Photo courtesy of Trulia

A notable drop in closed home sales in September has produced the highest number of homes on the market in more than eight years, according to the latest report from the Austin Board of Realtors. But falling median home closing prices coupled with rising mortgage rates means affordability is still the most prominent concern for buyers.

Median home prices in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area (MSA) dropped less than 5 percent year-over-year from September 2022, to $452,080. Closed sales dropped to 2,287 last month; an 18.2 percent drop from 2022. Homes are spending an average of 65 days on the market, which is 24 more days than this time last year.

2023 ABoR president Ashley Jackson stressed the importance for potential homeowners to strategize a "game plan" with their realtors, but also reiterated that the current housing market has vastly changed from what it was a few years ago.

"The benefit of this for buyers is they can take advantage of this extra time to get pre-qualified, while sellers can improve their home’s curb appeal," Jackson said. "These intentional preparations will result in better experiences and outcomes on both sides of the transaction."

Even with the greater number of homes available on on the market, ABoR housing economist Clare Losey, Ph.D. says a similar vast number of them are simply "not attainable" for the average Austinite.

"While our current market shows signs of health with more housing supply becoming available, they are not necessarily attractive options for first-time homebuyers or those shopping for more affordable homes," she said.

Travis County
A total 1,085 homes were sold in September 2023 in Travis County, with median prices dropping 4.2 percent year-over-year to $525,000. There were 4,875 active listings on the market; about 9.4 percent more than August 2022.

Williamson County
Fewer than 800 homes were sold in September, with median prices decreasing slightly to $426,752. There were 1,070 new home listings in Williamson County, with a total 2,873 active home listings.

Hays County
341 homes were sold last month in Hays County, with median prices sitting at an even $400,000. Pending sales were up by 24.5 percent year-over-year to 356, while active listings also rose nearly 38 percent to 1,685 homes.

Bastrop County
Home sales dropped nearly 12 percent this past month in Bastrop County, and median prices have remained at $340,000 for the second consecutive month. There are 23.5 percent more active listings on the market, coming out to 610 homes.

Caldwell County
Homes in Caldwell County sold for a median price of $289,330 in July, which is a 13.9 percent drop year-over-year. 37 homes were sold last month, nearly 10 percent less than the year before, and there are more than 190 active homes on the market. Continuing the dramatic rise in new home listings, Caldwell County had 81 new homes on the market in September, or 68.8 percent more than this time last year.


Online home searching platform Compass buys top Austin-based brokerage

real estate news

National residential real estate agency Compass has acquired Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio, in a move that will expand its position as the leading national firm and its growth in Texas by more than 600 agents.

Although the sale price was not disclosed in Compass' announcement, the local brokerages completed $5.24 billion sales just in 2022 alone.

Compass added that the Austin and San Antonio leadership will have direct oversight of daily operations as part of the terms of the acquisition. Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio co-founder Yvette Flores maintains that she and her leadership team will strive for a "seamless transition" into the national firm that respects the home-grown culture they have created.

Realty Austin was founded in 2004 by Flores and Jonathan Boatwright, and has grown through the years to become one of the most innovative brokerages in Central Texas and beyond. The company expanded its operations to San Antonio in 2021.

Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio CEO Gabe Richter said in the release that Compass' leading-edge technology will help his agents foster greater successes, particularly in one booming Austin category: luxury real estate.

"Our agents have consistently set records with remarkable achievements," Richter said in the release. "Now, by aligning with Compass, they gain access to a transformative technology platform that enhances efficiency and elevated resources that empower them to secure even more luxury listings."

Compass was founded in 2012 as the largest real estate brokerage in the U.S., and preserves its stronghold as the No. 1 brokerage in Texas thanks to its milestone acquisition. The national brokerage has already surpassed $10 billion in sales in Texas in 2023, according to the release.

“With this acquisition, we've positioned ourselves as Austin's leading brokerage — our commitment to setting new standards and inspiring innovation for all our exceptional agents remains the top priority while honoring what Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio has built," said Compass Texas President Rachel Hocevar.

Photo courtesy of Keller Williams

More closed home sales in Austin show growing homebuyer confidence

real estate report

The Austin Board of Realtors has revealed a more optimistic outlook on Austin's housing market, with the latest data showing the first increase in closed home sales year-over-year since February 2022. More closed sales and a gradual increase of housing inventory convey growing buyer confidence throughout the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area (MSA).

2023 ABoR president Ashley Jackson said in the report that with the increased inventory, buyers can afford to be pickier about the homes they want to purchase. It's especially prevalent for first-time homebuyers to own a house that "checks all the boxes."

"When compared to the past two years of highly competitive market activity, this is both a welcome reprieve and perfect opportunity for buyers looking to enter the market," Jackson said. "Now is the time to take advantage of the increase in leverage that buyers now have."

The slight boost of housing inventory in the MSA is good news, but supply is still limited overall, according to ABoR housing economist Clare Losey, Ph.D.

"ABoR’s Central Texas Housing Development Fees Analysis, released in July 2022, shows that Austin’s drastically high development fees pose a significant barrier to new home construction and thereby diminish growth of our housing supply, especially when compared to other development fees in other Central Texas cities and major metropolitan Texas areas," Losey said. "Higher mortgage rates have led potential sellers to wait longer before entering the market, further constraining the supply of homes for sale."

Losey says it will get harder to predict the state of the housing market through the rest of 2023, as interest rates are likely to increase again before the end of the year.

Median home prices dropped slightly to $460,000 in the Austin-Round Rock MSA, which is a 7.6 percent decrease year-over-year from August 2022. Closed sales rose to 2,939 in August; a 1.4 percent increase. Homes are spending an average of 60 days on the market, which is 28 more days than this time last year.

Travis County
Over 1,350 homes were sold in August of 2023 in Travis County, with median prices dropping almost 5 percent year-over-year to $534,000. There were 4,772 active listings on the market; about 18 percent more than August 2022.

Williamson County
More than 970 homes were sold in August, with median prices sitting at $435,516. There were 1,241 new home listings in Williamson County, with a total 2,867 active home listings.

Hays County
A total of 417 homes were sold in August in Hays County, with median prices continuing to fall to $394,990. Pending sales were up by 8.2 percent year-over-year, while active listings had also risen 33.9 percent to 1,550 homes.

Bastrop County
Bastrop remains the county with the highest inventory in the MSA at 4.8 months' worth, which is 1.2 months more than August of 2022. 154 homes were sold this past August, and median prices are just under $340,000 (a 15 percent decrease). There are 28 percent more active listings on the market in Bastrop County, coming out to 586 homes.

Caldwell County
Homes in Caldwell County sold for a median of $299,990 in July, which is a 6.9 percent drop year-over-year. 42 homes were sold last month, nearly 18 percent less than the year before, and there are 180 active homes on the market. In a massive uptick in new home listings, Caldwell County had 92 new homes on the market in August, or 61.4 percent more than this time last year.

Photo by J King on Unsplash

Texas is the 3rd hottest state for international homebuyers, new report shows

international homebuying report

The trend of international buyers purchasing homes in Texas shows no signs of slowing down, as revealed in the latest Texas International Homebuyers Report.

Released September 6 by Texas Realtors, the report shows that the Lone Star State remains the No. 3 hottest U.S. destination for international homebuyers. Texas ranks behind Florida and California for the fourth consecutive year.

From April 2022 to March 2023, 9,900 Texas homes were purchased by "foreign buyers," which the report defines as people who don't live in the U.S., don't live here full time, live here temporarily on non-immigrant visas, or have been in the country for less than two years.

61 percent of buyers fell in the latter two categories: some examples from its definition include "diplomats, foreign students, foreign workers," along with recent immigrants. These homes make up 11.7 percent of the total number of Texas Realtors sales transactions. For comparison, Florida (No. 1) accounted for 23 percent of purchases, with California (No. 2) at 12.2 percent.

In other words, although there are proportionally more foreign buyers in Texas than almost any other state, they only make up about a tenth of total home sales, and more than half of the buyers already lived in the U.S. or were legally committed to living here full-time.

Only 18 percent of homes bought by foreign buyers were intended as rental properties, and 10 percent were vacation homes. More than half (51 percent) bought a primary residence in Texas.

"Texas has long been one of the most popular states for international buyers," said 2023 Chairman of the Texas Realtors Marcus Phipps in a release. "Our strong economy, diverse population and high quality of life make the Lone Star State an attractive destination."

International buyers spent $4.3 billion on these Texas homes during the time period, the report says. Nearly half (49 percent) of buyers avoided the need for a mortgage by paying for their homes in all-cash.

In all, 84,600 international buyers bought property in the U.S. between April 2022 to March 2023, down from 98,600 buyers in last year's report.

The report further states that the median home price for international buyers is slightly lower than the overall Texas median: $320,800 versus $342,000. However, the average purchase price for international buyers was significantly higher, at $446,100.

Mexico made up 41 percent of the top buyers, followed by China (8 percent) and India (7 percent). Nigeria and Venezuela accounted for five percent each within the top foreign buyers.

Photo by Jeremy Doddridge on Unsplash

Austin is home to the 8th most attractive U.S. housing market, new report says

settling down

When it comes to places to buy a house, Austin still remains near the top of the list. So says WalletHub's highly anticipated 2023 report on the best real estate markets in the U.S.

The new study by the personal finance website, released August 22, names Austin the No. 8 most attractive real estate market in the country. The state capital joins a host of other Texas cities within the top 10.

Texas housing markets have dominated WalletHub's report throughout the years, showing resilience as other markets rise and fall. Austin and its Central Texas neighbors have been at the top in similar reports, but the city has slid in WalletHub's 2023 report after ranking No. 4 in the 2022 edition and No. 2 in 2021.

With a great housing market come new businesses. It's no wonder that hot new restaurants, coffee shops, and other attractions are opening in the Austin area or choosing the city for new locations.

Data from the latest Austin Board of Realtor's real estate report shows median home prices in Austin have fallen 10 percent year-over-year to $462,000. Homes are spending an average of 59 days on the market, another indicator that buyers are willing to hold out for that perfect home for the right price.

Potential owners should attempt to buy their home soon while sellers are more willing to negotiate on housing prices in the wake of higher interest rates, according to Kelly Snider, an urban regional planning professor at San Jose State University.

"More important for the housing market is that brokers and agents pay attention to what buyers want and spend less time listening to what sellers 'expect' or "deserve,'" Snider said in the report. "It is becoming a buyers' market, and 2024 should be good for people looking to buy a house."

The top 10 real estate markets in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – McKinney, Texas
  • No. 2 – Frisco, Texas
  • No. 3 – Nashville, Tennessee
  • No. 4 – Denton, Texas
  • No. 5 – Cary, North Carolina
  • No. 6 – Allen, Texas
  • No. 7 – Durham, North Carolina
  • No. 8 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 9 – Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • No. 10 – Gilbert, Arizona
The study analyzed 300 U.S. cities across 17 metrics in two categories to determine the best real estate markets. Datapoints include median home price appreciation, ratio between rent to sale prices, housing affordability, job and population growth, and more.

The full report can be found on wallethub.com.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Esquire's praise for top Austin Mexican restaurant leads this week's top 5 most-read headlines

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From our best chefs to our neighbors' strong tourist pulls, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin's new favorite Mexican restaurant scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list. Este was the only Texas restaurant on the main list.

2. 'The twinkliest town in Texas' and 6 other Hill Country locales become Christmas wonderlands. Those warm fuzzies aren't always easy to find amongst Austin's seasonal glitz — they're a mall-town affair.

3. Austin sparkles and shines as the No. 1 most festive city in the U.S. for 2023. Thumbtack specifically focuses on home holiday projects, but Austinites can glean inspiration from the city's many festive displays.

4. Austin is among the 20 most 'house rich' cities in U.S., report says. The study found that 44.70 percent of all housing in Austin is owner-occupied. The median home value of a home in the city was $593,000.

5. This Texas city is among the 50 best places to travel in 2024, says Travel + Leisure. Fort Worth was the only Texas city to make Travel + Leisure's prestigious list, and one of just a handful of U.S. cities.

A new daiquiri bar and authentic spicy ramen top Austin's 11 tastiest bites of 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

Despite Austin's proximity to the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana Bayou, we don't have too many restaurants replicating the area's cuisine. A new bar and grill called Austin's Very Own Saltt is adding to the growing niche, highlighting seafood and daiquiris — popular in New Orleans for how easy they are to make and dispense to loaded, novelty-seeking tourists on a hot day. Along with seven or more variations on the sugary frozen drinks, expect classics like Cajun butterfly shrimp, fried catfish, and shrimp fried rice as a side. Surprisingly, this bar won't entertain downtown day drinkers, but a milder crowd up north (2525 W. Anderson Ln.). It opens December 2 at 5 pm.

Austinites likely need no introduction to Shake Shack, the fast food burger joint with surprisingly upscale culinary initiatives. A new location in Cedar Park (1905 E. Whitestone Blvd.) is the first in the area, and it's wooing new customers with several opening day offers. On December 5, guests will receive branded holiday ornaments, and Shake Shack will donate $1 for every sandwich sold to Texas Humane Heroes, a pet shelter with an adoption center in Leander. Hours are 11 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11 am to 11 pm Friday through Saturday.

ICYMI: One of the most famous barbecue joints near Austin, the Salt Lick BBQ, offered big news this week: It's opening its third full-scale location. This one will be in Fredericksburg, opening sometime in 2025 if everything goes according to plan. Another famous restaurant with more upscale international credentials, Quince, also shared photos of its beautiful plates and views after a very quiet soft opening of its Lake Austin location. If you've been reading for a while, you may recognize a few other restaurants that opened this week: Mutts Canine Cantina,El Alma Cafe y Cantina, and a Milk Bar pop-up.

Other news and notes

Many Austinites swear by Jinya Ramen, which originated in Tokyo and now commands a cult following here, in Austin. On December 1, it brings back its "fan-favorite" Red Garnet bowl, featuring "thick noodles," vegan broth, a spicy garlic sauce, pork chasu, green onion, kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), onion, and spinach. It'll be on menus until February 29, 2024. New to the United States locations is also the Curry Nikuman bun with pork soboro (ground pork) and a curry dipping sauce.

Speaking of local favorites, Home Slice is also bringing back a special menu item: a vodka pie (not sold by the slice), featuring a cream sauce made with Tito's Handmade Vodka and fresh mozzarella. The pies, two new natural wines, and a prize drawing will all raise funds for Southern Smoke in Houston, and Foundation Communities in Austin. One lucky winner will win free pizza for a year; Tickets ($10, or 3 for $25) are available for purchase in-store until December 24.

Widely recognized as one of Austin's best new-ish restaurants, Canje charms guests with Caribbean flavors — especially as Austinites crave a little tropical feeling during winter months. On December 3, the restaurant is inviting anyone to stop by for a free Trinidadian dance party with a DJ and Trinidadian street food. Details are sparse, but we don't need much else to be convinced it'll be worth a visit. The party goes from 5 pm to midnight. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Aspiring architects who don't have the budget to experiment on Austin land can try on gingerbread houses first, at beautiful South Lamar restaurant Eberly. Pastry chef Raven Breitfeller will guide visitors through the delicate process, but things won't be too serious as the seasonal cocktails and passed apps start rolling in. Tickets ($90) include all materials, one cocktail, and snacks, and are available via Resy.

Photos with Santa, holiday hotel deals, and 8 more Texas travel tidbits for December


It's the most wonderful time of year for Texans to travel and spend quality time with family. Need help deciding where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 10 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in December.

In the Hill Country

Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a special event December 8-10. Throughout the weekend, the winery will offer an anniversary bundle featuring three special wines for $99 plus tax. On Saturday, December 9, visitors can stop by to enjoy wine and cake while supplies last. Reservations are required for tastings, and can be made online via Tock or by emailing tasting@pedernalescellars.com.

From Jingle Bell Runs to photos with Cowboy Kringle, the Christmas season is in full swing in Gruene. There are festive holiday happenings during every weekend in December, starting with the 22nd annual Gruene Pony Express Ride, the Gruene Town Lighting, and the Christmas Market Days on Saturday, December 2. And if swing dancing is on the list of resolutions for 2024, Texans can get a head start by visiting Gruene Hall on December 19 and 26 to learn easy, fun moves for beginners. Swing dancing lessons are $10 per person, but many other family-friendly events in Gruene are free to the public.

There's plenty of time to make your way down to Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk for a unique 12 Days of Christmas event that runs December 12-23. Activities include complimentary mini-massages from the Thompson Spa's expert therapists on December 13, a must-know mixology class on December 17, and a live jazz performance on December 21. These events are free, and visitors can register to participate online via the website.

Across North Texas

In its first holiday season, the new Omni PGA Frisco Resort is offering a special "Home On the Range for the Holidays" package that includes movie nights, holiday games and crafts, s'mores, and a Santa meet-and-greet. Valet parking, early check-in and check-out, and weekend breakfast are included. Nightly rates for the holiday package (offered through December 23) begin at $426. For some extra holiday wonderment, guests can unwrap up to 20 percent off their stay at the resort with the Ticket to Wonder package in partnership with Dallas chocolatier Kate Weiser.

In the Houston-Galveston area

The Dickens on the Strand Festival in Galveston received quite a gift for its 50th anniversary: official recognition from the United Kingdom’s Parliament. The annual event immerses visitors in the world of Charles Dickens' larger-than-life characters in 19th-century England. From December 1-3, the family-friendly festival will include fun parades, entertainment on four different stages, and costumed vendors selling Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, and more. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for children aged 7-12, and free for children aged 6 and under. Tickets can purchased via Eventbrite.

And if you're looking for a swanky place to stay during the festival weekend (or any weekend, for that matter), Gavleston's newly-opened Hotel Lucine (formerly the Treasure Isle Motel) is a brand-new contender. CultureMap's Eric Sandler shared his first impressions of the hotel and all of its luxe amenities, including its rooftop bar, lobby bar and restaurant, and The Fancy – a "fine-ish" dining restaurant currently serving dinner. The hotel’s owners aimed to transform the two-story property into a "modern experience designed to appeal to gen x’ers and millennials." Nightly rates at Hotel Lucine begin at $155 in December.

The C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown Houston is enticing hotel guests (and any visitors who want to make merry) with 12 Days of Cocktails, featuring a rotating specialty cocktail menu available at the hotel's Lobby Bar and Rosalie Italian Soul. Seasonal offerings include Apple Cider Old Fashioned, Pumpkin Spice Martini, Winter Spritz, and more. Plus, a special holiday market in partnership with Houston's Southern Kindness Gallery will feature 30 local artisans, Saturday, December 9. More information can be found online.

At home in Austin

On Christmas Eve, families staying at Austin's Commodore Perry Estate can enjoy milk and cookies while children write their letters to Santa, then feast on a special Christmas Eve prime rib dinner and participate in holiday cookie decorating. On Christmas Day, the resort will have a breakfast display of homemade pastries and more. A special yuletide feast prepared by Chef Bradley and Chef Susana will be available all day, paired with holiday wines curated by the estate's sommelier. Rates at Commodore Perry Estate begin at $454 per night in December.

Santa is making special appearances throughout Texas to learn what children want for Christmas, and at the Barton Creek Square, families will be able to grab a photo with Mr. Claus throughout the month. On December 5 and 12, families can don their most festive holiday pajamas for a Pajama Day photo op with Santa. Visitors also can bring their furry friends for special pet photo sessions on December 10, 6:30-8:30 pm. Reservations are encouraged, and can be made via whereissanta.com.

The Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin has launched its own deluxe holiday deal for guests through January 3: the Miracle on Congress Avenue package. Guests can use the promo code "WINTER" when booking a stay at the hotel's Artist's Residence and enjoy the comforts of a beautifully decorated holiday-themed penthouse suite on the 31st floor, a $100 food and beverage credit that can be used at the famed Luminaire restaurant or Le Bis rooftop terrace bar, and a complimentary holiday mini bar. Rates for the Miracle on Congress Avenue package begin at $747 per night.