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Real Estate Center Online News

March 9, 2012


Those Were the Days: '50s Throwback Hotel Planned

AUSTIN (Austin American-Statesman) – You can't get your kicks on Route 66 these days, but you might try Austin.

That's where Valencia Group is scheduled to break ground this month on a hotel billed as a “21st century re-interpretation of the nostalgic motor courts” that were popular in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

The 123-room Lone Star Court will be at the south end of the upscale Domain project on the city's north side.

The hotel will also have about 2,000 sf of indoor meeting space, a 1,600-sf outdoor covered pavilion and an adjacent open-air lawn that will add 1,800 sf to the total meeting space.

Lone Star Court in Austin will be the flagship of what will eventually be a series of court-concept hotels.

Landmark Case Determines Water Ownership

AUSTIN (Austin American-Statesman) – A recent unanimous landmark ruling by the Texas Supreme Court has determined that landowners own the water beneath their land and may be entitled to compensation if government authorities limit their access to it.

The case arose when Bexar County ranch owners Burrell Day and Joel McDaniel sued the Edwards Aquifer Authority after being issued a permit that limited the amount of water they could pump, claiming the permit was equivalent to taking property without just compensation.

The San Antonio-based Edwards Aquifer Authority, which has jurisdiction over 8,800 square miles of underground water in eight counties, believes that paying owners for water access would be financially burdensome and make regulating water impossible.

Although the ramifications of the lawsuit are still unclear, water experts predict a surge in lawsuits from landowners in similar situations.

The ruling does not apply to surface water, which is subject to separate regulations.

Growing Optimism in Multifamily Market

WASHINGTON (National Association of Home Builders) – Builder and developer confidence about conditions in the multifamily housing market is at its highest since fourth quarter 2005, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The Multifamily Production Index (MPI) provides a composite measure for construction in each of the three multifamily housing market areas: low-rent units, market-rate rental units and for-sale units. On a scale of zero to 100, the current MPI increased to 48.9 in fourth quarter 2011, up 1.6 points from the previous quarter.

In particular, builder and developer perceptions of the market-rate rental properties were at an all-time high during the fourth quarter, with a component index of 64.3. The index for low-rent units increased to 55.5 and remained steady for the condominium market at 30.6.

“Although the for-sale component remains weaker, it is still double what it was just six quarters ago,” noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

Confidence about future development has also grown. Builder and developer expectations about construction in the next six months improved in all three categories.

Similarly, the Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI), which measures perception of vacancies, decreased by 0.4 points to 34.7 in the last quarter. A lower MVI indicates fewer vacancies. The MVI has shown improvements in vacancies since second quarter 2009, when it peaked at 70.2.

CCU Marches to Sam Houston Plaza

HOUSTON (Moody Rambin) – California Credit Union has purchased three six-story office buildings in the Sam Houston Plaza Business Park.

The buildings at 507, 519 and 523 N. Sam Houston Pkwy. E. total nearly 235,800 sf. They are 28 to 32 years old.

Moody Rambin Interests has been retained as the exclusive property management and leasing agent for the complex.

FHA Refinance Program Gets Boost

WASHINGTON (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) – Price cuts to the Federal Housing Authority’s (FHA) Streamline Refinance Program could benefit millions of borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages.

Beginning June 11, the Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium will drop to just .01 percent and reduce its annual premium to .55 percent for certain borrowers.

For the 3.4 million households with existing FHA-insured mortgages endorsed before May 31, 2009, refinancing through the new streamlined process could save about $250 per month or $3,000 a year. The newly discounted prices also allow borrowers to refinance into the lower-cost mortgage without the need for additional underwriting.

FHA-insured homeowners can determine their eligibility by contacting their existing lender.

The changes apply to mortgages insured under the FHA’s Single Family Mortgage Insurance Programs, except Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), Section 247 (Hawaiian Homelands), Section 248 (Indian Reservations), and Section 223(e) (Declining Neighborhoods).

Housing More Affordable Than Ever

AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal) – According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), housing affordability is at an all-time high.

NAR’s housing affordability index measured 206.1 in January, up 16.4 points from the previous year.

The index is calculated by combining housing prices, household incomes and mortgage rates. A baseline index of 100 means that a household with the area’s median income matches the requirements needed to purchase a median-priced home with a 20 percent down payment.

NAR President Moe Veissi believes the high level of affordability with declining housing inventory could help stabilize the market in many parts of the United States.

“If access to credit improves," he said, "we could see a much more meaningful increase in home sales and broader stabilization in home prices with modest gains in areas with stronger job growth.”

The Chicago-based trade organization began using the housing affordability index in 1970.

E-Commerce Group Moves to Allen

ALLEN (Business Wire) – PFSweb Inc., an e-commerce solutions company, is relocating its corporate headquarters to Allen. The move is expected to bring 650 jobs.

The company signed a ten-year lease on a 95,877-sf facility at 505 Millennium Dr., which had been vacant for over eight years. PFSweb selected the site after a search that included properties in Richardson, Dallas, Frisco and Plano.

Cushman & Wakefield represented the company in the transaction, with Peloton Commercial Real Estate representing the landlord of Millennium Business Park.

The company is also relocating its call center operations to Renaissance Tower in downtown Dallas from its current location in Plano.

NT Housing Market's Strong Start

DALLAS (Dallas Morning News) – In one of the biggest increases the North Texas housing market has seen in the last seven years, sales of existing homes were up 27 percent last month from a year ago.

But will it last?

Real Estate Center Research Economist Dr. Jim Gaines told the Dallas Morning News that while those are big gains, "I don't know if we can keep this up over the whole year."

Even so, Gaines said it's "good news in the sense that the market is showing signs of being stronger than it has been over the last couple of years."

Also worth noting about the North Texas market:

  • Pending home sales last month were 35 percent higher than a year ago.
  • Existing home sales for the first two months of 2012 are 20 percent higher than the same period last year.
  • Sales are still about a third less than they were in 2007, when the market peaked.

Two San Antonio Apartment Complexes Sold

SAN ANTONIO (San Antonio Business Journal) – Seldin Co. and Chicago-based investor partners have purchased two Class-B apartment complexes in northwest San Antonio.

The Omaha, Neb.-based real estate firm purchased the 280-unit Villas of Oak Creste complex at 5315 Fredericksburg Rd. and the 262-unit Songbird complex at 7667 Callaghan Rd., built in 1980 and 1982, respectively.

Seldin Co. was attracted to the complexes’ proximity to the South Texas Medical Center and USAA, two of San Antonio’s largest employers.

World Group Commercial Real Estate advised Seldin in the transaction.

Corpus Christi Rents, Occupancy Up

AUSTIN (Apartment Realty Advisors) – Average market rents and occupancy were up at the end of 2011 for Corpus Christi, according to investment brokerage firm Apartment Realty Advisors (ARA).

Rents for the metropolitan area averaged $738 per unit, up 3.14 percent for the year. Occupancy rates in the area improved by 0.3 percent over second quarter 2011.

Highest rents were captured for properties built in the 2000s, priced at an average $1.07 per sf. The highest occupancy rate, 95 percent, was reported for properties built in the 1990s.

Market rents for Corpus Christi have grown 11.48 percent in four years.

ARA predicts continued growth in the oil and gas sector will fuel the area’s rental market in the future.

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