapid turn like this past summer those sales might be misleading. Sometimes it seems more like an art than a science.
But what if we have no comps? Recent legislation has placed great pressure upon appraisers to provide better comps. Unfortunately in some cases like commercial, it is virtually impossible to find recent comps. In commercial, opposed to residential, appraisers use three methods of valuing property: income, cost, and comparable sales.

Different types of commercial leases – Nov. 6, 2012

As the Austin economy continues to grow stronger, more outside companies are looking to expand into our area.  A good number of home-grown companies are also looking for larger space.  Perhaps it is a good time to review the different types of commercial leases.

 The names we use for the different types of leases require a bit of explanation.  Some, such as “full service”, are self-explanatory.  Full service leases are generally for smaller office space.  The tenant makes a single monthly rent payment that covers the use of the property, the utilities, janitorial, building insurance, and maintenance.

A “gross lease” would likely be something similar to an office or office warehouse.  The tenant would pay base rent to the landlord, but then be responsible for utilities and janitorial.  Anything along these same lines, but with agreements to something slightly different might be referred to as a “modified gross lease.”

In larger buildings, especially in the case of free-standing, single tenant buildings, we generally have “net leases” or more commonly “triple net leases.”  This type of lease is usually known among brokers as simply “NNN” . . . meaning net, net, net.  In a triple net lease, the tenant pays the landlord the base rent plus a prorate share of all the related expenses . . . taxes, insurance, maintenance, property management, etc.  We will dig deeper into the NNN expenses in the next article.

Jeff Stewart, CCIM   Broker Associate

Stanberry Commercial