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"Austin is more than a place...It's a way of life" --local bumper sticker

Invest in Austin Real Estate

Why investors like residential real estate

Why investors like Austin

Austin appreciation rates

News about Austin's growth and viability

National experts: Austin best for real estate

Texas is nation's leading exporter

Buying and renting FAQ

Austin geography

Typical Austin Neighborhoods

For those who want to visit Austin

Contact me
Why Investors Like Residential Real Estate
  • You can get someone else (your tenant) to pay for your asset 
  • Real estate has demonstrated stability-shelter is a fundamental need
  • Residential property is the most liquid of all real estate investments-homebuyers are everywhere
  • You can build equity with both debt reduction and appreciation

Why Investors Like Austin

     Austin uniformly represents what is best in America.  Beautiful and diverse scenery, hills and lakes, comfortable weather, multicultural outlook, enthusiastic business climate all help make Austin a fabulous place to live and work.  Many other lesser known factors contribute to Austin's value; for example, did you know that that each year, the film industry infuses millions of dollars into Austin's local economy?

    But wait, you say: Is the time right to invest in Austin? 

    See for yourself in the following chart: Austin shines brightly enough that Austin area home values have held up well through the stock market difficulties, tech industry layoffs, and the aftermath of September 11th.

    None of us can predict the future or can accurately assess the effect of current economic conditions.  But you can use historic data as a tool to help determine where you might best invest.  Although I have no crystal ball to tell you how your investment will fare here or anywhere else, Austin's long term real estate history shows that Austin has been a fine place to own property.  Currently, sales are up significantly (see chart below) and Austin has more inventory than it has had in years; the frenetic pace of sales has moderated enough to where some investors are finding excellent buys.  Following are some examples of recent years' appreciation in the the Austin area:

Average Sales Prices

1990 1995 2000 2003 2008 Avg. Annual Appreciation
$87,600 $125,700 $191,200 $197,000 $250,436 6 %
Source: Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center, Austin Board of REALTORS

On the following  chart, note the dramatic increase in numbers of sales running from 2011 to 2012.  2010 started strong due to the $8,000 federal tax credit for first time homebuyers, which expired in June 2010. THis forced sales into the first half of the year, creating a suckout in the second half.

Chart courtesy Alamo Title Company

Want to see supply and demand at work?  On the following  chart, note the dramatic increase in sold prices and the decrease in inventory during 2005 and 2006. Prices remained stable during the doldrums from 2007-2009. You can see the economy kicking back in in 2012 with a stunning drop in inventory contrasting with the resulting increase in average price.

     In 2001, after ten years of strong appreciation, Austin's housing market so heavily favored sellers that buyers felt they had to jump on the next acceptable property that came on the market.  Buyers worried they'd be priced out of the market. Then from 2001 to 2003, as in many fine cities, Austin homesellers found themselves confronted with four economic realities that affected home sales:

  •       The dotcom bust
  •       High tech layoffs
  •       Stock market bust
  •       Post 9/11 economics
     One would have expected numbers of sales to drop off. Yet, in Austin, sales remained remarkably consistent.  While numbers of listings went up, numbers of sales stayed the same, easing pressure on buyers to buy the first home they saw.  The result is that upward pressure on prices disappeared, and prices remained almost flat.  During 2009-2011 sale prices stabilized. At the end of 2012, sales are heading up, inventory is going down.  Given Austin's appreciation history and the continuing economic growth here, this is an excellent time to buy.

Source: Austin Board of Realtors

National Business Experts Promote Austin as Among the Best in the Nation

    Nationally respected professionals have each done their own research and unanimously conclude that Austin is indeed a very fine place to live and to do business.

Click on the following links:

Austin #1 best city to ride out the recession

Austin #1 best bang for the buck

Austin #2 fastest selling market 2008

Austin one of fastest growing metros 2008

Austin third best place for jobs in 2008

Austin in top ten places to live

Austin in top ten places to invest in homes

Austin tops the nation for business says Moody's Economy

Austin rated #1 best place for business and careers by Forbes Magazine

Austin rated #1 best place for making movies (BIG $$$ flowing into Austin)

Rated #3 best housing market (for investment) over the next five years, The Meyers Group

Austin rated one of the three best big cities by MSN

In top ten best places to live, Money Magazine

#1 best place for families, Employee Relocation Council (ERC) and Primacy Relocation
"Austin has done it again," said Matt Spinolo, Primacy's CEO. "It's already ranked number one for relocating families. Now it seems that Austin is the best city for transferees with or without a family." ERC and Primacy produced a related survey this past May, naming the Best Cities for Relocating Families.

Rated #2 best place to live and workEmployment Review June 2000

Top Ten best places to live and work,

#2 out of 200 best places to do business, Forbes/Milken 2001

#2 out of top 50 best places to do business, New Economy

#4 in the nation for hottest job growth, Business 2.0 (via Austin Business Journal)

#6 in the nation for best schools, Forbes

Insider News Report: This just in from the Neal Spelce Austin Newsletter,

"The US Department of Commerce (headed up, incidentally, by Texan Don Evans) crunched the 2002 numbers and found that Texas has become the nation's leading exporter--surpassing the other giants, New York and California.  In 2002, the Lone Star State accounted for a significant 13% of all exports.

For years we've told you how Texas has been affected more and more by global affairs.  Long gone are the days when cotton and cattle drove our economy.  But it's only been in recent years, when Texas has become a major business and high tech center, that products produced in Texas become heavily reliant on world markets."

This means that that Texas continues to diversify its economy, which is good for Austin investors.

Austin Geography

     Austin is located on Interstate 35, deep in the heart of Texas. Exceptionally central to major Texas cities, Austinites enjoy moderate drives to Houston (2 hrs) Dallas & Fort Worth (3 hrs), and San Antonio (1 hours).

     First time visitors are often pleasantly amazed with the unexpected variety in local terrain within 30 minute drives around town. Geographically, Austin is split vertically by the Balcones escarpment, yielding lakes and cedar covered limestone hills to the west and flatter farmlands of black clay to the south and east. Austin is also bisected horizontally by lovely Lake Austin, formed by the Colorado River. The following neighborhood characterizations are generalizations, with some semblance to the truth . . .

Typical Austin Neighborhoods (click on pictures and links for examples)

Click here for a map showing types of housing in different areas of Austin

     Central Austin is urban living: University neighborhoods, cultural activities, eclectic shopping, downtown lofts, hike and bike trails along Town Lake (Colorado River). Downtown is healthy, bustling with business, new construction and reclamation of old neighborhoods.
     South Austin, affectionately known to include counterculture and artistic types, is home to many famous and not-so-famous musicians. Austin's well deserved reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World is evidenced by the highest per capita number of live music venues, most of which are close to downtown.
     North Austin, along with close neighbors Cedar Park/Leander, Round Rock and Georgetown is more mainstream. North Austin is home to Dell Computers and tech companies like IBM, and has a mixture of more affordable homes and premium properties, depending on how far west and how close homes are to the hill country.
     West Austin is situated at the edge of the Texas Hill Country features a dramatic
change in terrain. Many homes are situated on the sides of steep limestone hills, enjoying stunning views. Property values are high for Texas, but still bargains compared to other states.
     East and Southeast Austin are the most affordable areas. For years, Austin's airport was located in east Austin and stunted its growth. Now with a brand new airport southeast of Austin, east Austin is being revitalized.
    Northwest and southwest Austin are more like west Austin, transitioning from the flat farmland to limestone hill country, with midrange property values.

Investment Opportunities

     Where is the best part of Austin to invest? Inner city neighborhoods of fine old properties are good for appreciation, suburban areas are better for cash flow. Suburban areas are where one finds modern homes that have fewer maintenance problems.

     Inner city properties are fine for local investors who can easily oversee maintenance and improvement issues. Out-of-town investors are probably better off with much newer buildings, which are mostly located in suburban neighborhoods.

     Historically in Austin, the short-term investor usually must hold a property at least two years before recovering equity in a sale.

     The long-term investor (at least 8 years) does well to choose neighborhoods where growth is prominent, where some infrastructure is still in development, and where rents are high enough to support the sales price and cover a significant part of the monthly payment.

For Those Who Want to Visit Austin

     Many investors want to visit Austin to get the "lay of the land" and to see what they are actually buying.  I welcome these visits and I usually spend the better part of a day with them.  To see what investors have said about this tour, click here:

     Although some investors are comfortable enough to buy sight unseen, instead relying on me to identify suitiable property, many prefer to visit the Austin area. If anything, just seeing how the city is laid out helps you understand why a property has been identified as a good candidate. I invite you to spend 2-3 hours with me driving the subdivisions. I can also prepare a self-directed driving tour of the Austin area so you can see how other areas compare. My work days are Monday-Friday, Saturday by previous appointment. Traffic stacks up starting about 3:00 p.m. so it's best if we start after 10:00 and finish before 2:00. My schedule is freer during the week than on weekends. If you're thinking of an Austin visit, let me know as soon as you can so I'll be available.

C l i c k  h e r e  to  e m a i l  T o m 

R  E  A  L  T  O  R  S

Stanberry & Associates has operated as a real estate brokerage firm licensed in the State of Texas since 1985.

Tom Polk is a real estate broker licensed in the State of Texas.

Disclaimer:  All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified.   Listing broker shall be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints and shall be held totally harmless.


Definitions and Examples

    Leverage is multiplying your gain by investing a small amount of money in an asset that is worth much more than the initial investment.   Typical investments in stock and bonds do not use leverage.  For example:

    Not using leverage: Invest $30,000 in stocks that yield 5%. Your return is $1,500 (5% return on $30,000).

   Now Let's say you invest just enough money in a rent house so that the rentals pay for overhead, and let's say your property appreciates at, say 5% per year; then you receive a much greater return than if you get 5% only on the amount invested.   Illustrating the concept of leverage at its simplest:

    Using leverage: Invest $30,000 in a $150,000 property that appreciates at 5%.  The return is $7,500 (5% of $150,000). This is equivalent to a 25% return on the $30,000 investment.

    That's the leverage concept. The actual return is less when considering operational and sales expenses; however, return can be quite a bit more when appreciation is higher.  And holding property for several years can produce astounding results due to compounding appreciation.

    Tax savings are achieved by writing off expenses and depreciation.  For example, say you have a $150,000 property you bought with 20% down and a $120,000 mortgage.  The following figures are a greatly simplified estimates used for illustration purposes only, are subject to change, and are intended only to give you a glimpse of the possibilities.  YOU MUST CONSULT YOUR CPA FOR ACCURATE TAX ADVICE.
Yearly Interest
$  7,800 
Yearly Insurance
$  650
Yearly Taxes
$  3,765
Yearly Management fees
$     936
Rental charges
$     780
$  4,364 (paper loss)
Total annual write-offs
$18,295 ($13,931 actual losses)
Rental income (11 months)
IRS sees a loss
Gain before appreciation
$     369
After tax cash flow
$  1,569 (not including appreciation!)

    What does this mean to you tax wise?  It means that you could afford to lose $1,569 and still have a break even cash flow after taxes.  It also means that although you may have made money, IRS sees it as a loss, reducing your taxes.  So the money you would normally spend to pay taxes actually helps pay for your asset.

    Note that the rental income with one month of vacancy is $369 greater than the expenses, pretty much a break even cash flow before taxes.  A wonderful benefit comes after tax: Because IRS allows you to depreciate the property, your after-tax cash flow is a negative $3,995, a net loss that reduces your income tax.  The example does not take into account repairs, which you need to figure in; the good news is that they can be minimal on new properties.

    Are you in the 30% tax bracket? If so, for every additional dollar or thousand dollars you make, 1/3 goes to IRS.  Every additional $4,000 you make, $1,200 goes to IRS.  But if you have a net loss of $4,000 IRS looks at it as if you have $4,000 less income.  This would mean a tax savings of $1,200.  So if you own more properties, you could save thousands in taxes, the properties could pay for themselves, and you could get appreciation on multiple properties instead of just one.  Is it starting to get fun now?

    Would you like more positive cash flow?  We need to talk.  Call me and I'll show you how.

Tom Polk 512-327-9310 x 234

C l i c k  h e r e  to  e m a i l  T o m 


Tour Comments

Once again, Gordon and I thank you for the well-organized, information-packed tour of Austin real estate, in addition to your thorough follow-up in getting us the Plum Creek addresses.  You are the reason for our very successful trip to Austin, and we appreciate all of your hard work.

Erica and I would like to thank you for your very informative tour of Austin Real estate.


Again, thank you for your time and energy on Saturday.  The tour was very
informative and surprisingly enjoyable.  I loved Austin.  My friend and I
went to  Barton Springs for a swim on Sunday before we caught the
plane back.  We stayed at a B&B, the Miller Crockett house
on Academy, one block off Congress, and heard very good music Saturday night
on Sixth and also at a small club on Congress right were we were.  It was a
fabulous business trip.

Thank you so much for the tour of your beautiful city last week. I look forward to working with you. I must say you were the best prepared and the most knowledgable realtor I met with in my tour.

I have now met 5 [investment] realtors, and others would do well to learn from you.  It's amazing, but some don't even give clients a map during the whole tour!

"Tom does an excellent job of showing the potential for real estate investment in Austin. His tour style of including multiple investors creates a synergy that I have not found when doing one-on-one visits with realtors in other marketplaces. The candor among the investors I spent the day with brought to light questions I would have never have thought to ask on my own..."



Buying and Renting FAQ
Q: Why single family homes?
A: A quality single family home is easier to rent and to sell than any other kind of real estate.  As a rule, renters would rather live in a home than in a duplex, triplex, or fourplex.  While multiple rental units sell mainly to investors, single family homes sell to homeowners, who vastly outnumber investors.  With single family homes, your investment portfolio is scalable and your are able to diversify easier within a community or nationwide.

  Back to FAQ Topics

Q: Why new homes?
A:  Value.  The homebuilders we work with are able to sell new homes for less than individual homeowners with similar properties for sale.  Plus, you get the benefit of full term warranties.  There are fewer maintenance costs and headaches.  And, given a choice between new and used, a tenant will choose new every time.  This means higher rents and less vacancy.

    Of course, as years go by, your property will gradually show wear and you will get gradually lower rents compared to shiny new homes.  Yet your rents should still be higher than if you bought a used home to start with, as an older home would be even more out of date and show even more wear.  If you buy in an area that is appreciating in value, then rents should be appreciating as well, contributing to a more positive cash flow.

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Q: Why single story homes?
A: One story homes have fewer limits than two story homes.  A prospective tenant does not have to choose between "master up" or "master down." One story homes generally have a larger "footprint" on the lot, which means less yard maintenance for the tenant.  Plus they are easier for tenants to move in and out of.

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Q: How do I find a good builder?
A: We can help with this.  We know who has track records of quality and service.  Plus we've actually negotiated discounts with builders strictly for our investors.

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Q: What areas make up "Austin?"
When the media mentions Austin, they usually are referring to the Austin metro area (pop. 1.3 million).  Also known as "greater Austin," or most often simply "Austin," this area includes, but is not limited to the Austin city limits which are known as "Austin proper" ( pop. 656,000).

Greater Austin includes five counties, three of which are in the top 100 fastest growing counties in the nation (

The following popular communities are in these three fastest growing counties:  Leander, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Georgetown, Hutto, Pflugerville, Manor, Buda, Kyle, and Dripping Springs.

Interestingly, "Austin proper" is not in one of the top 100 fastest growing counties. 

Back to FAQ Topics

Q: How do I know a neighborhood is good for investment?
A: If a neighborhood has good access to shopping, schools, and if it looks nice, it can be a good candidate.  The rents must support the sales price.  We have tools to obtain rental history to help with your selection.  For more information, click here.

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Q: What upgrades should I choose?
A: At a minimum, you should require a fenced yard that has been landscaped and sodded on all four sides; it should include an automatic lawn irrigation sprinkler system.  Interior should include ceramic tile floors and upgraded carpet pad for durability, also ceiling fans for comfort.  Such upgrades will help preserve the quality of your investment and make it easier to rent.  We have negotiated special upgrade packages for our investors so that the home is turnkey ready for rental and move in the day of closing.

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Q: How do I choose a lender?
A: Three basic choices:  Local Austin lender, builder's preferred lender and your existing lender (if you have one.)

     My preferred local Austin lender is Cheryl Darter of BankcorpSouth. She can get a loan approved on one day.  In fifteen years, Cheryl has never let me down.  She will quickly provide you with a good faith settlement estimate, a form that spells out your closing costs.  Contact info: (512) 678-0665; email is .  Click on her website and online application .

     Most homebuilders have a business relationship with a local lender. Larger builders actually own lending institutions that make them money.  Builders sometimes offer incentives for you to use their preferred lender.  If you choose to go this route, you might consider getting a quote from another lender to satisfy yourself that your rate and fees are acceptable.

     Your existing lender:  There may be some overhead here, as an out-of- state lender who does not regularly loan in Texas may have difficulty getting you the best financing.  They also don't know who the best and fastest appraisers are and don't have relationships with the local title companies, which can cost you. If you like your existing lender, I would encourage you at a minimum to compare good faith settlement estimates between them and at least one of the above two lenders to help ensure you are getting the best rate and terms.

     Be sure to discuss insurance requirements with your lender.  Some lenders require loss of rent coverage in case property damage forces the tenant to vacate.  Such coverage can substantially raise the cost of insurance.

Back to FAQ Topics

Q: Can other investors go in with me to buy the same property?
A: Yes.  You will need to meet your lender's requirements.  You should consider entering into some sort of a partnership agreement.  These can get sticky:  I recommend legal counsel by a Texas lawyer. 

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Q: What about LLC (limited liability corporation)
A: My understanding is that an LLC must have income and assets in order to qualify for a loan.  Some investors have attempted to personally qualify and then put the property into an LLC after closing.  I don't know if anyone has been successful.  One lender told me that title transfer into an LLC requires the named insured to change; when the lender discovers this, it can trigger the due-on-sale clause in the deed of trust, resulting in foreclosure proceedings even if payments are current.  I don't know if this is true, but the point is, there can be pitfalls.  Before entering into a contract, you should consult with your lender and a Texas lawyer. 

     In addition, Texas has specific requirements (such as franchise tax requirements) that I'm not qualified to discuss.  If liability is a concern to you and LLC turns out to be too cumbersome, attorneys can inform you on the nature of liability with respect to Texas law and perhaps suggest alternatives to satisfy your concern.  I recommend legal counsel by a Texas lawyer, such as H a n c o c k - M c G i l l ( 512-459-6010) or  R o d n e y  S h e p p a r d (512-472-3966).

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Q: How do I find a good tenant?
A: You want to get a lot of exposure so that you can attract the best tenants. You get the most exposure utilizing the Austin Multiple Listing Service (ACTRIS).  Your property manager should be an ACTRIS subscriber.

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Q: How long does it take to find a tenant?
A: As of May 2014, in the most popular areas, most homes lease in less than a week, and with multiple offers. Inventory is extremely tight.

    When reviewing statistics, keep in mind that averages don't tell the whole story.  The rental market is affected by regular seasonal changes as well as with less predictable economic factors.  Factors such as local neighborhood supply and demand can affect both how long it takes to lease and how much you get.  It's possible that you may have to lower the rental offering price below your expectations and/or offer incentives.  Although the market shows impressive signs of strengthening, you need to have enough money in reserve for weak markets.  Also, it's a good idea to develop and maintain a relationship with a competent and busy property manager to help stay up-to-date on the rental market.

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Q: Who  manages the  property?
A: I like the old saying, " You never really know someone unless you're married to them or rent to them." If you are not interested in handling maintenance calls day in and day out, you might consider hiring a professional property manager. Property managers charge 7-10% of the monthly rents for management and a percentage of the first month's rent to lease the property.  We've been referring tenants to Sienna Properties (Debbie Smith) at 512-328-0600.  Click on their website.

Back to FAQ Topics

Q: Is an inspection really necessary on a new home?  Should I use the builder's inspector?
A: Good question. Two case histories, you decide:

     1. I represented a seller who, before I met them, had bought a new home from a reputable builder.  After 2 1/2 years living there, they asked me to help them sell the house.  After we got a contract, the normal buyer's inspections revealed some electric outlets had reversed wiring and the exterior windows were installed inside out.  The seller contacted the builder to correct the problems.  The builder declined, saying they would not have made mistakes like that, saying the seller must have altered the home, and saying anyway it was out of warranty.  Repairs were in the hundreds of dollars, and the seller, not the builder had to pay.

     2.  I represented a buyer who bought a new home from a reputable builder.  This buyer had inspections, which revealed the water heater installation did not meet code and presented a safety hazard.  The builder begged to differ, but upon checking, found that the inspector was right.  Consequently the builder moved the water heater, and felt obligated to correct other similar installations in the subdivision.  Had this one inspection not been performed, not only my buyer, but all similar homeowners would eventually have been presented with similar inspection reports, likely long after warranties expired, and probably having to foot the bill to correct the hazard.

     Texas law prohibits real estate agents from performing home inspections.  The most thorough home inspectors are licensed by the State. I recommend that you have a professional inspection performed to protect your investment.

     If you choose to have an inspection done, there are dozens of licensed inspectors in Austin.   Technically, it is your choice and your responsibility to choose and retain an inspector.  Because you are probably not an Austin resident, I can help you set up inspections.  I've negotiated a discount for our investors with one inspector. If you are interested in this, let's discuss it.

     Builders sometimes provide inspectors for free.  In my experience, these inspectors' scopes are determined by the builder and with emphasis on cosmetic issues.  Such an inspection is most often not as thorough as one you would get with an independent inspector.

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Q: What should I do about insurance?
A: You need to discuss desired coverages with your insurance agent as soon as you have contracted to purchase your property.  Because of recent substantial changes in insurance policies, procedures, and costs, it will serve you well to sustain a relationship with a knowledgeable and involved insurance agent.  One such agent is Ray Garner of G-N-S Insurance Services, Austin, Texas.  Ray's phone number is 512-281-5150.

     Be sure to discuss insurance requirements with your lender.  Some lenders require loss of rent coverage in case property damage forces the tenant to vacate.  Such coverage can substantially raise the cost of insurance.

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Q: What do I get when I work through you?
A: You get caring and knowledgeable service.  If I represent you, you get advice and counsel beyond information.  I would hope that if you've read the above and reviewed the rest of this website, you'll conclude that no one is more qualified and no one works more enthusiastically to provide accurate and meaningful information. 

    I bring to your transaction twenty-five years of helping folks buy and sell Texas real estate.  Daily, I continue to learn what to do and what not to do.  Plus, the years invested while ascending to the office of Chairman of the Austin Board of Realtors has brought me into contact with effective people, whom you are welcome to include in your real estate circle.

    One more thing:  I've cultivated some relationships and developed some little known procedures that can save you thousands of dollars when you invest in Austin real estate.  I know how to help you optimize your investment. I hope my diligence will cause you to employ me to sell your property when that time comes.  In the meantime, I aim to please so you will enthusiastically refer others to me.

    Want to optimize? Let's talk!  Call me and I'll show you how.

Tom Polk 512-327-9310 x 234

Click here to email Tom


Setting the highest standards
1101 S. Capital of TX Hwy. Ste. 100-F
Austin TX 78746
512-327-9310 x 234

Tom Polk is a real estate broker licensed in the State of Texas.
Stanberry & Associates has operated as a real estate brokerage firm licensed in the State of Texas since 1985.