Real Estate Center Online News

April 20, 2012

Texas Home Sales Spring Forward

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – Home sales in Texas cities were hot last month, rising in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

According to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report by the Austin Board of Realtors, 1,852 single-family homes were sold in the Capital area during March, up 15 percent over the same period in 2011.

The Dallas-Fort Worth region reported a 13 percent increase in single-family home sales, with 6,126 properties sold in March, according to a report from the MetroTex Association of Realtors.

The Houston Chronicle reported 4,996 single-family homes sold in Houston in March, up 7.8 percent from the 4,634 homes sold during the same month last year.

San Antonio also showed improvements in March, according to the San Antonio Board of Realtors, with 1,637 homes sold in the area, up 4 percent month-over-month.

The median sales price rose to $200,000 in Austin, up 8 percent from March 2011. The median price in DFW jumped 11 percent to $155,000, with San Antonio reporting a 4 percent increase to $155,600. The median sales price in Houston set a monthly record in March at $161,750.

Planned Office Towers Bolster Austin Growth

AUSTIN (Austin American-Statesman) – Downtown Austin will soon add its first high-rise office tower since Frost Bank Tower opened in 2003.

Cousins Properties Inc. is planning a 30-story Class-A office tower at Colorado & Third, which will also serve as the project's name. The building will include 900 spaces of covered parking on the first 12 levels, 390,000 sf of office space above, and 6,000 sf of retail at street level.

The Atlanta-based developers plan to break ground later this year.

But wait — there's more.

Schlosser Development is also planning two new office buildings downtown, primarily to house the corporate expansion of Whole Foods Market Inc., whose flagship store is located there.

Investor Buys More West Houston Land

HOUSTON (CoStar Group) – A private investor has picked up 726 acres along I-10 in West Houston.

According to CoStar, BBVA Compass Bank sold the land for $9 million, or $12,397 per acre, after the deal drew ten offers.

The seller’s representative, ARA Houston, said the buyer plans to hold on to the property long term, along with his other land holdings in the area.

Investment Firm Wrangles Quadrangle

DALLAS (Commercial Property Executive) – American Realty Advisors has added over 900,000 sf to its portfolio, including The Quadrangle in Dallas.

The investment management firm purchased the 194,200-sf mixed-use property in Dallas, along with office buildings, industrial facilities, apartment complexes, and retail centers in Southern California, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale.

Remodeling Activity Returning

CAMBRIDGE, MA (Joint Center for Housing Studies) – After a two-year lull, remodeling activity is expected to return this year, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Released Thursday, the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) suggests that the upturn in home sales combined with low interest rates will help boost remodeling activity by as much as 5.9 percent through fourth quarter 2012.

The LIRA is designed by the Joint Center to estimate national homeowner spending on remodeling activity.

Future RE Agents Get Schooled

AUSTIN ( – The Texas Association of Realtors (TAR) is launching a new prelicensing school, Texas Realtors University, to prepare for the resurgence in the state’s housing market.

The program will be set in classrooms where students will learn material to satisfy requirements set by the Texas Real Estate Commission, in an environment without agent recruiting.

TAR Chairman Joe Stewart said Texas Realtors University will “take responsibility for prelicense education in our industry and provide future Texas Realtors with the opportunity to be the best in their profession.”

Its prelicensure classes will be offered in 12 Texas cities during 2012, including Austin, Abilene, Arlington, Fort Hood, Harlingen, Houston-Sugar Land, Laredo, Lubbock, New Braunfels, Round Rock, San Angelo and Waco. Expansion to other cities is expected soon.

SA Foreclosures Jump Despite Downward Trend

SAN ANTONIO (San Antonio Express-News) – While lenders are foreclosing on fewer properties these days, foreclosure postings for next month are up in Bexar County.

On the auction block for May in Bexar County are 1,168 properties, up 14.7 percent from May 2011, according to RexReport. Including January through May, however, foreclosure postings are down 12.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

The bump in May foreclosures could be partly due to a settlement with attorney generals that might have delayed foreclosures, noted Real Estate Center Research Economist James Gaines.

Gaines expects 2012 to be a transitional year for the area but believes the downward trend in foreclosures will continue as San Antonio furthers its job growth.

Firm Buys Three-Quarter Stake in El Paso Mall

EL PASO (El Paso Times) – CBL & Associates Properties Inc. has acquired 75 percent ownership of The Outlet Shoppes at El Paso.

The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based real estate investment trust paid $108.7 million for its stake in the 378,000-sf outlet mall located at 7051 South Desert Blvd., along with half-ownership for a similar outlet mall in Gettysburg, Pa.

Horizon Group Properties will continue to manage the mall, which was 99.6 percent occupied at the end of 2011.

Good News for Austin Office Market?

AUSTIN (Marcus & Millichap) – The "diverse nature" of Austin’s economy and limited new construction mean good news for area office owners in 2012, reports Marcus & Millichap in its latest office market update.

Among the firm's projections for the remainder of this year:

  • After 16,300 jobs were created last year, employers will expand payrolls 3.4 percent with 27,000 positions. Office-using employment will expand by 6,500 workers this year.
  • Construction will remain limited, with 50,000 sf of competitive space coming online. The CBD and southeast submarket will split the office space additions.
  • Vacancy will fall 110 basis points to 19.2 percent, compared with last year's fall of 50 basis points.
  • Asking rents will rise 2.1 percent to $26.14 per sf as effective rents tick up 3.1 percent to $21.40 per sf.
  • Cap rates in Austin are typically the lowest in the state, which could cause some out-of-state investors to pause when considering deals. Nonetheless, revenue growth and the long-term favorable economic outlook will continue to attract a significant amount of capital to local office properties.

Hotel Indigo Opens in Downtown Waco

WACO (Waco Tribune-Herald) – Nearly four years after receiving construction permits, Waco’s newest upscale boutique hotel has opened downtown.

The $16 million, 111-room Hotel Indigo opened at 211 Clay Ave. in what industry professionals think is becoming a saturated market.

Justin Edwards of the Greater Waco Hotel and Lodging Association believes the city has enough hotels for now. However, Liz Taylor, executive director of the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects demand to grow once Baylor University completes its new $250 million football stadium in 2014.

Hotel Indigo is owned by Key Hotel Investments of Temple.

Firm Buys Two Park Ten Properties

HOUSTON (Commercial Property Executive) – Hicks Ventures Ltd. has purchased two office buildings in Houston’s Energy Corridor.

The Houston-based investment, development, and management/leasing company purchased the Class-B office buildings at 16350 and 16360 Park Ten Place in the 550-acre Park 10 Regional Business Center, adding 141,265 sf to its portfolio.

Hicks Ventures will invest $1.7 million to renovate the buildings, which are currently 73 percent occupied.

Hicks purchased the buildings from American Spectrum Realty Inc., which had owned the buildings since 2002.

Houston Showing Industrial Strength, CBRE Says

HOUSTON (CB Richard Ellis) – Nearly 4.5 million sf of new industrial construction is underway in Houston so far this year, reports CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) in its latest industrial market report. In addition, 863,000 sf of new industrial space has been completed.

The Greater Houston Partnership reported that construction activity rose for the fourth consecutive month in February and nonresidential permits increased 100.1 percent from $128.8 million in February 2011 to $257.7 million in February 2012.

"A factor that has been preventing a more accelerated recovery is a persistent caution to move ahead with new projects, and a continued difficulty in accessing financing," CBRE said in its report. "Investors want to own in Houston, but national groups still remember unsuccessful investment deals elsewhere in the nation that are making them cautious about financing or developing."

Other key points from CBRE's report:

  • Houston has regained the 152,800 jobs lost during the recession and started off 2012 with more than 2.6 million payroll jobs, the highest employment level in its history. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston should continue on the current path of expansion and is in line to see the creation of 84,600 jobs in 2012.
  • Traffic through the Houston-Galveston customs district is at an all-time high. The Port of Houston is growing and planning on investing $3 billion over the next 15 years on improvements and upgrades to accommodate larger ships when the widening of the Panama Canal is completed.
  • Demand for oil is expected to rise over the coming years and high oil prices will benefit the oil industry and in turn will likely continue generating jobs.
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