Construction cranes seem to be everywhere as Austin keeps growing upward and outward. August saw the announcement of two major residential developments — one in Georgetown and another in southwest Austin.
Meanwhile, AT&T fired a big shot in the battle for market supremacy in high-speed internet service, and Austin City Council members approved some new shoreline development regulations for Lake Austin.
Here’s a look at some of August’s biggest real estate stories.
Austin Area Real Estate Headlines: August 2014
- Georgetown real estate is hot, and it’s getting hotter. A massive residential development could sprout there in 2015, The Austin American Statesman reported. The master-planned 2,000 home project got a wave of preliminary approvals, paving the way for Texas-based Hillwood Communities to break ground next year on the 755 acre development just east of I-35 on Texas 29. Homes are expected to range from $200,000 to $550,000.
- Big changes are coming at one of Austin’s most prominent real estate companies. Amelia Bullock Realtors has been acquired by San Antonio-based Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty. The Austin American Statesman reported that Amelia Bullock, who co-owns the firm with Barbara Wallace, had several offers leading up to Kuper Sotheby’s. Bullock is credited with several major deals that helped usher in some of Austin’s biggest employers, such as 3M, Apple and Texas Instruments, and helped find their employees homes.
- Environmentalists and developers with Stratus Properties Inc. are gearing up for a fight over a proposed $700 million development atop part of the Barton Creek Watershed near West Oak Hill. The Austin American Statesman reported that a proposal to development there in the late 1980s drew sharp criticism from environmentalists concerned that development could further degrade the already degrading watershed area. The city tightened its development rules, but this plan is grandfathered in. The full development includes 1,800 apartments and townhomes, although the first phase involves only 300 apartments.
- Austin’s internet providers are shifting up to laser speed. AT&T flipped the switch on their super high-speed internet service, GigaPower, in August, marking one of the first tangible benefits to consumers in the battle between providers to offer the latest technology. The Austin Business Journal reported that San Marcos-based Grande Communications Inc. was first to offer ultra high-speed service, and Google Fiber has been planning its rollout of service as well, giving Austin consumers more options for mind-bending internet upload and download speeds.
- Austin real estate is white hot, and at least a few are concerned it could be a housing bubble. KXAN reported that Austin homes are selling faster than anywhere in the nation. Most experts say that Austin’s continued growth paired with low interest rates will keep the market stable and strong. But Culture Map Austin reported that Trulia’s “Bubble Watch” includes Austin on its list of places where homes may be overvalued.
- Lower property tax bills? Maybe. Austin is doing the math on a proposal to extend homestead exemptions to all residents, according to KXAN. Currently, such exemptions, which let homeowners pay taxes on a reduced percent of their home value, are only available to senior citizens and people who have disabilities. Two big questions abound: 1) Will the state change its law to allow cities to enact across-the-board exemptions? 2) How will the city tighten its belt with more than $35 million less in property tax money flowing into its budget?
- Step away from the shore. Austin City Council approved new zoning laws aimed at protecting Lake Austin from shoreline development and docks that could affect water quality. The city had setbacks in place, but homeowners could get property rezoned to avoid the environmental restrictions, according to a Community Impact News article.
- Time to sign up. The Austin Board of Realtors opened ticket sales and registration for its realty workshops and exhibits at its “AustInternational: Exploring the World Through Real Estate Realty Roundup 2014” event Wednesday, Oct. 15. It’s free for realtors. Check it out here.
- Keep Austin (real estate) Weird! Tickets are available for a self-guided tour of seven of Austin’s most unique and artsy homes. The group’s website says 20 percent of the $22 ticket goes to Caritas, which provides a broad range of services for low-income residents. Check out one of the homes on this KTCB video report.