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Austin market defies U.S. economic drought, but faces real one

Real Estate Market Report

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When Win Butler, lead singer for the indie rock band Arcade Fire, took the outdoor stage at the recent Austin City Limits Music Festival in Texas, he told the audience, "I don't know if we've ever prayed for rain before at a festival, but we are this time." The sentiment is an entirely serious one in Austin, where a long-running drought, followed by literally thousands of wildfires, has cast an economic shadow in a region that hasn't had a whole lot to be anxious about in recent years. "Thriving" is a word commonly associated with the city. While most of the country has wrestled with recession, job losses and housing angst, Austin -- along with the rest of Central Texas and even the state as a whole -- has been riding a wave of economic well-being. Companies are hiring. The population is growing. And real estate -- if not exactly booming -- is stable. "We're in a good place," said Mark Sprague, director of business development for Mission Mortgage...