4 impacts to the Lake Travis/Westlake real estate market

This view from the balcony of Unit 1301 in the Waterfall on Lake Travis, 5931 Hiline Road, Austin, features Lake Travis and the hills beyond. The condo complex was completed in 2016.

This view from the balcony of Unit 1301 in the Waterfall on Lake Travis, 5931 Hiline Road, Austin, features Lake Travis and the hills beyond. The condo complex was completed in 2016.

Is a full Lake Travis to credit for rise in area home values?

After a six-year period of drought conditions in Travis County, the rains of April 2016 brought Lake Travis water levels above capacity for the first time since spring 2010, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Market data from the Austin Board of Realtors showed the median sales price of waterfront properties declined as Lake Travis water levels decreased from 2011-14 when the lake was at its lowest point. But since 2014, prices have increased each year, reaching $755,000 in 2016, the data shows.

“The steady and sometimes explosive growth of the entire area depends on many factors, and the lake is certainly one of them,” Moreland Properties Realtor Jan Moreland said. “With the lake at capacity, the mindset of the community is different; restaurants and commercial developments are returning to the lake, marinas are full and boat ramps have reopened.”

Do lake levels affect property values?

According to ABoR, the number of waterfront properties sold on Lake Travis’ south shore have more than doubled since the peak of the drought in 2014, when only 22 units sold. In 2015, 44 lakefront homes sold, and 50 lakefront homes sold in 2016. This year, 38 have sold through June, continuing the trend, she said.

Mark Sprague, a real estate and financial industry analyst with Independence Title Co. in Austin, said waterfront homes are less marketable when lake levels are lower. The decreased number of homes sold during the drought could have been a result of savvy homeowners waiting for lake conditions to improve before putting a property back on the market, he said.

He said the improved market for lakefront homes since 2014 is also, in part, a reflection of the steady growth in the entire Lake Travis area over the past 15 years.

“Be careful [assuming] correlation equals causation,” Sprague said. “If sales dropped, was it because of the lake levels being low or just because of low inventory in the market? In the same vein, if prices for lakefront homes went up after the lake filled back up, is it really explained by the drought or is it consistent with the appreciation already happening?”

New developments queued up for Hamilton Pool Road corridor

With the first phase of the Provence neighborhood—a four-phase residential project including a proposed Lake Travis ISD elementary school—underway in the 16000 block of Hamilton Pool Road in Austin, other developers are eying the area for growth.

Formerly known as Masonwood, the phase incorporates 678 single-family homes on 460 acres, and developer Jim Meredith said he expects the community to be “up and running by the fourth quarter of 2018.”

However, Provence is not the only project bound for Hamilton Pool Road, an unlit, two-lane, shoulderless route.

This graphic shows the proposed placement of the WTCPUA water line loop in the Hamilton Pool Road corridor. This graphic shows the proposed placement of the WTCPUA water line loop in the Hamilton Pool Road corridor.[/caption]

“The Kozmetsky Ranch [in the Hamilton Pool Road corridor] has all of the entitlements and approvals it needs to develop into a planned community of approximately 1,200 single-family units,” said Rick Wheeler, president of Malone-Wheeler Engineering and representative of the Greg Kozmetsky and the Ronya and George Kozmetsky Family Foundation, the owner of the namesake ranch. “[The project] is not on the ground today, but it’s coming, along with the growth.”

Bee Cave, in its 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update, designated the Hamilton Pool Road corridor within its city borders as “rural mixed use,” permitting only developments “that would protect the area’s low-density, rural residential nature.”

Spurred on by the anticipated development, Jeremy Petersma, battalion chief of Lake Travis Fire Rescue, announced June 29 the department is planning to open its sixth station on Hamilton Pool Road, across the street from the Rocky Creek neighborhood, in 2019. He said the land for the new station has been purchased, and the project is in its preliminary stage of design. It is anticipated to include a fire engine and truck, he said.

This rendering depicts the front entrance to the Provence community off Hamilton Pool Road. This rendering depicts the front entrance to the Provence community off Hamilton Pool Road.[/caption]

The Hamilton Pool Road site was chosen over another location on West Hwy. 71 near Serene Hills Drive, Petersma said.

Additionally, some Bee Cave City Council members fear a proposed West Travis County Public Utility Agency project to link Hwy. 290 and West Hwy. 71 water lines may prompt even more development in the vicinity.

“I think we have to protect Hamilton Pool Road,” Council Member Kara King said of the project. “[The road] is not able to handle the traffic it has, much less more.”

Although the item was tabled at the agency’s June 14 meeting, packet documents showed proposed pathways for the added water lines along Crumley Ranch Road in the Hamilton Pool Road area.

“It’s very hard to stay rural once you have a water line,” said Gene Lowenthal, president of the Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition, a nonprofit group aimed at safeguarding the rural nature of the region.

Possible medical facility, new development set for West Hwy. 71

Baylor Scott & White Health announced June 13 it is partnering with the developer of Thomas Ranch, a 2,200-acre master-planned community to be built off West Hwy. 71 at Paleface Ranch Road in Spicewood.

A study is underway to determine the area’s current and future medical needs, with the possibility of opening the new facility in 2019, said Tim Ols, president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Marble Falls Specialty Clinic and Hospital.

Baylor Scott & White Health is evaluating the addition of a medical facility to the Thomas Ranch community planned for a tract off West Hwy. 71. Baylor Scott & White Health is evaluating the addition of a medical facility to the Thomas Ranch community planned for a tract off West Hwy. 71.[/caption]

“The [proposed medical facility] would more than likely include primary care services and some specialists as well,”  he said.

These staffers may be family medicine physicians, internal medicine physicians and pediatricians, he said.

The plan for Thomas Ranch, with an expected 10-year build-out, was created by Tom D’Alesandro, president of development firm Blakefield LLC. 

Since the project’s inception, Blakefield staff has met with various Spicewood neighborhood groups to discuss the development and respond to residents’ questions, including Save Our Spicewood on April 23, Naumann Point Property Owners Association on April 29 and the Laguna Vista/Pedernales Bend Property Owners Association on June 3.

Cardinal Point to offer affordable housing in Four Points

Foundation Communities, an Austin-based nonprofit that has been providing low-income housing to Austin residents for more than 25 years, is constructing Cardinal Point Apartments, which is scheduled to open in Four Points in January.

Located at 11015 Four Points Drive near the intersection of RM 2222 and Four Points Drive in Austin, the affordable-housing development will be the first of its kind in the Four Points area.

“We want to build affordable housing in all parts of Austin,” Foundation Communities spokesperson Alyah Khan said. “We are excited to build the first affordable housing [development] in Northwest Austin. Our Cardinal Point community will be located close to good schools and plenty of good job opportunities.”

The development will have 120 apartments and will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans with rent starting at $700, she said.

Cardinal Point will also offer units for at-risk and homeless families through the organization’s Children’s HOME Initiative, which offers reduced rates for low-income families with young children.

The development will begin leasing units this fall for a January occupancy, she said.


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