Giving Kids

Adults often pose the question "What is Santa Clause bringing you for Christmas?" to my very priveledged preschooler. She is quick to answer - spouting off a detailed list of many fantastic toys. It never crosses her mind that other children (and pets for that matter) are not blessed with the same loving, bountiful home life as she. While trying to instill compassion and giving in my daughter, I have been seeking out simple, easy ways around town where my daughter can give to others not quite as fortunate as herself. Here are a few ideas I came up with.

Donations to the Homeless Animals. Townlake Animal Shelter accepts lots of in-kind donations including food, toys, blankets, and towels. Since the baby doll blankets were really accumulating around my house anyway, we decided to take a tall stack of them down to the shelter. This was a double wammy act of kindness as it also teaches appreciation for her own dog who could also use additional love and kisses around here.

Pull Tabs for Ronald McDonald House. Let your Coc-a-cola and beer drinking go to a good cause this month (and every month) while your kids collect pull tabs for RMDH. RMDH provides housing for out of town families whose children are receiving medical treatment at local medical facilities. The pull tabs are recycled and proceeds go to RMDH in continuing their efforts. Pull tabs can be dropped off at the Ronald McDonald House in the new Mueller development - 1315 Barbara Jordan Blvd.

Good ol' Goodwill Donations. My little girl and I sort through toys and throw the ones she wants to give away into a box. Even when she struggles internally to let go of a particular toy, I see the compassion in her eyes as she reflects on the little girl or boy who needs it worse than her. We go drop them off at the Goodwill together. When you buy or donate to Goodwill you are contributing to Goodwill's mission of preparing individuals for job success.

If you think of any other ways kids can give of themselves, please feel free to send a comment.


Condo Projects that Look/Act Like Houses in Central Austin?

$325K Watson St. - near Crestview Station

Wondering about the large number of 2 unit detached condo projects in Central Austin. These are new construction properties that look like single family homes, but that are technically classified and sold as condominiums. This is happening quite a bit in Central Austin where land is becoming increasingly scarce and builders buy one full size lot, tear down the existing structure and put two, even bigger properties on the lot. The builder may subdivide the lot and classify the dwellings as single family homes, however, sometimes the lot size is too small to qualify the dwelling as a single family home. In addition, even if the lot is big enough to qualify as a single family home, the builder has to go through a public hearing to subdivide the property and may be met with adversity from neighbors and neighborhood associations in some of these older Austin neighborhoods. In this case, the builder may prefer to create a condo project, which is just a administrative legal process.

These properties can be wonderful: exquisitely designed, well constructed, close to downtown, well priced, etc. Overall, precisely what you are looking for in a new home. However, before you buy, there are a couple of things to know about these properties before you consider buying one.

1. Mandatory COA: Even though there are just 2 units, there will have to be a COA, which is a legal entity. The COA should have a budget that pays for common grounds liability insurance and tax preparation, at minimum. Be sure that the money you are paying to the COA goes to something of value. As one of the owners, you will be an officer in the COA and have 50% voting rights. If you and your neighbor do not agree on something 100%, then nothing happens. Either everyone agrees or disagrees.

2. Perceived Market Value: Most home buyers are searching for "houses" to buy and therefore, there is a lower perceived value in a condo vs. a single family home. This may be a problem when you go to resell your property. It will actually be listed as a "condo" in the MLS and may not even pop up in potential home buyers' searches.

3. Condo Financing: The underwriting requirements for financing a condominium is changing and financing is getting tougher to obtain as time goes on. Some federally backed loan programs will not finance a condo project that is not at least 50% owner occupied. If your neighboring condo is owned by an investor, it may be difficult for you to find a buyer who can buy your condo with conventional financing when you go to resell.

Some additional condo projects in Central Austin:
$399K Alegria St. - Crestview Area

$325K 2nd St - East Austin

$275K Stacy Ln - 78704

Alyson Fox @ Kick Pleat Tonight

This evening from 5 - 7 pm I am heading over with two girlfriends to a special Alyson Fox event at lovable neighborhood boutique - Kick Pleat on 12th and Lamar,near Clarkesville. On sale will be limited edition Alyson Fox prints from $50 - $75. Oh -- and Kick Pleat will be on sale! 15% off of everything.

Alyson Fox, multi-talented Austin artist...with a seemingly endless capability to create marvelously chic "stuff" including: illustrations, textiles, photographs, and clothes...will have on sale this evening a collection of prints, ideal for framing for yourself or for gifts.


Last Day for East Austin Studio Tour

I was fortunate enough to get out and visit several of the studios on the East Austin Studio Tour yesterday afternoon. Today is the last day, but if you get the chance...here are the studios I visited and loved the most. If you have never done the East Austin Studio Tour... you really, really should take advantage of this opportunity to visit with artists directly and snap up some amazing works of arts at surprisingly affordable prices.

#2 Karen Saenz - Amazing oil paintings of dreamlike scenes that make you feel like you are really there. http://www.karensaenz.com/

#16 Fisterra Studio - Painter Jennifer Chenoweth and sculptor Todd Campbell merge art, architecture, function, and nature throughout their 101 year old studio/home. This was by far my favorite! http://www.fisterrastudio.com/ I just read on their site that Jennifer Chenoweth will also help you choose paint colors for your home... need to give her a call but, sadly, I know my home still won't look nearly as cool and fabulous as hers.

#30 Dog House Studios - A collective studio including work from 3 truly inspiring, provoking painters Karen Maness, Jennifer Balkan , Pablo Taboada.

#4 Bright Studio - lots of affordable yummy things for the home in this studio featuring the works of Brenna Byerlotzer, Heather Parrish and Anna Swanson. Brenna and Anna form textile design company Margret Helene. Heather utilizes just about everything she can in her art. Her works include but are not limited to: large woodblock prints, sculpture, and drawings.


Rare Modern Rehab Opportunity in Tarrytown

Just happened upon this little diamond in the rough...wasting away in Tarrytown with [apparently] no one to love it. Has been on the market 150 days.

Built in 1961, this modern home sits on a massive .28 acre lot, just 2 blocks from Lake Austin. It's boasts 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, and $3395 square feet. Needs a complete makeover, but the bones and raw design of the home, indicative of the era, are in good shape and hard to find in such condition. Great light. Great layout.

Seller says "bring all offers"....


East Side's El Chilito Now Downtown

My daughter is addicted to the taco's from hipster/gringo taco joint, El Chilito in East Austin, located at 12th and Chestnut. She loves the breakfast tacos and the chicken (pollo asado).

This morning I happened upon a NEW El Chilto on Congress Ave, just north of 9th St next to Little City Coffee in downtown Austin. (Only about 300 yards from my office building.) There was a line out the door at lunchtime. I think it's going to be a hit with the downtown set. Click here for full story on ABJ.


Race for the Cure This Weekend

I am looking forward to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this weekend. If you haven't already registered, you can register here. I am participating in the UNTIMED 5K. Starting line is on 1st street, just north of Riverside... bright and early Sunday morning at 8 AM (8:15 for UNTIMED). Don't forget about daylight savings... yuck.

Oh...and there is actually an option for "Sleep In for the Cure". ...You can donate $50.00 and get a t-shirt that says you slept in... I see no shame in that. !!


East Austin - Rated Top 15 by Businessweek.com

Businessweek.com names East Austin as one of the top 15 “up and coming” neighborhoods to buy into now, while it’s still cheap.

According to Businessweek.com, the hot places to buy in today’s soft real estate market are “urban areas in transition”. i.e. the Soho and Venice Beaches of 10 years ago. The easiest way to find these areas is to follow the artists. Artists “often set the stage for redevelopment, and home buyers who follow their lead can sometimes get in while real estate prices are affordable. Over time, the abandoned warehouses artists occupy become gorgeous lofts and studios, and gritty neighborhoods transform into trendy communities with an edge. That's when the investors, developers, and wealthy buyers arrive, pushing up rents and displacing the artists who are then forced to set out for the next undesirable neighborhood. It's a cycle that has repeated itself for decades, in cities across the nation.”

In Austin, the artist community has honed in on East Austin and the result is a thriving real estate market ideal for early adopters and investors. Many artist collectives like the Pump Project and the East Austin Studio Tour set down roots here a couple years back and with them came the arrival of trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques…all of which continue to grow in number in East Austin. If you haven’t spent time in East Austin recently, take a trip and visit Manor Road, E. 11th Street, and E. 6th Street where you will find lively, urban, modern communities of young Austinites living and loving their little secret slice of Austin.

The “hottest” zip codes are 78722 and 78702, although don’t overlook 78723 which also has prime, close-in properties for a great price. Within East Austin, there are tiny micro-neighborhoods, each exuding its own quirky personality, including the Holly Street District, the French Legation, the East End, Swede Hill, East 6th, French Place, Cherrywood, and Delwood.

Here are just a few of the current deals to be had in East Austin... Contact me for more info (email address at bottom of this page!).

$230,000 - NEW on market this week; 1950s home in original condition on large .19 acre lot in well established neighborhood of Shceiffer place. Walking distance to Patterson Park, Mueller, and Manor Road. Screaming for a make-over - the home has original wood floors, easy cosmetic fixes, central heat/air, giant oak tree in back yard. Lot next door is empty...no neighbors! 3 bed / 2 bath / 1357 sf.

$239,000 - Updated 1940s house and garage apartment on ENORMOUS .42 acre lot! Walking distance to Manor Road and bus line. 3 bed / 2bath / 1930 sf.

$244,900 - Delwood 1949 bungalow on large .21 acre treed lot...adjacent to Mueller development. Designer interior...oodles of mid-century charm and style. 2 bed / 1 bath / 1028 sf.


Wheatesville... Under Construction ... But Still A Favorite

This is my favorite Austin grocery store, Wheatsville Co-Op on Guadaloupe, just north of the University. Yes, yes, in Austin we do have the famed Whole Foods Flagship downtown that is seriously...the most beautiful grocery store on earth...and I go there occasionally. BUT my favorite place to grocery shop is here at Wheatsville. It's a small store with that friendly, hometown feel, full of yummy, natural products to fuel yourself on. It's a true co-op, and by paying the annual "ownership" fee, you can be an owner too. Owners get lots of special coupons and savings, as well as a monthly newspaper that again...has that warm fuzzy feeling. Non-owners pay an additional % on their bill Produce at Wheatsville is super fresh and comes from local growers whenever possible. They carry farm fresh eggs. Their wine department is also on the upswing offering an eclectic collection of good wines at good prices. I love that it never takes me more than 3 minutes to walk from my car in the parking lot to the front door...unlike the mega grocery store's whose parking lots are bigger than the stores themselves. If you have kids, there is also the bonus of little mini shopping carts. My little girl loves getting her own shopping cart (located at front of the store, to the left when you walk in) and filling it with her favorite foods. Wheatesville is in the middle of a renovation, but don't let that deter you, this is a wonderful place to shop. Also to fall in love with are their smoothies and deli items at the back of the store. Located at 3101 Guadalupe, in Hyde Park, North of the University.


East Austin Continues to Foster Its Creative Community

This is a recent mural turning up in East Austin, completed by the artist collective Trust Your Hustle. The mural is located on the west wall of longtime blues music venue Victory Grill on E. 11th St. The mural pays homage to Austin’s own soul queen Lavelle White along with other Austin blues music pioneers Johnny Holmes, founder of Victory Grill, and Roosevelt “Grey Ghost” Williams, first musician Holmes booked for the venue. Trust Your Hustle is a touring collective of artists who join forces with local artists all over the country to create murals. …kinda cool that they chose Austin. !

East Austin has longtime been a community playing safe harbor to thriving artists and artist communities by providing low priced real estate, urban “inspiring” spaces, rich culture, and a super convenient distance to downtown and the rest of central Austin. Even with the rapid gentrification of East Austin (and rapidly sky-rocketing real estate prices), many artist communities remain there actively enriching the community with their work.

The East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) is a 2 day event occurring each fall, this year scheduled for November 22nd and 23rd. This is a self-directed tour includes over 100 studios and 200 local artists holding open houses to present and sell their work. Free copies of the studio tour map are available at the studios. Bike transportation between the studios is highly encouraged…and by far the most convenient option anyway.

Another East Austin art program is the PUMP Project whose 30-something members work out of a single complex thus providing affordable work space and camaraderie to the artists. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday 1-5.

Many other collective studio spaces are available for rent such as 501 Studios at I-35 and E. 5th Street. If you are looking to buy, there are new construction live/work spaces…but those go fast and there aren’t any currently on the market (although I have heard of a few underway). If you are patient and have cash, there are great resale properties that come (and go) on the market in East Austin that would serve as excellent artist studios.


Thursday is 99 cent day at SAVERS

If you are a little bit thrifty and you subscribe to the idea of reusing and conserving in this age of mass consumerism --- then you gotta go to Savers. Savers is the department store of thrift stores, two locations in Austin (Burnet & North Loop, South Lamar & Hwy 70). Thursdays is the best day to go when they designate one color of tag throughout the store as 99 cents. ...and you can walk out of there with some seriously great finds like brand new tennis shoes for the kids, a television, or some groovy boots for yourself. Plus, shopping at Savers teaches our kids to reuse and conserve...which is the best message of all.


DinoLand Adventures

Do not be afraid. This T-Rex is not real. It was opening weekend of "DinoLand" at Zilker Botanical Gardens this weekend...and we went with the kiddos and some friends (who also had kiddos). I have to say, I really wouldn't recommend going to this exhibit if you DIDN'T have kiddos. There were kiddos and babies everywhere.
The dinos are nestled among the gardens and peak out every now and then. No dramatic effects...just life size dinosaurs. There was a pretty cool "DinoMan" show in the rose garden that was entertaining, but a little too advanced for our tots who are still preschool age. If you have grade school age kids, I would definitely try and make that. Overall, a nice way to spend a few hours in the Botanical Gardens with your fam...especially since it's almost entirely shaded.
Note on the parking situation: We were quite fearful about parking and therefore we took the bus...but in the end...the parking wasn't bad at all...and the bus was pretty annoying...so I would recommend you drive and park. Two large parking lots are dedicated to the event.


Stand Up Paddle Surfing

Apparently this is the new thing, stand up paddle surfing... or SUP-ing. (or more like "old thing resurfacing and is now all the rage" I guess)
The sport is suppose to be a ton of fun as well as an amazing strength building exercise for core body muscles ...and Austin's Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) is an excellent place to partake in the growing trend. I am trying to find a place in Austin to rent a board and take lessons - but haven't had any luck yet. Leave a comment if you know of a place or someone!
Thanks to Mike Baird on flickr.com for the pic. Note, the pic was unfortunately not taken on Lady Bird Lake... I couldn't find a good pic of someone SUPing on LBL. If you have one, send it to me!


Hot Sauce Festival This Weekend

Tomorrow (Saturday, August 24th) is the Austin Chronicle's annual Hot Sauce Festival. Not only can you sample the best homemade/local hot sauces in town...but there's also a great line up of bands including Black Joe Louis, Fingerpistols, Jungle Rockers, Girl In the Closet, and Band of Heathens. Bring a picnic blanket and lawn chairs. Dress cool (as in temperature). Each entrant is allow 2 factory sealed bottles of water. Admission is free with the donation of three non-perishable food items. Donations go to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Festival is held at Waterloo Park (12th and Red River) 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM. Check out Austin Chronicle website for show times and complete festival guidelines.
Hot sauce photo courtesy of Basykes on www.flickr.com


Why Dogs Love Living in Austin

If I were a dog, I would want to live here in Austin where the city really seems to care about a dog's quality of life. The city has specifically identified some of the hottest nature spots in town as leash-free zones. I have a blond Labrador named Lola who has personally tested several of the hottest spots in town...

1. Auditorium Shores - South side of Lady Bird Lake, just west of First Street Bridge.
Big expansive green field on the banks of Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake)...think "size of a football field"....with a downtown city view. Water dogs can get their fill of the lake. Land lubbers can run and run and run...and run some more. Watch out for joggers and bikers whizzing by on the trail...not all of them are understanding that it's a leash free zone right there. We like to go on Sunday's with a tennis ball and let Lola chase the ball into the water until her heart's content. She always seems to make friends too.

2. Norwood Estate Dog Park - Northwest corner of I-35 and Riverside
This park is better known as "the dog park on Riverside". There are community drinking water stations for the dogs (be sure to bring a jug of water to contribute if you can remember.) This is a good ol' standby dog park, with ample parking and comfy plastic lawn chairs for the human race... it's especially a good call when it's too much effort to go down to Auditorium Shores due to parking, traffic, etc. There's no water feature...but plenty of shade and always a good natured crowd of playmates for your dog.

3. Zilker Park - soccer fields north side of Barton Springs Rd.
Simply put: BIG OPEN GREEN SPACE Those Frisbee catching, ball fetching pooches will especially love you for it.

4. Shoal Creek Greenbelt - West side of Lamar, between 26th and 28th streets
This really feels more like a jogging trail that is permitting your dog a visit than a dog park. It's really a problem if you have the kind of dog who thinks everyone is a playmate and wants to run after every jogger who passes by. Still...it's green, and beautiful...but you do have to tune out Lamar traffic.

5. Red Bud Isle -- MY FAVE -- take 6th street west until it turns into Lake Austin Blvd. then turn left on Red Bud Trail. Park is on left...
Okay seriously, this little island on Lady Bird Lake feels like you are visiting another world! We like to go early in the morning with the kids and dog before it gets too hot. It's actually an entirely leash free island and the dog can swim to his/her heart content while you and the kids enjoy snacks on the shoreline.

There are 12 total "off leash areas" in Austin... sounds like Lola has some more exploring to do.

Photo courtesy of http://www.austindogwalker.com/ -- owner Kevin took it at Zilker Park on a beautiful sunny day in Austin.


Rad Skateboards ... from Austin with Love

I am not a skater or skateboarder by any stretch of the imagination...but I do have soft spot for sports whose athletes regularly use words like "stoked" "rad" and "totally cool". I also have a pension for Vans footwear.

I stumbled upon this new skateboard company here in Austin called Roger Skateboards. The boards are designed and developed by Michael Sieben (super cool artist/illustrator, skateboarder) and his buddy Stacy Lowery (former pro-skateboarder). Apparently the two share not only a passion for skating, but also a wicked, satirical sense of humor, communicated through their eye-catching graphics. Check out their website for more from this dynamic duo...it's very entertaining.

Look for their boards at No Comply, 812 W. 12th Street (12th & Lamar).


Crestview and Crestview Station

Crestview is a north central Austin neighborhood that has always been high on charm, loaded with 1940's and 1950's houses, but still reasonably priced for young families, professionals, and hipsters who refuse to move out to the burbs in search of affordability. The neighborhood is bound by Anderson Lane on the northside, Koenig Lane on the southside, Lamar Blvd. to the east, and Burnet Road to the west. A quaint shopping village lies at the center of Crestview with an independent grocer, a barber shop, and a mix of restaurants and delis.

Capital Metro has one of it's nine commuter rail stations planned for the northeast corner of Crestview. Crestview Station will be more than 70 acres of office space, retail space, multi-family and single family homes, and open recreation spaces.

There are homes and condos surrounding the Crestview Station (like the ones pictured above) that are priced as low as $175K and go up to $400K, with the majority of homes around the $250K - $280K range. This part of town is currently "car dependent" but in a few short months is going to explode with grocery, dining, shopping, and public transportation options...all within a short walk. Lower priced housing options lie east of Lamar, but still within walking distance of Crestview Station. Crestview and Crestview Station adjacent properties are a fantastic opportunity to buy quickly appreciating property at an affordable price before the craze hits. Please email me for some of the listings in this area.


The Low Down on Austin Schools by Neighborhood

As a realtor, I get asked a lot which neighborhoods have the best public schools in Austin. As a parent of a preschooler here in Austin, I am currently struggling myself with the private school vs. public school dilemma as I live in an area with not so great public schools. It's amazing to me that there are a lot of neighborhoods in Austin where you can buy a million dollar home, but only have a lowly academically acceptable elementary school to send your children to! I love Central Austin and wouldn't move to out to the burbs for anything in the world, but that $600 per month I am likely going to shell out for private school for the next 8 years in order to avoid sending my child to the local elementary school is going to be painful.

So if you are looking for a neighborhood with good public schools in central Austin, here are the neighborhoods I would recommend buying in from the beginning:

BEST BETS - good public schools elementary through high school...

- Barton Hills

- Bryker Woods
- Rosedale
- Northwest Hills

- Highland Park
- Tarrytown

- Anywhere in Westlake -- Eanes School District...where every school is exemplary

- Crestview
- French Place
- Hyde Park (amazing LEE elementary but not so great middle school...KEALING)
- Clarksville
- Downtown Austin (PEASE elementary is apparently pretty neat with small class sizes)

...also to note, in Delwood, which is a quickly gentrifying East Side neighborhood, the public elementary school, Blanton Elementary, just received an exemplary rating from Texas Education Association for 2007. That neighborhood has great homes for the money and is extremely centrally located. Unfortunately, that neighborhood also has terrible middle school and high schools so don't plan on staying forever.

PLAN ON PRIVATE SCHOOL (at least I would)

- East Austin - 78702 zip code

- Travis Heights

That being said, I am sure there are parents of school age students who live in these neighborhoods and who might disagree with my opinion. Please leave a comment as I am eager to learn more.

All Texas public school TEA ratings can be found here.

Thanks to woodleywonderworks on flickr.com for the pic.


The "Human Race" ... Here in Austin

I just signed myself and hubby up for the Nike Human Race to be held here in downtown Austin on August 31st. Austin is one of 25 cities to host the first ever "global" 10K where over 1 million runners will be running to benefit global charities including Livestrong, the UN Refugee Agency, and WWF (environmental preservation). Other cities that are hosting the event include Paris, Los Angeles, New York, London, Quito, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Warsaw, Singapore ... I love that Austin is on this list of world cities! Following the race is a concert by Ben Harper ... open ONLY to race participants. ! It costs $35 to register. Click here to register for the race.
Pick provided by Patrick Dentler on flickr.


Single Stream Recyling for Austin

GREAT GREAT NEWS. The little blue bins will soon be a thing of the past as "single stream" recycling is on its way to all of us here in Austin. Instead of sorting our paper and recyclable items into the current little blue bins (which never seem to hold enough and are always overflowing...), we will now all have 90 gallon recycling carts. The service officially begins on October 6th and the city is passing out the carts during the month of October. Recycling will be collected on your normal trash day, every other week. This is great news for those of you who don't currently recycle because it all seems so complicated -- it doesn't get much easier than this! Details on the new service found here.

I wonder how the city will recycle all of those little blue bins?
I wonder if City of Houston will ever get a city-wide recycling program?


Sno-Beach ... Reviewed

We went to "Sno-Beach" this past week. Sno-Beach is a snow cone stand situated on Barton Springs Road between South First and Lamar. I love the concept of Sno-Beach...a random seasonal trailer that pops up during hot summer months selling wonderful ice cold treats. I was a little disappointed with the execution...but really...what can you expect from an establishment housed in a trailer that can be rolled away at a moment's notice? It was hot, very, very hot...and there was basically no shade...except that generated by an office building next door...and the bumle bees were out en masse making nose dives into our snow cones! Oh - and the snow cones are actually served in cups, not actual cones, which was a little disappointing too. (although I guess less mess) Anyway, my 3 year old was thrilled with the whole scene regardless - thumbs up from her. Oh - and kudos that they pass out giant golf umbrellas to everyone waiting in line.

Best Wading Pool in Austin

I love Eastwoods wading pool in Hyde Park, just north of the university. It's cool. It's clean. It's shady. It's free. It's almost never crowded. It's open 3-7 Tuesday - Friday. 2-6 on Saturdays, Sundays. Closed Mondays. ...and closes for the winter August 24th...so sad. Oh - and here's a little secret if you live in the area and you have a water-lovin' dog...casually show up at closing time and the lifeguards will let your pooch go for a dip before they drain the pool for the night.


New Downtown Boot Shop...Every Girl Needs a Pair of these...

These vintage cowboy boots sold at a new downtown shop are seiously cool. I want some. "Part Artwork, Part Footwear, All Fancy" ... Owner/designer Jerry Ryan creates vintage inspired boots, combining elements from the past (ode to Texas history) with his own designs to come up with a totally unique "retro-modern" look. ...which I think is right in line with our unique fashion style 'round here in Austin. I see me wearing mine with lots of flowy skirts and dresses. Prices start at $300. Shop is located at 117 W. 8th St. between Congress and Colorado. http://www.heritageboot.com/


'Walk Scores' for Austin's Neighborhoods

I found this website ** http://www.walkscore.com/ ** where you can plug in any address, and it will calculate that address's "walk score". A high walk score means less dependency on automobiles to go about one's daily life and judges distances to grocery stores, gas stations, fitness centers, hair salons, post offices, restaurants, etc ... a low walk score means high dependency on the car. I plugged in addresses for some of Central Austin's neighborhoods and here's what I got:

(possible total score = 100)

Travis Heights *55* - somewhat walkable
Bouldin Creek *78* - very walkable
South Congress (SoCo) *80* - very walkable
Rollingwood *52* - somewhat walkable
Westlake *45* - car dependent
Zilker *75* - very walkable
Downtown *94* - walker's paradise (obviously)
Clarksville *86* - very walkable
Tarrytown *63* - somewhat walkable
Rosedale *72* - very walkable
Allandale *55* - somewhat walkable
Crestview *62* - somewhat walkable
Northwest Hills *40* - car dependent
Delwood *58* - somewhat walkable
Hyde Park *78* - very walkable
French Place *72* - very walkable
Central East Side *58* - somewhat walkable
Holly Street District *69* - somewhat walkable

...next up... SCOOTER SCORES!

(thanks to Sister72 @ flickr.com for the pic!)


French Place 78722 ... Renovated 1940's Bungalow ON SALE

My friend just sent me pics of his bungalow he's selling in Austin's beloved French Place neighborhood. He dropped the price nearly $25K this week to $274,800. ...this is the only house in the French Place neighborhood at that price.
A similar house 3 houses down is on the market for $299K for the same square footage. Another similar sized house on the street, sold for $299K a few months ago. This is a 2 bed /2 bath completely renovated 1940's charmer. Instant equity. The house is great. Well located. Excellent condition. My friend is just ready to make a move. Email me or call me if you want the full MLS listing.


Lewitt X2 Exhibit at AMOA

Right now at AMOA downtown is an exhibit featuring both the artwork of Sol Lewitt and his personal art collection. Lewitt's pencil drawings, colorful gouaches, and wood/aluminum "structures" are continually recognized for pushing the limits in the minimalism and conceptual art genres during the past 40 years. Runs until August 17th...and next Saturday, August 9th, is family day at AMOA!


June Market Stats

Report from Austin Board of Realtors just released....July 18, 2008 - Both single-family home sales and leased property in Central Texas have reached their highest point this year to date, according to the June Austin Board of REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Report. “Austin remains one of the best cities to become a homeowner,” said ABoR Chairman Socar Chatmon-Thomas. “Locally, our homes are holding their value and the average mortgage payment is not much higher than renting.” Last month 2,211 single-family homes were sold, with their median price rising four percent to $200,000. These homes spent an average of 65 days on the market and contributed $577,471,191 to the economy. There were 10,886 active listings in June. Leased property rose two percent since last year to total 1,146. With a median price of $1,250, these properties contributed $1,541,370 to the Austin-area economy, a nine percent increase from June 2007. June 2008 - Single-Family Homes
2,211 was the number of single-family homes sold, a 20 percent decrease from one year ago
$200,000 was the median price for single-family homes, a four percent increase from June 2007
$577,471,191 was the total dollar volume of properties sold, a 20 percent decrease from last year.

The Austin Board of REALTORS® is a non-profit, voluntary organization representing more than 8,000 licensed REALTORS® in Central Texas. For further information, please contact Angela Brutsch√© at 512/454-7636, ext. 1300.

Screaming for a Makeover

This awesome Austin 1960's architectural home just popped up on my radar when the price was reduced from $459,700 to $435,000 or $170/sq ft. Located on .23 acre wooded lot in Northwest Hills area. It's screaming for someone to come in and make it fabulous. As you can see, the current owner has updated a few things in the home...but not everything...and easily could have chosen materials closer to the home's original charm / design.

It's slightly under market value for a home in the neighborhood, especially an architectural home of this stature and with so much potential. Can make it a dream home for yourself or flip it for profit. The subdivision has other homes that have sold recently for as high as $820K or $225/sq ft. Northwest Hills neighborhood has some of best schools in Austin and is great proximity to downtown entertainment districts, entertainment venues, and shopping. Seller's disclosure shows no major issues with home. Email me if you want to see the full listing!


My New Favorite Place to Work

This is my new favorite place for breakfast and to take my laptop and work...the Blue Dahlia on East 11th St on the East Side. They serve big cups of coffee in real porcelain mugs with little tiny metal pitchers of cream on the side. Good music. Free wi-fi. They will let you sit at one of the big wooden tables and let you work away for hours ...and after you feel like you visited a cafe in Paris, not Austin's East Side. Seriously...it's my new favorite place. I've been there 3 times this week.

They also have this awesome covered outdoor seating area in the back with lush landscaping, overhead fans, and loads of candlelight (at night). Incidentally, they are open for lunch and dinner too...but I haven't tried that yet.


Current Austin Market Stats

Austin-Area Real Estate Market Remains Stable
June 19, 2008 – As buying season heats up in Central Texas, the May 2008 Austin Board of REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report indicates single-family home sales are up slightly since April 2008, homes are spending fewer days on the market and overall, the real estate market continues to reflect conditions similar to those of 2005.“Despite economic conditions across the nation, Austin continues to have a relatively low unemployment rate and cost of living index,” said ABoR Chairman Socar Chatmon-Thomas. “While we’re not enjoying the booming real estate markets of 2006 and 2007, we have seen steady increases in sales volume since January 2008.”
Single-family home sales in May 2008 reached their highest point in eight months, totaling 2,154 and contributing $566,827,254 to the local economy. The median price for single-family properties was $196,120 while active listings increased to 10,577. Homes sold in May 2008 also fell, averaging a total of 64 days on the market.
May 2008 - Single-Family Homes
2,154 was the number of single-family homes sold, a 20 percent decrease as compared to May 2007
$196,120 was the median price for single-family homes, a seven percent increase from May 2007
$566,827,254 was the total dollar volume of properties sold, a 16 percent decrease from May 2007.
The Austin Board of REALTORS® is a non-profit, voluntary organization representing more than 8,000 licensed REALTORS® in Central Texas. For further information, please contact Angela Brutsch√© at 512/454-7636, ext. 1300.


What We Did for the 4th

We spent the warm evening of July 4th this year on the banks of Lake Austin with our kids and close friends. This is the view from Austin Country Club’s golf course where we situated ourselves to watch the amazing fireworks show that went off about 100 yards from us. The kids were in complete awe and it was really cool to watch their reactions!
I also heard that the Auditorium Shores fireworks show was pretty cool this year as well as all of the neighborhood parades around town during the day.

A Bidding War Outside My Window

Okay seriously…I watched a bidding war unfold before my eyes this past weekend over this 1940's, 840 square foot bungalow next door to me in East Austin. Original list price was $139,900. Final sold price in a little over 24 hours after the listing went live was $150,000, CASH. Needless to say, East Austin is a little gold mine if you are ready to jump on a deal when it arises.