Austin Realtor Diaries
Photo-Illustration: Lined; Photos: Getty Images
In this bi-weekly series,Realtor Logs“, hear us people in the center of a wilder market than ever. Today, an hour-by-hour glimpse into the working world of Joanne Gamel, 40, an energy broker in Austin.
7:30 a.m.. I start my day with meditation. I sit outside on my patio, pull out my yoga mat, and set an intention. What’s going through my head? Let’s just try to be thankful today; let’s be thankful we live in beautiful Austin and no longer in crazy New York City; let’s eat healthy today … Of course, my mind drifts to work while I meditate. It’s like, Let’s remember the good weather…oh, and get that contract…
8am I take my dogs for long walks. It’s been five years in Texas, and one of my dogs is still a New Yorker. He is like, WTF is this grass?
I am a third generation real estate developer. My family and I do condo conversions all over the country. A few years ago we did one here. And after a few months, my husband and I were like, “Yeah, we’re never going to leave. When it comes to real estate, there’s literally everything here – ultra-luxurious mansions, McMansions, tons of waterfront opportunities, ranches, country club living, luxury condos, new builds galore, opportunities of investment. High-end, low-end, ambitious, very cheap.
Believe me, I was skeptical. Coming from New York, I was thinking tumbleweeds and cowboys. But then I was like, Holy shit, it’s jumping. Austinians like to keep it local and keep it weird; you will find very open-minded people here, a real “one love” atmosphere, everyone is welcome. It resonates with me and I love it. I get why everyone is flocking here, really.
9am The working day starts now, but it has no end time; I am still active. Still! It doesn’t bother me at all, though. I am a social animal and a sociable person. Real estate is definitely in my DNA, and I’m proud to say that I thrive here.
10am A colleague sends me statistics from the Census Bureau saying that Austin’s population is growing by 146 people every day. wow! Most of these “new funds” are coming to town, and by that I mean all the tech-savvy rich, young and old. It’s America’s new technology hub. During the peak of COVID, these guys were making crazy deals; they didn’t care. They bought houses without seeing them, giving up appraisals; to them it was a joke coming from where they were. You’re here. Dell. Facebook. Apple. Google. These guys want luxury. They want space. We are talking about houses on acres and acres of land. Indoor and outdoor area. Waterside. One of these clients asked me to take him via his private helicopter. It was interesting to do, but we did it.
11 a.m. I meet luxury buyers by the water, who are looking for a full-time home, and I do something new, even for myself. I chartered a boat with a captain and show them properties on Lake Austin that way.
Lake Austin is just five to ten minutes west of the downtown core. It separates Great Lake Travis from downtown. The shoreline is lined with beautiful waterfront homes, many of which have private docks. Your pool house here would be around 2,000 square feet, so you can imagine the size of the houses. I’m talking about megamansions. Homes featured in Architectural Summary. Owners of Lake Austin homes are often celebrities, hedge fund managers, tech gods, and more.
11:30 a.m.. Luckily our captain knows the waterways well, but it’s a bit more difficult than I imagined to get from house to house. Lots of hassle, but customers have fun.
2 p.m. I’m not sure my clients have found what they were looking for—they want the best and can easily spend millions of dollars—but we’ve definitely strengthened our relationship, which is critical in this industry. I’m in a rush to get my 3pm appointment now, though.
3 p.m. I meet clients who move here from San Francisco. They are a middle-aged couple with two small children. So they’re looking for a four-bedroom house with a pool in a top school district with a budget of around $2 million. They want to be less than 15 to 20 minutes from downtown, where the husband works in the Google offices.
Also, the wife is super artistic, so she’s looking for a big garage or casita that she can use as a work/craft space. Many large houses in Texas have what is called a “casita”, which literally translates to “a small house”. Think of it as a guest studio or a pool house.
We start in the Clarksville area – a historic neighborhood in the heart of downtown, known for its super cute one-story homes. Generally the houses are smaller here, although lately people have been demolishing bungalows and building narrow but tall modern houses. It’s one of the hippest neighborhoods in all of Austin, along with the Zilker/Barton Hills area, where you’ll find a mix of charming historic homes and ultra-modern minimalist renovations and rebuilds. Then there’s Bee Cave, where you have these stunning hilly landscapes, spacious grounds and new suburban developments. Bee Cave is where you’ll find the best schools, country clubs, and most mansions.
5 p.m. After reviewing nine homes between yesterday and today, we submit two offers. Now I am waiting to hear from the vendors whether either or both will be accepted or not. Hopefully one of these deals will work out. Otherwise, we go back to the drawing board.
I will say that the market has definitely softened a bit. The “slowdown” isn’t as dramatic as some people might think, but it’s true: Homes are no longer flying off the shelves the same day they’re listed. I think people are just more cautious given the state of our economy, which is why things are a little cooler than they have been.
6 p.m. I have a last appointment, to visit a huge land. It’s on the market for $2.25 million, which in the Barton Creek area is considered affordable. People love the idea of building their dream home on unused land. I’m petrified of snakes, so I put on knee-high Lucchese boots, which I keep in my car for these screenings.
6:30 p.m. A rancher puts us in an ATV to tour the property. It’s been a really bumpy but good time.
8 p.m. I’m happy to be home relaxing with my husband in our new home. We lived in houses in two different country clubs here in Austin and eventually settled on the Onion Stream. Him, me and our baby dogs have never been happier. Our backyard is literally the golf course. I have to say, my new favorite client lately has been the country club client.
There are over 20 country clubs in the Greater Austin area. Obviously, this includes a wide range of prices. If you’re a middle-aged professional with a family, you can join a country club for as little as $5,000 a year and then pay a monthly membership fee of around $400 – these clubs tend to be further afield, though. downtown. On the other hand, we also have clubs with initiation fees of $250,000 per year. Homes on golf courses can range from $500,000 to around $10 million. But what’s really interesting is that the country club lifestyle – at least in Austin lately – has become very trendy with young, cool, successful, educated people in their twenties and thirties with six-figure jobs. I think it’s something about the pandemic – people just want to be able to go to the club for dinner and socialize a few times a week. Anyway, every time I show someone around a house at a country club, I take them in a golf cart. It’s just fun.
11 p.m. I make calls and finish up work late at night, mostly with west coast clients, but honestly, you’ll never hear me complain. I’m so happy we live here now.