Eastside News 

Feb. 11, 2016

East Austin Home Foundations

Broken Foundation-Courtesy of mwharkertherapist.blogspot.comPut bluntly, East Austin does not have the best soil for foundations (see East Austin Soil). Because of this, foundation issues can be a fairly common occurrence in real estate transactions. So it helps to know as much as you can. This issue can be dealt with and it shouldn't be considered a deal breaker...but it should be handled like the important issue it is! A lot of older East Austin homes will have had work done already and will come with a transferable foundation warranty. Others will be found to need work, and others will check out fine. If you are a home buyer, it is important to have a home inspection performed by a qualified inspector that can see signs of foundation movement. We also recommend getting an inspector that will do elevation tests on the floor (usually with a tool called a Ziplevel) to determine if the foundation has moved and if so, how much. The home inspector can then advise if further investigation is needed by a licensed structural engineer.

East Austin Soil

The clay content of East Austin soil is fairly high which can cause the soil to shrink and swell as the amount of moisture changes in the soil. This can generally be controlled by stabilizing the amount of moisture that goes in and out of the soil. Some ways to do this include installing a gutter system to ensure water runs away from the foundation. Also, keeping a healthy lawn is important to prevent erosion and evaporation of moisture from the soil in our hot summers, and to help maintain uniform moisture levels in the winter. Water the lawn during the dry times and try and keep an overall uniform level of moisture during all seasons. If your yard has a slope towards the foundation, consider installing a french drain system to divert water away and prevent pooling.

Looking at East Austin homes you can learn to see tell-tale signs of foundation movement as well. Some of these signs include:


  • Masonry or Stucco cracks on the exterior of the structure.
  • Driveway that is extremely out of level and cracked (driveway slabs are usually thinner than the house foundation, but this could be an indication of movement that could be affecting the home foundation as well).
  • Yard that slopes towards the house. (If the yard has been like this for a long period of time, the water drainage up against the house could affect the foundation by throwing off the uniformity of the moisture in the soil).


  • Drywall stress cracks near the doors and windows.
  • Out of level doors and windows, sticking doors and windows.
  • Separation of the ceiling drywall sheets at the joints. You can sometimes see the lines of the 4 x 8 drywall sheets where they were taped & floated.
  • Warped flooring, out of level flooring (A good test is to bring a small rubber ball with you and roll it on the floor...if it's out of level the ball should go to the lowest area).

Foundation Types

Pier & Beam and Slab are generally the two types of foundations that you will come across on the eastside of Austin.

Pier & Beam Foundation-Courtesy of qualityfoundationrepairaustin.comPier & Beam foundations have piers that go into the ground and beams that rest on top of them. Homes with this foundation type should have a crawlspace under the house to access the piers, and other house systems like plumbing. You should be able to recognize these foundations by the vents for the crawlspace going around the exterior of the house. This type of foundation construction has its advantages and disadvantages. One big advantage is the crawlspace access. The plumbing and other systems are accessible which means doing additions or remodeling can be easier and less costly because of this accessibility. Also, if the foundation moves it can be adjusted fairly easily and plumbing and other systems that are exposed are fairly easy to fix if the foundation repair causes problems. The disadvantage to this construction is that pier & beam foundations have the potential to move around more than a heavy concrete slab. This can show up with doors or windows that become out of level and don't latch, or stick in the frame. Also, drywall stress cracks are very common because of the increased movement of the home. In general, the movement tends to be seasonal, according to the wet & dry weather conditions as the clay soil swells & contracts.

Slab Foundation-Courtesy of en.wikipedia.orgSlab foundations are concrete slabs usually reinforced with steel reinforcement bars (rebar) inside the concrete that the house sits on...there is no crawlspace to access. The advantage to a slab foundation is the overall stability of it. Slab foundations are made with thick concrete and reinforced with steel so the foundation generally resists movement better than a pier & beam foundation. The disadvantage to this construction is the potential for costly repairs if it does move. Plumbing is run through the slab so if the slab moves or cracks the plumbing could have issues too. When a foundation repair is made the pipes could crack inside the slab causing a costly repair expense. The foundation repair companies typically will not pay or warrant for this expense if it is to happen. They 'level to the limits of the structure' meaning they will stop if signs of structural stress or the potential for plumbing issues become apparent. But, it can still happen before they realize the problem. 

Broken Cast Iron Piping-Courtesy of http://drain-experts.ca/Special attention should be paid to older homes with cast iron drain plumbing. Because this material is rigid and corrodes over time, it is prone to leak when the slab is leveled. A static test performed by a licensed plumber will indicate whether the drain piping is holding pressure either before and/or after leveling is done. 

We are very knowledgeable about foundation issues having dealt with this many times before working in East Austin. We have accumulated the resources and contacts to handle the situation if a foundation problem is uncovered. It's another good reason to work with an agent that specializes on the eastside! 

Posted in East Austin News
Jan. 27, 2016

183-Bergstrom Expressway Construction

183 is about to go through some major changes! TxDOT recently approved the construction of 183 South, AKA The Bergstrom Expressway in March, 2015. This expressway will run from US 290 to SH 71. Construction is supposed to begin early 2016 and last for 5 years. Can't say I'm looking forward to the construction...but the outcome should be a big improvement to the current highway which was built way back in the 1960's!

Here are some details:

  • 3 Tolled Main Lanes going both north and south (total of 6). These lanes will bypass various signals along the route.
  • 3 Non-Tolled Lanes going both north and south (total of 6 as well). These will have lights but give drivers the option of using the expressway without paying tolls.
  • 10 foot wide concrete shared use path for pedestrians and bicyclists that runs along the entire span of the expressway.
  • Additional sidewalks and bicycle lanes for increased safety. 

Check out this virtual drive video of the planned expressway: 

With this enhancement, all signs point to 183 becoming a major artery with enhanced infrastructure & commercial development for the rapidly growing eastside! 

Jan. 26, 2016

Have You Heard of Whisper Valley?

Whisper Valley site plan, photo courtesy of Taurus Global's website. 

A big mixed-use planned community with huge ambitions is about to break ground near FM 969 and SH 130! The development aims to be the first large scale energy neutral single family home development in the nation...meaning the homes will be designed to produce as much energy as they consume. The development is 2,063 acres and will have approximately 7,500 residential homes, along with over 2 million square feet of office & retail space! Construction is scheduled to start soon on the first 237 homes. Pacesetter Homes & Homes by AVI are expected to be the first builders breaking ground. Pricing is expected to be in the $150,000-$275,000 range.

Whisper Valley location map, photo courtesy of Taurus Global's website. 

The homes will include roof-mounted solar panels, geothermal pumps for heating & cooling, and Bosch energy efficient appliances to meet the net-zero energy goal the city of Austin is working towards with an ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Big players like Bosch, Google, and Taurus Global Real Estate Investment are involved. Google will be supplying Google Nest products for the homes including smart thermostats, and Google Fiber will also be installed for lightning fast internet. This is the first new development where Google Fiber is being installed pre-construction!

Current photo of Whisper Valley, street infrastructure now in place! 

The homes are also in one of the city's 'preferred areas for growth' and are affordable in relation to other housing within this proximity to the city. The location may seem a bit out there due to the lack of development around SH 130 currently, but it really is fairly close to the city center in relation to other areas of Austin. The community is around 20 minutes drive from downtown, and about 10 minutes from the airport as well as the Samsung and Dell campuses.

Whisper Valley, Indian Hills & Rio de Vida location map, photo courtesy of the Austin Business Journal. 

All and all this is a really exciting project for East Austin. Located on what is really East Austin's new eastern boundary of SH 130, this new development should spur innovation and growth in an area where affordable, environmentally sustainable housing is welcomed. Let's hope a grocery store will follow! :)

Jan. 15, 2016

Brohn Home's New East Austin Community On 51st Street

The Grove On 51stThe Grove On 51st

Brohn Homes is building a new community on 51st St. and Pecan Springs Rd. just east of the Mueller neighborhood. Here are some basic facts on the development:

  • Gated Community
  • Modern townhome designs
  • 1,334-1,965 sqft. floor plans
  • Pet friendly, with individually maintained yards
  • Community walking trail

Pricing is between $300,000-$400,000 based on sqftage & fixtures. There looks to be 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom units to choose from, with mainly 2 story floor plans available. Starting inventory has a summer 2016 completion date.



Jan. 15, 2016

Decker Lake Golf Course Proposal

Purposed map of development, courtesy of Decker Lake Golf LLC's proposal.

Purposed map of development, courtesy of Decker Lake Golf LLC's proposal


There is a proposal before the city council currently for a private developer to build two PGA level18 hole golf courses on 735 acres of city owned land located by Decker Lake. The developers would pay for the construction and the operation of the courses while giving a cut of the revenue back to the city which is estimated to be around $4 million annually.  The developers would essentially be leasing the land from the city, which is currently a fenced in area of the 3,700 acre Walter E. Long park near 130.

The first course could be open by early 2018.  The green fees are expected be around $150-$200, with city residents getting at least a 40% discount on those fees.  Additional amenities of the development could include a lakeside club house, meeting space, driving range, short course with a child discount, and possibly a ferry to shuttle people across the lake.

Decker Lake golf development proposed timeline, courtesy of Decker Lake Golf LLC's proposal.

Decker Lake golf development proposed timeline, courtesy of Decker Lake Golf LLC's proposal


There are concerns about the amount of water that will be used to maintain these courses.  Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros expressed concerns to the city council regarding how the courses could possibly inhibit the utility from using Decker Lake as an emergency water supply, and he also mentioned the credibility concerns of allowing large golf courses to be built while being a steward of conservation and cutting off downstream water due to the current drought.  The golf course developers have countered that they would use reclaimed water, and it would have no impact on Austin's water supply.

Because of these water concerns, the city council voted unanimously to postpone consideration until February, 2015. Recently, City Manager Mark Ott floated a new proposal that would require the project to be water neutral, meaning the city wouldn't be able to increase its total water usage across all city run golf courses to accommodate these new courses. The city would essentially need to reduce irrigation at other golf courses to free up water for these new ones.

Decker Lake Clubhouse Rendering, courtesy of Decker Lake Golf LLC's proposal

Decker Lake Clubhouse Rendering, courtesy of Decker Lake Golf LLC's proposal


Neighbors such as Barbara Scott, President of the Colony Park Neighborhood Association are in support of the project because of the potential for the development to lift up the economy in the surrounding area.  Hoping a more vibrant economy in the area will attract needed infrastructure, namely a badly needed grocery store.  Newly elected District 1 council member Ora Houston has said she felt the decision was being rushed and wanted more engagement with the community before a decision is reached.

Others have expressed concerns about the revenue generating possibilities of the development.  Will the courses actually make money?..with the national trend in recent years of more golf courses closing than opening and interest in the sport cited to be waning by various sports analysts.

It's an interesting debate...we will continue to follow the situation and post updates as the story unfolds.

Update! (2/17/15) Decker Lake Golf LLC is now scheduled to appear before the city council on February 26th for possible approval of the project.  In regards to the water issue, the developer has discovered underground water that is part of the Trinity Aquifer System.  This water was deemed unusable in the past due to sulfur & undissolved solids in the water.  The water can be used for irrigation purposes though, and the developer has proposed drilling a well at their expense to access this water. 

Update! (1/15/16) It seems like the issue has stalled for the moment at the city. Officials from the City of Austin & Travis County met with the public at the Travis County Expo Center on 9/12/15 to discuss the various issues caused by eastside development such as this purposed project. District 1 Council Member Ora Houston, Mayor Steve Adler, & City Manager Marc Ott were in attendance. I believe the issue remains with a working group/committee for consideration at the city currently after this public meeting.  











Jan. 30, 2015

Austin Median Home Price Increase Details

Median Price Change 2010-2014 Austin Title 

I received these graphics & information regarding Austin median home prices from Austin Title (thanks Austin Title!) the other day and thought I'd post it. The above graphic is Austin broken down by MLS areas...these are the numbers/letters agents go by sometimes to classify areas of town when searching in the MLS. The areas that correspond to East Austin are mainly 3,3E,5,5E and 9.

All of these East Austin areas have experienced a significant uptick in the median home price since 2010. With a lot of that growth starting in 2013 when the market really seemed to take off again. You can see by the color coding and the legend below the main graphic image that East Austin has experienced one of the highest levels of appreciation in price in the Austin area. Here is more information on those MLS areas with the directional boundaries and the pricing increase associated with it:

  • Area 3: (North-183/East-183/South-MLK/West-35): 9%-10% growth in median home price 2010-2014.
  • Area 3E: (North-290/East-past 130 by Dunlap/South-MLK/West-183): 11%-16% growth in median home price 2010-2014.
  • Area 5: (North-MLK/East-183/South-Lady Bird Lake/West-35): 11%-16% growth in median home price 2010-2014.
  • Area 5E: (North-MLK/East-past 130 by Webberville/South-Lady Bird Lake/West-183): 7%-8% growth in median home price 2010-2014.
  • Area 9: (North-Lady Bird Lake/East-183/South-71/West-35): 11%-16% growth in median home price 2010-2014. 

The numbers are even more dramatic when broken out for % change in pricing from 2013 through 2014, as detailed in the chart below:

  • Area 3:   19% growth in median home price 2013-2014.
  • Area 3E: 12% growth in median home price 2013-2014 (with 34% growth 2012-2013!).
  • Area 5:    25% growth in median home price 2013-2014.
  • Area 5E: 15% growth in median home price 2013-2014.
  • Area 9:    26% growth in median home price 2013-2014.

Median Price Chart 2010-2014

Posted in East Austin News
Jan. 17, 2015

Southern Walnut Creek Hike & Bike Trail

Picturesque winding portion of the trail by the Harvey Penick golf course.

Picturesque winding portion of the trail by the Harvey Penick golf course. 

If you haven’t been on the new Southern Walnut Creek Hike & Bike Trail yet, you should really check it out!  This entire trail is now open for public use with the ribbon cutting & grand opening ceremony having been held Saturday, 10/25/14. Congressman Lloyd Doggett was able to secure around $7 million in federal funding to make the trail happen.  Bike Texas & Doggett, among other groups, were instrumental in getting the project off the ground & completed. 

Trail Ribbon Cutting, Saturday 10/25/14. Photo courtesy of Lloyd Doggett’s facebook page.

Trail Ribbon Cutting, Saturday 10/25/14. Photo courtesy of Lloyd Doggett’s facebook page. 

The trail is a 10 foot wide concrete trail with 2 foot shoulders on either side.  It’s 7.3 miles in length.  The trail mainly follows Walnut Creek and has a northern entrance up by Johnny Morris Rd. & Daffan Ln., and a southern entrance at Govalle Park over by Bolm Rd. & Shady Ln.  See the map below for more details. 

You can also access the trail via a trailhead at the YMCA East Communities Branch & Harvey Penick Golf Campus on 51st & 183, which is a good place to park.  I’ve taken my bike on the trail numerous times from this trailhead down to Govalle Park and had a great time.  The trail is mostly flat, and it’s an easy ride.  A lot of cyclists use the trail now as well. 

You can also access the trail via a trailhead at the YMCA East Communities Branch & Harvey Penick Golf Campus on 51st & 183, which is a good place to park.  I've taken my bike on the trail numerous times from this trailhead down to Govalle Park and had a great time.  The trail is mostly flat, and it's an easy ride.  A lot of cyclists use the trail now as well.

Bridge by the Harvey Penick Golf Course

Bridge by the Harvey Penick Golf Course 

One cool thing I ran into is that there is a racetrack called Driveway Austin on Delwau Ln. along the way which has a weekly race series for cyclists that starts on Thursday March 12th, and happens every Thursday through October 15th.  It's a great thing to check out!  They aren't messing around...it's a serious organized race with an announcer & everything!  They usually have tents set up with various vendors out there as well. 

Driveway Series Starting March 12th, 2015! Photo courtesy of Driveway Series's Facebook page. 

A fun thing to do is to get some friends together to take the trail from the YMCA and then head south to Govalle Park. From there, you can easily take Shady Ln. over to E 5th St, which is the start of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. This is really just 5th St. with wide bicycle lanes on each side of the road.  But it's a flat and easy, safe ride taking you west to downtown. We like to ride over to the Yellow Jacket or grab some food at Justine's or Takoba and then head back.  It's a great way to spend an afternoon!  I'd say the ride is about 45 minutes to an hour each way depending on where you decide to go hang out and how fast you're moving. 

You can also take the trail north and make it over to the Austin Tennis Center off of Johnny Morris Rd.  Or keep going on the phase 1 portion of the Austin to Manor Trail past Decker Lake and end close to 130 at Lindell Ln.  That portion is another 2.5 miles long.  The city is hoping to build phase 2 of this trail, which will take you all the way into Manor!  The city is currently searching for funding for this portion of the project, which is another 2.5 miles long.  I took the trail up north and went to the current end of the trail on Lindell Ln. recently.  It's a really nice section, feels like you're in the country most of the time...it's a great way to escape the feel of the city!  Check out the pics below from that portion of the trail.  Make sure to bring some water, and have fun on the trail! 

Out having fun on a Sunday!

Out having fun on a Sunday! 

Nice winding section of the trail

Nice winding section of the trail. 

Another nice meandering section...out in the country!

Another nice meandering section...out in the country!  

Bridge in the marsh surrounding Decker Lake.

Bridge in the marsh surrounding Decker Lake. 

End of the road (for now), Lindell Ln.

End of the road (for now), Lindell Ln. 

Late afternoon, beautiful ride back!

Late afternoon, beautiful ride back!

Posted in East Austin News
Dec. 27, 2014

Torchy's Mueller Location - Secret Menu, Happy Hour & Daily Drink Specials!

View of Torchy's Mueller Location Interior

View of Torchy's Mueller Location Interior

It's been great to go to Torchy's new East Austin location in the Mueller neighborhood.  It's a big restaurant with a lot of seating located on the corner of Berkman & 51st.  It's got a couple of full bars and a huge outside patio to hang out on as well.  It gets pretty busy at peak breakfast/lunch/dinner times, but the line moves quickly...although it doesn't hurt to grab a beer at the bar to have while you wait! The pricing is fairly affordable too, which is a nice break from what seems like an overall price increase in the Austin restaurant scene lately.

Check out the regular menu here:  Torchy's Regular Menu

Torchy's Mueller Location Menu Board

Torchy's Mueller Location Menu Board

Here's a list of the tacos available on the secret menu aka the 'Sacred Menu' (thanks KUT & Reddit user deathtocedars!).

Secret Menu

  • Missionary-Style Green Chili Pork: carnitas, pickled onions, guacamole, jack cheese and cilantro, topped with chipotle sauce and wrapped in a flour and corn two-tortilla tandem.
  • Jack of Clubs: fried egg and grilled potatoes with black beans, tortilla strips and cheese; all topped with cilantro, sour cream and Torchy’s Diablo sauce.
  • The Hipster: panko-breaded fried tuna, with bacon, green chilies, and black beans; topped with cilantro and cotija cheese, and served on a flour tortilla with avocado sauce.
  • The Mad Cow: skirt steak with black beans and corn; topped with jack cheese, cilantro and ranch.
  • Trailer Park Hillbilly Style: Torchy’s gauche standby is made even trashier with chorizo and chopped bacon atop the usual fried chicken tender with green chilies, queso and ranch, served on a flour tortilla.
  • Ace of Spades: Jalapeno sausage link and grilled brisket topped with a fried egg, green chile queso, cotija cheese, sour cream, more cheese and Diablo sauce, served on a flour tortilla.
  • The Matador: Chopped brisket and grilled jalapeno topped with pickled onions, jack cheese, avocado, sour cream and cilantro with tomatillo sauce on a corn tortilla.

I love the Jack of Clubs...probably my favorite breakfast taco right now...you just can't beat the runny yolk & diablo sauce combo on this one!

Full Bar Inside

Full Bar Inside

Drink Specials (Happy Hour & All Day-Daily Specials)

  • Happy Hour:  Daily from 3:00-7:00, Monday-Friday.  $1.50 off house margaritas & beers, $.50 off everything else. Bartender suggestion:  Order a house margarita with a floater...the regular price of the margarita is $5.95 but with the happy hour $1.50 off, the floater which is normally an extra $1.50 is now included in the price!
  • Monday:  $4.00 House Margaritas, Rocks or Frozen (Lime, Mango, Strawberry).
  • Tuesday:  $2.00 Lonestar or Coors Tallboys, 12 oz. Tecate can, or Fireman's 4 Draft.
  • Wednesday:  $4.00 Deep Eddy Vodka Drinks.
  • Thursday:  $6.00 Signature Sips.  These include the Torchy's Tini (mexican martini in a shaker), the Proud Mary (bloody mary with Tito's vodka, tomatillo salsa, diablo sauce, & bacon pieces...garnished with a piece of bacon, whoa!), or the Lorena (habanero infused tequila, with sweet & sour & Jarritos grapefruit soda).
  • Friday:  $6.00 Peg Legs.  These are like beer rita's...a martini shaker filled with frozen margarita that comes with a coronita.
  • Saturday/Sunday:  $3.00 Weekend Cures.  These are house bloody mary's, mimosas, and tequila sunrises.

Torchy's also just moved their headquarters over to Springdale Rd., between 51st & MLK. It's a great business addition to the eastside!

Huge Outside Patio With Full Bar!

Huge Outside Patio With Full Bar! 

View On 51st Of Torchy's

View of Torchy's from 51st.

Damn Good Is Right!

Torchy's New World Headquarters On Springdale

Torchy's New World Headquarters On Springdale

Posted in East Austin News
Dec. 22, 2014

Older East Austin Construction

Old Craftsman Style Home 

Sometimes it really is the case that they don’t make them like they used to…sometimes it’s not! When considering the possibility of buying  an older home in East Austin it’s important to keep in mind issues that could affect the livability of the house as well as the resale value. A good inspector is essential so you can be in the know…I definitely do not recommend purchasing a home without a thorough home inspection first!  Having said that, here are some issues to be aware of in older construction.


Building Material

Watch out for asbestos in older siding, drywall mud, and mastic (glue) used for flooring applications. Asbestos has been banned in construction use today but persists in older homes. Asbestos containing material is generally not a hazard unless it is disturbed (ex. Removing old siding, drywall or flooring).

Damaged Asbestos Siding

Damaged Asbestos Siding-Courtesy of Nachi.org

Also lead based paint can be an issue for homes that were built before 1978. Lead based paint is generally not a hazard unless it is ingested, so this can be problem with children, although most of this older paint is likely contained by the layers of lead free paint that have since covered it up.


Mechanical Systems

Older home systems such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC (air conditioning), can of course break down or fail as they age. It is important that these systems are checked by a qualified inspector so you can feel comfortable that they are in adequate shape and will last while you live in the home.  Here are some tips: 


  • Watch out for aluminum wiring in older homes.  This type of wiring requires additional precautions. Steps can be taken to mitigate the issues with this type of wiring but will likely require a licensed electrician to retrofit the older electrical system.  Click here for more info regarding aluminum wiring.
  • Watch out for Federal Pacific electrical panels.  These panels are known to have had issues with the breakers not tripping when they are supposed to.  This can of course be a big fire hazard.  Many people still have these panels and have not had any issues however...but it's something to look out for and to consult an electrician about.  Click here for more info.
  • Watch out for cast iron drain pipes.  A lot of older homes in the area have cast iron drain pipes installed. I've run into this problem with the main drain pipes in some East Austin homes. The issue is this piping degrades over time, and can eventually collapse.  Tree roots and other obstructions can break up the pipe as well over time.  It's possible the cast iron piping will need to be replaced by PVC.  Click here for more info.

Broken Cast Iron Piping

Broken Cast Iron Piping-Courtesy of http://drain-experts.ca/

  • Check out my other post regarding East Austin foundations.  This is one of the biggest issues we deal with around here regularly, and it's important to be informed about the different issues that can arise.

Click here for a good article that has info on typical life spans of the major mechanical systems.


Outdated Building Codes

What was built back then wasn't built with the same rules we have today! As knowledge has been obtained through the years, the construction codes have adapted as a result. It is important to see what is up to code in the home and what is not so a determination can be made on the safety and importance of updating these out-of-date methods. Some of these issues might not be a big deal at all, others can be potentially dangerous, like grounding issues, etc. A knowledgeable inspector will notice these code issues and report on what should be fixed.

Posted in East Austin News
March 17, 2014

E 7th Development

If you've been wandering what's going in on E 7th where they have demo'd the large warehouse...you've come to the right post!  It's going to be a 181 unit apartment building with ground floor retail.  These will be for rent rather than for sale.  The official address is 2025 E 7th St.  Here's a link to a good article on it:


7 East Development