Real Estate Center Online News

April 3, 2012

Texas 'Well-Oiled Real Estate Machine'

NEW YORK (CNBC) – Last week, CNBC referred to Texas as a "well-oiled real estate machine." And they meant it literally.

According to the news source, residential real estate in Texas is benefiting from an economy driven by energy production. Real Estate Center Research Economist Jim Gaines agrees.

“The middle of the country, the spine, has done much better than the two coasts,” Gaines said. “A common thread is energy, from Texas to the Dakotas — there has been a real boom time due to the exploration and drilling activity.”

This boom means more jobs. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Texas ranks in the top ten in job growth from 2001 to 2011.

That helps with housing prices. CNBC reports Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio saw minimal declines in the bust and are essentially fully recovered.

“The ability of all markets in Texas to weather the national economic storm was due in significant part to the strength of the energy industry,” said Texas Association of Realtors Chairman Joe Stewart. “However, more important than that is the diversity of the Texas economy, which has helped drive job growth and demand for real estate.”

New FHA Mortgage Rules Take Effect

SAN ANTONIO (San Antonio Express-News) – New Federal Housing Administration (FHA) rules will affect many first-time homebuyers as well as many current homeowners.

One rule, which took effect yesterday, disqualifies first-time homebuyers with more than $1,000 in medical or other collections from getting an FHA-backed loan. To qualify for the loan, the buyer must pay off the debt or show that three months of payments have been made.

Meanwhile, all homeowners who have FHA loans will have to pay more in mortgage insurance starting next Monday.

They'll have to pay 1.25 percent of their mortgage balance annually, up from 1.15 percent previously. And up-front mortgage insurance, which is paid at closing, will increase from 1 percent to 1.75 percent of the loan.

Auto Parts Manufacturer Rolls Into Dallas

LANCASTER (Dallas Business Journal) – South Korean auto parts manufacturer Mobis has purchased a 442,000-sf building in Lancaster, just south of Dallas.

The Seoul-based manufacturer, which provides parts for Hyundai and Kia, plans to add 40 jobs with its distribution and training facility at the intersection of I-20 and Houston School Rd.

According to the company website, Mobis has several U.S.-based facilities, including warranty parts distribution centers in California and Florida.

Eclectic North Loop Spurs Development

AUSTIN (Austin American-Statesman) – Austin’s North Loop neighborhood is becoming home to a wave of new restaurants and bars, adding to the eclectic vibe of the area between Airport and Lamar Boulevards.

Establishments with unique Austin-esque names like the Tigress Pub, Foreign & Domestic, MonkeyWrench Books, and Blackbird Clothes and Curios now dot the diverse area that used to be in the flight path of the former Mueller Municipal Airport.

Real estate values have increased there since the airport closed in 1999, attracting developers like Deacon Shields of Ely Properties, who is developing the $29 million, 186-unit Flats on Lamar. He sees the North Loop neighborhood as the next South Congress, a south-of-downtown district characterized by bohemian boutiques and hip urban housing.

The North Loop has “all the potential in the world,” he noted, “whereas on South Congress every tract has been spoken for and everybody’s fighting over the crumbs.”

The Flats on Lamar are planned to open next year.

State Supreme Court Reaffirms West End Beach Ruling

AUSTIN (Texas General Land Office) – Public beach access on Galveston's west end ended last week when the state Supreme Court reaffirmed its previous ruling in favor of a California divorce attorney who bought beachfront rental properties there.

In 2005, California resident Carole Severance purchased several houses on the beach in Galveston. After Hurricane Rita hit that summer, the General Land Office sent Severance a letter stating her property was on the public beach and subject to removal under the Open Beaches Act. She was later offered up to $40,000 in public money to move each house off the beach.

Severance sued, claiming the public’s right to access the beach violated her constitutional rights.

In 2010, the Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case that called into question the public beach easement, a key provision of the Texas Open Beaches Act. The Court ruled that a public beach easement does not exist on West Galveston Island because the original Republic of Texas land patent from 1840 failed to reserve the public’s right to use the beach.

The Court stated in last week's ruling that even for areas where a public beach easement could be proven by the State, that easement did not “roll” landward and would effectively be extinguished after each new storm event or hurricane that moved the line of vegetation.

In a press release issued by the General Land Office, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said the ruling ends any future possibility of much-needed beach renourishment projects for Galveston island’s rapidly eroding west end and will make it impossible for the state to step in quickly to clear the beach of debris after the next hurricane demolishes the front row.

H-E-B Bags Grand Prairie Acreage

GRAND PRAIRIE (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) – Could Grand Prairie be the future home of an H-E-B grocery store? Possibly. The San Antonio-based company has purchased more than 18 acres there at Lake Ridge Pkwy. and Camp Wisdom Rd.

H-E-B Central Texas Senior Vice President Jeff Thomas said that while the company has no plans for the land right now, they are "evaluating whether the company may consider expanding closer to the Dallas-Fort Worth market at some time in the future."

The company currently has stores in Burleson, Cleburne, Waxahachie, Ennis, Stephenville, Corsicana, Granbury, Fort Worth, Dallas and Southlake.

According to deed records, the land was sold by Dallas-based Lake Parks Retail.

New Owner, Name at 1001 Louisiana

HOUSTON (Houston Business Journal) – The one million-sf office building at 1001 Louisiana in downtown Houston will soon be getting a new owner, as well as a new name.

The takeover will happen once Kinder Morgan Inc. acquires El Paso Corp., which currently owns the building. The acquisition is expected to be completed this quarter.

The building will be renamed the Kinder Morgan Building, according to the Quarterly Downtown Real Estate Update for First Quarter 2012, which is distributed by Central Houston Inc.

New Building Standards Ahead in Amarillo?

AMARILLO (Amarillo Globe-News) – Changes in Amarillo’s building standards could raise construction costs for new homes in the area.

New building codes are being reviewed by the Amarillo Construction Advisory and Appeals Board, in hopes that new homes will save owners money through reduced energy costs.

The city currently operates using the 2006 edition of the International Building Code, since succeeded by 2009 and 2012 editions.

Scott McDonald, the city’s building official, expects significant changes in the way homes are built in the area, including more appropriately sized heating and air conditioning systems, improved insulation, and required installation of carbon monoxide detectors. Updates could also allow builders to use technology and materials not allowed under the old code.

The board plans to bring its final recommendations before the Amarillo City Commission next month.

Texas Unemployment Continues Decline

DALLAS (Dallas Morning News) – Unemployment continues its decline in Texas for the sixth month in a row, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

Nearly 28,000 jobs were added in February, dropping the state’s unemployment rate to 7.1 percent, down two-tenths of a point from January.

Unemployment was at 8 percent last February.

Ronny Congleton of the TWC said eight of the 11 major industries saw growth in the state in February, with local governments adding the most jobs. The construction industry added 4,500 jobs, which Southern Methodist University economist Bernard Weinstein said is due to an increase in commercial and infrastructure work.

The lowest unemployment numbers in the state can be found in Midland and Odessa. Their rates are 3.8 and 4.5 percent, respectively.

Beaumont-Port Arthur has the highest unemployment rate in Texas, at 10.9 percent.

News You Can Peruse, Use

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – Have we got news for you. And lots of it.

Check out NewsTalk Texas, our online database of Texas real estate articles. It's updated each weekday, throughout the day, so there's always something new.

Here's a sample of what you'll find there this week:

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