Hear the full interview with Jonathan Boatwright on the Steakley and Stubbs Show below.
Steakley and Stubbs Interview with Realty Austin
Transcript of Jonathan Boatwright’s Interview
About Realty Austin
Steven Steakly: Austin, Texas, you’re listening to Real Estate Radio with Steakly and Stubbs. Remember you can always find us on our website. That’s realestateradioatx.com or if you want to call into the show, 512-900-1988. We’ve got Jonathan Boatwright, CTO and co-owner of Realty Austin with us today. His wife Yvette is in the studio also.
Jason Stubbs: Jonathan, welcome to the show. Tell our listeners a little bit about Realty Austin and how you guys got this thing started.
Jonathan Boatwright: In 2004, we started Realty Austin with really a couple of goals. First of all we really wanted to raise the bar in real estate and we wanted to build a company where we didn’t take every realtor in town who has a license. We’re really picky about who we hire and then we’ve really stayed true to that over the last 11 years. We really do have a really high bar for the agents that we hire. But the other thing we wanted to do is really leverage Internet technology to help buyers and to help sellers streamline the process, to help it make easier to find homes, to help make it easier to interact with their realtor and a lot of that we’ve been working on in the past ten or 11 years has really helped us stand out in the industry.
Jason Stubbs: I remember in 2004 when you guys got started and how brilliant I thought it was. The market was a little bit sluggish back then. How did you come up with that, and what type of qualifications does it take to be a realtor for you guys?
Jonathan Boatwright: We are looking for agents who’ve been in the business about two or more years, who sell ten or more houses a year, who have a clean track record, present themselves professionally, good communicators, generally college educated individuals. We just have a higher expectation, so we raised the bar for our company.
Jason Stubbs: I think that’s good, and it means that you’ve got someone that knows what they’re doing. I mean in this industry, Austin is hot. If you’re out there and you don’t have someone that understands the proper things to do when you have ten offers in front of you – that’s a big deal. We have some of these clients who say my aunt’s a realtor and she did three transactions a year before. I think it’s important that you guys out there listening, that you understand what these guys know what they are doing at Realty Austin. It’s important to understand what a quality realtor can do for you, and I think that’s brilliant.
Steven Steakly: Realty Austin sets the bar high initially just getting these agents in the door – but as Jonathan said you’ve got to be able to do 10 transactions a year. For a realtor to do 10 a year. Your cousin or your nephew or your mother-in-law who just got a real estate license might have closed one transaction. That’s not the person that you want to have trying to negotiate the sale of your $400,000.00 house. Use Realty Austin agents. They have experience and once they join Realty Austin, typically their production exceeds more than 10 per year. Most of the agents who we know, their production triples once they join the excellent team.
When did you know real estate was what you wanted to do and what were you doing before real estate?
Jonathan Boatwright: Before real estate I was a technology guy. I worked for Microsoft for eight years. I worked for Apple and Motorola for a few years. My wife Yvette got her real estate license back in 2000, and I was helping her market herself to her contacts and helping her build websites to try to generate business for her. In 2003-2004 I realized that it was a need in Austin. There weren’t any great real estate home search websites back 11 years ago and we decided to create one and invested the time and the money and the resources to make it happen.
Jason Stubbs: Any regrets?
Jonathan Boatwright: No, not at all.
About Realty Austin Offices and Plans to Expand
Jason Stubbs: Where you guys are in the market as far as your offices go. I know your downtown Austin location — a lot of you out there have seen that office, but where are your offices throughout Austin?
Jonathan Boatwright: We have our central Austin office is on West 5th Street; Westlake office is in Davenport Village; Lake Travis office is on Highway 620 near Lohman’s Crossing; Southwest Austin down near the Whole Foods; Northwest Austin inside Avery Ranch at Avery Ranch Boulevard and Parmer. Recently, we signed a lease and are about to start construction on our 6th office which will be in Mueller– opening June.
Jason Stubbs: Any plans to expand in any other areas or is your focus on Mueller?
Jonathan Boatwright: Our focus is on Mueller and the general Austin area. I do see us heading farther north into Williamson County next year, but our plans right now are to stay in the Austin market.
Why Is realtyaustin.com Austin’s #1 Home Search Site?
Jason Stubbs: You are the technology guy. I think you’re a leader in this industry for this piece of the real estate market. Let’s talk about realtyaustin.com and what can our listeners expect from this website? How can this website help them buy or sell a home?
Jonathan Boatwright: Sure. So realtyaustin.com is at this point and for the last couple of years the number one home search website in Austin based on the traffic that website generates, the number of people that visit. We get around 300,000 visits every given month, which if you think about the number of people looking at Austin, that’s probably most of them. A lot of the reasons people like our website are that you can find, first of all, every available home that’s in the Austin MLS is listed on our website and it’s up to day every hour.
Jason Stubbs: It’s hourly?
Jonathan Boatwright: Right, it’s not an every 24 hour thing — it’s once an hour. You can go in there and define your search criteria for whatever neighborhood and price range and, you know, size of home that you’re looking for and actually set it to send you email alerts the moment a new listing hits the market. And in this market, you almost need to get that instant notification if you’re really looking to buy – it gives you at least a few hours ahead of the competition to get out and see that house and potentially make an offer before somebody else beats you to it.
Jason Stubbs: I know a couple of folks that aren’t even looking to sell but they’re real estate gurus. It’s a tool that you can use out there whether you’re looking to sell your home now or in the next three years. I mean you can use this as a tool to educate yourself on the market. Investors, we’ve got a bunch of you. Jonathan, what can you tell these guys as far as the opportunity to find a home? How can they be the first on or is there a way that they can get a lead before the next guy by working with you guys?
Jonathan Boatwright: There are a couple of things for investors that I think are important. One thing that we are really big on at our company is premarketing listings that our agents are taking. Generally speaking, most people find out about a listing is when it hits the multiple listing service, the MLS and hits all the different websites out there. Most don’t update every hour like ours. Some update every eight hours, 24 hours, but it shows up on those websites and that’s when a realtor may introduce it to their client. Well, we have about 290 agents. Those agents take a lot of listings, hundreds per month – and they are premarketing them both to their fellow agents, to the people using our website, and to the people in our database. They have an advance notice of sometimes as long as two weeks, at least a week where by being on our website and subscribing to those saved searches you’re going to find out about these pre-MLS, coming-soon listings that our agents are putting out there.
Jason Stubbs: Is it fair to say it’s the market before it hits the market like an internal Realty Austin pocket listing network.
How to Look Up Home Sale Prices on RealtyAustin.com
Jonathan Boatwright: That’s exactly – it is. I think another thing that’s important for investors to realize is our website also offers something that’s relatively unique and very few websites offer which is access to 12 years of sold information on every property that’s in Austin MLS. If you’re looking at buying a property you can actually go in there and see the full history of every time that it’s been sold, or each time that it’s been listed and/or withdrawn and listed, and then leased instead or sold. So if you think about it, going back 12 years is a long time. You can see some pretty serious appreciation on some of those properties.
Jason Stubbs: That’s tracking data completely. I think that’s a great idea. Is it fair to say you can get on there and just find out what your neighbor sold their house for?
Jonathan Boatwright: Absolutely. Sure could.
About Realty Austin’s Monthly City-wide Open House Event
Jason Stubbs: It’s Sunday afternoon and right now you have an opportunity to get out there and check out some of the open houses. I understand that Realty Austin has a monthly open house event and I want you to explain.
Jonathan Boatwright: Yes, thank you. The first Sunday of every month we have a company-wide Open House. At any one of these open house events we have anywhere from 60-80 houses open all around the city and we make it really easy for people to find a map of where all the open houses are by going to our website. You click on the search button at the top left and click on the link that says open house map or click on the open house map on our homepage.
Jason Stubbs: Open houses are not just for people looking for homes. If you’re a neighbor, if you live around that property, if you’re interested or if you just want to go take a peek, go take a look at these houses. Realty Austin has a bunch. Open up your browser, type in Realtyaustin.com. The guy that just wants to know what your house is potentially worth or what you could potentially sell for or where to find your next investment property. Walk in to one of those houses. These are the best agents in town and ask them a question. It’s buying season, so get out there and take a look at some of these open houses. All right, I want to switch gears and talk about this luxury market that we have here in Austin. What do listeners need to know about what’s going on in this luxury market right now?
Jonathan Boatwright: We’re seeing pretty strong demand here early in the year. In fact, just looking at February of this year compared to February of last year the number of luxury homes increased from 21 to 28 that sold. 21% increase in one year which is pretty strong. We were already growing in 2014 over 2013. So the momentum in the luxury market is very strong. We’re continuing to see the inventory go up. Even though the demand is higher, we’re selling more but the inventory is going up and I believe that’s a reaction to luxury homeowners moving up. They’re not really moving out of the city – and they’re not necessarily downsizing anymore. A lot of them are moving up and we’re seeing them move into the higher market and putting their home on the market.
Jason Stubbs: Are we building some of these luxury homes? I knew the developers were scrambling once the market turned over and we saw a little bit of action and I think the home builders are starting to catch up a little bit, but are there some opportunities for some new builds?
Jonathan Boatwright: There’s not a lot of new luxury homes being built and they’re sprinkled across the west side of the city mostly and a few in Central Austin, but the speculative market is pretty tough.
Jason Stubbs: So what do you see the inventory – I mean let’s just jump to the summertime. Do you think we’ll be able to sustain this type of action through the luxury market throughout the summer?
Jonathan Boatwright: I think so. There’s actually eight and a half months of inventory. We look at month’s supply of inventory. Anything over six months is still a buyer’s market. Less than six months is more of a seller’s market. We’re still eight and a half months of inventory in the luxury market, so there’s still opportunity. There are over 600 luxury homes – and I define luxury as over $1 million, on the market right now. So there’s plenty to choose from, but – they’re moving relatively quick too.
Jason Stubbs: So for our listeners out there that are or are in that 500 or in that 600 range, and they’ve been sitting on their home or living in their home for five, six years, I mean guys you’re sitting on hundreds of dollars of equity so if you’re sitting on that fence or if you’re teetering should we stay or should we go, for those folks out there that are in that position. What part does property taxes and HOA dues play when you’re shopping for a luxury home?
Jonathan Boatwright: Property taxes are primarily a factor of the price of the home but they are definitely influenced by the tax rate. The tax rates range anywhere from 1.8 to I don’t know, 2.6 percent, something like that…
Jason Stubbs: That’s a huge gap.
Jonathan Boatwright: It is. It’s a big gap and what we see is the property tax, the lower tax rates are typically farther out, farther away from the city where you don’t have city sewer. Makes a big difference. Get away from the City of Austin and some of the City of Austin tax overlays that it definitely helps to lower your taxes. So for instance there’s this, what I believe is a misnomer that West Lake has the highest taxes, while it’s actually one of the lowest ones out there. It’s the lowest tax rate in the city because they don’t have all the city of Austin overlays especially when you get into the western part of West Lake or you’re out of the City of West Lake Hills. It you go out toward Cuernavaca area, or out anywhere out Bee Caves Road, it’s 1.8 percent.
Jason Stubbs: 1.8? I mean that’s a big deal when you’re talking about $1 million home. 1.8 versus a 2.3 or 2.5 – or 3.3. I’m in Avery Ranch and I’m over three.
Jonathan Boatwright: Yes, it’s thousands of dollars.
Jason Stubbs: Jonathan, we see a lot of attention just throughout the country, Austin, seems like every month Forbes comes out, says something about Austin. We’re number one or two in everything out there, but I want to know what effect the international community has played on Austin with all the Formula One, with all the SXSW, the Austin Film Fest, etc. At SXSW over 90 countries were here for the festival. That is a huge international – it’s a big deal and it’s not going to stop. What do you think that effect has had on Austin, Texas?
Jonathan Boatwright: We do see some international buyers moving into the market. International buyers typically we see coming from overseas or typically coming from Europe. We’re not seeing a lot of people from Asia buying up property in Austin yet. We see a ton of international buyers from south of the border, so we definitely have a lot of Mexican Ex-Pats that are moving up here, buying, either moving here or buying second homes here because they’re doing business in Texas. So it’s a phenomenon. It’s not a huge part of our market yet, but it’s picking up.
Market Trends in the Austin Luxury Real Estate Market
Jason Stubbs: It’s not the same little music town that I remember. I got here in 2000, so got here as quick as I could, but I still call myself an Austinite. I’m in the role ten years. Yes, ten years, ten years until you’re an Austinite. What are you seeing as far as this luxury market? How fast are these million-dollar homes selling and about how many days on the market? If you’re wanting to list your home in this luxury market, how long can these folks expect them to sit on the market?
Jonathan Boatwright: On average if you’re home sells in the ‘average time frame’ you’re looking at somewhere between three to four months.
Jason Stubbs: Let’s talk demographic here. You know, because you think millionaires, you think of the empty nesters. They’re going to buy their last retirement home, getting on Lake Austin, but I mean I’m hearing a lot of youngsters out there. Are you seeing a lot of younger millionaires spending more money than the older millionaires?
Jonathan Boatwright: Absolutely, yeah. The influx of young tech executives, start-up scene, they’ve created a lot of instant millionaires who many of them are under 30 who are coming here and buying multi-multi-million-dollar homes on the lake or high end condos downtown. So absolutely they are a factor in the market.
Jason Stubbs: For $1 million, what can you get in the suburbs, in outlying areas compared to downtown? Let’s take two separate properties — both $1 million — what’s the difference in the homes?
Jonathan Boatwright: $1 million in downtown will buy you approximately 1,200 – 1,400 square foot condo downtown on a higher floor, 2 or 3 bedrooms, and nicely appointed.
Jason Stubbs: You have to understand the difference with these downtown condos, it’s a lifestyle thing. Walking, biking or short cab ride. If you’re walking it’s more expensive. If it’s a short cab ride it gets cheaper the farther outside you get outside of downtown, etc. That’s the downtown side. What can you get in the suburbs for $1 million?
Jonathan Boatwright: If you head towards Lake Travis in the western side of Travis County you can probably find a house on half an acre or an acre, 4,000 – 5,000 square feet, maybe a little bigger, custom home with a pool with nice yard and nice neighborhood, maybe gated.
Jason Stubbs: It’s just lifestyle. That’s what it comes down to. Do you guys ever see yourselves leaving Austin, Texas?
Jonathan Boatwright: Absolutely not. I’ve been here since 1991. I have no plans to move. We’re raising our family here, building a local business. We have no plans to leave Austin ever.
Contact Realty Austin
Jason Stubbs: How do our listeners get in touch with you guys if they want more information on Realty Austin? If you want one the best real estate companies to represent you on either side of a real estate transaction, how do they get in Contact with you guys?
Jonathan Boatwright: Very simply, visit our website. If you’re a realtor thinking about changing, click on the careers link on our company tab. If you’re looking for a home, just click on search and define your criteria and you can find anything that’s on the market there. If you’re looking for a realtor, look on our agent directory and browse through to find someone in your area. We have tons of great agents!
Jason Stubbs: Perfect. Jonathan, thank you for being on the show. Real Estate Radio with your hosts Steven Steakly and Jason Stubbs. Sundays, 3:00-4:00 PM, News Radio KLBJ. Happy house hunting out there, Austin, Texas.