Fite Shavell & Associates Grand Opening Party

November 18 2008
David Fite and Wade Shavell celebrate their new Palm Beach real estate venture

Over 400 guests attended the grand opening of Fite Shavell and Associates, a luxury real estate brokerage located in the heart of Palm Beach. “We couldn’t be happier with the turn out. This event gave us a chance to convey to the local real estate community our proactive approach and excitement in promoting Palm Beach’s unique lifestyle,” said principal David Fite.

The by-invitation only event allowed friends, family, real estate professionals and members of the Palm Beach community, a first-hand peek into their new office outfitted with innovative internet technology and sleek, modern décor. Party-goers entered through a red carpet walkway lined with greenery where they were greeted with fine Padania Wines and exquisite hors d’oeuvres prepared by Pelican Cafe. Guest mixed and mingled between the lobby of the agency and the breezy outside pavilion equipped with cocktail bar, catered food display and the sounds of Deejay Jean Marc Halimi. Some of the evening’s guests included
Stephen Myers Sr., Stephen Myers Jr. and wife Kerri of Pine Creek Sporting Club; Dan and Karen Swanson, Victoria Rixon, Tony Comorate and Deb Vasilopoulos of Lydian Bank; Jim Pappas, Palm Beach Mayor Jack McDonald, Tim Benitz, Scott Sloan and Rosalie Deitz.

Information: www.fiteassociates.com or 655.6570.

David Fite Talks With Avenue Magazine about Real Estate in Palm Beach

October 2008
A Q&A session with the Principal of Fite Shavell & Associates for the Real Estate Yearbook from Avenue Magazine

How has the market performed in the past year?
Palm Beach is holding its own. For the first six months of 2008, the median price of a single-family home sold in Palm Beach, as compared to last year, increased 9 percent to $4.3 million. Also interesting to note is that in addition to the higher average price, there were four properties that had sales prices of more than $20 million. A recent sale in July topped $95 million.

Palm Beach is a fantastic place to live—the community offers a small town ambiance with world class amenities. This market is appealing to Americans, as well as to international buyers. We are optimistic that demand will continue to drive a robust real estate market.

Is this a good time to buy? Can you offer any advice to potential buyers?
It is always a good time to buy in the Palm Beaches. Over the past ten years, the market has experienced unprecedented growth, with properties available in a wide range of prices. Baby Boomers are drawn to the active lifestyle and cultural activities; Generation-Xer’s, who are beginning to enter our market, are also drawn to the abundance of outdoor activities.

We see a strong real estate market moving forward. Rich in history, the Palm Beaches continue to evolve.
Exciting new communities are developing and fabulous individual estates are being built. There is something to accommodate every lifestyle. Now is a great time to visit, to enjoy the wealth of culture and activities, and tour Fite & Associates’ current listings.

What is your dream project?
My experience as the CFO of the two largest residential real estate firms in New York prepared me well for my dream project: the founding of Fite & Associates. I am now fully dedicated to making Fite & Associates a world renowned, locally owned and operated real estate firm in Palm Beach. Our approach is quite different than our competitors. Our agents actively collaborate to match buyers with the right properties. We promote a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie within the company.

http://www.fiteshavell.com/

10 Best Things about Cedar Park

1. Shopping
Lakeline Mall and Plaza is the most well known shopping center in Cedar Park, but the brand new 1890 Ranch Shopping Center is a great place to avoid the crowd.  The 800,000 square-foot shopping center is features a giant 12-screen Cinemark Theater, SuperTarget, Best Buy and more large retail stores. The shopping center is continuing to expand, so look out for more new stores in the future.

2. Cedar Park Regional Medical Center
Cedar Park Regional Medical Center, a partner of the Seton Family Hospital, is now open and is serving residents in Western Williamson County. The $125 million medical center offers full service healthcare including physician offices, labs, and diagnostic services, all in one location.  It is located right in the heart of Cedar Park behind the 1890 Ranch Shopping Center and has become a welcomed addition to the Cedar Park community.

3. Schools
Cedar Park belongs to one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas.  In just one year, the Leander ISD has expanded from six campuses to thirty-three campuses!  The highly-rated schools are known statewide for their 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio, 90% TAKS passing rate, and a consistently reputable education status.

4. Parks
Cedar Park is actually home to many parks, but one in particular stands out as an exceptional location for exercise and relaxation.  Brushy Creek Lake Park, one of the city’s newest parks, backs up to the Avery Ranch Golf Club.  The park has a small lake for fishing and kayaking, a sand volleyball court, hike and bike trail, and an exciting water playscape. This multi-faceted family and pe- friendly park is a perfect place for varying outdoor activities.

5. Location
Cedar Park’s convenient proximity to Austin is a big reason for its appeal.  Approximately 15 miles southeast of Cedar Park, the heart of Downtown Austin is only about 20 to 30 minutes away.  Cedar Park also stands at the center of the convenient 183A and I-45 toll roads, as well as Highway 183, which stretches south into Austin, giving its residents easy access into and out of the area. Cedar Park’s location helps maintain their “small town feel” without being too far from the city life.

6. Food
Although there are plenty of great restaurants in Cedar Park, two exceptional locations stand out.  For anybody who loves BBQ, Smokey Mo’s is the place to go in Cedar Park. The restaurant has an old Texan feel, and serves some great food (Try the brisket!).  Brooklyn Heights is another great Cedar Park find.  They are known for their outstanding pizza, but they also have a full menu that includes great sandwiches, rib eyes and desserts to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.

7. Size
One of the most astonishing things about Cedar Park is the growth it has experienced over the last couple years.  According to the city website, the population grew from 26,049 in 2000 to 52,058 in 2006, a 99.9% growth in just six years! It is also predicted to continue the substantial growth in the coming years.

8. Cedar Park Sports & Events
In 2009, Cedar Park will introduce the Texas Stars, a new AAA hockey team and a subsidiary of the Dallas Stars. Bringing the love of hockey to central Texas, the Stars will play in the brand new hockey arena beginning in September 2009.  Their games are certain to be “the next big thing” in Cedar Park, drawing in huge crowds from the surrounding area. Located at the corner of 183A and New Hope Road, the hockey arena is just one use of the new Cedar Park Event Center, be a 6,800-seat sports arena with room for up to 8,500 for concerts and special events.

9. Twin Creeks Country Club
The Twin Creeks Country Club is a refreshing getaway from the grind of the work week. Twin Creeks is home to the only Fred Couples signature golf course in the area, a challenging design that leads golfers through the beauty of the Texas Hill County. Complete with a private clubhouse, dining facility, recreation center, walking trails, and a water-park with a junior Olympic sized pool and a resort style pool with water slides, the club has something for every member of the family.

10. Housing Market
Thanks to Cedar Park’s incredible growth, the housing market has remained strong, despite national trends.  According to Trulia.com, a leading market website, home prices in the area increased an average of two thousand dollars within the last month, and the number of homes listed continually decreasing.

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park.  Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in the works to go over 4000 sq ft.
www.mybuffington.com

Media Contact:
Gary Warren
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
512.579.4800
gwarren@mybuffington.com

“10 Best Things about Round Rock”

1. Round Rock Premium Outlets
Name brands like Coach, Calvin Klein, BCBG-Max Azria and Burberry at discounted prices? It doesn’t get any better than that.  Round Rock outlets are indeed the greatest thing to happen to shopping in Round Rock since…well, ever.  Finally, Round Rock residents don’t have to travel 45 minutes down I-35 to San Marcos to enjoy outlet prices because they can now enjoy them from their own backyard.  The outdoor outlet center has an exceptional selection of popular retail shops that sell a variety of clothing, shoes, jewelry and fragrances.

2. Round Rock ISD
It has been talked about before, but the “10 Best Things about Round Rock” cannot be complete without including Round Rock ISD. Frankly, the excellent school system is one of the reasons Round Rock has such a good reputation, why Money Magazine named them number seven out of the one hundred best cities in which to live.  Their annual dropout rate is only 0.1%, with a 14.6:1 student to teacher ratio, and produce 87% of graduates that say they will continue their education.  It’s not hard to see why Round Rock ISD has become one of the most talked about school districts in the area.

3. Round Rock Donuts
For those who have never tasted a warm and golden Round Rock Donut, it is definitely an experience not to let pass.  The reputation of Round Rock Donuts has stretched far across Central Texas, and the residents of Round Rock will argue this is the best donut ever made.  They still remain in a single location near downtown Round Rock, but they have expanded their business in the last couple years.  Now, not only do they serve their signature donuts, but also a variety of delicious baked goods, cakes, pies and pastries.

4. Round Rock Express
The Round Rock Express, the AA minor league team located in Round Rock, is one of its most popular attractions and brings in a sell out crowd from all over the area.  As a subsidiary of the Houston Astros, it is home to professional players before moving up to the major league or during rehab (some might remember the two weeks Round Rock got to see Roger Clemens).  The Dell Diamond has affordable tickets, great seats and can provide some fun family entertainment during those hot summer days.

5. Texas State Campus at Round Rock
The new Texas State campus in Round Rock provides an excellent educational resource to people in the area. They offer Associate, Bachelor and Masters Degrees as well as certification and continuing education programs.  The campus offers a similar curriculum with the same professors as Texas State San Marcos but at a more convenient location for local residents.  They hold day and night classes and have many opportunities to get a degree while working full time.

6. The History
The evidence of Round Rock’s rich history can be seen all over town.  The popular “round rock” that the town was named after can be seen from the bridge above the brushy creek on Chisholm Trail Road. Also in that area, there are still wagon marks from the historic Chisholm Trail etched into the rocks along the river bank.  Downtown Round Rock was also the site where notorious train robber Sam Bass was shot on the streets downtown, and his grave is actually located nearby at the Round Rock Cemetery. All landmarks can be seen by visitors, and the Sam Bass shooting is recreated along the streets downtown.

7. Downtown Round Rock
Downtown Round Rock has become the cultural epicenter of the town with specialty retail shops, local eateries and art galleries.  The popular town square on Main Street is home to authentic restaurants such as Main Street Bar & Grill, the Louisiana Longhorn and el Matador.  They also host plenty of exciting events all year long like the artisan stroll, a local art market which occurs every second Sunday, movies in the park, and concerts.

8. The Bats of Round Rock
Ok, so it’s a little odd how watching bats fly out from a highway underpass in Round Rock can be enjoyable, but it is truly a one of a kind experience.  Most people know about the bats that fly out from under Congress Bridge, it has become quite an attraction in Austin, but Round Rock has its own population of bats that is just as enjoyable to view, without the crowd.   The underpass at highway I-35 and McNeil is home to thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats and right after dusk they all fly out at once to feed.  It only lasts for a couple minutes, but the multitude of bats flying in unison is really one of the most amazing natural spectacles to watch.

9. Old Settlers Park
Located right across from the Dell Diamond, Old Settlers Park is one of the best places in Round Rock for outdoor sports and recreation.  The large park is home to 20 youth baseball and softball complexes, soccer fields, and many youth and adult leagues to join.  For kids, it features a water park called Rockin’ River complete with a lazy river, crazy slides, and a water playground.  The park also features a hike & bike trail and a small lake stocked for fishing.

10. Avery Ranch Golf Club
Created along the rolling green landscape of the Texas Hill Country, Avery Ranch Golf Club is one of the newest and most craftily designed golf courses in the area.  The challenging 226 acre, 18-hole golf course, designed by Andy Raugust, is available to the public and makes for an enjoyable day of golf.  After your finished, don’t forget to head over to Z Tejas, the newest location of the original Austin restaurant, for some fine wine and food selections.

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park.  Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in the works to go over 4000 sq ft.
www.mybuffington.com

Media Contact:
Gary Warren
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
512.579.4800
gwarren@mybuffington.com

“10 Best Things about Palm Beach”

1. The Beach…duh!
Phipps Ocean Park, located on Ocean Boulevard, stretches along the striking South Florida coast.  The beach is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike, and it is easy to see why. Phipps Ocean Park is more than the typical Florida beach. There are playgrounds, tikki huts, barbeque pits, picnic tables and more.  The shallow crystal blue shoreline makes for a beautiful Florida day for snorkeling, surf fishing and swimming.

2. Town of Palm Beach Golf Course
The Town of Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course is one of the most uniquely designed and prominent courses in Palm Beach, is open to the public and is set right in the intersection of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean — so close that if you swing too hard you might send your ball sailing off into the ocean.  The rolling green hills set the stage for the 18-hole course with sand dunes, palm trees, lagoons, and even wildlife as its natural obstacles.  Each and every hole captures the majestic beauty of the Palm Beach landscape.

3. The Flagler Museum
Built in the Gilded Age, the Flagler Museum, enriched with American history, is one of the most extraordinary displays of unending prosperity.  The classic white mansion located along the beautiful shorelines can only be compared to a historic monument in the ancient Roman Empire, and Henry Flagler and his partners, such as J.D. Rockefeller, who revolutionized economic progress in America, were the gladiators of their time. The inside of the mansion features colossal columns holding up soaring arched walkways and a sunroof that lets in the warm light of the Florida sun.  Tour the museum or join afternoon tea in the café and participate in the tradition of America’s wealthy society.

4. Breakers Hotel
Just one night in Palm Beach’s legendary hotel, The Breakers, is all it takes to experience the unparalleled luxury.  The hotel features two 18-hole golf courses, an ocean view fitness center, ½ mile of private beach, five swimming pools, 10 tennis courts and eight luxury restaurants.  Make sure to also visit the 20,000 square foot spa and book the Ocean Breeze treatment, a massage on a peaceful outdoor terrace with the sound of the waves to send you off into ultimate relaxation.  Whether it’s a week long vacation or just a day or night out, the 140 acre oceanfront resort has enough services and amenities to make you never want to hear the words “check out.”

5. Taverna Opa
The Taverna Opa in Palm Beach is the epicenter of the distinctive and exciting city nightlife.  The trendy restaurant and bar is alive with Greek lifestyle featuring authentic music, food, drink and culture.  In one sitting you will experience belly dancers dancing on tables and napkins tossed up into the air. This place is a nonstop celebration.  It is so much fun that before you know it, it could be you who ends up dancing on the table.

6. The Garden’s Mall
The Garden’s Mall, located in Palm Beach Gardens, is a heavenly haven for any type of shopper.  The upscale mall features an extensive collection, 160 to be exact, of fine specialty shops with a wide range of name brand retailers such as Chanel, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and high-end department stores like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. This Palm Beach prize can keep you and your wallet busy all day long.
7. Palm Beach Cardinals
The Palm Beach Cardinals, a 1-A minor league affiliate for the St. Louis Cardinals, provide outdoor fun during those hot summer nights.  Whether entertaining clients or just spending a night out with the family, the Palm Beach baseball games are exciting and affordable.  Who wouldn’t love great seats, cheap beer and some thrilling competitive baseball?

8. Palm Beach Confections
They might still have a perfect beach body but Palm Beach residents do indulge, and when they do, they go to the Palm Beach Confections to satisfy that aching sweet tooth.  Their handmade chocolates are a delight, and they feature one-of-a-kind specialties like the “Escargot” which is made of chewy butter caramel and vanilla dipped in milk or dark chocolate.  Escargot has never sounded so good!

9. Lake Worth Lagoon
Lake Worth Lagoon stretches all the way from Boyton up to North Palm Beach and is the best fishing spot in the area.  This lagoon is stocked with saltwater fish like snook, redfish, tarpon, jack crevalle, snapper and sea trout just to name a few.  Not all areas are fishing hot spots though. You might need to squeeze the secret out of the local anglers, if they’ll tell you.

10. Real Estate
Palm Beach Real Estate is a hot commodity attracting home buyers from all over the country and the world.  Palm Beach features thousands of beautiful luxury homes for any type of home buyer.  If you are interested in checking out available homes in the area, visit www.fiteshavell.com to get in touch with a local realtor today.

About Fite Shavell & Associates
Fite Shavell & Associates is a locally owned boutique real estate broker in Palm Beach, with national experience and a global approach to buying and selling residential real estate. Their unique approach combines the flexibility and traditional values of local leadership with decades of experience in a range of neighborhoods, property types and deal structures in some of the country’s most sought-after luxury real estate markets. Through a commitment to personalized service, expert guidance and absolute integrity in our professional actions, Fite Shavell & Associates places the customer’s needs first and creates a clear advantage for buyers and sellers within the markets they serve.

Media Contact:
Christina Berry
561.236.2431 Cell
561.655.6570 Office
561.655.6573 Fax

Overview of Austin Housing Market

With the recent economic turmoil, many consumers may find the idea of building a home too risky. While that risk is subtantiated in some markets, overall the housing market is relatively stable and growing. This is especially true in the Austin real estate market, which continues to stand out as one of the best in the country. In contrast to the national housing and lending dilemmas, the Austin market continues to show strong numbers in relation to accumulated inventory, home purchases and overall home values.

During 2008, the Austin real estate market slowed down in response to the credit crisis affecting the country. (3) The collapse of the subprime mortgage market has led to more restrictive mortgage qualification standards, including the elimination of many down payment assistance programs and higher equity requirements for jumbo loans. The outlook may appear grim, but Austin shows more than one sign of changing that image. (1)

In the Austin area, the housing inventory stands at a 6.3-month supply, just over the standard equilibrium of 6.0 and much lower than the whopping 10.9-month supply nationally. What does this mean? It shows that our region remains relatively unharmed by the current economic crisis. It is estimated that the national real estate economy will show signs of recovery within the next three to five years. This is in stark contrast to Austin’s real estate market, which is expected to recover within the next 18 to 24 months. Signs of recovery will begin to show by next summer.
The continued strength of Austin’s housing market now is in large part due to builders making up for the slowing economy. Record numbers of homes were built in Central Texas just two years ago, providing a large inventory of homes that went unsold. This led to a dramatic decrease in new homes built the following two years. While this is an unfavorable position for builders, it is great for consumers. Increased inventory and slowing sales lead to great buyer incentives from builders hoping to get consumers into their homes. These incentives can range from free upgrades and appliances, to extended warranties and services, to large discounts that can save consumers a substantial amount of money on their loans and down payments. Opportunities like this will not last long, though and most will fade quickly as the economy regains strength. (2)

The estimates of a quicker recovery, combined with the availability of current inventory and builders’ willingness to sell for lower prices led the experts at Forbes magazine to name Austin one of just three cities in the country to “Buy Now.”(1)

Behind the raw numbers of home sales, remaining inventory and solid values, experts are looking at the strength of Austin’s job market. As a leading region for technology and research-based jobs, the Austin boasts a strong supply of new jobs, plenty of residents with dependable salaries and strong credit, and a strong cultural atmosphere that attracts new talent. Much like the Dot-Com bust in 2000, the current economic crisis has left Austin relatively untouched when compared to other parts of the nation. The city’s unique blend of great weather, distinctive culture and entertainment, and continued job growth and economic strength help Austin hold its place as one of the best places to buy. Add to that the benefits of increased inventory and many builders offering incentives to maintain their sales, now is a great time build your home in Austin.

Sources
1. Shonda Novak, Kate Morton. “Credit Crunch Squeezes Central Texas Home Starts.” American Statesman. Oct. 2008. Statesman. 12 Oct. 2008.
2. “Austin Builders Are Cutting Back, Confident of Rebound.” American Statesman. Oct. 2008. Statesman. 17 Oct. 2008.
3. Roselind Hejl “Real Estate Market Update.” Roselind Hejl’s Austin Real Estate Guide. Oct. 2008. 9 Oct. 2008.

www.buffingtonsignaturehomes.com

Buffington’s Guide to Living & Buying in Austin

Join local Austin homebuilder, Buffington Signature Homes, for a tour of the ins and outs of buying a new home in the capital city! Where to buy, what to look for, where it’s hot and where it’s cool!

There are lots of great places to live in Austin. Use these tips to find the perfect neighborhood and home for your lifestyle!

1. North, South, East & West—head any direction from downtown Austin and you’ll discover four distinctive areas of town, each with their own character and atmosphere.

  • North: North Austin and Round Rock are home to many of the region’s biggest employers, with great shopping, accessibility and family-friendly living.
  • South: The original home of “Keep Austin Weird”! South Austin offers a unique experience of the culture and style that made the city famous.
  • East: Enjoying a resurgence in economic development and investment, East Austin is home to great historical neighborhoods, arts and eateries.
  • West: As you head west, the city gives way to the Texas Hill Country. With grand hillside homes and nearby access to Lake Travis, life is good in the west.

2. Major Roads & Highways. Several major roads make getting around town a lot easier… unless you catch them at the wrong time.

  • I-35: The main North/South thoroughfare, I-35 bisects the city just east of Downtown. Connected to just about everything, but beware of rush hour traffic and backups.
  • Mopac / Loop 1: Also running North/South, Mopac loops west of downtown and can be faster and less congested than I-35.
  • 183/183-A: Running southeast to northwest, 183 takes you from the airport, north of Downtown into North Austin. From there, the 183-A toll road offers easy access from Cedar Park and Leander.
  • 290 / 71 / Ben White Blvd: Running East-West from the airport into the Hill Country, Ben White connect South Austin to I-35 and Mopac.

3. Schools. Austin area schools are consistently ranked among the best in the state and even the country. For the top rated public schools in the area, check out the Eanes School District in West Austin, and the Round Rock and Leander ISDs. There are also several highly-rated independent and church-affiliated private schools throughout the city.

4. Colleges & Universities. Austin is perhaps best known as the home of the University of Texas. UT sits right in the middle of the city, just north of the Capital, with nationally ranked undergraduate, graduate and adult education programs. Just south of the river, St. Edwards University is a private, Roman Catholic university known for quality liberal arts programs. Several Austin Community Collage campuses can be found throughout the city, offering quality undergraduate and adult programs, as well as Early College Start programs for high school students.

5. Live Music & Events. “The Live Music Capital of the World” is home to more than 200 live music venues and over 1,900 local musicians! On any given night, you can find incredible live music on the world-famous 6th Street or nearby in the Warehouse District, another growing entertainment area. Local favorites for live performances include Stubb’s BBQ, Auditorium Shores and the newly completed Austin Music Hall. You can also check out hundreds of local and national acts every spring at South by Southwest (SXSW) and at Austin City Limits Music Festival in late summer.

6. Parks & Lakes. The city’s parks, greenbelts and lakes offer endless possibilities for outdoor fun. Barton Springs is a popular attraction, at an average temperature of 68° year round! Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis offer great places for boating and skiing, and miles of hike & bike trails throughout the city are perfect for exercise and leisure. The most popular outdoor destination is Zilker Park, located along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. Zilker Park is home to a popular dog park, the famous Barton Springs Pool as well as one of the largest trailheads leading into the Barton Creek greenbelt.

7. Sports. Great sports action is never far away, with UT athletics throughout the school year, as well as the Austin Aztex USL soccer team and the Round Rock Express baseball team, affiliate of the Houston Astros! Coming in 2009 or 2010, the Texas Stars AHL hockey team will hit the ice in Cedar Park as the top affiliate of the Dallas Stars NHL franchise.

8. Temperature & Climate. Bring your sunscreen! Austin averages 300 days of sunshine per year, with hot summers and mild winters. The coldest month in Austin is typically January, with overnight lows averaging 40°. In the summers, late July and August are typically the hottest, with average daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 90s.

9. Shopping. Key shopping centers for the area include Southpark Meadows and Barton Creek Mall in South Austin, La Frontera and the Round Rock Premium Outlets in Round Rock, as well as Lakeline Mall and the new 1890 Ranch in Cedar Park. For great local boutiques and arts, check out the great clothing and vintage stores on South Congress, as well as “The Drag” on Guadalupe near the UT campus.

10. Dining. Whatever kind of food or atmosphere you’re in the mood for, there are great places to eat all over the city. Find your own favorite neighborhood eatery or look for local favorites scattered across town, like Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Gumbo’s Louisiana Style Cafe, Austin Java, Amy’s Ice Cream and Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ.

Buffington Signature Homes is locally owned and operated in Austin, proudly building new homes in the most sought-after communities in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park. Dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime, Buffington combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes that each and every customer is proud to live in.

http://www.buffingtonsignaturehomes.com

Stucco Homes: Efficient, Durable and Beautiful

One of the most common, traditional building styles is greatly misunderstood. Stucco, a material that is similar to plastering, has become an efficient, durable process that is prevalent in the United States. Because stucco looks similar to adobe, it tends to be most popular in states that are highly-influenced by Spanish and Mexican architecture. This includes Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Florida.

Example of an Exterior Stucco wall

Example of an Exterior Stucco wall

Many people think of stucco as being the poor man’s brick thinking that it is only used by those who cannot afford a better building material. This simply is not true. Some of the most beautiful and luxurious homes and hotels are being built with stucco. It gives an Old World look to the building while also making it cozy.

Stucco homes are prevalent in Tuscan-style designs as well as Spanish Mission architecture and some homeowners choose to use it just for one or two rooms rather than an entire structure. If you want a certain feel for your kitchen or basement, stucco can add a definite flair to your room.

What is stucco?

Stucco is not only an architectural style, but also the name of the material that is used in the creation of this style. It is made by combining Portland cement with water. Lime is sometimes added to strengthen the substance. Pigments can be added to create a wide variety of colors.

What do stucco homes look like?

When most people think of stucco, they picture a home in the poorer parts of Mexico that has a crumbling look on the walls. This is considered stucco, but there are many other buildings that use it as well.

Stucco can be applied to several architectural styles. It works best with the Tuscan- or Spanish Mission-styled architecture, but doesn’t have to stop there. You may have been to a French restaurant recently where it looked like half of a brick wall had fallen off. This rustic look that is so popular in restaurants and kitchens is referred to as stucco.

How is stucco created?

Example of an Interior Stucco wall

Example of an Interior Stucco wall

Stucco is a three-step process and is applied to a wood or stone structure. If it is a wood structure, then an additional step of applying a lath (a wire mesh) to the wall needs to happen before the stucco so that it has a way to cling to the structure.

The first layer applied to the building, called a scratch coat, usually consists of cement and sand. It is applied with a brush.

The second layer, called the brown or leveling coat, usually consists of cement, sand and lime. It is leveled and scraped smooth. It needs to dry for 7-10 days before the third coat can be applied.

The final layer (third coat) is referred to as the finishing coat. There are three different kinds of finishing coats:

A color coat is colored sand, cement and lime finish that is applied directly to the brown coat. The builder can use a trowel to create various designs or they can spread it smooth. It can have various colors and using coarser or finer sands can change the consistencies.

An acrylic finish can be applied in a traditional stucco manner and has a long-lasting quality. It also comes in a variety of colors.

Hard coating is the final style of stucco, but it is not recommended. It is very heavy and hard to repair. If you see a home from the 60s or 70s that has glass, rocks, bottles, etc. embedded in the wall, then you are looking a hard coating stucco finish.

About Stucco-style

Stucco buildings have been around far longer than you think. They originated in ancient times with Greek and Roman cultures that created stucco surfaces to paint beautiful frescoes. These surfaces were made by combining gypsum, marble dust and glue.

During the Age of Renaissance, stucco techniques were honed by the Italians and spread throughout Europe becoming one of the most common building materials. It wasn’t until the late-1800s that builders and masons stopped using lime-based stucco in lieu of the newly popular Portland cement. This cement made stucco a harder, more durable material.

Stucco gained acceptance in the United States in the 19th century and the word was commonly used at this time to describe exterior plastering. When the Spanish Colonial Revival-style building became so popular in the early 20th century, stucco gained a permanent foothold on US architecture and is still highly popular today.

Historians believe that there are a couple of reasons why stucco became so popular.

  • Stucco is a fairly inexpensive material.
  • A good artisan could use stucco to emulate fine stonework and patterns.
  • It is a good weather repellant, withstanding bad weather better than many other materials.

If you love the look and feel of a Spanish home, then you should consider using stucco to create you next dream home. A new stucco home has many benefits to the homeowner, as well as having an Old World feel, without having antique building materials that are unstable. It truly is a “dream come true” when you walk into your new home for the very first time.

Famous Stucco Buildings

  • Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt)
  • The Alamo (San Antonio, TX)
  • Uzer (Sumerian city from 4,000 BC)
  • Dana House (Yale University)

For a photo gallery of some great stucco homes in Georgetown, TX, visit the great people at Jeff Watson Homes. Jeff specializes in stucco home building and also Tuscany design.

Local Builders Continue Success in Troubled National Markets

Greater flexibility, area expertise and traditional customer service drive sales for one Austin builder

It seems like every week brings more headlines of bursting real estate bubbles and national homebuilders posting significant losses. Despite the shaky ground in many areas across the country, Austin’s real estate market is holding steady, thanks in part to a foundation of superior local homebuilders. While the number of home sales nationally continues to slide, Austin has shown a month-to-month increase so far this year. In total 12,072 homes were sold in the first six months of 2008, with a single-month high of 2,410 homes sold in June. In that time, the average sales price in Austin has actually increased over last year, in part because of the quality of new homes on the market.

One such local builder is Buffington Signature Homes. The company is the newest venture from long-time Austin builder and investor, Tom Buffington, whose list of credentials includes Buffington Capital, a leading area acquisition and development company, and Buffington Homes, which became the second largest builder in Austin before being sold to a national firm in the late 1990s.

Today, Buffington Signature Homes represents a shift back to the roots of Austin homebuilding, with a locally-owned, locally-managed company that specializes in building distinctive communities throughout the Austin area. Many of the national volume builders are pulling back their productions throughout the region, allowing companies like Buffington to step in and hand-pick prime locations in the best communities.

The key to this ability is the leadership team’s unprecedented knowledge of the Austin area and eye for the factors that make a community succeed. “There’s a big difference between market research and market expertise,” explained James Giddens, President of Buffington Signature Homes. “Lots of communities look good on paper, but it takes an understanding of local tastes, needs and lifestyles to know which ones will truly succeed.”

The same holds true for home designs. While many volume builders simply rearrange layouts or change the exterior colors from location to location, Buffington’s design team carefully crafted each floor plan to best suit the needs and style of the Austin market. As those styles and needs change, the company can also adapt more quickly to better meet their customer’s expectations.

“Since all of our communities are within a few minutes drive of our corporate offices, the leadership team has a much better understanding of how our products are selling and what our customers think about their homes,” said Grant Whittenberger, Vice President of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes. “If there’s any problem with a design or feature, we can correct it immediately to ensure that our customers remain satisfied. And if one design is particularly successful, we can find out why and develop new designs that will appeal to our clients for the same reasons.”

This flexibility is another key factor in Buffington Signature Homes’ continued growth. A recent report indicates that the price of building materials increased by more than 10% from 2007 to 2008, with no signs of slowing. The flexibility to change designs and features or to develop relationships with new vendors, allows Buffington to maintain prices in a volatile market. Additionally, most of those materials come from vendors right here in Austin, so customers aren’t footing the bill for the shipping company’s diesel.

In their effort to keep costs as low as possible, many volume builders use a practice called “value engineering.” More often than not, that’s a nice way of saying “cutting corners.” But Buffington’s homes utilize quality materials and traditional building practices that were phased out by most national builders long ago. Each home features engineered foundations and frames, as well as full wind-bracing and half-inch OSB wrapping to protect against cracking walls and sticking doors or windows. The roofs are all traditionally framed and the interiors feature deep floor trusses. The three-quarter-inch sub-flooring is attached with screws and glue to create incredibly solid floors that are less likely to squeak or bounce.

“The key is to make sure we do it right the first time,” explains Whittenberger. “A little extra work during the construction stage means less work for us in the long run and less daily maintenance for our customers after they move in. Most of our leadership team has worked with the national firms, so we understand where their processes fall short. We spent a lot of time on product development, making sure our designs and our features picked up where the others guys left off.”

As part of that commitment to quality, every Buffington Signature Home comes with something they call Signature Features: more than 90 high-end fixtures, finishes and features that are included standard in every home. Signature Features include a 3rd car garage (homesite permitting), island kitchens with granite countertops and custom cabinets, rounded corners, energy efficient appliances, covered patios and fully sodded yards, all standard in the price of the home. Customers can also choose from a collection of Signature Options, optional designs and features to further personalize their homes.

And there’s one more factor that’s often overlooked by the national builders: the importance of community interaction. More than simple advertising or branding, local builders are active members of their community. From the ball fields to school activities, Buffington Signature Homes strives to help the community organizations around them.

“Obviously, when you work for a company, you’re invested in its success,” said Whittenberger, “but since we live here, we’re also invested in the success of the community and the city. That makes a big difference in the way a company operates.”

Buffington Signature Homes currently offers homes in several highly sought-after communities in the Austin area: Silver Leaf, located just off Gattis School Road in Round Rock; Forest Oaks, located near 183A and 1431 in Cedar Park; and two premier South Austin communities, The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. Later this year, Buffington will also launch sales in Teravista, located in Round Rock, and Belterra, located just minutes west of Austin on US-290.

For more information on Buffington Signature Homes, visit http://www.BuffingtonSignatureHomes.com or stop by their model homes in Silver Leaf or Forest Oaks.

The Forest Oaks Sales Center
1200 Shiloh St.
Cedar Park, TX 78613

Silver Leaf Sales Center
209 Aspen Trail
Round Rock, TX 78664

Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday & Saturday, 10am to 7pm
Friday & Sunday, 11am to 7pm

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park.  Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in development to go over 4000 sq ft.

Media Contact:
Grant Whittenberger
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
512.762.1315

Wrong. It’s Actually a Great Time to Buy a New Home, Right Now.

by Grant Whittenberger

Across the nation, headlines continue to paint a gloomy picture of the current real estate market. Experts speak out in despair about mortgage rates, housing markets and foreclosures. And while much of what they say is true, the slowing market offers a silver lining for many potential homebuyers.

“A down market can offer plenty of benefits to homebuyers,” explains Grant Whittenberger, Vice President of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes. “With low interest rates, higher rents and lots of great homes to choose from, it’s actually a great time to consider buying a new home in Austin.”

To help potential buyers understand how they can benefit from the current market, Mr. Whittenberger shared these important factors that could make it the perfect time to buy a home.

Increasing Rent
With more people moving out of their homes and more potential homebuyers opting to wait, renters find themselves facing fewer options and higher prices for apartments and leases. Apartment complexes, rental agencies and rental property owners are facing higher costs for maintenance and upkeep, forcing a rise in their rates across the country. As rental rates continue to climb, the price stability of a fixed mortgage payment becomes a much more attractive option.

Low Interest Rates
Interest rates are still at near-record lows, making monthly mortgage payments considerably lower than what they would have been in the height of the real estate boom. And despite tighter standards on lending practices and requirements, lenders are still eager to work with buyers who have good credit. First-time homebuyers today can lock-in at considerably lower rates than those who bought in a few years ago, and existing homeowners can move up to a bigger or better home with substantially lower interest costs.

Competitive Prices
Many production builders are facing a surplus of inventory homes with a declining number of potential buyers, and they are cutting prices in response. “The last few years saw home prices rise at their fastest pace in history,” explains Whittenberger, “and it didn’t take long before they reached levels that a lot of buyers couldn’t afford. As builders adjust to the current market, prices are returning to normal levels and many new buyers have a chance to enter the market again.”

Great Selection
Along with lower prices, an overabundance of homes on the market can also provide buyers with plenty of opportunities to shop around for the perfect home. New community developments have been popping up throughout the region, with great new homes in Austin, as well as Round Rock and Cedar Park, offering buyers more choices than ever before. Buffington’s newest communities include Silver Leaf in Round Rock, Forest Oaks in Cedar Park, as well as two premier South Austin communities, The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. The wide variety of homesites and options available in these communities means any buyer can find a home that fits their unique style and needs.

Energy Efficiency & Innovative Features
Every year new developments in appliances, construction techniques and green technologies help make homes use less water, gas and electricity. “New efficient construction techniques and Energy Star appliances help Buffington’s homes significantly reduce your monthly utility bills, potentially knocking hundreds of dollars off of your expenses,” explains Whittenberger. “We’ve also designed our homes around the way people live today, with contemporary features like additional wiring for internet and cable, specially-designed computer spaces and pre-wired setups for HDTVs.”

Investment & Appreciation
Despite the ups and downs, there is virtually no other investment or purchase that carries the same track record for value appreciation as homeownership. On the national level, home appreciation has historically risen 5 to 6 percent each year. And from 1991 to 2007 the median price of a new home rose from $120,000 to $246,900, more than doubling in value. Compared with the drastic potential for loss in the stock market, investing in a home is safe and profitable.

Tax Incentives
Added to the increased value of your home each year, significant tax incentives are in place to make owning (and eventually selling) that home more affordable. In most instances, any money you spend on interest and property taxes can be fully deducted from your income, saving thousands on taxes. Collectively, homeowners save almost $100 billion on mortgage interest and property deductions each year. And when it comes time to sell you home, more tax breaks help to ensure you make the most of your home’s appreciation.

The Economy in Austin & Texas
Despite the national downturn in the housing market, the economy in Austin and throughout Texas has remained comparatively strong. Thanks to Austin’s thriving business and technology industries, and large defense and oil industry influences across Texas, the housing market has remained relatively insulated from the extreme highs and lows found in other areas. In fact, Entrepreneur magazine recently placed the Austin/Killeen/Round Rock area at the top of its “Best Places to Buy” list, citing low prices and high job growth as key indicators. While that may insulate the market from the extreme low prices found in other parts of the country, it also means your home will likely be a more secure investment with a greater resale potential.

The time is NOW
Production builders continue to adjust their business to meet the conditions of the market, cutting back on their new supply of homes and cutting prices on their existing inventory. Many experts believe the production and inventory of homes on the market will return to normal levels by later this year. “Then the opportunity will be gone,” says Whittenberger. “As builders adjust the market, there are great chances for buyers to come out ahead, but once the adjustment is over, most of those chances will have passed.”

For those hoping to “time the market” and make the most of current conditions: The time is NOW.

For more information on the best new homes in South Austin, Round Rock, and Cedar Park, visit www.mybuffington.com/aas.

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park. Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in development to go over 4000 sq ft.

Media Contact:
Grant Whittenberger
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
512.762.1315

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