Austin bruited about

Our fair town’s name is out there in print a lot these days. It’s only to be expected in this season of college ratings (there’s always something to be said about UT-Austin and usually something about our academic neighbor in San Marcos, and no opportunity to mention keeping Austin weird is ever overlooked). Hapless Dell is in the headlines one way or another nearly every day, at least in the business section. Trouble with paint jobs on those new rainbow laptops is the latest, all apart from stories on (falling rates of) customer satisfaction, earnings restatements, and the like. My favorite feature of the week, even though it doesn’t predict the longed-for crash in real estate, is “Lure for Businesses: Inexpensive Real Estate” (byline Tina Peng; from the WSJ, August 22). The print-version subhead is “While home prices are stalled or flat in many parts of the country, they’re still rising in Austin.” It’s the caption for one of those views of the downtown skyline, but this one, as is true of so many, is old, lacking the Frost Bank tower. Two of the most interesting statistical claims are (1) that, over the past year, our rate of population growth was 3.5 times the national average, with labor-force growth more than double the national average; and (2) that our median home prices are up substantially (read for yourself) while home prices nationally have been in decline. The article claims that there’s no sign yet of a bubble or even mild downturn in the market for condominiums, again a divergence from what’s beginning to seem evident nationally. Those who have no intentions of flipping a house or selling for any reason long for appraisal relief from the Travis Central Appraisal District. No matter what happens to the market, however, history suggests that there will be no downward trends in appraisal valuations, although we may perhaps hope for a halt or slowing in their rise.

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