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Market News and Trends

Austin 2015 – Economic Summary

Last week, Angelos Angelou (Angelou Economics) presented his recap of how Texas and Austin fared in 2015, and his outlook for 2016 and 2017.  As always, it was an excellent and insightful review.  There was far too much information to include here, but there are a few points related to Austin’s housing market that I do want to mention.

First, it shouldn’t surprise local readers that both Texas and Austin had a good year in 2015:

Long-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Texas At-A-GlanceLong-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Austin At-A-Glance

In almost every measure, Austin outpaced Texas in a positive way.  We should celebrate that, but we also know that growth brings challenges.  Traffic is one consequence in Austin, but Angelou pointed out that average commute time here remains lower than other tech centers around the U.S.  The local cost of living is also impacted by growth and demand:

Long-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Texas AffordabilityLong-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Austin AffordabilityTexas cost of living compares very favorably among the five most populous states, and the overall cost of living in Austin — likely a surprise to many here — remains below the national average.  The notable exception is the cost of housing:

Long-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Austin Rent Affordability

Long-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Austin SFR Affordability

It’s no secret that rents and home prices in Austin have increased in recent years.  This is important, and must be addressed through planning and permitting practices.  Austinites tend to think that it’s only happening here, though.  We can take some comfort in the fact that, on average, rents are competitive with other tech centers, and median home prices have increased at nearly the same pace as median household income.  The table at the bottom right of the chart above points out the ongoing issue to be dealt with — less than 3 months of residential inventory for sale, compared to 6 to 6 1/2 months’ supply that most analysts consider “balanced.”

That table also offers what looks like encouragement in the large growth in building permits, but historical context is important:

Long-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Austin SFR Starts and Sales

In absolute numbers, local builders started about 25% fewer homes in 2015 than they did at the peak in 2005 and 2006.  At the same time, though, population has increased dramatically, so notice that the “starts per 1,000 residents” in 2014 was about half of the peak rate and still far below the long-term average.  Population growth continued through 2015 and housing starts totaled about 12,000 again, so when the final data is in we will find that we lost ground again on this measure.

Work is underway to rewrite Austin’s land development code.  Achieving two large objectives in that project will contribute to progress on housing affordability here:  (a) allowing for more types of housing all over town, and (b) accelerating the permitting process so that construction can get underway in weeks instead of months (0r longer).  Many developers are working under the existing code to address affordability through reducing unit size and increasing density, but the necessary workarounds themselves cost time and money.  In the meantime, and for the foreseeable future, the most affordable housing options will be on the periphery of the Austin metro area, adding to traffic congestion and commuting time and expense.  More on this in future posts ….

So … what were Angelou’s conclusions for Austin’s future?  He’s optimistic:

Long-Center-Economic-Forecast-Presentation 2015 Key Take Aways

I agree.  What a great city we live in, and what opportunities we have to build on.

About Bill Morris, Realtor

Many years of business experience (high tech, client service, business organization and start-up, including almost 20 years in real estate) tell me that service is the key to success and I look forward to serving you. I represent both buyers and sellers throughout the Austin metropolitan area, which means first-hand market knowledge is brought to bear on serving your needs. Learn more about my background and experience, my commitment to my clients, my profession, and to the real estate industry at



  1. Pingback: 2015 Market Summary | Bill Morris on Austin Real Estate - February 8, 2016

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