BURNET COUNTY, Texas — With record-low housing inventory in Austin and Round Rock, many more families are looking out in the suburbs and beyond, buying up land in the Hill Country at a record pace.
In this hot housing market, there is a delicate balance between having a home and being able to afford to stay in it.
Retiree Terry Standifer had plenty of hobbies and experience to know it was time for a change.
“The only way you gain any benefit from a rising cost in housing is actually to move. With property taxes in Austin becoming more like the Bay Area, where even if you can afford the house, it becomes difficult to service the interest or the taxes on the house,” said Standifer.
The peace and quiet of the Hill Country drew Terry Standifer and his wife, Diane Standifer, to Cloudwood Ranch in Briggs, one of the growing number of ranchette communities where people can still build a home and get some land.
“I would say when you walk, when you come here, regardless of your day in Austin, you can just breathe. The air out here is so clean. It’s quiet. It’s nice,” Terry Standifer said.
It is what’s drawing more people out of Austin and into the 17-county region considered the “Texas Hill Country.” The population is now 3.1 million and expected to jump to 4.3 million in the next 10 years.
Sales are up
You can see the growth. In the last quarter of 2020 during the pandemic – Hill Country rural land sales hit a record, up 85% over the year before. And Hill Country land is the fastest-selling across the state, according to the Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center.
“First quarter 2021 sales of large-acreage rural properties grew more than 50% in West Texas and 37% statewide compared to 2020,” said Dr. Charles Gilliland. “First quarter activity exceeded the remarkable levels seen in the third and fourth quarter of 2020 in most areas.”
“We’re pretty much sold out of inventory,” said Chad Calhoun, a ranch land broker for the last 23 years at Jim Perry Ranch Sales in Burnet. “I’ve sold a lot of land to people from Liberty Hill, Leander, Cedar Park and Georgetown. They want what they bought 10 or 15 years ago in those same cities. Now, they have to go 15 to 30 miles further out to get it.”
Land that was selling slowly for years is now sold out.
For example: The Peninsula along Lake Buchanan, which is about an hour outside of Austin along State Highway 29. Since 2015, Calhoun would sell three to four lots a year. Last year, he closed on the final 45 lots.
“The word has gotten out that Austin is a boomtown and this is where to place your money,” Calhoun said.
Investors have definitely capitalized on the draw, but so are many longtime Austin residents.
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