Real estate development is gaining momentum in previously undeveloped parts of south Montgomery County, while in The Woodlands some residents are finding the need to update or downsize their residences to fit their lifestyles.
1. South Montgomery County housing development set to surge along Rayford Road and the Grand Parkway
With the establishment of the Grand Parkway as a new commercial corridor and the presence of undeveloped land east of The Woodlands, planned communities in South Montgomery County may see thousands of new homes built and occupied through the 2020s, according to demographers, developers and analysts.
East of I-45 along the Grand Parkway and Rayford Road, several existing communities could potentially add thousands of new residents in the next 10 years, demographers said.
“There [are] not new homes in The Woodlands so much because it’s all built-out,” said Lawrence Dean, the Houston regional director of Metrostudy, which provides research and analysis on housing markets nationwide. “South County … becomes more attractive because it’s a shorter distance to central Houston and it’s very close to the Grand Parkway or [I-45].”
A 2018 regional demographic report by demographics firm Population and Survey Analysts projects more than 3,000 housing occupancies over the next decade south of the Grand Parkway and east of I-45 in Spring, an area which already features thousands of constructed homes and hundreds of acres of undeveloped land.
According to PASA, most occupancies through 2028 around The Woodlands will come from the Rayford Road corridor. PASA projects new building in The Woodlands will stall during that time outside Carlton Woods, the Town Center and along the I-45 corridor.
2. Aging homes draw redevelopment interest
Increasing numbers of homeowners and new buyers in The Woodlands are looking to redevelop or rebuild houses constructed early in the community’s development that are now more than 40 years old.
In the Village of Grogan’s Mill, which opened in 1974, some buildings are now 45 years old, drawing increasing numbers of redevelopment requests, said Walt Lisiewski, chairman of the Development Standards Committee, which oversees those requests.
In his quarterly address to The Woodlands Township board of directors April 24, Lisiewski said the first three months of 2019 drew a 76% increase in residential improvement applications since the same time period in the previous year—although not all items are requests for redevelopment. A report for the second quarter will be provided in July.
“You’re seeing more of this, particularly in Grogan’s Mill,” said Vicki Fullerton, a broker associate with Re/Max The Woodlands and Spring. “I’ve seen four homes that have been taken down in the last 9-12 months.”
3. Multifamily complexes coming to Shenandoah
Three planned multifamily projects under development in Shenandoah could bring 1,000 new living spaces to the city, which is now home to more than 2,700 residents occupying around 1,300 housing units.
The Life Time residential apartment complex on Six Pines Drive, The Residences at Metropark Square on I-45 and The Woodlofts on David Vetter Boulevard will each contain between 325 and 420 apartments, according to developers.
The developments could attract new residential demographics such as young professionals and empty nesters in a shift away from the city’s traditional single-family housing, according to city officials and housing analysts.
The new complexes have not yet been permitted by the city, so construction may not begin for several months—later than originally projected—but initial plans put some of the facilities’ opening dates in the early 2020s.
Metrostudy Houston Regional Director Lawrence Dean, who studies housing in the Greater Houston area, said he does not expect the new apartment complexes to change the character of the city.
“Adding a larger number of new apartment units, in my mind, probably won’t change Shenandoah appreciably, because even though Shenandoah has a small population, and it’s geographically small, because of where it is and everything that surrounds it, it already functions like a very urban area,” Dean said.
4. Residential build-out approaches in The Woodlands for single-family homes
Single-family residential lots are approaching build-out in The Woodlands, with only a few hundred remaining to sell to homebuilders, said Heath Melton, the senior vice president of master-planned communities for Howard Hughes Corp., the company that manages real estate development in The Woodlands.
The last village in The Woodlands being developed by the company for traditional single-family homes is Creekside Park, the portion of The Woodlands in Harris County east and west of Kuykendahl Road.
“We are putting in our last neighborhoods or sections on the ground, so from a development standpoint we’ll be developed out this year,” Melton said.
The company has just over 300 lots remaining to sell to homebuilders, and its inventory is also at about 300 lots, he said. Builders in Creekside Park include Darling Homes, which is developing the Coronet Ridge and Waterbridge neighborhoods.
Another area with development space remaining is East Shore, including a new section by Darling Homes—The View at East Shore—which will begin construction in the late summer, Melton said.
David Weekley Homes will also begin on homes in the East Shore area in 2020. Between the two builders, just under 100 new home sites will be developed in East Shore, he said.
“We’ve worked closely with our builders to bring new, fresh current product to market, with Darling Homes in Creekside [Park], a modernist collection and that has resonated very well with consumers,” Melton said. “That’s a little bit more of a modern, contemporary style.”
When residential build-out is complete, the company will continue to develop commercial and multifamily properties over the next 5-10 years. The company is also developing the master-planned community The Woodlands Hills north of Conroe.
“It’s kind of at our tail end of life cycle for residential, but we’re in the top 10 in Houston … for permit startups. That shows the staying power that The Woodlands has,” Melton said.
5. Empty nesters downsizing to low-maintenance luxury townhomes starting at $800,000
The $65 million Waterway Landing project currently under construction for 2020 completion in East Shore includes 59 townhomes mostly geared toward a demographic increasingly on developers’ radar—residents looking to downsize from large homes to a townhome residence.
Waterway Builders principal John Bible said the townhomes are geared toward empty nesters looking for a simpler lifestyle and carry price tags starting at around $800,000.
“A lot of our homeowners have homes in other locations, so they appreciate the ability to have the grounds maintained by [a homeowners association] and literally lock and go,” he said.
Bible said the demographic is likely to continue to grow.
“As this community matures, there are so many people who have lived here for quite a while, and their lifestyles have changed,” he said. “I think we’re just at the cusp of this market becoming prevalent.”
6. Property tax appraisal protests increasing
Montgomery County home appraisal values have risen 11.1% from 2015-19, and residents’ appraisal protests have increased by more than 26% in that time, according to Montgomery Central Appraisal District data.
The number of appraised properties grew by more than 20,000 since 2015, which MCAD Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski linked to the increase in protests.
“Anytime you have values increasing, the number of protests are going to increase,” Belinoski said. “As the population grows, and the number of new residential subdivisions that are added every year, well that’s another property that can protest for that year.”
7. Real estate experts say affordable housing in The Woodlands area is scarce, but in high demand
Lower-cost homes remain in demand around The Woodlands area, regional housing experts said. The average market value of a home in The Woodlands Township has hovered around $400,000 since 2015, according to the Montgomery Central Appraisal District.
“It is not just a Woodlands or a Houston issue, it is a statewide and national issue with more affordable homes,” said Vicki Fullerton, a broker associate with Re/Max The Woodlands and Spring. “We’re finding any homes—if they’re in good condition from [$150,000-$200,000]—if they’re on the market, they don’t stay on the market long.”
Houston Metrostudy Regional Director Lawrence Dean said The Woodlands’ amenities and desirable location do not allow for much low-cost building within the township due to local land prices, but developers in neighboring areas continue to recognize demand in the lower pricing market.
“In the areas surrounding The Woodlands, you still can increasingly get price points down below $300,000, and in the instances where that’s happening, those new homes and those communities are selling very, very well,” Dean said.
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