AUSTIN, TX — With the real estate market appearing to be back on track and booming nationwide, now is the best time to invest and purchase a home. One of the fastest growing markets to do so is Austin, Texas.
Thanks to being home to the likes of Fortune 500 companies such as Dell, Oracle, Tesla as well as one of the nation’s largest undergraduate schools in the University of Texas, as well as cultural events such as South By Southwest (SXSW), Austin is proving to be quite the hot spot in the always hot Lone Star State.
With one of the fastest growing demographics and celebrities such as Sandra Bullock, Emma Stone and Matthew McConaughey calling it home, the Texas capital city is quickly evolving into a Silicon Valley/Hollywood hybrid.
And if you’re in real estate. That’s a great thing.
Like many growing cities, the cost of living is going up in the ATX as Austin is becoming increasingly expensive due to the influx of tech, entertainment and corporations seeking to take advantage of the fact that Texas does not have a state income tax. The flip side of this growth is the cost of homes and renting in places such as Westlake, Tarrytown etc. only continue to rise.
One such person who has stood out in finding a new home for those who wish to live in Austin is real estate broker, Heather Hudson.
Hudson, a born and bred Austinite and University of Texas alum has emerged as one of top real estate agents in the area, thanks to her hands-on and savvy approach of dealing with prospective buyers and luxury home sellers.
Below is my interview with Ms. Hudson from my recent trip down to Austin during Cinco De Mayo as we talk about real estate, the growth of her beloved home town and keeping things weird.
How and why has Austin become such a real estate gold mine?
If you’ve traveled around Texas, you know that there is just no place like Austin. It is where the hill country meets the prairie lands and the Colorado River runs right through the heart of the city providing beautiful views from homes, condos and commercial buildings while also providing the backdrop of our hike and bike trail system, live music festivals, restaurants and more.
The gold mine part comes when a beautiful town with tons to offer converges with a thriving technology core and incentives that Austin and surrounding cities offer to new tech companies to entice them to build here.
The Silicon Valley has a new home in Austin and the buyers that have moved to Austin in the last 5-10 years have Silicon Valley budgets and are the main force behind the home values increasing year after year.
For those who don’t know about you, tell us a little about you?
A little about myself. Well, I was born in Austin 50 years ago and I was fortunate to have had parents that moved a few times while I was growing up which gave me the opportunity to learn about several different areas of Austin.
At this point in my life, I have lived in more areas than I can list but it includes everything from Allandale, Northwest Hills, Barton Creek, Westlake and on Lake Austin. I attended the University of Texas at Austin and received my bachelor’s degree in Business Economics and continued my studies at the University of Houston School of Architecture.
After a 10-year stint at a manufacturing firm in charge of advertising and marketing efforts I became a stay-at-home mom of two daughters. I had a few life changes and decided to get my real estate license in 2013.
I think my love of architecture and construction makes me a bit unique because I have a little more background and experience in remodeling and new construction. I love traveling, wake surfing with my girls on Lake Austin and my job!
The property on Mount Bonnell is simply gorgeous, what do you feel is its main selling point?
If you google top 10 attractions in Austin, Texas you are bound to find “hike up the steps of Mount Bonnell” on the list. This is because Mount Bonnell is the highest point in Austin and boasts some of the most spectacular views from it’s unique vantage point. This amazing property is one of only 16 homes that lie on the slopes of Mount Bonnell facing west overlooking Lake Austin and Westlake Hills.
From this home you can see north past the Pennybacker Bridge and south to Tom Miller Dam. You can even see downtown Austin from the property. The views are simply breathtaking and magical and with the pool on the front of the home inside a bricked courtyard you have outdoor entertaining on both sides of the home.
As a lifelong Austinite, what makes Austin, “Austin”?
I think that our unique topography punctuated with the Colorado River that is dammed up to create three unique and different lakes in Austin, gives Austin its special feel. You have the paddle boarders and kayakers on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, skiing and wake surfing up and down Lake Austin through West Austin and large yachts and sailing on Lake Travis Northwest of town.
Downtown Austin has changed substantially in the last 20 years. We now have true skyscrapers, residential condos on most every block and retail and company headquarters in many of our buildings. The restaurant scene is impressive and we are known for everything from BBQ to sushi now!
Our hiking and biking trail systems exist throughout the city and give most everyone quick access to outdoor exercise. And let’s not forget we still are the Live Music Capitol of the World, and we have the venues, nightly concerts and festivals to prove it!
You have quite an established background and resume as one of Austin’s top realtors, what makes you stand out over others in your field?
I was taught by my father that your reputation is like a tail on a dog. You can’t get rid of it because it follows you everywhere. When I began this profession at 40 years old, I decided that I was going to uphold a high standard of service, respect for my colleagues and thoroughness for my clients.
I have built an extensive network of colleagues over the last ten years and believe that is one of the most important factors in success. If you are polite, represent your clients in a professional manner and handle every transaction with the goal of making both buyer and seller happy, you will naturally build a new relationship with the agent on the other side and your clients will refer you to their friends and family because of their experience.
I also think that it is important to become an expert in an area or transaction type. My hyper-focused niche is Lost Creek neighborhood within Westlake. I have owned two homes in Lost Creek and have now at this point represented clients in 33 Lost Creek sales.
I used to average just a couple of listings within the neighborhood annually, but once I focused on my marketing efforts and worked to put something in my neighbors’ mailboxes at least once a month, my success started to become more well-known and the calls from sellers started to pick up. As of May 2022, I have already closed 6 transactions in Lost Creek, I have one pending and three new Lost Creek listings that will be hitting the market in the next month or so.
It’s no mistake that thanks to companies such as Indeed, Dell and Tesla calling ATX home, do you feel that this influx of companies is making Austin too expensive?
So, it isn’t the influx of companies that is increasing home values in Austin, it is the budgets of the buyers who work for these companies and their standard of living in the place in which they are moving from.
In San Jose, CA the average home is 1500 square feet and around $1,500,000. When you compare that to Austin who has a median price of $624,000 for a 2100 square foot home, you can see that buyers who move from a popular tech town like San Jose can, in a lot of cases, get double the size home for half what their home sold for back home.
So, these buyers come cash rich and are ready to compete in multiple offer situations which just ends up driving up the average sales price across the city.
Austin is a desirable town with a ton of outdoor activities and a moderate winter. The impact of COVID on Austin was huge as homeowners and renters in large cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City and Chicago started to search for a place where they could get outside amidst a pandemic, have more space in their own home to allow for home/work spaces and in general it was a time to reflect on the fragility of life and make a change for a better way of life.
The Austin housing boom has been on an upward move since 2012 and hit a new mach speed in mid-2020 and has barely slowed down since.
What areas in Austin do you see truly exploding in terms of property land value?
The areas closest to our urban core have always had higher values and now you can see those have doubled or even tripled in areas like Tarrytown, Pemberton, Rollingwood and Westlake Hills. But, it is the more rural area outside of town that has seen a true explosion.
Pastures and small ranches have been purchased for as little as $5,000/ acre in the last 5 years by developers who are building master-planned communities in our booming suburbs of Cedar Park, Liberty Hill, Leander, Georgetown and south in Buda and Kyle, Texas.
In fact, I am co-listing a 2,600-acre ranch with Tana Southard on my team that has been in a family since 1850. It is a developers dream with a development agreement already approved by the city to build up to 9,000 homes on the property.
What advice would you give someone hoping to get into real estate?
Regarding advice I would give to new agents… Like I mentioned above, the key to my growing success has been to become an expert in a certain area. That may be a type of transaction. For example, learn everything you can about 1031 exchange transactions and send mailers to all owners of properties that are currently rentals.
Talk to them about selling their investment property and about reinvesting the proceeds into something that has a greater potential of growing in value over time. Or specialize in a neighborhood. Do a regular mailer providing information and statistics on the neighborhood so they can see where the average home is selling. Include something of value that may not have anything to do with real estate.
Every time you have a transaction where you are representing a buyer or seller in that neighborhood send out a postcard. Hold open houses for other agents that have listings in that neighborhood. You will meet a lot of buyers but most likely you will meet a lot of neighbors and when you tell them your name they will recognize it from your mailers. There are many other ways you can become an expert.
Real estate sales in divorce situation, condominium expert, second home expert, short term rental investor expert. Find something you love and try to become an expert. We are living in a day and age where all decisions are made based on whatever information someone can get their hands on whether that’s online reviews or what comes in their mailbox.
Build a healthy CRM and use it to email your previous clients and potential future clients as well as your friends and family because they will be most likely to refer you to their friends and family.
Special thanks to Ms. Heather Hudson, her assistant Lilly, Elyse from Elyse Marie Photography and R.J. Garis from Garis Media Group for their help, time and assistance.