This Is The Best Time To Buy In Austin, Texas (And How To Deal With The High Interest Rates) – With Libby Arnold
Libby Arnold is an Associate Broker at Realty Austin in Austin, TX. She specializes in residential real estate and loves helping first-time homebuyers understand the buying process and the market’s nuances.
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Laura Moreno: [00:00:00] First, the Home Buyers nation. I am loud ano, and I am super excited to bring you our fantastic guest today, Libby Arnold Libby is an associate broker at Realty Austin in Austin, Texas. She specializes in residential real estate and loves helping first the home buyers understand the buying process and the market’s nuances.
Libby, are you ready to flow?
Libby Arnold: Let’s flow. Laura, I’m. Great
Laura Moreno: of you and our community. Just a little insight. Please share more about you personally and then expand about the.
Libby Arnold: Of course, of course. So I am located in Austin, Texas. I actually live in Cedar Park, which is a suburb that’s directly northwest of Austin.
Um, I have been here since about 2010. I lived in the Dallas Fort Worth area prior to. Um, actually when I came to Austin originally, I expected it would be a very [00:01:00] temporary stay and here I am over 12 years later, it stuck and I just fell in love with it. Um, my background personally, I know I spoke a little bit about this last time, but quick refresher, um, a lot of my background is in the.
Logical sciences and then grad school, um, I did kinesiology and so it’s been an interesting, interesting journey from biology and exercise science and all of that to kind of get to real estate. But I started helping my husband, Alfredo, who is a local broker here as well. He’s also at Realty Austin. We have a team.
Um, he has been in the industry since 1990. And so met him after moving here and kinda got started around 2014, helping him out as a transaction coordinator, and then decided to get licensed, and then I got my broker’s license and [00:02:00] things just kind of took off. And here we are. Sounds
Laura Moreno: amazing. I mean, I, I love your story and I love that you’re actually, your background is on sciences, on science, and you do a lot of data.
You do a lot of analysis Yes. On the properties. Um, so I wanna go jump right in. What’s going on with the market in a Texas and it like, it’s like, it’s been crazy. Like suddenly everyone was looking to buy a home. Well, Covid happened that no one was, was buying homes for. Two days and then suddenly everyone was like, Oh my God, I need to buy
Then everyone was like, I need to buy. And for two years it’s been like this crazy amount of people looking to buy properties. The prices have gone up. Interest rates score low, low. What is happening now in Austin, Texas? .
Libby Arnold: So, Whew. It’s, it’s interesting. I was thinking back to when you and I last spoke, and I think it’s been about 18 months, give or take.
I was thinking about this on my run [00:03:00] this morning actually, and the things we talked about then and how much. Just, it has changed certainly in the last 18 months, and then in the last six months it’s really changed a lot. And so Austin is definitely reflecting a lot of what we’re seeing nationally, which is the net effect of everything going on is.
Market has certainly slowed a bit, but it’s, there’s a lot more to it than that. And you mentioned C, that was a huge disruptor, and I know we’re all tired of hearing the word unprecedented when talking about C and all of these factors that are driving the economy, but it really was, and at the very beginning when Covid happened, like you said, people stopped buying houses.
Two days, days. We were really worried for that. Two days and the first week or two of the lockdowns, you know, [00:04:00] my brokerage real Austin did a really excellent job of hosting town halls for us and really collating some of that data. Cause I’m, I’m a data person. I love my numbers and my math and so they did a really good job and I remember us all being, Kind of worried about the market, and then as you said it, it literally felt like two days.
I think it may have been two or three weeks , that things kind of shut down here and then it just took off. And 2021 was. A year, unlike one that many of us have seen in the real estate market nationally, certainly, but even more so in Austin, we have so many large tech companies that are either relocating here or they’re building additional offices here, moving corporate headquarters here and.
Bringing a lot of those employees with them, and a lot of that kind of coalesced around Austin. [00:05:00] At the same time, we had these historically low interest rates, and all of these other drivers were really pumping a lot of money into the economy, and so we had an absolute record year in 2021. But a lot of what we saw was these poor buyers, and especially first time home buyers that two or three years prior to that, we had all these amazing down payment assistance programs and builder incentives and all of these ways to really help make that dream of home ownership a reality for them became a really difficult.
In 2020 and 2021 because they simply couldn’t compete with these other buyers that were coming in that were, We had houses selling two and $300,000 over asking, and in some cases more, And these buyers are very cash heavy. They’re waiving appraisals. They’re waiving option periods, they’re waiving things that we would just.[00:06:00]
And good conscience actually recommend a buyer wave, especially a first time home buyer that’s not sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra cash that they can just kind of throw at this. And so that’s where we were. Where we’re at now, not so much anymore, and I really wanted to, to kind of focus a little bit on the way things were because it’s easy to forget.
We hear a lot of doom and gloom, and we hear a lot of fear about interest rates, which are higher, and it’s a non-trivial amount. They’re significantly higher than they were at the beginning of the year, but. The good news that we’re seeing here is these, Give me
Laura Moreno: the good news. I want the good news. , I have good news.
It’s like, give me, give, give us the good news for us. ,
Libby Arnold: I have good news. We’re not seeing a hundred thousand dollars of. Anymore. We’re seeing houses are staying on the market longer, and so if we [00:07:00] go out with that first time home buyer, maybe we go out on Friday and we see a home that they really like A year ago, we would have to say to them, Okay, offer deadline is Sunday at 5:00 PM You’ve got 36 hours to think about that.
This, here’s what the listing agent will tell me about the offers there are. Now, you know, we need to do this and this and this and offer this much over list, and we’re not having to do that anymore. We’re able to say, We’re so glad you liked this house. Why don’t you go sleep on it. Let’s reconnect tomorrow or in a few days and see how you’re feeling.
Let’s talk to the lender. Let’s run some really detailed numbers. Let’s take a more detailed look at this property. Let’s see if there’s anything we might wanna ask the sellers to fix. Let’s talk to the lender about your closing costs. Let’s see if we can maybe structure this contract in such a way that the sellers are.
Able to because they’re [00:08:00] willing to do this now, right? Able to contribute some money to help you buy the interest rate down. And that definitely could be something we talk about too, because there are a lot of ways to kind of manipulate that contract, manipulate seller contributions, manipulate, um, types of loan programs that we’re using to where we can get that interest rate down to something that.
It doesn’t start with a seven hopefully. Right. .
Laura Moreno: That’s really good. So what you’re saying basically is like before we, buyers had to make a decision straight away, really fast, Uh mm-hmm. and you know, and when you’re talking about people like waving inspections and waving contingencies, I have to say that.
Some realtors were recommending that, but actually the market was dictating that because I even remember talking to a friend of mine. She just put a home and she told me without even blinking, that she had put $200,000 more [00:09:00] on, on the home that she had paid the, the, the realtor’s fees, $60,000 and that she hadn’t put any contingency.
And I was like, Wait, what? And she was, she was like, I really wanted the house. I was like, mm-hmm. Okay. Like you, you know what I mean? It’s like the market was dictating these things. . So now you’re saying that people can go back home, sleep on a property, which is kind of crazy. Sleep on it, sleep on it, and then run the numbers with your lender.
And again, people think about this, like I read yesterday, an article that said 70% of first time home buyers have some regrets. About buying a home, and most of the regrets were because of the numbers, because they didn’t expect the costs to be so high. They miscalculated the mortgage. So I love that you’re saying that now you can go back to your lender, run the numbers, understand what are going to be your upcoming costs, monthly costs to make sure you’re not.
Making a mistake. And what I love most about it is now you can go back to [00:10:00] the seller and say, Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, you beautiful seller. This is not 2021 anymore. I’m sorry for you. Right. What are you willing to contribute to my, to my closing costs? Like Right. I love that. I love all that. So we basically have the power.
Yeah, we have the power.
Libby Arnold: Yes. Buyers have some power back. It’s. It’s really nice to see, um, because we work with just a large portion of our business. As buyers, and we certainly work with sellers, we work with investors as well, but a large portion of our business has always been first time home buyers, and that’s what we’re very passionate about.
And so it’s, it’s so refreshing for us to be able to get out there and really go to the bat for them again, because for so long it was the best that I can really do is work hard to structure this contract in such a way that we’re minimizing your risk. If you wanna buy a house in this, in this insanity, that was 2021, [00:11:00] and now we’re really able to step in and say, Okay, you know what?
You may not have to move three suburbs away from Austin anymore. Maybe you can live right on the outskirts exactly where you wanted to live because the prices are lower. And again, sellers are willing to. Come to the negotiating table. Things have kind of been different for long enough now. Um, this really, I’ll backtrack a little bit.
This really started for us in Austin in April when our new tax assessments came out. So one thing about Texas is our property taxes are a little bit higher than pretty much anywhere else in these contiguous United States. And it’s not specifically market driven. We. Entities within our governments that do something like an appraisal every year.
And so every year our property values with respect to property [00:12:00] taxes change. And so for a very long time, those property tax values here were. Kind of artificially depressed and the tax valuation was running about half of what market value was. In a lot of cases. I’m going somewhere with this, um, . And so what we saw, we had another little, um, Incident that I won’t get into, but our, in Travis County, which is where Austin is, our tax appraisal folks got into a little bit of trouble for using some data they weren’t supposed to use for valuations.
And so in 2020 they could not do any new appraisals for the purpose of property taxes. So then what happens? 2021 is eventually these new values come out. Well, we all know what happened in 2020 and 2021, and the first part of 2022 is we had zip codes [00:13:00] here that saw a hundred percent growth in a property value over that period.
Literally doubled. And so all these factors come together. And very long story short, we get the new values. New estimates come out around April of this year, and they’re just, Insane. And people’s property taxes are doubling. Um, I had a client whose appraised value went from 280 something thousand dollars to about 1.5 million.
Laura Moreno: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That means that you have to pay taxes on 1.5 million. Correct. Whoa, that’s, that’s. That’s like seven times or whatever it is. Seven times your tax bill.
Libby Arnold: Yes, yes. It went up, I did the math. It went up 486%, and that’s a really extreme example, but we saw a lot of cases where it went up a hundred percent, 200%.
And so not only at that time were we [00:14:00] in this environment where interest rates are starting to rise. These taxes are starting to go up as well. And so Austin really quickly just started to become incredibly unaffordable for almost anyone because of that combination. So you’re paying 50, 80, a hundred percent more for the house.
The taxes are now a hundred percent more. Whoa, your monthly payments significantly higher. And then on top of that, were not, Dealing with 2.75% interest rates anymore either. And so the combination of those three things really started to affect the market. And then on the heels of that, sellers, you know, people are generally pretty intelligent, especially when it comes to large investments like real estate.
They start to see the writing on the wall. Everyone lists their house, right? We have a lot of [00:15:00] investors in Austin. A lot of people invest here, and when those taxes start to go up, then they have to raise the rent. Some of those folks have also decided to sell, and so we saw really about 170% increase in inventory year over year in a pretty short period.
Two. Combined with the previous three factors. And so all of that has really slowed demand down and it has caused prices to start dropping. Um, and so that when interest rates are higher, that’s something that. Is really, really helpful. And so we’re starting to see, you know, we’ve kind of crested the wave and we’re really starting to see things come down.
The trouble that we’re kind of left with now are those interest rates, and that’s where we start going to. The sellers. Um, and there I can definitely talk about there are [00:16:00] some different programs. So
Laura Moreno: let me, let me give a little bit of a quick summary of what you’ve said to make sure I understood it right and we all understand it very well.
So there’s been actually lots of contributing factors, uh, like the, the taxes, you know, to taxes, uh, people putting the houses on the market. Um, so lots of contribution factors that are making now Sellers want to put houses on the market now more than before. Mm-hmm. , right. And at the same time, those investors are also raising rent.
So that might mean that those people renting are saying, Hey, hey, hey, you know, my rent is more than my, what my mortgage could be. So let me look at the market now. Those renters may be looking at the market now and saying, Well, my market is going to be very high because it’s at 7% now. So now let’s go into how do you solve for that market interest rate?
And this is where [00:17:00] everyone is like, how, How do I solve for that 7%? That’s a lot of money. .
Libby Arnold: Yes, because it’s very easy to sit here and say, prices have come down and they have upwards of 20% in some cases. And I, I hesitate to say, Publicly, I would not be shocked if we see another 10 or 15%. Um, Maybe a little more, even depending on how things play out.
And that’s great. And buyers have more leverage and that’s great. Ladies,
Laura Moreno: guys, sorry Libby, sorry to interrupt you again, but this is great. This is great. 20% down, 30% and 40% down. You buy the price low, you log the interest rate at 7%. But remember, remember you can refinance. I did it one year after buying, when the, when the winters rate drop, 2, 3, 5 years on the line, you’ve refinanced.
Sorry. Continue, Libby. But this is a great opportunity.
Libby Arnold: It is. It is. And there’s a window right now. And so we’re left with, Right. There are all of these great things and all of these really good [00:18:00] reasons to get into the market right now and never mind that. But November 9th at the moment, and so the next six to eight weeks, things are really.
Pretty shut down for the holidays. There aren’t a whole lot of buyers. The houses that are listed right now, they’re listed because these folks need to sell and move. They’re motivated. So again, there’s a long list of all of these great reasons to buy. And then, oh, but we’ve got these interest rates over here that are frankly quiet high.
So how do we deal with that? Yes. So couple of things, right? Couple of things we can do. Um, one, In the realm of new construction, I’ll look at new construction and then I’ll kind of look at resales as well. Um, a lot of our first time buyers really gravitate toward new construction because there’s less maintenance.
It’s a brand new house, no one’s ever lived in it, et cetera. Um, with new builds, they’re seeing a lot of [00:19:00] what we’re seeing in the resale market. Right now, they’re dealing with roughly a 30% cancellation rate on a lot of their contract.
Laura Moreno: Filters. Don’t wanna, I like that. They don’t wanna, You were talking, I’m thinking about like some, Yeah, I’m thinking about some buyers.
I’m going to send this episode too. Like guys, guys, guys. Okay. So they are facing cancellations, 20% cancellations.
Libby Arnold: So they’re facing 20, 30% in some cases for a lot of reasons, which is probably a whole nother podcast. We could ask , but they’re offering quite a few incentives. Some of them are putting 15, $30,000.
Closing costs toward helping buyers buy that interest rate down. Meaning the buyer can prepay the lender for points, and depending on how much you pay, that can bring down a fixed interest rate. So that’s something. In other cases, the builders are actually buying the rate down for you, um, and [00:20:00] they’re advertising, you know, instead.
Seven or seven and a half percent. They’re offering five. They’re offering five and a half. Um, and that is something that if you can tolerate that for a couple of years, right? Five and a half is still a pretty decent interest rate. Actually. It’s, it’s not terribly high. Um, you know, and we’ve gotten really used to, because of the need to stimulate the economy previously, we’ve gotten really used to artificially low.
I had somebody close that I think two and a quarter was the lowest I saw, which is, oh my God, not even free money. They’re almost paying them to buy at that point.
Laura Moreno: I’m not that, You know, two, you always want lower , , ,
Libby Arnold: but it’s artificially lowered and so five and a half is really much more in line. Historical averages. It’s not, um, not [00:21:00] something crazy. And so, and if you look at monthly payments, At five and a half percent. It looks a whole lot nicer than it does at seven and a half, and five and a half is something that I can probably wrap my head around for the next year or two, and then I can re refinance later when inevitably rates come back down, which they ultimately will.
There are a lot of people trying to forecast when ultimately they will. Um, the bottom line on the new build side is that a lot of these builders don’t wanna lose a contract. Right. They’re willing to negotiate. Um, and they’re negotiating on price too. I have, um, some very sweet first time home buyers that are under contract with a local builder right now and completely unsolicited.
Um, they’ve been under contract for about six months. We got an entirely unsolicited email from the builder that said, Hey, we’re lowering the price of your house, 55,000. Really
Laura Moreno: what’s wrong [00:22:00] with house? You guys just go and check the house. What’s wrong with the house? ? No, nothing. That’s like a little bit concerning.
Libby Arnold: Wait, what? What is happening is that, again, back in 2021 and early this year, um, builders were essentially having auctions, much like on the resale. And the new builds. The to be built houses had multiple offers, and so we had to go in and offer and bid a certain amount over whatever their starting bid was.
Well, the market is no longer supporting the builders having bidding wars. Things have changed as we’ve discussed, and so that has caused prices to decrease there. And then what happens is when those start to close at lower prices, now we’re gonna run into an issue where the other houses that are currently under contract are probably not going to appraise.
Because the most recent comparable closings are at a lower price. And so there’s some of it, they’re, they’re [00:23:00] protecting themselves in there as well and trying to avoid dealing with an appraisal issue. But again, they also really don’t want this cancellations right now. Um, and it’s not necessarily a unique story.
I hear about other agents and other brokers at our brokerage where things like that are happening, um, all the time. And so, Anybody. We have just anybody in the country. Honestly right now that’s under contract with a builder. It does not hurt to have your agent go back and talk to the builder and just say, Hey, is there anything else that you can do for me?
Odds are there’s something. That’s
Laura Moreno: amazing. I mean, I was going to say like, oh, that’s so kind from builders. You know, they’re , but they’re protecting themselves because if the house doesn’t praise you may not be able to close. They don’t want those cancellations. They see it coming and they’re like, Wait, wait.
Let me send a nice email. Let me, They must be in a peak hole. They must be like, Oh no. Aren’t you really happy as a realtor [00:24:00] to representing buyers to be now in the strong position and say, Hey, listing agent, this is really nice. But because before the listing agents were the kings of the world and the queens of the world, right?
Now you have the crown.
Libby Arnold: It’s not quite as much fun when we’re listing a house now, , but with the buyers. No, it really is because for so long this has been what my husband and I are really passionate about. Home ownership and first time home buyers. And particularly in a market like Austin, that’s just candidly gotten quite expensive.
It’s not a secret. Um, it’s something we’re really passionate about and it’s something that’s been really increasingly difficult. And so it’s, it’s a pleasure to see that. And it’s a pleasure to be able to go in and negotiate the free washer and dryer and fridge and. And
Laura Moreno: everything. Why give me everything that you have.
You go to the shop and you’re like, This, this, this, this. All of that for zero . [00:25:00]
Libby Arnold: Yeah. Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And that’s, So
Laura Moreno: tell me how it is for now. Tell me how it is for resales now. So you touch upon construction, Is it similar for resales or We already talked about that.
Libby Arnold: No, no, it’s, it’s, I got distracted with all the other things the builders are doing and
Um, we are seeing, it is similar, the contracts here are set up differently for a resale, but we are seeing a lot of, we’re able to make offers below asking price. Or, and even just being able to make a list price offer , it’s such a nice change. But in addition to that, we’re able to go in and ask the seller for contributions to closing costs, which can help.
And again, similar to the new build side, that money can be used to buy down the interest rate. Um, there is a program floating around that’s increasingly popular around here called a two [00:26:00] one Buy. Ooh, what is that? And what that is, is essentially the interest rate is bought down for a period of about two years.
And because of the way that it’s structured, the seller actually has to pay for that. And so we are seeing some cases where we can make an offer at list or a little bit below list, and then we can ask the seller in a separate area of the contract to actually pay for that interest rate buy down. Um, in some cases, I mean, that costs 17 $20,000 sometimes more, and sellers are willing to do.
And then the benefit to the buyer is I get a significantly lower interest rate for two years, and then with the hope that within two years I’m able to refinance into something else, which most likely you will be. But it also gives those buyers a chance to kind of adjust to having the mortgage, making that payment, um, starting [00:27:00] to budget for that.
And then the interest rate can adjust a little bit later. So, Something that can be done. And then of course those closing cost monies can just be used toward a straight interest rate, buy down on a fixed rate as well. That
Laura Moreno: sounds great to me. So you are saying there’s properties coming to the market.
Those properties are likely not going to sell so many of them in the next six, eight weeks. Sellers may be desperate to sell, they’re willing to give concessions, they’re willing to do things for you. Property prices are declining, so you could go shopping now, see a property that is lower in price, and then even negotiate a little bit farther, negotiate those interest rates.
I think it’s a, I mean, taking into account, yes, there’s, we all know the interest rates are high, but apart from that, it seems like the fantastic time to buy. I mean, if you can handle those high interest rates for a couple of years. Mm-hmm. It is a great time to buy [00:28:00] now. Like it is a fantastic time and I love the idea that you have with new builds, with builders coming there and saying, Hey, what can you do for me?
Mr. Builder? Yeah. What can you do for me? You know, I’m now, you are now home buyers. We are now in a strong position. Now we have to manage the interest rate and we have to understand that it may be hard for a couple of years, is going to be high for a couple of years. But if you do that, you can buy something really nice now like, and be in a very good situation a few years down the line when your property may have gone up in price, you know, all the other purpose are going down.
You know, it’s like a very good time to buy.
Libby Arnold: It really is, and it’s just, it’s so refreshing to be able to say these things. And so it’s again, about, it’s kind of the same, using this creativity to structure it in such a way that we can make that interest rate manageable. And it’s very similar to how it was in 2020 and 2021.
It’s just kind of, [00:29:00] The script has been flipped a little bit and back then it was much more about, okay, we have to pay over ask and we have to waive all of these things. How can we creatively find some sort of out in this contract for you? How can we set this up to where there’s some hidden way we can get you out of this and kind of protect you?
That was our creativity then and now it’s, there is just a list of 20 reasons that it’s an amazing time to buy. But we need to get creative on how we manage this interest rate and how we get that to a level that is something that you’re comfortable dealing with. And a lot of it too is there’s just sticker shock at first because we’re used to seeing that.
2.25. And I remember when my first buyer that had something approaching four, and we all thought, Oh, that’s so high. We love four now. Take it. But take the
Laura Moreno: four. Take the four . I wish we could have a way of going back [00:30:00] to the past and say, Take it.
Libby Arnold: Yes, do it now. Do it now. When interest rates grow up, we tend to see prices come down.
And you know, we talked about a lot of these other factors influencing Austin outside of, you know, we’ve got the geopolitical things that are going on. It’s an election year. Things always get a little strange in the housing market during an election year and, So we’ve got these larger forces and then kind of these local things happening as well that have really created kind of the perfect storm.
And again, if we can just creatively deal with the interest rate issue, everything else that was making it so difficult to buy has kind of just gone away. And so it’s, it’s really fun to be able to actually negotiate a little bit again and, and stand up for our.
Laura Moreno: More Levy, you’ve shared amazing information today and a very different perspective.
What can we do for you?
Libby Arnold: Oh goodness. Well, thank you so much for letting me [00:31:00] come back. Like I said, I was thinking about this this morning and thought, Man, it’s, it’s such a different message than last time, and that’s such a nice thing for me. I’m so happy about it. Um, well, if anyone is interested in following along with a couple of things, the Austin Real Estate Market, um, my Instagram is Libby.
arnold.realtor, you can follow me there. Um, FairWarning, I do, I run. Um, and so you’ll get Austin real estate market stuff and you’ll get some of our listings and you’ll get a bunch of my running posts too. So have any interest in running or real estate. Um, that’s a really good place to connect with me and we try to post a lot of good, um, content and a lot of data and those pieces about the market as.
Laura Moreno: thank you so much for being in the first Time Home podcast again.
Libby Arnold: Oh, thank you for having me. Thank you so much. It’s been so nice to chat with you again.[00:32:00]