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!


Market Update for Austin’s Brentwood Neighborhood

Looking for an idyllic, Austin-vibe, neighborhood that is conveniently located?  You may want to check out Brentwood…it has a lot to offer with its eclectic mix of charm and character.


Brentwood Neighborhood in Central Austin (2)

Brentwood is located in Central Austin between Burnet road on the west and Lamar Boulevard on the east; the north border is Justin Lane and the south border is 45th street.  In 1946, the City of Austin annexed most of the neighborhood and purchased the land that goes up the Brentwood Elementary; in 1951, Brentwood Park was established using the annexed and purchased property.  Running through this annexed area is a tree lined street and a creek.  The community holds annual events in the park.

Brentwood Neighborhood in Central Austin (6)

Brentwood has quickly become a trendy and popular area, home to bungalow style homes and tree lined streets.  Many of the homes you will find in Brentwood are low one stories, with low to medium pitched roofs, and a rectangular design that was popular in the era of construction.  Originally mainly two bedrooms and purchased by GI’s coming home from the war, the homes have morphed as people have moved in and renovated, giving them the charm and character of mid-century America with a touch of modern.    You’ll find a combination of original residents as well as young professionals in this neighborhood; a strong community feel which makes Brentwood a sought after division in Austin.

Brentwood Neighborhood in Central Austin (7)

Current market statistics for Brentwood as of February 7, 2014 are:

  • 7 homes Active on the market
  • 11 homes Pending / Pending taking backups
  • 25 Sold listings in the past 90 days
  • Sold listings average $252.77/sq. ft. and 31 days on the market
  • Average home price is in the upper $300’s to low $400’s.

Brentwood Neighborhood in Central Austin (5)

Brentwood MLS Listings

  1. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 864 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,274 sqft
    Year built: 1952
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,179 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,708 sqft
    Year built: 2013
  3. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 988 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,882 sqft
    Year built: 1963
  4. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,963 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,003 sqft
    Year built: 2013
  5. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 995 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,321 sqft
    Year built: 1957
  6. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,931 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,920 sqft
    Year built: 2008
  7. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,466 sq ft
    Year built: 1949
  8. 3 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,145 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,668 sqft
    Year built: 1959
  9. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 920 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,918 sqft
    Year built: 1983
  10. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,143 sqft
    Year built: 1950
  11. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,661 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,100 sqft
    Year built: 1956
  12. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,276 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,929 sqft
    Year built: 1953
  13. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,008 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,884 sqft
    Year built: 1952
  14. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,290 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,505 sqft
    Year built: 1950
  15. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,250 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,280 sqft
    Year built: 2018
  16. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,012 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,193 sqft
    Year built: 1957
  17. 2 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 847 sq ft
    Year built: 2017
  18. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,795 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,973 sqft
    Year built: 2017
  19. 2 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,338 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,446 sqft
    Year built: 1952
  20. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 1,410 sq ft
    Lot size: 22,128 sqft
    Year built: 1952
  21. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,728 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,973 sqft
    Year built: 1957
  22. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,373 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,143 sqft
    Year built: 1961
  23. 2 beds, 1 bath
    Home size: 912 sq ft
    Year built: 1951
  24. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,866 sq ft
    Year built: 2017
  25. 1 bed, 1 bath
    Home size: 642 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,047 sqft
    Year built: 1983

See all Brentwood MLS Listings.
(all data current as of 12/11/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Call me today to find out more about this exciting neighborhood, or for any other neighborhood in Austin Texas that you are interested in!


Pease Place Condominiums Nearing Completion!

I am delighted to see the Pease Place condominium project coming close to completion. I know I’m not the only one who has watched with anticipation to see this very worthy project come to fruition. Worthy you might ask? Yes, worthy. Not only is the developer contributing much needed housing to the area, they are beautiful designed and are “green” taboot!

The condominiums are not yet complete, but curiosity got the best of me, so I called and scheduled a hard hat tour yesterday. Though the interiors are not yet finished, it was clear that they are well designed and have a great utilization of space. I was consistently surprised to hear the answer to my never ending question of “what is the square footage of this one?” They seemed more spacious than what the floor-plans denote. Pease Place will have only 25 residential units, but they have a nice variety of floor-plans to choose from, including 4 studios, 19 one-bedrooms and 2 two-bedrooms, some of which have Downtown views!

As I mentioned before, Pease Place utilizes “green” building design and innovative materials to offer the best in renewable living. Each unit will be connected to its own Solar panel, which is custom designed and individually metered. They also feature tankless water heaters, low e windows and open cell spray foam insulation, LED lighting throughout, Energy Star rated stainless steel appliances, Mohawk carpet that is made with fibers from recycled plastic bottles, specially processed bamboo hard wood and recycled quartz counters in kitchen and bathroom.

Pease Place is a gated community with secured, garage parking, located in the Old West neighborhood. You can head out your door and walk to some of the best shops, galleries and eateries in Central Austin. If you’re looking for a low maintenance, hip urban lifestyles but want to be nestled in a charming older neighborhood in Central Austin, this is a great option. Prices range from $174 to $421. They are currently in the pre-selling stage, and are only taking reservations. The reservation fee is only $1,000, which is very low. As of yesterday, they already had 20% of the units reserved, so I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity while you still can. Call us today to schedule a tour and get current information on availability and pricing!


We SOLD 910 Duncan Ln #20, Austin TX 78705

Check out our new listing (This condo has been SOLD!) at 910 Duncan Ln, #20, Austin TX 78705.  Located at The Pointe Condominiums, this home is perfect for undergraduate or graduate students, or for anyone who wants to live in Central Austin in a 2-bedroom 2-bathroom condo for under $200,000!

This condo is in a fabulous location — just head north on Red River from downtown Austin, go slightly north of 32nd Street, and you’re home!

Google Map View of 910 Duncan Ln #20

Property Details for 910 Duncan Ln #20

Sqft: 1002 (per TCAD)
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 2

Pictures of 910 Duncan Ln #20


Forest Trail Homes are Selling Fast in Austin’s Tarrytown Neighborhood

For anyone looking for new construction near the downtown Austin area, there is a great development right off West Enfield that is worth checking out: Forest Trail. It is a small community nestled in the heart of Tarrytown, which I think is one of the most gorgeous areas in all of Austin.

I moved to Tarrrytown not long ago and absolutely love the area. What’s NOT to love? You’re surrounded by absolutely gorgeous homes, beautifully landscaped yards, rolling hills with streets lined with huge, shade trees…and the location rocks! I can hop on my bike and be on the Ladybird hike and bike trail in about 5 minutes! I’ve been completely enjoying living close to all that downtown has to offer yet being able to live in a cozy neighborhood where I can take a nice quiet walk with my dogs.

Last week, while on one of the above mentioned walks, I noticed they had begun construction on Forest Trail homes, so I decided to check with them to see when the homes will be available. The good news is there will be 11 detached, single family homes with private, fenced yards. The community will consist of 3 and 4 bedroom homes, which are energy efficient with 4-5 star rating under the Austin Energy Green Building Program. The homes, modern in design, are stucco with stone and cedar accents. The bad news is, they don’t have many left!

If your looking for new construction, close to downtown for under $500,000, this is an excellent option. If you would like more information about this exclusive and popular new community, contact us today before it’s too late.


Recent Sales Data for Central Austin Real Estate

Central Austin Real Estate – November 2009 Sales Report

The following sales data for Central Austin real estate includes properties that sold between November 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009. Data was taken from Austin MLS Areas 1B and 4. The data below is just for single family homes in Central Austin.  Keep in mind that these numbers are the highs, lows, averages, and median numbers for this area.  For specific comps in Central Austin, Contact Team Ensor and one of our team members will contact you.

Property Type: ResidentialStatus: SoldNumber of Properties: 40
 BedsBathsSqFtListing PriceLP/SqFtSelling PriceSP/SqFtSP/LPSP/OLPDOM