Residential real estate insiders are looking back on 2013 as a year of growth in Leander and forecasting the trend of higher home sale prices, shorter time on the market and low inventory will continue in 2014.
City documents indicate that more than 14,000 homes within 26 different Leander subdivisions are in some stage of development and are expected to be completed in the next 10 years.
A report issued in October by Population & Survey Analysts Demographics, or PASA—a company commissioned by Leander ISD to provide growth projections and analysis—also shows a rising number of planned multifamily projects in Leander.
“Leander will continue to see strong growth because of its location, quality school district, accommodating regulations and administration,” said Mark Sprague, state director of information capital at Independence Title, which handles property transactions in Texas. “Compared to other local markets, the access to quick development without sacrificing quality is important to [maintaining property] equity and merchant development and builders.”
Drivers of development
Accessibility plays a major role in determining how soon planned subdivisions will be developed, said PASA Analyst Stacey Tepera. Major transportation arterials such as Mel Mathis Avenue, Hero Way and the extension of San Gabriel Parkway opened in Leander in 2013.
The completion of the Lakeline Boulevard extension north to Old FM 2243 West in 2014 and the southern extension of Osage Drive to FM 1431 within four to seven years are expected to be a boon for connectivity, she said.
“The most important predictor of residential development for the last nine years in Texas has been new transportation arterials, and [Leander ISD] has had more improvements in terms of adding thoroughfares than I can recall in our history of working with school districts,” Tepera said. “It is unique and amazing to see what the city of Leander will do now that residential development can occur in what before were inaccessible locations.”
The economy, availability of home mortgages and immigration all contribute to the area’s residential development, according to PASA. The demographer’s report shows unemployment rates in Williamson County, Cedar Park and Leander dropped between 2012 and 2013.
The report also indicates that homebuyers’ higher credit scores and savings rates—even with higher interest rates for mortgages since August 2013—should assure acceleration of homebuying.
Availability of homes
Approximately 51 percent of all Austin-area housing starts are in Williamson County, according to the PASA report. However, inventory has remained low in Leander and Cedar Park, driving up prices of new and resale homes of all sizes, said Shanan Shepherd, Realtor at Leander-based real estate group 98th Meridian.
“The availability of homes in the lower price range, anything under about $180,000, has dropped significantly,” Shepherd said. “As for new homes, over last year, the base prices went up $25,000–$50,000 across the board, and that’s without the upgrades. You see signs that say homes from the $160,000s, but you can bet those are inaccurate now.”
Some homebuyers are looking in Leander because fewer homes are available in Cedar Park, Shepherd said. In 2013, the number of homes sold in the Cedar Park region as defined by the Austin Board of Realtors totaled 1,415, compared with 1,656 in the Leander region.
Shepherd said Cedar Park home prices are generally higher than in Leander, which pushes some homebuyers north.
“Cedar Park prices have skyrocketed,” she said. “Now that Cedar Park has grown up to the edge of Leander, it’s making Leander less way-out-there than everybody previously thought.”
However, the demand for housing makes it possible for homeowners to put their property on the market, she said.
“In 2013, values picked up over previous years, and it gave homeowners who have struggled with a lack of equity the opportunity to list homes and not be underwater,” she said.
Gary Cocanougher, Williamson County Association of Realtors board president, said many of the trends in Leander can be seen throughout the county. The highest-priced homes take longer to sell, but it is common to have multiple competing offers on the same property, he said.
“We think 2014 is going to be extremely busy. We’ve seen rising interest rates, but they’re still less than 5 percent,” he said. “Realtors expect in 2015, things will start slowing down because we can’t ride the wave forever. It’s not a bad indication—just [that] more people are stable. [Williamson County] is the most desirable place just about anywhere in the five-county area.”
Multifamily projects pick up steam
A boom in condo, apartment and townhome development is expected to draw more residents to the area and add to the evolving residential landscape, Tepera said.
Within Leander ISD boundaries—which include most of Leander, Cedar Park and a small portion of far northwest Austin—27 condominiums and at least 35 apartment complexes are planned to be built in the next 10 years, according to the PASA report.
Tepera said the exact number of multifamily residences on the ground a decade from now will vary from the report, but a significant number of the developments PASA researched are likely to proceed.
“We know there is going to be a continued demand for multifamily housing. We know that 35–40 complexes have a great deal of certainty. It’s much more [of a] near-term impact than 10 years,” Tepera said. “This is a very desirable school district, and when a new apartment complex is built, it’s going to have students, unless it’s built for the elderly.”
DDC Merritt Legacy Ltd., the company behind Leander Station Senior Village, is constructing an apartment complex near Bagdad Road and Falcon Oaks Drive. In addition, two new senior living options are planned for Leander, including assisted living facility The Legacy at Crystal Falls and an apartment complex called Global Village at Crystal Falls Parkway and Toll 183A.