Surviving a Hot Housing Market: A First Time Buyer Story.

I met Tristana Pirkl, December 2015, at a friends house. We instantly connected over many topics and soon began talking about her interest in homeownership. Tristana’s home search was a long and bumpy journey. She started her search in an extremely competitive Austin market that, at the time was not the easiest for anybody to jump into, let alone a first-time buyer. I loved working with Tristana because of her attitude, she didn’t give up, and I didn’t give up on her. There were many ups and downs. The properties that fit her criteria seemed to fly off the market in days, and at over list price, it was hard to keep up. Although this was a difficult transaction, it was my favorite real estate deal thus far. I learned a lot from this experience, and it proved to be the most rewarding feeling to not only have her offer get accepted but also get to finally tell her that, yes, the journey is over. You have secured your new home!

I loved her spirit and determination, and she embodies every strong woman that has ever tried to succeed in a society that wasn’t always rooting for you. I wanted to take the time to share her story with you. Hopefully, many of you will get some insight and a little inspiration.

Meet Tristana…

I have lived in Austin for 4.5 years. I’m originally from the DC area; I moved here from the Bay Area where I went to college and lived for six years. I moved to Austin for personal reasons…one of them being the desire for a more cohesive, friendly community. I instantly fell in love with the overall culture, amazing weather (when not burning up in the summer), and vibrant, welcoming people. It helped that I found my dream job at Whole Kids Foundation as their Grants Manager, helping to bring healthy eating to kids. I also found an incredible yoga family and became yoga teacher on the side through Wanderlust Yoga certification. My home needs to be a place that is close enough to all of my favorite restaurants and bars in town but is a quiet, sunny retreat with enough room to make a yummy meal or watch a movie on my couch.

Why did you decide to buy?

I always had my eye on buying in Austin. Having lived in much higher rent places (DC, San Francisco), buying a home in my 20s on a non-profit salary was never an achievable goal. But the market in Austin is so much more approachable financially and had the potential to really springboard me. Any chance my parents got, they would encourage me to just “look into it” 🙂 And then last year, I went through some personal changes and was looking for a new place when my rental lease was up in July. I started looking into places to rent and quickly realized that I’d either have to move to a neighborhood I didn’t want to live in or start paying a lot more per month-rent prices had gone up that much in 2 years. But then I thought, what if I bought a place? Even if I paid more per month, at least I’d be investing in an asset that would most likely make me money instead of flushing it down the rent drain. So I did the math, and it made sense! From there, the biggest hurdle was getting over this preconceived idea that you had to “be at a certain place in life” before you bought a house on your own. Our coffee chat really helped me break through that assumption, Kristina! (And ps I actually pay hundreds less per month now!)

What area in Austin were you looking? What price range?

I was looking in areas that were close to downtown and South Austin where all of my favorite places are, especially Lady Bird Lake, and wouldn’t be a long commute to work. I settled on Southeast Austin in the Riverside area for all of those reasons but also because it seemed primed to increase the most in value over time. Kristina, you really helped me tune into that area! I was looking at under $160,000 for a two bedroom or under $130,00 1 bedroom.

Describe how the Austin market was for you at the time?

It was lightning fast but full of options even with my restrictions and dream lists. A place would go on the market and would receive offers for maybe 1-2 days. Then it would be gone. You had to be on top of the daily updates, be flexible with seeing places on a moment’s notice, and within a couple of hours decide if you wanted to put an offer down. There was no leisurely stroll through open houses on the weekends. To be honest, I didn’t know any different, so I thought it was kind of fun and exhilarating.

What do you think needs to change/improve in the real estate industry? Or the home buying process, based upon your particular situation?

The automatic daily updates blew my mind. I don’t know what buyers did before all of the initial searching was online. It saved me so much time and helped me feel like I was in control of my options. Maybe improvements in this whole process to streamline it even more? Besides that, the part that was hardest for me was even if you loved a place and put an offer down, you could be competing with ten other offers. Sellers have so many different things they are looking for outside of just the best offer, but you don’t know what those are- I always felt I was shooting blind. I think it would be great if the seller could be more upfront on what they are looking for so as to not waste seller’s and buyer’s time. After that, I think there could be ways for the mortgage process to be more straight forward and clear. I had a wonderful lender who would answer my endless cell phone calls to answer my questions, but I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had someone who was so open to that.

Do you have any words of wisdom for other first time buyers?

Know exactly what you’re looking for. Do the math so you can be specific as possible as to what is within your price range. It will most likely be different than what the generalized calculators will tell you on Zillow, etc. Identify exactly how much you want to be spending on house costs per month to determine what kind of loan you can actually afford, including all extra costs like HOA, homeowners insurance, etc. And then identify what your “must haves are” and what are your “would be nice to haves.” Once you have that in place, only see (or pester your realtor about) the options that fall into this category. Trust me…this whole process will take so much of your time (especially after that offer gets accepted), that you don’t want to waste time seeing places that you can’t afford or that are in a neighborhood you absolutely don’t want to live in. Maybe see 1-2 places in those categories, so you know how to compare, but otherwise, you’ll be so overwhelmed with options your head will spin. If you’re clear, once “the place” arrives, you’ll know it right away!

If you can, give yourself enough time to find the place you want. If it’s tough, don’t give up. And don’t let other people tell you it’s not possible. Sure, get other’s opinions when you’re stuck but stick with your gut and believe you can find what you’re looking for! When you do, it’ll feel so wonderful to live in the place you really want.