The REAL TRUTH to Austin Real Estate, As Told by Angie Balentine.
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
When you ask a kid, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” you often get: doctor, veterinarian, teacher, singer...but it’s not every day an eager child answers with “real estate agent”. It may not be the common answer, but Angie Balentine has had a unique, life-long interest in it, largely brought on by her family.
Angie’s mom is from central America, and her family owned residential and commercial property there when she was growing up. At just twelve years old, her family started the challenging business of renovating homes, and buying investment properties. Her dad would always save the for sale and home section of the Sunday paper for Angie and she would read the listings, captivated by the details and photos of the properties for sale. In a way, a career in real estate seemed inevitable. It didn't occur to her until she’d already started managing a local sports company, that the foundation and love for real estate had already been laid for her. It had always been in the background, an interest and passion she possessed, but never a full time focus until it was time for a change.
She moved to Austin in 2007 with her husband James, and before launching her real estate business had been an athlete most of her life and was in the sports/athletic industry, managing an Austin local bike shop called Jack and Adams Bicycles. As the general manager, she formed an identity in the fitness community as friendly and trustworthy, building lasting relationships based on her ability to go the extra mile for customers. Her passion for people and love for helping families explore Austin and build a community here, transitioned into this new career path perfectly, as she now helps people navigate their own personal situation in the home buying and selling process. With her passion for helping people and building trust, real estate was a natural next step.
Before building her own business, she worked as an agent at Hindsite 20/20 Real Estate to gain experience and support from a team. However, even with her past experience, going off on her own was a whole new ballgame. Being a realtor involves a lot of contract work that you have to drive forward yourself, finding customers, doing research, learning new legal rules, and marketing your own business. A lot of people don’t realize, as a Realtor, you're a small business owner — working for yourself.
As the single employee of her small real estate business, Angie wears a lot of hats and has a hand in every aspect of the business — not to mention she’s a busy mom of three! Luckily her previous employment at the bike shop, gave her the experience of running a business with room to make mistakes and grow. She says that the hardest part of this venture was trying something new and getting comfortable with the uncertainty — taking on a new identity in a new industry and essentially starting over after ten years in the sports community. She explained that once you get your real estate license and begin active training for situations, there’s an exponential learning curve which she compares to “drinking from a fire hydrant”. Every situation being a little different, making it necessary to get comfortable with situations where you don't have every answer right away.
Angie cites consistency as her best habit that helped her gain success; being self disciplined day in and day out, building the business and being flexible while maintaining a rigid schedule and routine to maintain momentum. With her real estate business, she’s able to remain flexible with her schedule but emphasizes that being too flexible, you can end up being very unproductive. “It’s essential to hold yourself accountable and it keeps you on your toes,” she says.
Angie also took the time to debunk some of the misconceptions about the home buying process for us — such as how much you have to put down to buy a house, renting vs. buying, financing options, etc. First, she explained that people often think you have to put down 20% of the sales price as a downpayment, which deters many people from making the move. But home ownership is very doable with less. She explained that the down payment can be low as 3% plus closing cost which raises it to about 5%. With this option the buyer pays mortgage insurance but it's not as scary as it sounds! The people who wait to put 20% down to avoid paying mortgage insurance miss out on years of equity and she encourages clients to jump in now because you can remove the mortgage insurance within a few years! Also mortgage insurance is not enough to prevent people from buying, on average it costs as little as 0.5% to 5% of the original amount of a mortgage loan per year. Reading the market, or trying to time the market just right, is another challenge that deters people from buying. There’s no crystal ball for predicting when the market will bottom out, so waiting for that next drop may still end up with buyers paying higher prices than if they had bought five years earlier.
Waiting to “time the market just right” was especially prevalent with the pandemic. People were waiting for the market to drop as a consequence of COVID-19, but that’s not what has happened — prices have actually gone up in Austin. She also weighed in on the renting versus buying debate, saying people don't realize that every year housing prices increase and so does rent. The consumer has even less control over rent rates, and people are moving to Austin everyday, so there’s a large demand for rentals and homes. If you buy a home, the money goes toward something that's yours, and you have more control over keeping your expenses down through things like homestead exemption that keep your property taxes. Whereas the rental market is indifferent. For buyers, rates are currently at a historic low, the prices are going up and interest rates are low so it's a great time for buyers to get into the market. In some cases, home buyers can end up spending exactly what their rent had cost them each month on their home mortgage, and with appreciation on the property (national average 5 percent over twenty years and Austin is even higher) buyers will gain significant equity, opposed to gaining nothing while spending hard owned money on rent.
In simple terms for example:
Sally pays $1,500 in monthly rent. If she rents for 5 years, that’s $90,000 that invested in nothing and yields $0.
Rachel bought a home for 200,000 and pays a monthly mortgage of $1,400. In 5 years her home has appreciated by 5% and is now worth $255,000. Her investment in a home has gained an appreciation of $55,000. (Assuming 5% down with a 4% interest rate)
Who’s hard earned money, MADE money? Say it with me “RACHEL!”
Angie loves her job and strives to help clients make the best decision by being a trusted advisor, and advocates for the consumer. People tend to get nervous buying a home, associating realtor to be synonyms with salesman. Angie’s biggest goal is to set expectations for her clients, letting them know she is in it for the long haul, helping out before, during, and after the home buying process, putting helping people first. Ange prides herself on being unique in the way she works and practices real estate in the marketplace. She strives to add a human touch to a process that can be stressful, and truly enjoys spending time with her clients before, during, and after the sale or purchase of a home, becoming the “godparent” of her client’s homes.
“I’m after being the best offer of help, using my deep desire to care well for others, my knowledge of real estate, and fundamental understanding of each client’s needs and wants,” Angie says.
When we asked about her advice to people who want to go into real estate with no clue how to start, she recommends taking stock of your own personal risk tolerance and deciding what risk you're willing to take. She explained that starting a business is a calculated risk and everyone perceives risk differently. In her case, when she made the decision to go into real estate she went “all in 100%” and didn't keep working a side job as she has a high risk tolerance and needed the pressure of not having a safety net to fall back on. She says, “doing it as best you can now is better than having it perfect on paper and never doing it.” She also says that it often costs more in the long run to wait for this ‘perfect’ timing than to jump in now without having everything figured out. There's always a lot of uncertainty, but it was the choice that was right for her. “There’s too much opportunity lost in waiting,” she says.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on local industry, and the Austin housing market has undergone changes, but it’s still going strong. She says that the processes of showing homes depending on the listing agent and seller and closings have changed, and she's now working primarily from home, but the market is still just as booming and very competitive. Austin is known for its competitive inventory shortage, and now people want to see how the market is affected by the pandemic, so it's even tighter. Angie stresses that right now it’s a sellers market, with listings receiving multiple offers — driving the sales prices up. It's an appreciating market as well, but there's a good and bad to that. Because rates are so low property owners are refinancing and buyers are motivated, but there are segments that are struggling, like the local condo market, as people are looking for larger, more private spaces. Lending is a big player in the home buying process but with people getting laid off the lending market has been changing their rules about who they would lend to. It's started to level out, but it's still pretty strict right now and due to mass COVID-19 unemployment, they’re cracking down on who they will lend to, with their rules changing daily to weekly. In response Angie quotes The Golden Rule of Lending Money, saying “he who holds the gold makes the rules”.
According to her, the most rewarding part of her career has been, “being in the business of helping people, it's financially rewarding but at the end of the day it's about helping people achieve their goals.” Most of all she views her work as a huge win for her clients, as real estate can help them build long term value or income that can create a nest egg that trickles into other parts of their life, whether that's college tuition or retirement. She feels rewarded through helping set her clients up for the future. Angie makes it a point to not only help clients jump into the market but provide them with the knowledge to help them profit from their investments in the future.
As Angie continues to pursue her passion for people and real estate, she’s currently working with the Glass Staircase team to building brand awareness and long term relationships to grow her reputation and identity within the community, expanding in the future to lead a team with similar philosophies to help people achieve their real estate and investment goals. She hopes to share her knowledge with people at a larger scale, as well as developing a way to provide people with the knowledge to empower and give them the confidence to make decisions in the real estate market.
Like a true entrepreneur at the end of the day, trust, passion, and meaningful relationships are at the foundation of Angie Balentine’s successful business and Real Estate career.
To learn more about real estate and the Austin market, you can connect with Angie at firstname.lastname@example.org.