Monthly Archives: October 2014

Highland Lakes Waterfront Is Complicated    By Jeff Stewart, CCIM

SLOGO JPG  Recently I had a phone call from a Bastrop agent who had run into a problem while handling a waterfront sale on Lake Travis.  Unfortunately, the agent had never sold property on Lake Travis and had no idea of the many pitfalls.  I am not sure if I was able to help him recover his fumble, but it did remind me how complicated real estate can be on the Highland Lakes. In fact I have said many times that I consider waterfront transactions on lakes Travis, LBJ, Marble Falls. Inks, and Buchanan to be some of the most complicated in Central Texas.

One friend and past client mentioned a while back that I told him a major truth when I sold him his place on Lake Travis.  He reminded me that I said buying waterfront was all about compromises.  He said the more he has learned about the lake, the more he understands what I meant. It is so difficult to find the entire package.  So, why is it so complicated?  Let’s take a look at the three biggest factors that must be considered on Lake Travis, for example.

The first consideration is the flood plain, which is now 722′ above sea level  . . . six feet higher than it was when most homes were built.  In other words, a great many of the homes are now located waist deep in the 100-year flood zone.  The irony is that buyers scarcely think about the flood plain in times of extreme drought.  Looking at a largely, empty lake (623′) from a lofty 722′ elevation just makes the very idea flooding seem ridiculous.  Even if a buyer is willing to risk residing in the flood zone, any institutional lender is going to require flood insurance.  After a couple of misfires, Congress has instructed NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) to steadily increase rates over the next five years until the program is self sufficient.  Homeowners in the flood plain are in for a very unpleasant shock.

Secondly, and just as important, are waterfront rights.  Many of the docks on Lake Travis are floating over some other owner’s land. This is a growing problem as the water retreats and homeowners add stairways to land they do not own.  The waterfront may be owned by LCRA, the HOA, the developer, or a neighbor.

Lastly, is the question of water depth.  On Lake LBJ, most of the shoreline is silted up, making it difficult to have deep water under the dock.  On Lake Travis, the wildly fluctuating water level only intensifies the challenge.  A prospective property owner must consider what the depth would be at flood stage and at drought stage.  Currently, Lake Travis owners are discovering that buyers have little interest in hiking one hundred vertical feet to and from the water’s edge.  They REALLY have no interest in what was once waterfront that now has no water.

Having served on numerous committees and panels for the LCRA, as well as having been a waterfront owner on Lake Travis for thirty plus years, I have the experience to guide buyers who are interested in lakefront properties.


Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES

Stanberry & Associates, Realtors


Experience Dictates Clientele    By Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES

PR ranch shot III     A large part of my enjoyment of helping real estate clients is applying my many years of experience.   After all, what good is a lifetime of experience if you chose to ignore it? With fifty years of work experience (how is that even possible??) I draw heavily on events in which I learned many things the hard way.  Those painful lessons often help me guide clients in a direction that helps them avoid pitfalls that they do not even know exist.

I started working as a farmhand when I was twelve. Before I graduated from high school, I had moved furniture, worked in a boat shop, and had a janitorial and yard service. While in college, I was a water flood operator for Chevron, a roofer, a framing contractor, and a remodeler.  After graduation from Texas Tech, I began my real estate career here in Austin as an agent, homebuilder, and general contractor.

The reason I say all that is because I am often asked why I handle such a wide variety of real estate transactions.  Very few commercial agents (and virtually no CCIMs) practice any residential real estate . . . so why do I?  The short answer is that I have the experience and expertise to do commercial, residential, and farm and ranch.  All of it interests me and I have dealt in all three for many years for myself . . . why stop doing it for clients ?

Admittedly, it is very demanding to stay active in all three sectors.  Not only do I have to read constantly to stay current, but because of dues and certain memberships I also have the most expenses of anyone in our firm.  Yes it is costly, but I find it much more interesting.  I find that the rewards are very different.  As a country boy, I am happiest when I am out in the wide open spaces and I love showing ranch property.  At the same time, it was very rewarding to see two years of hard work come together when I completed the HelioVolt solar cell factory lease.  Commercial is often much like a chess game and when a deal comes together it is very satisfying.

Yet, for all the satisfaction I get from doing commercial property or land, nothing beats helping young folks to find their dream home.  Commercial real estate is about returns, bottom lines, and “hitting the number.” Residential real estate is about dreams, families, hopes, and emotion. I closed a home this week that is a great example.  The young couple had tried for several houses, only to be beaten out in multiple offers.  But as I often tell clients, some things are just meant to be.  We finally found a charming home near Circle C.  It has wonderful oak trees and a screened room on the back that you might discover in Southern Living Magazine.  After a few minutes in the home, the young woman told her husband, “Honey, hold me down!  I think I am about to float away!”  Now that is the emotion that keeps me coming back for more.  I can honestly say that I am certain I have never had any commercial clients warn me that they were “about to float to float away!”   Wow, do I have a great life or what?

Jeff Stewart, CCIM SRES

Broker Associate     Stanberry Commercial, Realtors



Austin Board of REALTORS® releases real estate statistics for September 2014

Austin-area home prices set record for September, home sales rebound in September 2014

Austin Board of REALTORS® releases real estate statistics for September 2014


AUSTIN, Texas – October 21, 2014 – According to the September 2014 Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released today by the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), Austin-area single-family home prices set a record for the month of September. At the same time, Austin-area single-family home sales rebounded from the last two months of home sales declines, increasing 10 percent from September 2013 to 2,524 home sales.

Bill Evans, 2014 President of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, explained, “September’s 10 percent increase in home sales, despite ongoing issues in housing affordability, is a testament to the strong population and job growth that the Austin area and its economy continue to enjoy. However, these records in home prices also show that area homes continue to become more and more unaffordable for Austin homebuyers. ABoR encourages Austinites to take action on Nov. 4 by voting for City Council candidates who will prioritize housing development and affordability issues in 2015.”

Median price for Austin-area single-family homes increased eight percent year-over-year to $240,000 and average price rose seven percent year-over-year to $308,514 in September 2014. These are the highest figures recorded for both median and average price for the month of September.

At the same time, Austin-area monthly housing inventory slipped back to 2.8 months, despite a year-over-year increase of 0.1 months from September 2013. This is still well below the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University’s balanced housing inventory level of 6.5 months.

While Austin-area homes continue to sell quickly, the average number of days single-family homes spent on the market remained unchanged from September 2013 at 44 days. This is the first time that the average number of days spent on the market remained statistically unchanged year-over-year since September 2011.v In September 2014, active listings increased eight percent year-over-year to 6,469 listings and new listings rose four percent during the same time frame to 2,586 listings. Continued gains in single-family home listings over the last few months are having a positive effect on pending sales, which jumped 11 percent year-over-year in September 2014 to 2,201 pending single-family home sales.

Evans concluded, “Recent reports from a national real estate advertising company have claimed that the Austin-area housing market is overvalued, but local economic experts continue to point to our region’s strong economic and population growth as foundations of a healthy market and indicators that those claims are not true. The 110 people who the City of Austin says move to Austin every day need homes to live in, and the real issue at hand is whether those people can afford those homes.”

September 2014 Statistics

  • 2,524 – Single-family homes sold, 10 percent more than September 2013.


  • $240,000 – Median price for single-family homes, eight percent more than September 2013.


  • $308,514 – Average price for single-family homes, seven percent more than September 2013.


  • 44 – Average number of days single-family homes spent on the market, unchanged from September 2013.


  • 2,586 – New single-family home listings on the market, four percent more than September 2013.


  • 6,469 – Active single-family home listings on the market, eight percent more than September 2013.


  • 2,201 – Pending sales for single-family homes, 11 percent more than September 2013.


  • 2.8 – Months of inventory* of single-family homes, 0.1 months more than September 2013.


  • $778,689,336 – Total dollar volume of single-family properties sold, 18 percent more than September 2013.

The following sections describe trends in other sectors of the Austin-area real estate market.

Townhouses & Condominiums

The volume of townhouses and condominiums (condos) purchased in the Austin area in September 2014 was 245, which is four percent less than September 2013. In the same time period, the median price for condos was $205,500, which is one percent more than the same month last year. These properties spent an average of 41 days on the market, two days fewer than September 2013.


In September 2014, a total of 1,444 properties were leased in Austin, which is eight percent more than September 2013. The median price for Austin-area leases was $1,480, which is 10 percent more than the same month last year.


The Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR) is a non-profit, voluntary organization dedicated to educating and supporting Central Texas REALTORS®. ABoR proudly serves more than 10,000 members, promotes private property rights and provides accurate, comprehensive property listing information for the Greater Austin area. Home sales statistics are released by ABoR on a monthly basis. For more information, please contact the ABoR Marketing Department at or 512-454-7636512-454-7636. Visit, a public resource on Austin real estate, for the latest news on the local housing market.

* The inventory of homes for a market is measured in months, which is defined as the number of active listings divided by the average sales per month of the prior 12 months. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University cites that 6.5 months of inventory represents a market in which supply and demand for homes is balanced.

Austin Housing Bubble?       By Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES

Jeff-Headshot-cropped      By now, half of America has heard that has named Austin as the most over-priced housing market in the U.S.  Ouch. I would find that extremely alarming if I thought it were true. Let’s take a closer look.

     Trulia conducted its own research and has produced a report that states seven of the largest 100 metro areas in the country are over-priced, by their estimation. Of the seven markets that were deemed to be over-priced, Austin topped the list.  Trulia found that the Austin residential market was priced 19% above what market fundamentals should support. Further down the list were #4 San Francisco at 12%, #6 Honolulu at 10%, and #8 Houston at 8%.  It is worth noting that of the seven markets listed as over-priced, only Austin and Houston were seen as not grossly over-priced in 2006 by Trulia’s criteria.


     It is true that the MLS reported the median priced home in Austin had jumped 11% in August 2014 compared to the year before.  Is that the definition of over-heated. Perhaps, but RealtyTrac offers us a different perspective.  According to RealtyTrac, the median-income worker has to spend 31.3% of his or her income in order to afford the median-priced home in Austin.  This is a little higher than the historical ratio of 26.7%, but is that enough to warrant Trulia’s headlines?  By comparison, San Francisco housing costs 85% and Jackson Hole costs 84%!  Which location would seem to have the biggest potential downside?  I do not think it would be Austin.

    But home ownership is only part of the equation.   According to, most Austintes rent.  So how do they fare? The Austin Letter reported that took a look at the expense of renting in various cities. They found that Austin workers in science, technology, engineering, and math sectors (or STEM as they called it) make an average income of around $79,433.  Unfortunately, the average rent is about $978 a month. Compare that to the same ratio of $81,215/$877 in Dallas or $94,766/$873 in Houston.  Obviously, our rising housing costs are a growing concern . . . especially for the young and for retirees.

     We can agree that housing is relatively more expensive in Austin than other parts of the state.  It has been for quite some time, and will likely remain that way as long as job hunters can vote with their feet.  Jobs are driving the market.  It is clearly a free market situation, driven by outstripped demand and what seems to be minimal speculation.  Are we high?  Yes.  Are we leading the nation in a bubble market?  I do not think so.

Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES   Stanberry & Associates, Realtors   512-327-9310