Photo courtesy of Harpeth Realty

Austinites are getting a lot of mixed signals from the housing market, and those can be especially difficult to sift through as a first-time homebuyer. Between all the trends, jargon, and potentially dramatic shifts in data from month to month, it can feel overwhelming just to decide to start the process, let alone go through the motions.

Barrett Raven, owner and realtor at Harpeth Realty, echoes many peers when he says it’s both a good time, and not a good time, to buy a house. His one stipulation: only do it if you plan to stay at least three years, given capital gains tax and appreciation. Beyond that, “I'm sure most people would expect every realtor to say [this], but I always think it's a great time to buy a home long-term.”

The most recent monthly Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) report found that with more Austin homes in supply, buyers were more in control of prices, resulting in a more stable market. The thorn in a homebuyer’s side right now is high interest rates, but Raven offers a solution: “Marry the house, date the rate.”

Raven’s plan breaks down into three available paths. The first — his favorite — is a simple refinancing. Buy at a high interest rate and wait for rates to drop, hoping it’ll happen in an affordable time frame.

The second option is to permanently buy down the rate through a seller credit. In negotiations, buyers may ask for a credit from the seller, (say, offering $600,000 to get $20,000 back) effectively making the down payment larger without actively spending more. Then, that credit goes to the lender to lower the permanent rate. Raven would avoid this option, since that money may be wasted if the buyer does decide to refinance relatively quickly.

Third, an obscure option that falls somewhere in the middle, is what Raven calls a “3-2-1 buydown.” (There are other versions with different tiers, as well.) In this case, a 3 percent discount is applied the first year, the rate goes up slightly to a 2 percent discount the second year, and then 1 percent the third year. This also necessitates a credit from the seller, but the credit is not wasted if the buyer decides to refinance — the unused portion of the credit transfers to the principal of the loan.

“There are so many advantages right now about buying a home, and I don't want to seem out of touch or anything,” says Raven. “I get [that] the prices in Austin are still very high … and inflation is high, and things just cost more. But this … is what we have to work with. When I look at all the benefits right now, which are vast … the only real downside is high interest rates. We can take care of that for you.”

Raven lists five areas by ZIP Code that offer the most promise for first-time homebuyers ready to take the plunge:

78753 — Eubank Acres and North Oaks/Windsor Hills
This long corridor along I-35 is changing all the time, especially with new residential developments. West of the highway, Eubank Acres has great access to Walnut Creek Park, and has well-cared for houses, often still with their original owners. “I hesitated to even put it on this list because I didn't want more people to know about it,” Raven says. North Oaks and Windsor Hills, on the east side of the highway, are also both well-established and reasonably priced, but with generally younger families.

78704 — The Galindo area
This huge ZIP Code encompasses almost the entirety of South Austin as most Austinites will experience it. The Galindo area is at the southern edge, just north of West Ben White Boulevard. The area is walkable and close to lots of South Austin favorites, including a few outdoorsy breweries. This area, Raven says, is similar to the Zilker Area but more affordable — closer to the $600-900,000 range.

78744 — The Franklin Park area
Bounded by the Williamson Creek Greenbelt and McKinney Falls State Park, this neighborhood is almost country living, but still close to downtown. “This is a controversial area here,” says Raven. “People have been saying that this neighborhood is going to explode in value for the last, like, 30 years.” The draw is fantastic prices for houses in decently good shape, but buyers should do their research, since he calls the blocks “hit or miss.” There will be lots of flipped houses around.

78744 (again) — Easton Park
In the Southeast corner of Austin, on the other side of McKinney Falls, there’s a small neighborhood only a few years old that looks like it was plucked from Pflugerville. “It's kind of like this little oasis of new construction … in the middle of nowhere,” Raven says. This area entails a slightly higher budget, but buyers are less likely to spend time and money renovating, making this less intimidating for many. There is a lot of diversity of home types to choose from, and a little budget goes a long way on square footage.

78728 — Wells Branch
Raven “begrudgingly” chose this obvious contender, because although it’s the starting point of many first-home conversations, it can’t be overlooked. The far-North Austin locale takes on a suburban feel, but isn’t far from The Domain or Central Austin in general. This is a good place to find houses built in the '80s and '90s for a friendly option for first-time homebuyers who don’t want to tackle huge renovations, and at an affordable price. “I would call it the final frontier of being in true Austin,” he says.

Community First

Renowned neighborhood for unhoused Austinites to expand by 1400 homes


A 24-year-old Austin nonprofit serving the city’s unhoused community has announced an expansion of a master-planned neighborhood designed for individuals coming out of chronic homelessness.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) was founded in Austin in 1998 and started the largest prepared feeding program for the homeless in Central Texas. They developed Community First! Village in northeast Travis County in 2015 to provide permanent housing and a supportive environment to the city’s homeless community.

Currently, the Village houses over 350 formerly homeless men and women on 51 acres of land. The first phase of the neighborhood features 100 RV/park homes and 130 micro-homes, while phase two brought the total property to over 500 homes. The expansion plan for the next two phases was first announced in April 2021.

Home designs for phases three and four of the Village are a collaboration between MLF and several Austin architecture firms, including Mark Odom Studio, which has worked alongside MLF to refine the site layout.

The 700 micro-homes for each new phase will range between 144 to 200 square feet with six custom floor plans. Five layouts will be single-floor, and one layout will have two floors. Each micro-home prototype will have a porch and is expected to “reflect and accommodate the different personality types of its inhabitants,” according to a press release.

“Mobile Loaves & Fishes has created something truly special at the Community First! Village. Everyone we worked with, from directors to neighbors, brought so much knowledge and experience to the table,” says Paul Holmes, project manager at Mark Odom Studio in the release. “We’re excited to see the community they built come to completion with phases three and four.”

MLF’s site design concept for the Village is known as the 14 “Neighborhoods of Knowingness,” where each “neighborhood” is a cluster of homes centered around shared common buildings, including outdoor kitchens, laundry areas, restrooms, and shower facilities. This was designed specifically for neighbors to get to know one another and develop a sense of community.

Infrastructure work on the 127-acre neighborhood expansion is expected to begin in early 2023, with move-ins projected for 2025. Once the neighborhood is fully developed, Community First! Village will have 1900 homes on 178 acres.

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

How long Austin buyers need to save for a home, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. This is how long Austin home buyers need to work to save for a down payment. A new study says Austin buyers will need to work for 3.64 or 6.07 years to afford a down payment on a median home value of $482,900.

2. 10 restaurants represent their cities at the 2023 inauguration, including two from Austin. The County Line and Industry — an old restaurant and a very new one — represented Austin among eight other areas across Texas.

3. Disney On Ice transforms two favorite films into one magical performance in Austin. Frozen and Encanto are coming to the ice at Cedar Park's H-E-B Center this spring.

4. Texas ranks among best states to start a business. Texas ranked as the third best state to start a business in personal finance website WalletHub's recent list of the best and worst places to start a business.

5. Local drive-in theater loses "80 percent" of its equipment after downtown Austin theft. The theater expects to stay open in a limited capacity and is accepting donations as it works to replace the stolen equipment.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

10 restaurant and bar openings — including a pop-up — top Austin's tastiest food news

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

ICYMI: Buckle in for tons of openings this week. During our busy week we covered the opening date for Radio/East, which is the highly anticipated expansion of Radio Coffee & Beer; the arrival of Tarbox & Brown, a San Marcos restaurant with lots of cultural influences, led by a chef with South African and Chinese roots; and the debut of Bacalar, a Mexican restaurant that marks the return of a former Top Chef winner to the Austin food scene. We also heard about a secretive new speakeasy, Trona, from an entrepreneur with a very cool track record. But there's more we haven't told you about yet.

First-year Texas Longhorn player Deandre Moore just got a check for his "name, image, and likeness," and used that money to open the Jive Turkeyfood truck (1637 E. Riverside Dr.). And even cooler — he hired his mom. Taleea Moore is cooking up lots of turkey dishes, inspired by the family's athletic at-home eating that has long subbed out poultry for beef. There are only three regular menu items so far: a turkey burger (of course), a Thanksgiving-inspired cornbread comfort bowl, and a deep-fried turkey taco. The rest are seasonal treats.

Austin could always use more cool cocktail spots — they book up fast on the weekend — so people are excited to welcome Daydreamer, a "cocktail and champagne bar." (That's not to be confused with Daydreamer Coffee, which opened last year.) There's lots to dream about, but most appealing is that this venture comes from the minds of a whole bunch of industry vets from very cool spots all around Austin. Follow your dreams to 1708 E. 6th St.

Longtime Austin establishmentJuliet Italian Kitchen, also known for dreamy vibes thanks to pretty interior design and a great location in the Zilker area, is expanding into Georgetown. The stylish vibes will continue at 701 S. Main St., in Georgetown's Old Masonic Lodge Building, which was built in 1900. This will be the restaurant's third location, and will include an upstairs bar and dining area, plus a patio, seating 188 guests in total.

The team behind Drinks Lounge just launched Drinks Backyard, bringing even more casual vibes to South Austin — where they'll really be appreciated. Located at a former liquor store (6328 S. Hwy. 183), this bar takes advantage of the two acres around it with a stage, covered lounge seating, and a 14-foot TV for sports and movies. The bar and patio are open now, but the backyard is still getting ready. Eventually, it will welcome guests under 21 and pets. Smokin' Brew-B-Q is the first food truck onsite, with more coming soon.

We focused on other things last week, but two casual chains shared news we don't want to gloss over. Graze Craze, a charcuterie shop, has opened its first location in the Austin area, in Lakeway (2127 Lohman’s Crossing Rd., Ste. 304). The company takes its meat-cheese-and-other-snacks curating very seriously, and these gargantuan charcuteries are sure to impress large parties.

Similarly, Seattle-based Eastern European pie-maker Piroshky Piroshky is making its Texas debut — but in this case, they're not sticking around. Catch the pop-up in Austin on October 6 to see why this bakery is popular enough to pull off a national tour. The team is posting locations as they go on Instagram.

Radio Coffee brings the brews to new East Austin shop and music venue in October

going live in the fall

When it comes to expanding the influence of coffee connoisseurs in Austin, there's room for everyone on the East Side.

One East Austin coffee shop just changed hands for a fancy rebrand, and another recently expanded out of the area into Buda. Cosmic Coffee, a South Austin staple, blew everyone out of the water with a gorgeous, sprawling industrial complex on East 4th Street, and now another neighboring coffee and beer combo is following suit.

Radio/East, a second location spun off from the original music-loving Radio Coffee & Beer, will open its doors at 3504 Montopolis Dr. in East Austin on Wednesday, October 18.

The new family- and dog-friendly space sprawls across two acres, which is divvied up among a 1,200-square-foot indoor coffee shop, indoor and outdoor live music stages, and a food truck park. Guests will be able to order their favorite drinks from the indoor counter, or they can choose to order from either of the two outdoor windows that open to the grand shaded backyard. And we can't forget one of the more rare features: plenty of parking for customers.

Radio's founding father-son duo Jack and Greg Wilson brought on two new partners — Trey Hudson and Nine Mile Records owner Rick Pierik — in the hopes of developing and maintaining this new spot as a community-focused space, much like the beloved original.

“With the new space, we’ve been able to create a through line to the existing concept of Radio,” said Hudson in a release. “With Radio/East we tried to listen to what the Montopolis community needed and we hope that we can be as central to this neighborhood as we have been to the area around Menchaca.”

Pierik will be the driving force behind Radio/East's musical events. Local musicians and touring bands will all get their chance to take the stage with four nights of performances planned indoors and outdoors beginning on Thursdays.

With Austin's wide-ranging music taste, Pierik will seek to reflect the city's musical diversity with every show.

"Jack Wilson and I are looking to bring together diverse programing from every corner of the music industry, booking up-and-coming national and international acts alongside all of the amazing Austin talent we've known and admired for years," said Pierik. "We're especially committed to helping local artists develop their fanbases through quality concert experiences and eclectic bills."

A list of events following Radio/East's grand opening is as follows:

  • October 19 – Sunrosa with Guma and Feeling Small
  • October 20 – Redbud with Mockjaw, Tearjerk, and Creekbed Carter Hogan
  • October 21 – Peachfuzz 10th Anniversary Party featuring The Texas Gentleman, Brown Burlesque, Lady Dan, and a to-be-announced special guest
  • October 28 – First Annual Radio/East Chili Cook Off and the Austin Flea, featuring Mother Neff, The Push & Shove, and Sour Bridges
  • October 31 – A Rocky Horror Halloween featuring A Giant Dog with Trouble in the Streets
  • November 11 – A Free Lunch Benefit featuring Caroline Rose and BRUCE
  • November 17 – Money Chicha with The Tiarras

Tickets for the upcoming shows can be purchased online beginning Friday, September 29.

In addition to keeping Radio/East music-focused, visitors can expect to see some classic beverages on the menu, with a few new twists to keep customers coming back. The new location will have two tap towers with eight craft beer taps, four rotating specialty draft cocktails, and plenty of wine to go around.

Radio/EastGet a local favorite beer on draft, or try a new specialty draft cocktail.Photo by Renee Dominguez

Bar Manager Jacob Biggie has been hard at work to develop new creative cocktails for the new location, including Phantom Mood (Still Austin Gin, hibiscus, lime, and cucumber with soda) and Sensitive Artist (Senza Maeso hybrid spirit, Aperol, St. Germain, lime juice). Guests can also try the new seasonal non-alcoholic highball, dubbed the Chai-ball.

The lineup of food vendors at the new East Austin digs include Veracruz All Natural with its binge-worthy tacos; organic pizza slices from Side Eye Slice (a sister concept to Side Eye Pie); and Radio's own food truck – Shortwave Diner – offering classic American diner fare and comfort food such as smash burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken and waffles, and more.

Following the grand opening at 7 am on October 18, Radio/East's operating hours will be 7 am to 1 am Monday through Saturday, and 7 am to 10 pm on Sundays.

Austin is No. 12 in the U.S. with the highest number of 'unretirees'

Office News

Many Austin seniors are still punching the clock well past retirement age. According to "Cities with the Most Working Seniors," a new employment study by business website ChamberofCommerce.org, more than a quarter of Austin seniors aged 65 and up are still employed, making it the No. 12 city in the U.S. with the most working seniors.

More than 25,400 Austin seniors aged 65 and up are employed out of a total 93,861, or 27.1 percent of the city's senior population.

The No. 1 city in the U.S. with hard-working oldsters is Alexandria, Virginia, located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, where 36.8 percent of its seniors still employed. Coming in second was Tallahassee, Florida, with 30.9 percent. In third place was Dallas, with 30.3 percent of the senior population clocking in for work around the city.

To determine their ranking, the site examined the percentage of seniors aged 65 and over who were actively employed within the last 12 months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Their analysis included data from 170 of the nation’s most populous cities.

The report says the median household income of a senior citizen in Austin is $58,546, and hints at the rising cost of living coupled with personal extenuating circumstances leading to a new trend of "unretiring" seniors within the local workforce.

"Deciding when to retire is one of the most important financial and personal decisions that workers can make," the report's author said. "Before making the leap, make sure you have factored in your savings, social security benefits, spending habits, economic volatility, and how your social life will change after retirement."

Also in Central Texas, San Antonio ranked No. 82 overall with 22.1 percent of the senior population currently in the workforce. Although that seems like a smaller number of people, it's actually much larger than Austin, with 41,918 seniors toiling away out of a total 189,544.

San Antonio's relatively high percentage of working seniors might come as a surprise, considering the city was named one of the best cities for retirees earlier in 2023.

The top 10 U.S. cities with the most working seniors are:

  • No. 1 – Alexandria, Virginia
  • No. 2 – Tallahassee, Florida
  • No. 3 – Dallas, Texas
  • No. 4 – Irvine, California
  • No. 5 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 6 – Plano, Texas
  • No. 7 – Anchorage, Alaska
  • No. 8 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • No. 9 – Overland Park, Kansas
  • No. 10 – Madison, Wisconsin

ChamberofCommerce.org is a digital site for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The full report and its methodology can be found on chamberofcommerce.org.