Things For A 5 Year Old To Do In Dallas Austin Real Estate Market – Thriving Capital Moves Ahead

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Austin Real Estate Market – Thriving Capital Moves Ahead

Austin is one of the few areas in the country that didn’t see a big price increase from 2001 to 2007. We were slowed down by the Dot.com crash in 2001, and in 2004 we were still recovering from that. This is an interview with Forbes investment team member Randy Frederick about the Austin market.

Steve Forbes: Don’t you think about the demise of the main metropolitan? [area] Are you surprised by the fact that they are not only commercial capitals, but also cultural capitals?

Randy Frederick: Even though I’m a little too old to be attracted to it, downtown Austin continues to be a major draw for many people, especially the young and artsy types. There are several projects to build residential high-rise buildings because the demand is there – and I think that has more to do with cultural appeal than anything else.

It has since been home to the University of Texas, the largest university in the US [in] Downtown Austin has a thriving nightlife scene, and many young people want to be a part of it. There really hasn’t been a real estate boom in the nine years I’ve lived here, and as a result the real estate downturn has been much less pronounced than in many other parts of the country.

(Roselind) Randy, I appreciated your comment about Austin on the Forbes.Com – Investing Panel. Austin is blossoming as a cultural capital, and downtown plays a big part in the Austin experience.

I remember going to the closing sale of Scarborough Department Store in the town center in 1981, the same year Barton Creek Shopping Center opened. It seemed to be a low point in leaving the city center as a retail destination. City task forces and business groups have worked hard for years to revitalize downtown Austin. Music businesses led the way and brought young people downtown.

In 1999, we began to observe the first housing construction. Today, downtown Austin is a growing residential and entertainment district, and it’s getting better every day. I was just there for a bit of SXSW. Music everywhere.

Tell me something about what you’ve noticed in your nine years in Austin?

(Randy) I am not a real estate expert and have only lived in one other major metropolitan area (Indianapolis, IN). I have limited comparisons. That said, when I moved to Austin in 2000, I was amazed at the number of people, especially the educated and wealthy, who found living in the city desirable.

This trend seemingly continued and even increased in the following years. In the 30 years I’ve lived near the Indianapolis area, with a few small exceptions, it has generally been considered a more desirable suburb.

Metaphorically speaking, the center of the city is its heart and without a healthy heart the body cannot be healthy. There are many things I love about Austin (music, climate, culture), but key to all of them is a vibrant and desirable downtown.

(Roselind) I think it’s so true – a vibrant downtown is key to a city that attracts people. It will be interesting to see how this develops. In The City – A Global History by Joel Kotkin, he talks about the need to bring more services to urban areas so people don’t move to the suburbs after having children. Things like good schools. Then the population in the area will not turn over so quickly.

You said well that you have a university almost in the center of the city. I had no idea how important it was. It supplies a lot of people for music halls, cafes, retail and residential spaces.

On another topic – you mentioned that we haven’t had a real estate boom in Austin. Therefore, the decline in real estate was not as pronounced as in other parts of the country. We are in great shape compared to that. Two recent reports:

1) Austin was ranked the second healthiest housing market for 2009 in a study by Builder Magazine. They said the healthiest cities were great places to live and often had great universities. And during the boom, prices didn’t go up.

2) Forbes ranked Austin #2 on its top ten cities to move to. The Forbes article goes on to say that the largest cities do not rely heavily on one industry.

In my experience, it takes longer to sell now than it did a few years ago. And there are some pockets where supply has exceeded demand. Some of these are popular neighborhoods where builders expected strong growth. Others are areas where modest homes have been resold to investors or sub-prime borrowers.

Despite all the good news about Austin, people still wonder if a tighter downtown is headed our way. What do you think? Will the other shoe drop?

(Randy) As I mentioned earlier, I am not an expert on the housing market, but I do follow trends in economic news such as housing starts, mortgage rates, and the Case-Shiller price reports. I also follow the earnings reports and stock prices of all the major builders.

While I wouldn’t describe this as another shoe to drop, I would say that nationally there are few signs that the housing market has already bottomed out. While there has been a slight increase in existing sales, this is probably more a result of market capture, speculators and bottom fishermen than a real increase in demand. This means that any activity that effectively removes excess inventory is at least somewhat positive.

As difficult as recessions are, they are a necessary part of the business cycle because they readjust runaway inflation, which is exactly what we had in the housing market. In the Case Shiller Graph, the navy line shows how the price of housing was doing pretty nicely with inflation until about early 2001. The yellow line shows roughly where housing prices would likely be if the bubble hadn’t happened, while the green line shows how far we’ve gone and how much we fixed it. More importantly, the teal line shows how much correction is still needed.

(Roselind) I saw this index and it pretty much reveals the problem. Because Case-Shiller doesn’t track Austin, we don’t have a chart for that area. But with moderate levels of appreciation – 4%-5% – for most years, I think our home prices would be much closer to the baseline.

As you said, Austin is one of the few areas of the country that didn’t see a big increase in prices from 2001 to 2007. We were slowed by the Dot.com crash in 2001 and by 2004 we were still recovering from that. During that time the builders pulled their programs and we worked our way through the overload of high end stock. In retrospect, this probably prevented us from getting on the pricing roller coaster. In 2008, we had an overall appreciation of several percentage points – which is indicative of the stability of our market.

Your view of the national market is one we must keep in mind. While we may not be able to handle a major deflation here in Austin, we need people to be able to sell in other areas, to make credit available and to increase confidence. Until that happens, we will operate with less demand than we have been used to in recent years. And it’s not all bad. This is a good thing for buyers. Right now they are getting a more balanced market with great interest rates.

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective!

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