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Wanting to Move to Austin

by jakob clark last modified Jan 31, 2013 09:32 PM
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Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by jakob clark at September 27. 2005

After reading the Moving to Austin' thread I got a bit nervous.

My longterm goal is to end up in Austin. I am waiting on my wife to finish school and of course I have to convince her that it is the place to be.

Is there an Austin Modernist website? I would love it if there was a site i could visit to help me know what to expect in regards to housing. I would most likely want to buy, so I would be interested in the availability of midcentury homes, the general cost of lots, and the cost to build. The thread I read is making me think that I would be SOL.

Ideally when the time comes I would love to call on Mark Meyer, LaVardera, or KRDB for architectural services. I'd love to build a 2 bed one bath house with a one bed one bath rental attached that could later become a master suite.

I really hope my vision isn't pie in the sky.

So is there a website out there for me?

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at September 27. 2005


Well, that thread is mostly about condos/lofts. That market hasn't quite rationalized in Austin. The loft concept is sorta late coming in large part due to the fact that were not warehouses or factories in huge abundance to convert. Most lofts are new build. In addition, given the lesser history there hasn't been as much competition (and hence nicer fixtures, etc) or a longer history of people fixing the lofts up and then selling. There are exceptions of course.

As for houses there are quite a bit more options than on the loft/condo front with an array of prices. The median price for a mid-century gem seems to be around $500k. There are some for more, some for less.

As for cost to build new, etc, Mark is good person to cover all that.
Lots in the city proper are increasing hard to come by at a decent price. There is a lot of building going on so most of been snatched up for future development. That could be one of the bigger limiting factors.

There is rumbling about a new development called agava which will start around $160k and be a green development community. Few details so far -- site specific design/build but doesn't necessarily mean modern designed.

If you check out the link in my sig file, I run a website that collects listings of modern homes around Austin. I do not list condos (though an occasional duplex). I started it because I was keeping an eye on the market myself in preparation to buy. I thought that others may be interested as well.

Current favorite MCM on the market is the former home of architect Eugene Wukasch:

and this freaky concrete igloo place by a former Frank Llyod Wright student (at least according to the listing):

Don't despair. Austin has quite a few more options and is much more affordable than lots of other cities. It still isn't as easy as buying a far less interesting house.


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by jakob clark at September 27. 2005


Thanks for the info. Nice site!

The median sounds pretty high. I wonder what square footage that translates to. I would like something small ...... or at least that would be acceptable (and doable)being that I don't have kids at this point.

I wonder what KRDB is up to these days. Any leads on that? They did have 1000-1200 sq ft homes going for around 100K - 120K. Being that that is about 100 per sq ft that is pretty damn good.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at September 27. 2005

I don't know much about KRDB.

There is one for sale for $229:

They built some within a Austin City development project which were about $100k a piece. Roughly $100 a square foot.

Their website is here:

I know some of them visit this board so perhaps they can chime in on future projects.

Projects in a similar vein are:
average price here roughly $350k.

As for the median, that is a just a feel from looking around. I wouldn't take that as fact. The thing when it comes to mid-century modernism, you pretty much have two groups: custom work and spec development. The Fehr Grangers and Wukasch are generally more expensive because they were custom built for a more premium market at the time. AD Stenger, on the other hand, built some great clusters of homes and those are more affordable, though also smaller (1200-1800 sqft). There was a lovely looking AD Stenger sold recently for $325k. But that is about as a good as a price as I'd expect to see on a Stenger nowadays, unless it was in poor condition. Most of the custom and the Stengers now also reside in some of the more desirable parts of town. Most of the newer modern builds are also in those areas.

Now, if you get a cheap lot (likely meaning you are outside of the core city), you could probably build for $125-$150 a square foot. I am sure others have more experience and numbers here. Much of that depends on the usual factors. You can search for lots here:
I've been told the better deals are had through auction, but I don't know any about the mechanics of those.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by jakob clark at September 27. 2005

Again, thanks for the info.

that site you gave me, is KRDB.

It stands for Krager-Robertson Design/Build.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Karen Pittman at September 28. 2005

The Metrohouse homes, and at least some of the more recent KRDB offerings (such as the one on W. Mary and the one in east Austin linked above), were speculative projects funded by developers. With someone else in the loop needing to make their bucks, that's got to raise the price. I bet if you work directly with a design/build firm, get your own financing, put in a little (or a lot of) sweat equity, you can do better for your dollar. Plus, you'll have a home designed for YOU and the way you live.

As far as auctions, Travis County auctions off tax foreclosures once a month. They are all over the county, but many are in Austin proper.

Good luck!

what we've learned...

Posted by paul schuster at September 28. 2005

we have recnetly moved to austin. we're active in the RE market and also going fwd w/ a build in westlake hills.

the price if inner city lots is almost out of the question. there were a few, there are less every day. at least in decent areas. you can still find tiny lots in the ghetto for 30k and up.

when we were first looking I spoke w/ one agent that tried to sell me on a 350k teardown! geez, for that sort of $ I could've stayed in santa cruz (we moved from).

now if you don't have to be in the middle of it all.... there are beautiful lots to be had for 50k and up. and that land just W of austin is quite beautiful.

we ended up w/ a one acre heavily wooded lot that will be a few minutes to zilker park and downtown. it's flatish so it's not a complicated build location. but it's also in the areas #1 school district and many of the neighbors must be of the tycoon variety. we paid 225k and it's been regarded as a bargain price.

fwiw, I had called krdb some time back. they are active. they just don't update the site. their average price was like 150-175 a sq ft. but that included their general contracting and architectual fees. that's not too bad. I'm sure there are some builders out there that can get closer to 100-125 per sq ft, but you'd still have to pay 20-35k for an architect and then have the arch and the GC constantly complaining to you a/b the other :cool:

my advice if you are on a small almost no $ budget.... buy a decent ranch style home for 130-200k; there are lots of options in that range in some decent areas. and gut, teardown, remodel, rebuild etc as $ comes available.

it's funny that I see decent livable homes for 200k in the same area where that one realtor tried to sell me a 350k teardown? lots of folks making quick $ near that soco area.

there are some smaller/cheaper MCM that creep up in some less desirable areas as the beauty pictured above. but the local folks are not afraid of paying for style. they sell fast.

best of luck to ya,


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by jakob clark at September 29. 2005

Looks like I will end up renting for a while if I go. Have you ever visited ? Very informative, and seems to find the cooler places to rent. Of course I'm sure not too many of them are modern, but it seems like they at least seek out places with some character.


Posted by paul schuster at September 30. 2005

that sounds drastic (to me).

things aren't all that bad. consider we are currently living in a decent home in a decent area on a huge lot (.33 acre)

we paid 135k and will put another 10k into it. we put 20% down and our monthly mortgage payment is like $700. add in a/b 250 a month for insurance and prop taxes

and you get to deduct mrtg interest from your income tax.

and if you rent, you can't rip out walls and any fixing up you do is also to your landlords benefit and you'll never gain equity.


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Gregory La Vardera at September 30. 2005

I agree - in this housing market there always has to be a better alternative to renting. Especially since you have 1. a house you own and have at least some equity in now that you are moving from, and 2. you have no children and you might not have the same concerns about your choice as a family.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at September 30. 2005

overall, i totally believe owning is the right path, but from a fiscal standpoint it does not always come out ahead. from the numbers i've seen, a rent ratio of 20 is about the cut off point.

take the cost of the house plus capital improvements (not maintenance repairs) and divided by what it would cost to rent a similar place. if the number is greater than 20 than it is likely over a 5 year period your capital return will be negative (with higher ratios indicating worse return likely hood).

overall Austin seems to be below the 20 ratio, but there are pockets in town where it is exceeded.

i am working on fleshing out the numbers to get a better grasp on them. one factor which is hard to quanifying is mental state of owning and more pointedly, what is the value of living in a personally preferred structure (in our case, a modern home). the premium to attach is intensely personal, but there has to be some treading.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Chris Czichos at October 10. 2005

My name is Chris Czichos. I'm a designer/project manager with KRDB.

We have several spec projects coming up in the next year including single family, mixed-use and a modern pre-fab house that is suppost to be available as early as December. We continue to design/build custom homes as well.

If you're interested in any additional information fell free to email or call me.

Chris Czichos

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by carrie bills at November 13. 2005

Here is an option only 6 miles from downtown: agave A Green Contemporary Neighborhood For are those who seek more than cookie cutter homes and dull subdivisions; for those who crave an aesthetic and want to live in an environmentally sensitive neighborhood. THIS is agave. agave is a neighborhood (the first of its kind) where the developer and the artist meet; offering 130 homes that are site designed by award winning architects at affordable prices. Imagine owning a beautiful new contemporary home designed by: KRDB Design-Build, Casa Bella Architects, Emily Little Architects, Momentum Architects, FAB Architects, or The Lawrence Group Architects for under $250,000. agave is a growing neighborhood in Austin’s desired East Side with views of downtown and rolling hills, a sterling example of both SMART Housing™ and Green Building, and an example of the urban vision championed by Envision Central Texas; agave helps define how Austin will continue to be a great city tomorow.

We will be posting more design as them come in from our architects.
Watch our site:
Carrie Bills, Green Mango Real Estate

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Carl Schwartz at November 30. 2005

I'm in close to the same boat. My wife is finishing her master's degree next December (2006) and we're pretty focused on moving to Austin. We're in our early 30's and we currently live in Naples, FL (which is primarily inhabited by the 60+ age bracket) and we're both very excited about going to a city with a more 'youthful' lifestyle.

I'm an architect and have built a few houses myself, and am very excited about the prospects I've seen in Austin. I'm planning on buying either a lot to build on or something newer and more modern (maybe along the lines of AGAVE). We're planning on visiting in January to get a feel for the neighborhoods and I was hoping to get some preliminary recommendations from the people on this forum. We're just married, have a dog and do NOT want to be in any sort of homeowner's association (we're currently up to our neck in the most Nazi-esque bullsh!t you could imagine) unless the rules are VERY loose. We would like to be close to the city or at least easily access it. Proximity to parks would be a plus and lots with a little more space (1/4 acre +) would also be great. We don't need anything larger than necessary.

Any areas stand out as recommendations?


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at December 01. 2005


price is always a factor as lots can really vary in price from a few 10s of thousands to many hundreds.

inside the core city, there isn't much of the size you are talking about. what there is being bought up by developers building duplex/condos.

you can poke around on and do a lot search to kind of get a picture of what is out there.

there are many more options if you don't mind living outside the core city.

that said, the most desired areas in the city (using the realtor codes) fall within: 1B, 1A, 4, 6, 7, 8E.

6 and 7 are certainly well known for both their mid-century and their newer modern homes.

here is a map for reference:

areas 3 and 5 are seeing lots of activity right now. area 2 doesn't get the hype but you see lots of projects up there like those from metrohouse. opens lots are very few in that area. tear downs more likely.

agava, btw, is in area 3E. it is about 8-10 miles from downtown.

anyhow, there lots of different ways to go.


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by tom mot at December 01. 2005

I'm not sure what you're budget is, but from what you've written as far as preferences go I'd suggest looking around South Congress, Hyde Park, Allandale, or Crestview areas. Unfortunately I don't know the MLS codes offhand. I believe Hyde Park might fall within MLS-5 and South Congress maybe MLS 3 or 4. Again I'm not exactly sure. In any case, most of not all of these areas are very safe, close to parks, and not overrun by overly restrictive neighborhood associations (unless you're an oversize baptist church trying to gobble up land and houses to build additional and unncessary parking garages so your wealthy patrons can park their SUV's comfortably).

But of course such areas are very pricey. Offhand I'd say a lot would run you in excess of 75-100K.

However, east Austin is becoming a hot spot with lofts popping up every other week it seems. There are still tear-downs and lots to be had in this area, within a few miles of downtown, for around 50k or so, sometimes a bit less.

All in all, Agave is by far the cheapest modern development so far in this town. Especially considering the size of the homes and the quality of design.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at December 01. 2005

to put some common names to area codes:

downtown, hyde park: area 4
south congress: area 6
barton hills/zilker: area 7
tarrytown: area 1B
rollingwood: area 8E
french place, cherrywood: area 3
east austin, swede hill: area 5 (and sometimes lower 3)
westlake hills: area 1A and 8E
allendale: area 2

as for strain's estimate of prices, i hate to say, those are quite optimistic. i've been looking quite a bit myself in prepartation. i'd say you'd have to double those estimates, on average.

a standard lot here in hyde park will run upwards to $200k (not worth it at all). there are less expensive lots east, but even those are not super cheap anymore unless you want to be next to the train tracks or are ok with being far east austin. so yes, it is all about the budget and what trade offs you are willing to work with.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at December 01. 2005

i should also note, there is less expensive places in areas like 1N, 2N, or MA (agava is MA, btw, not 3E like I said above). however, these areas are not on radar from a hip/trendy standpoint.

they may or may not be attractive to you. i am preparing a little profile of a mid-century quasi-modern neighbor i stumbled across up that way yesterday. it should be up on my site in the next week or so.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Carl Schwartz at December 01. 2005

Thanks for all the info BSP Strain. I look forward to digging a little deeper and all the information is a great help.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Carl Schwartz at December 01. 2005


saw that listing on your site for $110k. Man, that's a pretty awesome price. What is that neighborhood like. My wife is way into gardening and it looks like that lot is pretty big. I have no problem with even the most ambitious fixer uppers. I've gutted some houses to the exterior framing and started everything from scratch. The only thing I suppose is normal in Austin is that everything is on slabs, whereas I'm more used to crawlspace.

Are there more in that price range? Again, that's almost unheard of unless the neighborhood is 'questionable'.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by paul schuster at December 01. 2005

if you have or may have kids, school district can be an important factor. and also somehwat of a representative of the area (a relation to crime in areas of low scoring schools)

we narrowed our search down to 8e and 8w. those are in the eanes district. my daughter is in eanes elementary and they just received blue ribbon status. less than 300 schools nationwide received the blue ribbon award (over 120,000 public schools in the US).

when we started looking last spring there was quite a lot to chose from in 8w under 100k. probably more than 10 .25 acre + lots around 50-75k. that is not true today.

I really liked that cuernavaca area (8w). a real nice mix of home styles, lake access and not too far out. usually the minimum lot size would be .25 acre.

as for crime, I believe there is more crime on the east side and s austin (I know that is a broad generalization). but those areas do seem to be changing pretty fast. I base a lot of that judgement on all the broken windows I find in those areas (cars and business)


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at December 01. 2005

the $110k place is in a ok area. it isn't Travis Heights by any means but it is a bit nicer than most the lower East side, though there doesn't seem to as much fixing up going on right now so hard to say what the future holds. parts of east austin you can just feel and see they are going to change. often the prices seem to be based on where they will be rather than where they currently are, imo.

there is a lot for $77k around the corner from that place. it is about .5 acre. funky lot in that it is 50 x 350. long and narrow.

that $110k house probably needs at least $30k if not more worth of work to bring it up to what most here expect. for more you could close in the car port and turn that into another room and add 200 square feet to the house. really, for less than $200k it could be nice little place. personally, i'd probably prefer it over the agava development, but that is me.

there are other houses built exactly like that one on the street and all of them are in pretty similar condition. it would be great to see all of the fixed up as I think it could have knock on effects for the value.

that lot size is about average, a perhaps a few hundred square feet larger, for central austin.

i am going to by that place again and walk the streets and see if i can get a better feel. right now, my feel is that you would have to be patient and a little forgiving/flexible about the neighbors to be there. still nicer than most of LA and about a seventh the cost :)

btw. as mentioned by another poster, i like 8E and 8W but the prices for a lot seem to have spiked quite a bit lately. the average is about $400k for 2 acre lots (many of the lots are bigger as well). there are some sub-$100k lots, but I don't know that area well enough to put them into context.

now what there does seem to be available if you look is homes for about $225k that have 50s bones or hints that with some work could really be gems. for example:

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by paul schuster at December 01. 2005

the 110k MCM in crestview has an offer of 115k (cash) and quick close.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Ben Phenix at December 01. 2005

[quote:fuegos100 format=text/plain]the 110k MCM in crestview has an offer of 115k (cash) and quick close.


doesn't surprise me. i gander it is a reno plan as there are other, cheaper lots in the area if someone actually wanted to build. hopefully, it will be done interesting/well.

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Carl Schwartz at December 02. 2005

Man, are those taxes on the listings correct? WTF? Real estate tax must be high in Texas/Austin! That's around 2%! Is that state AND CITY or something? I guess maybe that supplements the lack of state income tax...

I'm in Florida now, but our property taxes aren't that high and we also have 'homesteading' relief (which is for owners who actually live here, since so many are temporary/ tourists).

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Chuck Voelter at December 02. 2005

our property taxes are high; it's a big issue and the state legislature is working on ways to relieve them such as taxing cigarettes, etc.

guess i'll need to stop smoking soon...

Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by paul schuster at December 02. 2005

yes, those taxes are HIGH. but texas has NO income tax.

and the rates will vary slightly dependant upon if you are in city limits or out. and hays county rates are much cheaper. we are hoping TX adopts a similar law as in CA where props valued over 250k are capped at 1%.

I think most states offer some sort of homestead exemption. reminds me, I need to file for mine.

cvoelter- good luck on the stop smoking. I say tax 'em!

FWIW, I checked on available lots in 8w. there is one on niagra (cuernavaca) asking 100k for a .33 acre. I had looked at that lot back in spring when it was 75k. it was nice but had a huge ditch running down the middle. it sold within a week and the new owner has rerouted the ditch easement so the whole lot is usable. it was a great location as it was very near the water.

if I were still looking that would be pretty appealing to me.


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Karen Pittman at December 02. 2005


Yeah, taxes are state AND city ... AND school district, and county, and hospital district, and...

Depending on where you live, you might have 7 different tax districts nibbling on your wallet. If you are interested in a particular address in Travis County, you can look it up on the tax rolls:

and see what all the districts and percentages are. I live in the City proper, and my rates add up to 2.5 % . The school district is the largest, the city and the county are about the same, and the others are smaller. Got my bill the other day, and I must say, OUCH!


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by Carl Schwartz at December 13. 2005


Thanks again for all the info. I've been looking alot more into Austin. One thing I'm having trouble with (hopefully some architects/builders can help) is building code. If I understand correctly, Texas doesn't actually have a building code. I found a 'performance standard' manual for residential, and saw that homebuilders need to register with the state. Is that it? Can anyone out there help me understand this? I also found that the city of Austin adopted the International Residential Code (ICC, I assume) with amendments. Again, am I understanding this correctly?


Re: Wanting to Move to Austin

Posted by carl schuelke at December 14. 2005

Sorry to interrupt the thread, but chris czichos, was your dad a teacher at Hays High School?

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