Real Estate Center Online News

April 6, 2012

Texas' Recovery 'More Solid' Than Before

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – Revised employment data for Texas released in March 2012 show that the state’s economy is currently experiencing a "more solid economic recovery than before," according to the Real Estate Center's latest Monthly Review of the Texas Economy.

The economy gained 266,200 nonagricultural jobs from February 2011 to February 2012, an annual growth rate of 2.6 percent compared with 1.6 percent for the United States. The state’s nongovernment sector added 319,000 jobs, an annual growth rate of 3.7 percent compared with 2.1 percent for the nation’s private sector.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.1 percent in February 2012 from 8 percent a year ago. The nation’s rate decreased from 9 to 8.3 percent.

All Texas industries except the information industry and the state’s government sector had more jobs this February than last. The state’s mining and logging industry ranked first in job creation, followed by the leisure and hospitality, other services, and the professional and business services industry.

All Texas metro areas except Abilene, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Waco and Wichita Falls had more jobs than a year ago. Odessa ranked first in job creation followed by Laredo, Corpus Christi, San Angelo and Midland.

The state’s actual unemployment rate in February was 7.2 percent. Midland had the lowest unemployment rate followed by Odessa, Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo and Abilene.

Northgate Growing Up

COLLEGE STATION ( – The time is ripe for development in Northgate, College Station’s Central Business District.

Just over a month after a new five-story student housing complex called The Stack was announced, a new high-rise is being planned just steps away.

The 18-story tower at 717 University Dr. is expected to include 175 student apartments, a 20,000-sf grocery store along with other ground-level retail, and a 400-space parking garage.

J.J. Smith of Chicago-based student housing developer Campus Acquisitions expects the new development to house about 500 students.

Demolition of the site's existing building is expected to begin within a few weeks, with the new high rise expecting its first residents by fall 2013.

New Home Starts Up in Austin, DFW, Waco

AUSTIN (Austin American-Statesman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Waco Tribune-Herald) – More hammers are swinging across Texas, and that can only mean one thing: new home construction is on the upswing.

According to the latest figures from Metrostudy, housing starts are up in Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Builders began 1,545 new homes in the Austin region during the first quarter, up 20 percent from the same period in 2011. The Dallas-Fort Worth area had 3,192 starts from January to March, up 7.3 percent from last year.

Waco is also seeing an upturn in new housing development. Single-family building permits for January and February are up 14 percent from the same period last year. In fact, February’s 49 permits are the most issued in the area since April 2008.

Taylor Morrison Rides into Reunion Ranch

DRIPPING SPRINGS (Austin American-Statesman) – A high-profile home building site in Hays County has been purchased by a large builder.

Arizona-based Taylor Morrison has purchased 472 acres of Reunion Ranch in the Dripping Springs area, about 16 miles southwest of downtown Austin. The asking price on the property was $27.5 million, but the actual sale terms were not disclosed.

The builder plans to construct 436 homes at the Ranch, with home prices starting in the mid-$300,000s.

Industry experts believe Reunion Ranch will be especially lucrative, since the area’s environmental constraints limit development in the region.

New Warehouse to Support Caterpillar

SEGUIN (San Antonio Business Journal) – Bandera Ventures will build a 300,000-sf assembly and warehouse building in Seguin to house companies that supply packaging and logistics support to earth-moving equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc.

The new building will be on 26 acres along FM 464, just west of the Caterpillar plant. It is expected to generate over $1 million in property tax revenue and about $230,000 in new local sales tax over five years.

Gray Interplant Systems and FCA Packaging will lease space in the building, creating 65 new jobs.

The Seguin Economic Development Corp. has offered a partial property tax abatement to close the deal with Bandera Ventures, a Dallas-based commercial real estate development firm,

Apartment Demand Drops in DFW

DALLAS (Dallas Morning News) – Apartment leasing in Dallas-Fort Worth dipped for the first time in over two years.

Net leases fell by 270 during first quarter 2012, with most of the declines occurring in the northern suburbs.

Greg Willett of apartment analyst MPF Research believes the slight dip is nothing to worry about.

“I don’t think one quarter of slight resident loss should be viewed as a big deal, especially when demand in first quarter usually is pretty mild anyway,” he said. “The job numbers still look good, and a comeback for the for-sale housing sector actually could drive them higher.”

The North Texas area has added about 40,000 apartment units since the beginning of 2010. An additional 12,000 units are either planned or under construction — more than twice the units a year ago.

Despite the decline, rents and occupancy are both up. North Texas apartments rent for an average $806 a month, the highest ever for the area. Occupancy is at about 93.1 percent, up 1.5 percent from first quarter 2011.

Tax Breaks Coming for Bastrop Wildfire Victims

BASTROP (KVUE-ABC) – Bastrop County residents who lost their homes in last year's wildfires will get a break on their property taxes — just not right now.

County officials said it would be too difficult to reappraise all properties affected by the fire, so homeowners are being charged 100 percent of the property tax value for 2011.

However, the Bastrop County Tax Appraisal District has promised to make the following adjustments on 2012 taxes:

  • All houses destroyed in the fire will be removed from the appraisal roll for 2012.
  • All remaining slabs will carry a zero value.
  • FEMA trailers will be exempt from taxation per the Texas Property Tax Code.
  • Utility packages will be assessed only if new construction was started before Jan. 1 or a FEMA trailer/mobile home has been moved onto the site.
  • Land values within the affected area will be reduced 25 percent based on market activity within the fire boundary area.
  • Any construction started before Jan. 1 will be put on the appraisal roll at the percentage completed as of assessment date.
  • Modular and mobile homes will be placed on the roll at full market value if they're on the property before Jan. 1.
  • All out buildings that survived the fire will remain on the roll.

Hines' Sight Set on Pinto

HOUSTON (Houston Business Journal) – Hines has stayed away from industrial development in the Houston area since the '80s, but that's about to change.

At this week's Society of Industrial and Office Realtors trade show, the locally based firm announced plans to develop up to nine million sf of industrial space in Pinto Business Park.

Hines will team up with Pinto Realty Partners on the project.

The 971-acre business park is at Beltway 8 and I-45 in northwest Houston.

Furniture Store Leaving Room in Texas

FORT WORTH (Fort Worth Business Press) – Furniture retailer RoomStore Inc. will leave room in Texas as it closes its ten remaining stores in the state.

Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in December, RoomStore has asked a federal judge for permission to close its ten Texas locations, leaving less than half of its stores open in four states.

The stores to be closed are in Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Denton, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Mesquite, Plano, Temple and Waco.

Census: Texas Growth Continues

WASHINGTON (U.S. Census Bureau) – Data from the United States Census Bureau shows new patterns of growth across the country, but one thing stays the same: Texas continues to grow.

The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan area had a 3.9 percent population increase between April 2010 and July 2011, making it the second fastest growing metro area behind Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Wash.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission took the number four spot, growing by 3 percent, followed by San Antonio (No. 16), Dallas-Fort Worth (17) and Houston (18).

In raw numbers, the Dallas and Houston areas had the greatest influx of new residents, drawing 154,774 and 139,699 respectively. The Austin area drew 67,230 new residents during that period.

Houston’s population has now surpassed the six million mark, edging past Philadelphia as the fifth most populous metropolitan area in the country.

Aging Population Brings Housing Challenges

WASHINGTON (Center for Housing Policy) – Sharp increases in the over-65 population during the next few decades are expected to bring housing affordability challenges, according to a new report from the Center for Housing Policy.

The U.S. population of older adults is expected to increase by more than 120 percent by 2050, with Census data showing that one in five Americans will be older than 65. This aging group is expected to increase the share of the population enduring severe housing cost burdens.

While about 16 percent of adults under 65 spend at least half their income on housing costs, the number jumps to 20 percent for the over-65 group. For those 85 and older, about 26 percent spend at least half their income on housing.

Housing needs for baby boomers are also expected to shift over time. With a greater number of older adults living with disabilities, the demand for renovations and retrofits to accommodate them is expected to grow, as is the demand for housing with supportive services.

The report suggests the adoption of policies to help provide more housing choices for older adults, including zoning that allows accessory dwelling units (also known as “granny flats”), higher-density rental developments, assisted-living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and co-housing communities. It further advocates using federal housing and other programs to help older adults stay in their own homes as they age.

The full report can be found here.

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