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Why the Highland Lakes is a seller's market for real estate

With a seller’s market in the Highland Lakes, homebuyers face competition when searching for a house because of low inventory. Sellers are expected to retain the upper hand through the rest of 2018, says one local real estate expert.

Homes in the Highland Lakes have been known to sell in less than a week of listing, making the area a seller’s market through most ups and downs in the national economy.

“That indicates there are less houses for sale than there are buyers,” said Ron Petrick, president of the Highland Lakes Association of Realtors. “More people are looking to buy right now than there are houses to sell.”

Area statistics for Burnet and Llano counties show a broad view of the real estate market in the Highland Lakes. As of April 2018, Llano County had 522 listings at a median price of $214,000 and an inventory of 8.6 months. Burnet County had 420 listings at a median price of $251,250 and 5.8 months of inventory.

Inventory is a measure of how long it would take for all the homes currently listed to sell at the current pace of homes sold per month. An inventory of 3-6 months indicates a seller’s market, while a range of 9-12 months indicates a buyer’s market.

An inventory of 8.6 also indicates a seller’s market — with a caveat: The high-priced, slower-moving properties drive that number up because they sit on the market longer than actual residential listings. The inventory is 12 months in Horseshoe Bay because the median price there is $360,000. In Llano, it’s 5.4 months. In Kingsland, it’s 6.3 months.

Deeper digging reveals the difference in how quickly properties sell in the Highland Lakes.

“That price range of $100,000 to $200,000, or up to $250,000, is in short supply,” Petrick said. “If you get above $400,000 to $1 million, then you may have enough supply, but not as many buyers that can buy at that price.”

More expensive property, such as waterfront, ranches, or high-income homes in Horseshoe Bay, are in great supply in the Highland Lakes and typically take longer to sell. The more expensive properties drive up overall averages in the area compared to entry-level houses that sell more quickly.

The current seller’s market has existed since early 2017, Petrick said. He expects it to continue at least through the end of 2018 due to a combination of factors that typically influence this market.

The Highland Lakes’s proximity to a growing city like Austin is one of those reasons.

“It has to do with taxes,” he said. “Homes are evaluating so high right now that taxes sometimes make people want to move to a place where taxes are not so high.”

Of course, real estate in the Highland Lakes can’t be discussed without mention of the area’s main attraction: water.

“Lake levels have a lot to do with value and how many people want to buy out here,” Petrick said.

Lakes Buchanan and Travis are not constant-level lakes. Their levels fluctuate through the years, depending on rainfall. During periods of drought, boat docks and ramps often sit dry as the Lower Colorado River Authority drains down the lake to supply water downstream. The levels of Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, and Lake Marble Falls, however, fluctuate very little.

Currently at 88 percent full, Lake Buchanan is again a desirable location for lakeside property. The next drought could change that quickly.

“Right now, on Lake Buchanan, (property) under $350,000 will be gone in a week,” Petrick said. “So many people are looking for homes in that price range.”

Finally, the overall economy always plays a role in the market. As of June 2018, the economy was riding a wave of growth and stability.

“I think it will stay steady like it is for a year,” Petrick said. “People feel good. When people feel good, they want to purchase.”

Whether you’re interested in buying or selling, you’ll find the tools you need to navigate the market in the Highland Lakes Real Estate Guide. Check out the Realtors, developers, engineers, surveyors, and title companies on this web page for the best real estate advice and services you can get in the Highland Lakes.

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