Plumbing, Wiring, Insurance & Permits: A Buyers Guide to Homes in Central Austin

Over the years, we have helped clients buy and sell homes in the Central Austin neighborhoods of Crestview, Brentwood, Allandale, Northwest Hills and Balcones Hills. These neighborhoods are RED HOT right now for Austin real estate, but there are some potential issues that you need to be aware of if you are considering a purchase or a sale in these areas.


Many of the homes in Central Austin were built during the 1940’s through 1960’s, during a time when home builders and the city were using fiber pipes such as Orangeburg Pipe in addition to cast iron for their sewer lines. “Orangeburg” pipe was comprised of wood pulp and an oil & coal-based resin that were layered together. This was a far cheaper alternative to cast iron at the time, and was used all over the country and not just in Austin. It was used in homes up until somewhere in the mid-1970s when PVC became the preferred option for sewer pipes. It is quite common to find homes in central Austin that have the original Orangeburg pipe or cast iron pipe connecting the house to the main line at the street.

The problem with Orangeburg and cast-iron pipes is that it degrades over time and was never a good match for tree roots, and we all know how many beautiful oak trees we have in Central Austin. Pipes that were installed 50 years ago are nearing the end of their useful life (or they have already reached it). The cost to replace an entire cast iron or Orangeburg sewer system can reach into the $30,000-$40,000 range, depending on the extent of the piping and whether any foundation excavations will be needed to replace all of it with modern-day PVC piping. The worst-case scenario is a home that is built on a slab foundation that still has the original cast-iron or Orangeburg-type sewer lines. Imagine buying a home in Central Austin, only to find out that you have to do $40,000 worth of sewer work right after you buy it. Ouch.

How do you find out if a home has cast-iron or Orangeburg pipe, and how do you test to determine that it has failed? The first step is to hire a home inspector that will locate the clean-out locations around the perimeter of your home. He or you can pull off the clean-out cover and look down into the pipe. If you see or are otherwise suspicious that there is anything other than PVC down there, then you will need to hire a master plumber to perform a hydrostatic test. This test consists of capping off the sewer system at various locations (the street, the cleanouts, etc.) and also at the interior sewer receptacles (i.e. pulling off the toilets to expose the pipe beneath), filling the pipes with water and seeing if it drains. If the water drains at a rate that the plumber deems is too quick while it is capped, then it is likely draining underneath your home and into the ground through a failed pipe…and not into the sewer system like it is supposed to! Sometimes there are small leaks that can be detected with a camera that is fed down into the sewer line, but most times the entire cast iron line has degraded on the bottom and needs to be replaced.


Homes built in the central Austin area were originally built with aluminum wiring. The good news is that many homes have already been retrofitted with Copper-to-Aluminum connectors (called Copalum) and many homes have replaced their main electrical panel due to all of the high-energy demanding appliances that we all love to use and enjoy that simply wouldn’t function without wiring updates. However, we still find a significant amount of original homes that only have a partial retrofit. Another potential issue on wiring is the ground wires for three-prong receptacles. All of these concerns can be evaluated by a home inspector that is knowledgeable and performs the proper testing.

Flood Plain & Flood Insurance

You might not know it, but there are homes in Central Austin are at a statistically-quantifiable risk of flooding at least once within the next 100 years. This might not be of great concern to you, because it seems like a long time from now and also a really small risk. But consider this: some homes are expected to flood at least once in the next 25 years! If a home lies within certain FEMA flood zones, you may be required to obtain flood insurance by your lender. How do you determine if a home lies within the flood plain? You can visit the FEMA website at and enter the property address to pull up the most-recent flood plain maps. You can also visit the City of Austin’s website and pull up the FEMA overlays on any parcel, located here:

Check for Expired Permits

Last but not least, be sure to check to make sure that there aren’t any expired or open permits on the home that you’re considering to purchase. If you are looking at homes online that have been remodeled or renovated, it would be prudent to go ahead and check the permits to see if there are any potential issues. Not all home renovations and remodels require a permit and there are certain exemptions such as homestead permits. Here is the City of Austin’s website to search for permit information:

This post was not meant to deter anyone from purchasing an older home in Austin, in fact it is meant to be quite the contrary! Homes in central Austin are beautiful and are highly sought-after, and that trend will likely continue.  The average sales prices last year in MLS Areas of 1A, 1B and 2 (the MLS areas that encompass the majority of Central Austin homes that this post references) increased by 9.3%, 2.6% and 12.3% respectively.  There were 1,411 single-family homes that sold in these 3 MLS Areas during 2014.  This is a popular section of Austin, for sure!

When choosing a Realtor, be sure that you hire someone like us who has specific knowledge about the homes that you are interested in. If you have any questions or if you have any other tips that you would like to mention to our readers, be sure post a comment below!


We SOLD 5804 Hudson Bend Rd, Austin, TX, 78734!

We just listed SOLD a renovated and remodeled home for sale at 5804 Hudson Bend Rd. The interior of this home has been recently upgraded with a complete kitchen (cabinets, granite, appliances), bathrooms, hardwood floors and more!

Renovations and Upgrades

The kitchen was completely demolished and renovated, including White Shaker Cabinets with under-cabinet lighting and a pantry cabinet, Crosshatch backsplash, granite countertops and hardwood floors. Appliance package includes Stainless Steel refrigerator, microwave, range, dishwasher. Wonderful natural light from windows on two sides and the wood accent beam completes the space.

Master Bathroom upgrades include the demolition and replacement of the tile flooring, replacement of the countertop with a granite double vanity with undermount ceramic sinks, demolition and remodel of the master shower tile, shower floor tile, and bench seat.

The second of three full bathrooms, located downstairs, was also renovated: hardwood flooring, walk-in shower with tile accents, pedestal sink with designer fixtures and more. (Shower glass is on back-order and will be installed soon!)

Upstairs, you’ll find a second master suite — a spacious bedroom that could double as a loft, complete with a full bathroom — and access to it’s own upper deck area!

The outdoor space of this home is serene and beautiful — multiple decks and entertaining areas (the upper deck has partial views of Lake Travis),  ample trees offering shade and natural landscaping to enjoy.

Photo Gallery

Austin MLS 6059576

[idx-listing mlsnumber=”6059576″ showall=”true”]

SOLD: 205 Tavish Trl, Lakeway, TX, 78738

We just listed SOLD 205 Tavish Trl — a semi-custom, highly-upgraded Castille floor plan built by Village Builders in Rough Hollow! Featuring 3294 (TCAD) square feet, 205 Tavish Trl offers four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a three car garage, a home office, built-in desk upstairs, a large game room with surround sound wiring, a formal dining with decorative ceiling accents, a breakfast room that is open to the kitchen and living, a gorgeous stone exterior and much more!

Designer upgrades include custom paint colors, hardwood floors and a spacious kitchen with SS appliances! Easy access to neighborhood amenities including pools, marina, restaurant and more!

Outdoor features include a covered patio w/ built-in BBQ grill, great for entertaining! The expansive stone patio includes a built-in gas firepit, and lush landscaping complete the outdor space, making it great for intimate gatherings.

Photo Gallery


MLS 2033519

Yes it’s true, this beautiful home has been sold. But, if you would like to engage us to assist you with finding another lovely home in Rough Hollow (or anywhere else), please contact us today!

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SOLD: 2604 Lehigh Dr, Austin, TX, 78723

We just listed SOLD a remodeled home for sale at 2604 Lehigh Dr, Austin TX 78723. Located in Austin’s popular University Hills neighborhood, this home features 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, and a 2-car garage.

Inside, you’ll find a gorgeous kitchen with hand-poured concrete counter tops with upgraded Stainless Steel appliances, recently replaced designer carpet in the bedrooms, a spacious custom metal workshop with high-amp wiring and a 10X10 rollup door, home garden, gazebo and much more! The 6.88kW solar panel system is designed to make a significant improvement to energy bills.

Fun facts about this home: it was Tim Riggins’ house on the hit TV show Friday Night Lights, and it was the rookie-of-the-year on the Austin Weird Homes Tour (note: the ‘weirdness’ was based on the homeowner’s eclectic collection of items, most of which have been removed from the home, and not the home itself!)

For more details about this lovely home or to schedule a showing, contact us today!

MLS 1703888

[idx-listing mlsnumber=”1703888″ showall=”true”]

SOLD: 212 W Garrett Run, Austin TX 78753

We just listed SOLD a remodeled home for sale at 212 W Garrett Run, Austin TX 78753. This single-story home features 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a 240 sqft bonus room (added with city permits), a closed-in back porch and much more! Updates include modern vinyl flooring and repainted cabinetry in the kitchen.

One of the best features of this home is the lovely koi pond in the backyard with gorgeous flowers and fish! Speaking of the backyard — it’s HUGE! There is lots of room back here and it’s complete with multiple entertaining areas, lush landscaping, and grassy areas for playing too!

Photo Gallery

MLS 9073105

[idx-listing mlsnumber=”9073105″ showall=”true”] For more details about this home or to schedule a showing, contact us today!


Research on Bella Vista Community Reveals Low Inventory, Rising Prices

Today I took a tour of Bella Vista, a pocket neighborhood consisting of approximately 300 homes in Cedar Park, located just to the north of the intersection at Hwy 620 and Anderson Mill Rd. I took some photos of the amenities offered at Bella Vista and then I came home to do some market research. We all know how strong Austin’s housing market has been, but I was curious to learn if a neighborhood such as Bella Vista is also enjoying the same appreciation rates.

Map of Bella Vista

Bella Vista Photo Gallery

Here are the pictures that I took today of Bella Vista. As you can see, there is a large community pool with Italian Cypress trees, plenty of lounge chairs, and some shaded areas to enjoy. In addition and adjacent to the pool pavilion, you’ll find two playscapes for children of various ages to enjoy.

Bella Vista – Sales Stats for 2016

(17) Beds Baths Sqft List Price LP/SqFt Sold Price SP/SqFt Acres SP/LP % SP/OLP ADOM
Min 3 3 2,349 $329,900 $103.87 $323,000 $101.70 0.17 95.00% 81.77% 2
Max 6 5 5,189 $794,900 $179.53 $786,000 $170.56 0.55 102.67% 102.67% 158
Avg 4 4 3,636 $487,288 $133.95 $480,544 $132.03 0.27 98.73% 96.69% 54
Median 4 4 3,310 $419,999 $129.93 $403,000 $127.89 0.22 98.85% 98.14% 41


In 2016, there were 17 homes that sold in Bella Vista (according to Austin MLS data). In 2016, home prices in Bella Vista ranged from $323,000 to $786,000, and the median ratio for Original Listing Price to actual Selling Price was 98.14%. This represents a strong market for homes in this community. On average in 2016, it took approximately 54 days to sell a house in Bella Vista.

Bella Vista – Sales Stats for 2017 YTD

(6) Beds Baths Sqft List Price LP/SqFt Sold Price SP/SqFt Acres SP/LP % SP/OLP ADOM
Min 3 3 2,724 $369,000 $109.94 $375,000 $109.53 0.18 95.46% 95.46% 1
Max 5 4 4,623 $599,000 $201.91 $580,000 $192.73 0.28 101.63% 101.63% 21
Avg 4 4 3,481 $453,167 $132.76 $444,567 $130.20 0.22 98.41% 98.41% 9
Median 4 4 3,279 $407,000 $119.85 $402,200 $119.79 0.20 98.29% 98.29% 4


Looking at data from January 1, 2017 to the date of this publication (mid-June), you will find that there have been 6 homes that have sold in Bella Vista. Sales prices have ranged from $375,000 to $580,000.

The most notable data point on the 2017 stats chart is the last column: ADOM (Agent’s Days on Market). What this column reveals to us is that homes in Bella Vista are now selling anywhere between 1-21 days on the market, with the average being 9 days on the market (compared to 54 days on the market in 2016!)

As you can clearly see, Bella Vista homeowners are benefiting from owning property in a smaller, boutique-style neighborhood that is currently experiencing ultra-low inventory and heightened demand. If you are thinking about selling your home in Bella Vista, this might be a good time to enjoy the current wave of market activity.

Available Homes in Bella Vista

If Bella Vista sounds like a place where you would like to live, you will want to review the list of homes below! This data is a current snapshot of the available homes in Bella Vista.

[idx-listings community=”Bella Vista%” statuses=”1,2,3″ orderby=”DateAdded” orderdir=”DESC” count=”25″ showlargerphotos=”true”]

We SOLD 1704 W. St Johns Ave, Austin TX 78757!

Just Listed and SOLD with Multiple Offers!

Located in Austin’s coveted Crestview neighborhood, 1704 W St Johns Ave is a 1,142 sqft (TCAD) bungalow on .1863 acres. Inside, you’ll find hardwood flooring, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a dining room and a great kitchen! In addition to the primary residence, this property also features a detached garage and a storage building.

Virtual Video Tour

Photo Gallery

For more details about how we can sell your home in Crestview, contact us today!


We SOLD 12113 Montclair Bend, Austin TX 78732!

We just listed SOLD a beautiful two-story home for sale in Steiner Ranch at 12113 Montclair Bend! Built by Taylor Morrison (Medina floor plan), this home features 2,958 sqft (per TCAD), 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a formal dining/living, a home office and a game room!

Upgraded with high-end finishes, including hardwood flooring, wrought-iron staircase spindles, granite counters and more. The master bedroom walk-in closet contains custom shelving units which make it easy to get organized. The over-sized garage allows for an abundance of storage too!

12113 Montclair Bend - Steiner Ranch Home For Sale (26)

Prepare to be wowed when you take a step outside and into the amazing outdoor living area, complete with a wood-burning fireplace (stone wall above fireplace is pre-wired for a TV too!)

12113 Montclair Bend - Steiner Ranch Home For Sale (19)

Located in Steiner Ranch’s Bella Mar community, you’ll enjoy easy access to the Bella Mar Community Center (heated lap pool, kids splash pad, covered playgrounds, parks, tennis courts, basketball court and entertainment pavilion), close proximity to River Ridge Elementary School, hiking trails and much more!

Photo Gallery


Bella Mar Neighborhood Photos



12701 Tierra Grande Trl, Austin, TX 78732

We just listed a beautifully-upgraded single-story home in the Tierra Grande section of Steiner Ranch at 12701 Tierra Grande Trl! Located on a premium lot, this home features incredible canyon views from the front and the back!


Inside, you’ll be delighted to find a versatile floor plan complete with 3 spacious bedrooms, a study (that can serve as a media room, game room or home office) and a formal dining / living room too!

12701 Tierra Grande Trl - Home in Steiner Ranch (16)


Features and Upgrades

  • Designer kitchen with granite counters, dark wood cabinetry and stainless steel appliances
  • Crown moldings throughout, with tall ceilings, neutral paint colors and recessed lighting
  • Living room is open to the kitchen and features tile flooring, vaulted ceilings and a gas fireplace
  • Master bathroom features a garden tub and separate shower, dual vanities and upgraded hardware and faucets
  • Secondary bathroom features granite counters with double under-mounted sinks and high-end faucets
  • Large lot (approx 65′ wide and 115′ deep per tax records) with incredible canyon views that backs to a greenbelt! (2045 sqft home and .17 acre lot, per TCAD)
  • Roof replaced in 2016!
  • Also recently replaced: garage door, garage door opener, &dishwasher (low-decibel unit)
  • Carpets replaced 2017!
  • Quick access to Bella Mar’s amenities, hiking trails and River Ridge Elementary!
  • Kitchen refrigerator conveys with the sale; washer, dryer and playscape are negotiable!

Photo Gallery

MLS 5794555 – Listing Details

[idx-listing mlsnumber=”5794555″ showall=”true”]


Enjoy sunrises from the front porch and gorgeous Texas sunsets from the backyard! From the outside with the views to the inside with all the upgrades, this home is a wonderful addition to Steiner Ranch. Call us now to schedule a showing today!


What to Expect in 2017 for Austin, According to Three Economic Forecasts

Are you wondering how the Austin real estate market will be in 2017? Will prices continue to go up? Will interest rates go up? Will people stop moving to Austin? If you’ve either asked yourself or someone else this question, you are not alone.

Three Economic Forecasts, One Common Theme

This week was a busy week for economic forecasters all around the city.  Recently, members of our office attended the 2017 Home Builder’s Association, an annual forecast meeting held by Mark Sprague with Independence Title, and also a forecasting meeting with John McLellan with Supreme Lending.

Record Breaking 2016

The HBA meeting was a math lover’s dream.  It was loaded with statistics and information from a host of speakers. The purpose of this meeting is to educate home builders on what is to come, and to give them an idea of how many homes they should be building, what price ranges, and much more. In 2016, there were 29,500 homes that sold through the MLS in Central Texas representing over $10 Billion in sales. As you would expect, both of these numbers were record-breaking events.

Looking Toward Future Growth in 2017 and Beyond

There is currently a major shortage in commercial office space in Austin. For example, there is 1.2 Million sqft of office space at The Domain, and it is 99% occupied. While there are other large-scale commercial spaces coming to the market, it’s possible that this could lead to a situation in the future where employers looking to relocate their businesses to Austin may not be able to do so.

The unemployment rate in Austin is approximately 3.6%.  While this sounds amazing, it comes with one major drawback that can impact our economy and real estate markets.  Ultra-low unemployment can hinder future job growth to the Austin area.  The reason: employers that are considering a move to the region will have difficulty staffing positions from the available workforce (only 3.6% are looking for employment), since most people that are seeking work are currently employed at other companies.  This means that they will have to poach workers from other companies…which means they will have to pay them more money in order for them to migrate.  This is a factor that could affect employer’s desire to move to Austin and to expand their operations, which could slow job growth in Austin going-forward.

According to Eldon Rude, Principal at 360 Real Estate Analytics, the strongest and most dynamic price points of the Austin real estate market is the $175k-$300k range.  With rents continuing to rise (average rental price per sqft is approx $1.4), there will be growing interest in purchasing homes versus renting.

Rude continues to say that in the last 1-2 years, the SH130 corridor has been a big point of conversation with a lot of opportunities being purchased and entitled now. We are building towards that area, and the planned HEB at 130 and 973 could be a huge deal.  There are development concerns for this area due to the fact that many of the areas nearby are in the Austin ETJ, which come with city-imposed regulations on future development.

All three of these forecasts expressed serious concerns about Austin’s elected officials and their decision making regarding job growth and future development regulations.  Their unified opinions are that the city isn’t offering nearly enough incentives to continue to attract big businesses to Austin.  If this decision making philosophy doesn’t change, it will have severe implications on our regional growth in the next 18-24 months.

Is Austin Real Estate Overvalued?

One of the other common questions that I often hear is: “Is Austin an Overvalued Real Estate Market?”  The answer to this came from Mark Sprague’s forecast (the PDF of PowerPoint slides is downloadable at the bottom of this blog post).  He says that currently, Austin household median income is $63,603 and the Austin median home price is $263,900.  He said the ratio between these two values has Austin more affordable than cities like Miami, Portland, Denver, Washington DC, Seattle, Boston, NYC, LA, San Diego and San Francisco.

From Mark Sprague’s class, I took the following notes. Bear in mind that these are economic forecasts (i.e. opinions) and do not reflect any guarantees:

  • Homes under 350k in Austin Texas are expected to substantially appreciate
  • Dallas will likely file bankruptcy due to underfunded pensions, and several other cities in Texas might be close behind.
  • Downtown Austin commercial rental rates are 8th highest in the nation
  • College educated unemployment level is 4%, high school educated unemployment is 25%
  • Consumer confidence in Texas is an astounding 138%

The Conclusion

According to these analysts, we should anticipate a 5-10% increase in production in 2017. Most of this growth in the market will be at $300k price range and below.  Long story short, everyone is expecting 2017 to be another great year for home buyers and home sellers in Austin, Texas. Let’s have a great 2017!

Download Resources

Download the HBA Meeting Notes Here: [button color=”blue” size=”small” link=”” icon=”” target=”false”]Download PDF[/button]

Download the Mark Sprague PowerPoint Slides Here: [button color=”blue” size=”small” link=”” icon=”” target=”false”]Download PDF[/button]