Up, up, and away
If you’re looking for a prime example of Austin's skyrocketing home prices, look no further than the 78721 ZIP code in Far East Austin.
A CultureMap analysis of data supplied by the Austin Board of Realtors shows the median price of a new or existing single-family home in 78721 climbed nearly 256 percent from 2011 to 2019. During the eight-year period, that was the biggest price spike among the 34 Austin ZIP codes included in our analysis; several ZIP codes were excluded due to insufficient data. In all, nine ZIP codes in Austin saw median home prices at least double during that span.
In June 2011, the median price of a single-family home in 78721 stood at a modest $101,250, the analysis shows. But just eight years later, in June 2019, the median home price in the same ZIP code had ballooned to $360,000. By comparison, the median home price within Austin’s city limits was $420,000 in June 2019, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. For the entire five-county metro area, it was $315,000, which is $45,000 below the median price in 78721.
Perry Henderson, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Texas Realty in Austin, attributes the rise in home prices in 78721 to one thing: gentrification east of I-35. He says the ZIP code’s proximity to downtown and East Austin employers like Google and Oracle have made it increasingly attractive to homebuyers.
Austin Council Member Natasha Harper Madison, whose District 1 includes 78721, says the 256 percent hike in the median home price in that pocket illustrates the alarming surge in the city’s housing costs.
“78721 is an area that was long neglected by City Hall,” Madison tells CultureMap. “Now, we have to do the opposite and do right by those residents to make sure their neighborhoods are not dramatically disrupted by rising housing costs.”
East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard forms the northern border of the mostly triangle-shaped 78721, while U.S. Highway 183 runs along much of the eastern edge of the ZIP code and Airport Boulevard forms the western border. More than 12,000 people — a melting pot of mostly white, black, and Hispanic residents — live in 78721. The median age is nearly 35.
Growing demand has driven up home prices in East Austin for a number of years, Madison says, but the demand has been creeping farther and farther to the east as builders and buyers seek to take advantage of lower property prices. Demonstrating this point, just 38 new and existing homes were sold in 78721 in June 2011, Board of Realtors data shows. The figure for June 2019 was 113 homes, a jump of 197 percent in eight years.
A recent check of listings on Realtor.com found 66 single-family homes for sale in 78721, with the cheapest house listed at $150,000. On the high end, several homes were going for more than $600,000. For example:
- A newly constructed five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom house encompassing 2,365 square feet was listed at $697,000. That works out to $295 per square foot.
- A three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom house clocking in at 916 square feet was listed at $635,000. That adds up to $693 per square foot for an 81-year-old house that’s being marketed as a “highly acclaimed and profitable” part-time Airbnb rental.
Across Madison’s district, housing affordability tops the concerns of her constituents, she says. In 78721, the median household income is $41,611, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the city as a whole, it’s $63,717.
“People are concerned about the large and rapid changes in their community, changes that are linked to rising rents and land values,” Madison says. “East Austin doesn’t look the same as it did 50 or 20 or even five years ago, and while growth and change aren’t inherently bad in and of themselves, they do cause serious anxiety when they’re inequitably concentrated in certain areas.”
Here are the nine Austin ZIP codes in our analysis that experienced double-digit increases in median home sale prices from June 2011 to June 2019:
- 78721 — 255.6 percent ($101,250 to $360,000)
- 78724 — 199.1 percent ($77,500 to $231,825)
- 78723 — 157.5 percent ($153,250 to $394,600)
- 78702 — 155.1 percent ($187,000 to $477,000)
- 78744 — 150 percent ($100,000 to $250,000)
- 78741 — 131.5 percent ($141,500 to 327,500)
- 78704 — 115.8 percent ($322,950 to $696,850)
- 78725 — 105.9 percent ($102,000 to $210,000)
- 78745 — 104.8 percent ($166,000 to $340,000)
Madison’s city council district includes four of those ZIP codes. Only two of the nine ZIP codes (78704 and 78745) are west of I-35; the rest are east of I-35.