Pflugerville sees expansion of new housing options

As real estate market continues rebound, city benefits from demand throughout Austin area

After a slowdown in Pflugerville's housing market, "Sold" signs and homes under construction are becoming a more common sight, especially as subdivisions continue building out.

The city of Pflugerville issued 652 residential permits, including 295 within city limits and 358 in its unincorporated areas in fiscal year 2013. The number reflects an increase of 129 homes compared with FY 2012. Trey Fletcher, Pflugerville assistant city manager and development services director, said the increase can be attributed to a growing demand for housing in the Austin area as well as Pflugerville ISD schools and the city's quality of life.

"I think regionally and locally there's a pent-up demand for housing," Fletcher said. "I think [the demand for housing in Pflugerville] generally falls into the categories of proximity to employment, schools, quality of life and finding the value for those factors."

Subdivisions bring new buyers

Joetta Houghton, a Pflugerville Realtor for Keller Williams Realty, has worked with potential property buyers in the city for more than 10 years. Houghton said she is noticing the newer, master-planned subdivisions in the city are drawing more buyers.

"Areas that I sell a lot [of properties] in are Blackhawk and Falcon Pointe," Houghton said. "I really think Newland [Communities] coming and building Falcon Pointe helped with a huge jump in growth because it was the city's first master-planned community. Now Blackhawk has followed suit."

Fletcher said the city issues the most permits for homes in the Falcon Pointe, Spring Trails and Highland Park subdivisions because they are still being developed.

Many of the new subdivisions are filling up quickly, including Magnolia Ranch Estates, a community located at Cameron and Magnolia Ranch roads in East Pflugerville that offers 4- to 5-acre lots for residential development. Out of 20 spaces originally available, owner and managing partner Renae Mitchell said only three remain for sale.

"[Buyers have said] there's nothing else like [Magnolia Ranch Estates] in the Pflugerville area, and it was exactly what they were looking for," Mitchell said. "[Homebuyers have said] it's far enough out to have a quiet, serene weekend, but it's still [only] seven minutes [away from] major shopping areas."

Overall Houghton said houses in Pflugerville are selling fast. Most are on the market an average of 70 days before being bought, but during prime selling times, such as during the summer, most are on the market 30 days or less.

Attracting factors

According to city officials, several factors are making Pflugerville a hot spot for buyers, including its access to major thoroughfares such as I-35 and SH 130, proximity to retail and distance to Austin and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Another appeal for some parents is the Pflugerville school district. Mitchell, a 28-year resident of the city, said one of the biggest reasons she and her husband chose to develop Magnolia Ranch Estates in the area was because of PISD schools.

"The Pflugerville [ISD] mentality is for students to be on [an advanced] level, and if they're not, then [they] pull out all the guns to get [students] to that level," Mitchell said. "That was very important to us."

However, Houghton said the largest draw for buyers is how much value they can get for their money. Houghton said her clients generally compromise on amenities such as mature trees to cash in on more square footage for their money.

"The amount of house you can get in Pflugerville is larger, nicer, has safe streets and neighborhoods and fantastic schools," Houghton said. "[I know] that if I cross into west Round Rock, the price of the house goes up substantially."

The city is also working to offer residents an increased quality of life through improvements to infrastructure, parks, land use and utility systems.

"I think the [Pflugerville City] Council has taken many steps to fund quality-of-life [enhancements] ... for current and future residents," Fletcher said. "[Quality of life] can have a broad definition, including ensuring safe, stable, reliable sources of water; a wastewater master plan; vetting master plans; [or] funding transportation infrastructure through a proposed bond election discussion. ... [Those] are geared toward enhancing our community for everybody's purposes."

What is lacking

When looking at Pflugerville's housing market, some potential buyers have expressed misgivings regarding the city's property tax rate. However, because a house with the same square footage and amenities is generally assessed at a lower value than an identical house in Round Rock, for example, a resident's overall tax bill is generally not as expensive as it could be in surrounding cities.

"Even though [a home's value is] reduced, [the property tax rate] is still higher than other areas," Houghton said. "I try to educate my clients that there's a [higher] tax rate, but our value assessment is different than [other cities], so when you look at the dollar amount you [could] pay on a house, it may be very comparable. But when people are only looking at [tax] rates, it creates a problem."

She also said some buyers have expressed desires for a nearby hospital and more retail and dining options.

Within its 60-square-mile footprint, which includes its unincorporated areas, the city of Pflugerville has the potential to grow to 250,000–275,000 residents, Fletcher said. Currently, 45 percent to 50 percent of space in the city limits is vacant, he said. As the Austin metro area continues to expand, the city expects to continue seeing an influx of residents and development.

"We are right in the middle of everything, [and] this should be the next place that explodes in home prices," Houghton said. "I think the opportunity for growth is ... amazing."

By Korri Kezar
Korri Kezar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a degree in journalism. She worked for Community Impact Newspaper's Round Rock-Pflugerville-Hutto edition for two years before moving to Dallas. Five years later, she returned to the company to launch Community Impact Newspaper's Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth edition, where she covers local government, development, transportation and a variety of other topics. She has also worked at the San Antonio Express-News, Austin-American Statesman and Dallas Business Journal.