Things to consider before you tear down to build in Central Austin

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If you are considering tearing a house down to build a new one in Central Austin there are 5  real estate issues you may want to look into before pulling the proverbial trigger. They are…

  • Lot Status
  • Historic Preservation
  • Restrictions on Home Size
  • Tree Ordinance
  • Setbacks

Lot Status

Many of the legal descriptions we come across in Central Austin describe various parts of lots being pulled together to form properties we buy and sell. As an example…

“N 19 Ft Of Lot 13 *# S 80 Ft Of Lot 14 Hillview Oaks

In Tarrytown, Brykerwoods, Hyde Park, Clarksville and other Central Austin areas this is  normal but it causes problems when you tear down and build from scratch.  Austin defines this as an “illegal” lot because the house was built on 2 separate lots.

To get a building permit from the city the lot will need to re-platted or the city will have to make the determination that the lot is in fact a legal lot. (if you are simply remodeling you can apply to the city for a land status determination. If the property has kept it’s configuration since 1995 and had an Austin Energy account it just might qualify as a “legal lot”)

Historic Home Status

Before a 50 + year old home in Central Austin is torn down it’s first inspected by a Historic Preservation Review Officer. their job is to determine if there is any historical relevance to the property. If there is – you wont be allowed to demolish the home and any renovating you might want to do will be required to be done is such a way as to preserve the history of the home.

Home Size AKA The McMansion Ordinance

In response to developers building the biggest homes possible in our neighborhoods Austin developed some rules. Please note these get tricky and I’m just throwing out the basics so please don’t take my information as a definitive answer to anything you are contemplating.

  • You can build a 2300 sqft house on any legal lot.
  • Your floor to area ratio may not exceed 40%. (If you have a 10,000 sqft lot you may not build more than a 4k sqft house
  • Your home will be required to fit inside a virtual tent. If you imagine the walls of the tent – it’s vertical for 15 feet along the property lines  and then slopes inward at 45 degrees.
  • Impervious cover rules will also apply. You’ll generally be allowed to place driveways, sidewalks, pools and a house on 45% of your lot. The closer you get to the river the more yard as compared to sidewalks and home we want you to have. My understanding is we want pollution to get absorbed into the ground instead of running off into the river.


Austin take trees seriously. Any tree over 19 inches has rights. Trees that are 19+ inches in diameter are called Protected Trees and 24+ inches in are called Heritage Trees. Both come with a no impact zone thats 1/2 of the diameter of the tree. As an example a 30 inch diameter tree will have a no impact zone of 15 feet. If your proposed home intrudes into the canopy of one of these trees you’ll be aloud to remove 30% of the canopy and no more. (Don’t mess with big trees)


Many of the older homes are setback 15 feet from the street.  When you remove that home the the city will require that you start 25 feet back from the street.

If you are thinking about building or buying a Central Austin home, contact me,  I would be honored  to help you find the right piece of Central Austin Real Estate to build on.


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to Things to consider before you tear down to build in Central Austin
  1. webdesigner bg
    December 17, 2011 | 6:51 pm

    webdesigner bg…

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