ATX

New Train Station Coming to Downtown ATX

This past Monday, thanks to a $50 million grant by TXDOT, Capital Metro broke ground last Monday on a brand new Downtown Austin train station on Fourth Street between Neches and Red River Streets.  This new station will have a much bigger platform than the previous one, allowing several more trains to travel to downtown at the same time.

Upon completion (projected spring of 2021), the new rail station will expand to two platforms and three tracks instead of its current one platform and one track. Capital Metro hopes to grow its ridership substantially by 2039, aiming for half of all Austin commuters to use some form of public transit.  With a city population that looks to grow by about 2 million people in the same time frame, strengthening our public transit system now is smart growth. 

The builder of the new Downtown train station is Jay-Reese, who is also known for other Austin builds such as the Second Street Bridge near Austin Central Library, the Pfluger pedestrian bridge over Lady Bird Lake and the hike-and-bike trail boardwalk off East Riverside Drive.

Austin's Changing Skyline--Downtown Development in ATX

Austin skyline by 2020.JPG

Austin continues to boom. Business Insider says Austin had the second highest rate of job growth among the 40 largest metro areas in America, with employment rising 3.7 percent between February 2017 and February 2018. The most visible representation of our rapid economic development is our ever changing downtown skyline. Just think about this: of the 8 tallest buildings in downtown Austin today, not a single one of them existed 10 years ago!

According to the Austin Downtown Alliance, downtown will grow by 50 percent if it only completes projects currently under construction and those proposed for redevelopment. However, downtown Austin has the potential to double in size if it reaches its full build out potential in the next 5 years.

Below is just a glimpse of the developments that are shaping or will continue to shape the Austin skyline…

  1. 6th X Guadalupe St—when completed this will be the tallest building in Austin. 837 feet high & 66 stories of apartments and offices stacked atop each other. An acre of parks in the sky are in the plans for this skyscraper.

  2. The Independent— luxury high rise condominiums and currently Austin's tallest building, taking the title away from The Austonian, which laid claim to the tallest building in Austin for about eight years.

  3. The Republic at 401 W Fourth St, just south of Republic Square Park, will have 711,401 square feet of office and 21,463 square feet of retail.

  4. 70 Rainey—a 34-story skyscraper with 164 condos that tower over Rainey Street.

  5. 48 East Ave—a 33-story, 215 condo tower also located in the Rainey Street Historic District.

  6. Waller Park Place—more than 3 million square feet of residential, commercial and office space at Red River and East Cesar Chavez streets. This will be a big property—roughly the size of six Frost Bank Towers!

  7. Block 71—Indeed Inc. will lease the top 10 floors of this office tower under construction at the intersection of Sixth Street and Colorado Avenue.

  8. 5th & West—154 luxury condos that stand 37-stories tall.

  9. The Austin Proper Hotel—a 32-story luxury hotel and residential combo.

  10. Third + Shoal — an office tower near The Independent, the new library and Google’s tower — with tenants such as Facebook and Bank of America.

  11. 300 Colorado Office— at Colorado and Third Street will be redeveloped into a 32-story office tower with about 390,000 square feet of space.  Fourteen of the building’s 32 floors will be dedicated to parking. 

  12. ZaZa Tower—This 24-story tower on West Fourth Street near Lavaca Street will offer more than 200 apartments and more than 150 rooms at Hotel ZaZa. Retail stores will line the bottom of the building.

  13. Genesis Real Estate plans to build a 50-story apartment tower in the Rainey Street area on the site of the vacant Villas on Town Lake condos.

  14. Block 185— Google has leased the entire building. set to start construction in 2019. This building will take on a sail-like shape due to its proximity to Lady Bird Lake and Shoal Creek.

  15. 93 Red River—347 Units; 40 stories of Multifamily, Office & Retail including five levels of underground parking and seven levels of above ground parking.

  16. 405 Colorado—a 197,056 SF building with 12 stories of parking with 12 levels of office space on top.

How do you feel about Austin’s dynamic skyline and economic boom? Like it our not, our city is currently one of the most rapidly changing metro areas in the country, so we need to be prepared to flex and change with it, especially in the real estate sector.

Apple's Big Announcement and Its Impact on Austin

In early December, while all eyes were on Amazon’s HQ2 announcement, Apple made an important one of its own:  the decision to invest $1 billion in a new 133-acre Austin campus that will increase Apple to upwards of 15,000 employees in the coming years. With the completion of this campus, Apple will surpass other well-known names such as H-E-B and Dell to earn the title as the largest private employer in the city of Austin.

The Apple campus will be located right next to its counterpart just over the county line in Williamson County, placing it 12 miles from the city center. It will bring in a good mix of middle to upper range jobs in technology, research and customer call centers. In addition to catapulting Austin into the big leagues as a technology center, the incoming Apple campus will impact all sectors of life, such as housing, restaurants, traffic, and retail marketplaces.  Some estimate that the overall impact of the new Apple campus could result in over 30,000 new jobs across all sectors of real estate, construction, and the marketplace in Austin. 

What impact will this swell of jobs have on the Austin housing market? Prices will continue to rise if more supply is not created to meet these additional demands. As housing prices in the urban core of Austin continue to escalate, look for more incoming Apple employees to search for homes in the Round Rock, Pflugerville, and Hutto areas because of their close accessibility to the Robinson Ranch area (where Apple is located) via SH 45. Other communities that will likely see further development are Liberty Hill and Leader as I-35 will also become a main thoroughfare for Apple employees.

What might the arrival of Apple mean for your housing sale or purchase? If you are shopping in the housing market right now, the answer is simple.  The sooner you can buy, the better.  Competition and prices are only looking to increase. However, if you own a home in North Austin, you might want to hold onto it for a couple more years.  That is, if you can afford its increasing property taxes!

The addition of the new Apple campus will only contribute to Austin’s reputation as a knowledge and talent center and will continue to draw more people from the West Coast who are looking for solid tech jobs in more affordable housing markets.  However, the infrastructure will have to work hard to keep up with the demands of this brand new influx of people to make this a win for all Austinites.

The Four Keys To a Successful Inspection

As a prospective home owner, what key items should you look for when the inspection report comes back?  How do you know what items might be potential deal breakers and which are simple repairs? I recommend you start by looking into these 4 categories of major home repairs.

1.     Roof- How old is the roof?  Has it had any previous repair? Have there been any leaks due to problems with the roof? 

A standard roof life is 15-18 years and can cost between $6,000 and $16,000 to repair, depending on the size of the home and on insurance coverage.

2.     Foundation- Has there been any significant shifting or cracks along non-natural seam lines?  Does the floor dip or shift in some parts?

You are looking for the inspection report to say that there has not been any standard significant movement of the foundation.

3.     Electrical- Is the wiring aluminum or copper? Copper wiring is more widely used in homes today due to its greater conductivity and heat resistance.   Aluminum wiring can still be found in some older homes.  Aluminum is much harder to repair than copper wiring, does not conduct energy as well, can tend to overheat and cause damage, and greater care has to be taken to install it properly in the home.  

Ideally you are looking for the inspection report to say that the home uses copper wiring and that no significant electrical issues were detected.

4.     Plumbing- Is the plumbing cast iron or PVC?

Cast iron plumbing will eventually rust from the inside out and should be cleaned out annually to remove build up.  Cast iron was used heavily in construction during the WWII era, so many older homes might have cast iron plumbing in use.  Cast iron is not a deal breaker, but it requires more upkeep and maintenance and can require contractors to dig underground through the slab to get to the pipes. 

Look for the use of PVC piping in the inspection report. If cast iron is used, make sure you understand how it can be accessed for future inspection and repairs and get the inspector to give you a status report on the integrity and lifespan of the cast iron used.

Part 2 - 33.3% Return on Renovation

If you missed Part 1, click HERE to read about a 46.7% return on renovation of a condo.

As previously mentioned, I have been fortunate to work with sellers who want to maximize their return on their home. In doing so, we put together a plan to renovate their home, then list their property for sale. This approach is risky, takes capital, and patience from the home owners. But in the right urban situation, with the right team, the opportunity can create a ROR (return on renovation) of 30-100%.

A key to this equation is who will do the renovation? My wife, Diana Skellenger, is a female general contractor in Austin. For all my sellers, the only contractor I trust is Diana and her team at skellyhome.com. Skelly Home continues to lead the pack in quality, affordable construction. I must admit, I am on the team, but it's from a high level. :)

The second example is a home in Travis Heights. This home was purchased by the owners in 2005. Before the renovation, the home was worth $600,000 and looked like the following:

For this home, the plan was to renovate the entire home which included a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, wet bar, removing a load bearing pantry (seen in the top left photo), and paint the entire exterior.  The total budget for the renovation was $120,000 with a market price of $825,000. 

Yes, this is the same house. The renovation turned out as expected, outstanding! The home was listed, then sold for net $760,000, earning a return of renovation of 33.3%.

Math:

$760,000 - $600,000 = $160,000 Gross Gain on Renovation

$160,000 (Gross Profit on Renovation) - 120,000 (Renovation Cost) = $40,000 Net Return on Renovation  

$40,000 (Net Return on Renovation) / $120,000 (Renovation Cost) = 33.3% Return on Renovation

The Renovation approach can work with the right team.