12 posts categorized "North/NW/NE Austin"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Northwest Austin Builder Maravilla Filed Bankruptcy?

Th302_0_2 I received a blog comment that asked if there was a follow-up on the Maravilla Homes debacle. Maravilla was a heavily-advertised luxury home community development in Northwest Austin. We'd first learned of the problems at the subdivision on the radio. After some digging, we also found a KVUE news story that confirmed our suspicions of Maravilla builders going under.

I need time to verify this, but according to a recent comment on this blog about the story:

"...this guy stuck everyone with his bills; embezzled about 1/2 million; and is now declaring bankruptcy. he built w/o permits; and had his lawyer lie to homeowners."

There hasn't been much reported since the story broke earlier this Spring. Unfortunately, builders can go out of business before, during and after a subdivision development. I feel very sorry for the home owners and investors who have to endure this pain. Once the builder or developer files bankruptcy, financial restitution will be limited.

Kvue Read the full previous post on the financial troubles of the Maravilla development.

See the KVUE News Story on YouTube...

Visit the Maravilla Consumer Issues Blog: Living The Dream.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Texas Buyer's Market Apocalypse is Upon Us

I've been saying it since last year. Texas is hot, hot, hot despite a downward trend in other states. This is great news for sellers, but buyers are getting tired of the competition. Multiple offers, increased prices, and higher property taxes are all signs of an appreciating and competitive market.

Property owners in major Texas cities like Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are seeing the signs that the buyer market apocalypse is upon us. You know you're in a HOT seller's market when...

  • Inventory shrinks. Homes start selling faster and the average days on market decreases.
  • Multiple offer mayhem ensues. You get the feeling that you're competing to buy a house due to other offers. Brawling or begging may take place.
  • Real estate ads and advertising decrease since homes sell so quickly.
  • FBSO signs are more plentiful as unrepresented sellers strike out on their own.
  • Then...the final sign that you're in a seller's market is when condominium conversions increase at a feverish pace. 

Continue reading "Texas Buyer's Market Apocalypse is Upon Us" »

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Maravilla Homes Builder In Financial Trouble?

My friend was listening to 590 KLBJ Monday. Rob Balon was filling in for Jeff, the usual host. Rob mentioned that the builder for the Maravilla luxury homes seems to be having issues. Purchasers are dealing with unpaid vendors liens, unfinished homes, and drainage issues.

The builder is a sponsor at KLBJ and ran regular radio ads at least three times each day, which amounted to a great deal of money. Lately, the ads were no longer running. KVUE news station verified this story at the beginning of the month. Apparently, the Maravilla Homes builder is promising to fix issues, but all signs may be pointing to financial trouble.

BUYER RIGHTS

What you can do if your builder commits fraud or goes out of business?
Best case is if the builder still guarantees their work even if they shut their doors. Worst case is they just file bankruptcy; sometimes even starting over under a new name. In this case, the buyers will most likely lose their deposits and/or homes. Most builders do not prefer it, but some may agree to complete the unfinished houses.

CHOOSING A BUILDER

Although these purchasers probably did their due diligence, there are good ways to choose a good builder.

  • Check with local builder associations like your local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders. Make sure your builder is a member in good standing.
  • Ask for 3-4 references from recent clients and check them out. One of my clients even asked to walk through the reference's home.
  • Look for signs of good versus bad construction.
  • Don't be pressured to act quickly or make a decision with someone on your side. 
  • Remember that the marketing person or agent that is onsite represents the builder. Many builders will pay for a real estate agent to represent you. They've usually pre-factored this into their costs.

In any case, the community will be severely impacted by this event. Effects can include a drop in home values, foreclosures, and unfinished homes sitting on lots indefinitely.

Tell us: How would you react if your custom home builder went out of business?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Apple Store to Launch Friday for Grand Opening at The Domain

The Mueller Redevelopment announcement yesterday was pretty exciting because it's one of the largest and perhaps first "extreme makeovers" in Austin real estate history. It's odd that there doesn't seem to be as much news coverage on the Domain in Northwest Austin, another large-scale mixed-use development. A little-know fact is that more affordable housing was available at the community, but it's been snatched up.

In any case, Apple Inc. will add it's stylish high-tech touch to the already high-class retail tenants in the new Domain Mall. The grand opening is scheduled for 10am this Friday, March 9th. The retail leasing agents are currently working on the second phase.

Read more on the Domain Wiki and tell us at you think about the new development!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wal-mart Still Not In Good Graces with Northcross Residents

The developers for Wal-mart and Lincoln Properties (the asset manager) are still on the outs with neighbors in the Northcross Center area in North Austin. It seems the some very vocal residents could care less about their "low, low prices" even though developers plan to build an upscale "Urban Wal-mart" in the current space.

WHERE IT STARTED

Wal-mart applied for and received a permit from the City of Austin to build in the commercial retail space that used to be Northcross Mall. Currently, the building is mostly unused. Some local businesses never fully recovered from the downturn in traffic when the mall closed years ago. Residents yearned for a nice, high-end mixed-used development and were initially happy to hear of an upcoming project.

Then...they learned...Walmart was coming. They were outraged and heartbroken. Some felt their high hopes of a nice, high-end shopping area were dashed. Naturally, residents did what many upset people do, they blamed City Council and demanded action.

LET'S TAKE SIDES

First, I have to say that I can't really take sides on this issue because I think both parties are right. I can be pretty judgemental when needed, but I work with developers. If you've ever built anything in Austin, you know that it can be a painful, sad process. The permitting process is definitely arduous and I've seen grown men want to cry. At the same time, I may be upset if I was hoping for a mixed-use retail development and learned that Wallyworld was on the way instead.

Argument FOR Wal-Mart:

  • This one is easy. Wal-mart went through all the correct legal channels and followed the city's process. They correctly notified residents, filed the right paperwork, and are now incorporating feedback from locals into their plans, including addresses traffic concerns.
  • The upcoming Wal-mart isn't exactly what people think. It will be a two-story, high-end place with appeal that will match the tastes of locals. Per the News 8 Austin article, "The new design features an atrium for outdoor dining, a shrub-lined driveway, and a state-of-the-art parking structure".
  • Wal-mart revealed their plans today, where they agreed to scale back the project by 6000 square feet. This not an insignificant amount of space and means they're losing money up front if they can't accommodate the change. If I plan to build a rental house, but start taking away square footage, I have to recover that cost somewhere.

Argument AGAINST Wal-mart:

  • This one is easy. It's WAL-MART. Who wants a Wal-mart next to them? Have you seen the people who shop at there at night? You may even see my friends hanging out there at all hours of the night waiting to buy a Nintendo Wii.
  • So Wal-mart is starting to resolve issues with traffic, appeal, etc. but would they have taken action if the neighbors didn't make ruckus about it? If they're just now opening their big, burly Wal-mart arms to the people, what would have happened if no one made noise?
  • Residents don't want a super-center. They wanted variety. Austin is the best place to be if you're a small retailer. Neighbors were ready to support independent businesses. Now they're stuck with the big supergiant.
  • How do we know whether the traffic issues will really be resolved? The conservative answer is that it depends on how much you trust Wal-mart. The real answer is that we won't know until we look back a few years from now and re-asses the situation. My guess is that we're going to grab a nice cup of hindsight to see how this turns out.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

According to News 8 Austin, the City of Austin spent several hundred thousand dollars for lawyers to look into this issue only to learn that Wal-mart didn't technically do anything wrong. Some may think that $200k+ wasn't worth it, but I think the city made the right choice. Even if we can't necessarily change a decision, we should at least be able to have our voices heard. In this case, residents will at least be able to provide input on the development. If that's not good enough, it will unfortunately be time to start packing.

Read more on News 8 Austin  or KVUE. Learn more about the proposed changes at an open house on Monday, March 5 from 3 to 8 p.m.at the Norris Conference Center at Northcross Mall.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Upscale Shopping Center in North Austin to Debut in March

I'd previously reported on the development of the Domain in North Austin. I like this development because it is comprised of big box shops like the region's first Neiman Marcus and Tiffany & Co, but will also include local favorites. This is the perfect mix that Austin residents have been looking for. We like our local stores, but we also like specialty shops and big-box tenants that match the tastes of surrounding neighborhoods.

According to the Austin Statesman--The first phase of the Domain, scheduled to open March 9, will include 60 retailers and 14 restaurants. The second phase is slated to open in late 2008, bringing more retailers, three restaurants and a hotel, said Lauren Harris, Simon's director of mall marketing for the Domain. A $40 million residential portion of the Domain will have 390 apartments, many of them built atop the street-level shops and restaurants.

The Domain is a pretty large development, rivaling SouthPark Meadows in hot Southwest Austin. It's going to be a nice place to live and work, but matches the upscale lifestyle of Northwest Austin residents. The only downside is if there will not be residences for sale in the shopping center. Initially, we thought there were for-sale opportunities, but that does not appear to be the case.

See our previous story on the Domain Shopping Center.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wal-Mart's Northcross plans stir opposition

I thought more Californians hated Wal-Mart per capita than locals, but Wal-mart has Allandale residents up in arms. Allandale is the nice, peaceful community in North Austin. City Council is on the hotseat because residents are saying they weren't made aware of Wal-mart's plans to revitalize the aging Northcross Shopping Center.

Wal-mart actually followed all proper notification procedures, but residents thought this wasn't enough. They want a redeveloped area, but were looking for more of a mixed-use, upscale project.

Per the Austin Statesman:

Responsible Growth for Northcross is having a community meeting Thursday to organize what it says is significant opposition by some residents and nearby store owners to the plan.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says the new mall will draw more traffic for nearby stores and says its 219,000-square-foot store will have a more upscale design than its typical format.          

But the protest group says a 24-hour Wal-Mart has no place in a neighborhood of single-family homes. They say it will bring increased traffic that area roads aren't equipped to handle and will hurt independently owned businesses.

The Austin Business Journal Reported--

In a letter to City Council Member Mike Martinez, Wal-Mart committed to a 60-day self-imposed moratorium on development of the site and filing permit applications with the city.

Martinez and other members of the council praised the decision, calling it a first step toward working together with community stakeholders. "The mayor and council members worked together on this deal, and I want the residents of those neighborhoods to know that we hear their concerns loud and clear," Martinez says.

According to the Statesman, work was slated to start in January on the redevelopment. Construction of the Wal-Mart would begin in late 2007. The entire project, to be renamed Northcross Center, is scheduled to be completed in late 2008.

"City Council Member Brewster McCracken said he plans to talk to Lincoln officials to see whether they would consider revising the project to meet standards that offer incentives to encourage mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented projects along major city roads".

 

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The 'Domain Austin' Shopping Community to Rival the Arboretum

There are several great shopping areas in Austin, such as SoCo (just south of Downtown) and the Arboretum in Northwest Austin. Many residents are still unaware of the very large, upcoming shopping community in North Austin called the Domain Austin. Completion by most retail tenants should be around Spring of 2007.

The Domain is not just about shopping, it will be a lifestyle. Residents can already see the Home Depot and other retailers nearing completion, but they often are not aware that this area will be one of the largest new live/work communities in Austin. According to their website, Domain residents will have a 10-acre central park, jogging trail, restaurants, national & local retailers, and entertainment.

An insider at Apple Computer, Inc. told me that they plan to have an AppleStore at the shops. Right now, Apple only has a retail store in the Barton Creek Mall further South. This will give North Austin residents an opportunity to buy or repair their beloved iPods and other Apple products, which should be a popular draw. Other tenants include Foleys and Neiman Marcus.

Commercial tenants should start negotiating leases if they haven't already. We're following up with some of our clients to see if they have interest in securing a long-term lease. Residential investors should have already started purchasing rental homes or duplexes near this area, but it's still not too late to buy.

Link: The Domain Austin Real Estate

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mixed-Use Development Planned for Wells Branch Area in North Austin

I live in Pflugerville, so receive a newspaper called "Community Impact". The area is going to change in the next 5 years. I'd talked to a commercial real estate broker who has a fair amount of land available and he'd mentioned the growth last Friday.

The development is referred to as the Austin Esplanade, which comprises 45 acres near the intersection of IH 35 and Wells Branch Parkway, which is in North Austin, west of Pflugerville.

Still in the planning stages, Austin Esplanade is a fitting title because the project calls for a boardwalk to incorporate 150,000 sq. ft. of upscale retail including an anchor store, two hotels, office space, a fitness center, mid-range condominiums and a high-end residential tower. Names of possible tenants have not been released because the design of the project has not been finalized.

...With all the synergy with Dell and the Samsung plant, there is not a better time for this project for the area,” Bowen said.  “There has been so much activity there [North Austin] and now there is a need for new retail, entertainment, and especially hotels because there aren’t really any in the area.”

Read more about this development at the Community Impact Newspaper website. The site has a preliminary outline of how the development will look.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Chinatown Open in Austin

The Austin Statesman Reported that the new $30 million Asian-themed Chinatown Center is open at North Lamar Boulevard and Kramer Lane in North Austin. I have been to the Chinatown in the Memorial area of Houston. Their center is much larger, but it's great seeing Austin have some similar.

A traditional Chinese gate soars above a Capital Metro bus stop, leading to the 180,000-square-foot retail giant, anchored by the relocated and vastly expanded MT Supermarket. "We want to make a home base for Asian culture and bring more people into the Asian way of life," says Alexander Tan, chairman of Tan International Group, which developed the Chinatown Center. North Austin's Asian population is on the rise, and Chinatown Center, opened two weeks ago at 10901 N. Lamar Blvd., was built to serve a portion of that community.

Central Texas' Asian population - Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians, Vietnamese, and so forth - is growing so rapidly that Ryan Robinson, City of Austin demographer, projects that by 2015, there could be more Asians in the city than African Americans (8.5 percent of an estimated total population of 781,984 are projected to be African Americans, and 9.2 percent Asians). Part of those projections is based on the rapid recent rise in Asian immigrants. In 1990, about 15,000 Asians, making up 3.3 percent of the total population, lived in Austin. By 2006, those numbers jumped to approximately 45,000, making up 6.2 percent of the city's population. And approximately 30,000 of those live within a five-mile radius of the Chinatown Center.

Already open at the center is the MT Supermarket - the 68,000-square-foot anchor tenant - which formerly operated from a 15,000-square-foot store known as My Thanh Oriental Market at 7601 N. Lamar Blvd.

Austin is a culturally diverse city and I'm more apt to eat at an Asian restaurant than any other. My friends and I regularly dine at Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, or Indonesian restaurants. Although the center is not completely full yet, we look forward to the various ethnic retail and food operations that will be coming in.

Friday, July 14, 2006

2300 Acre 'Gateway Planning Area' in Austin to be Re-developed

Let the goldrush begin! Over 2300 acres in Northwest Austin at Braker/Mopac/183 is to be redeveloped. This is three times the size of the Robert Mueller development and larger than all of Downtown Austin. What does this mean in an already heated market? Overdrive.

The Gateway/Burnet Neighborhood Planning Area will continue to gather community input. This is a prime area in Northwest Austin due to it's proximity to upcoming commercial developments. Many of the homes are still affordable with smaller properties selling for less than the city median home price of $165k. The project is currently called the North Burnet/Gateway Master Plan. The proposals can be viewed online at the project site as well as the City of Austin planning website.

I have some upcoming listings in the area and believe they will now sell faster than ever. Any home under $200k will most likely have multiple offers as we get closer to finalizing plans. Although I am excited with the rapid changes our city is going through, it's getting tougher for buyers to find decent deals. Most have to pay more than asking price and 2-3% earnest money is becoming standard.

I'd suggest anyone buying in this area as well as South, East, or Central, understand that they are competing with buyers from all over the United States. They need a strong, clean offer that minimizes contingencies.

Dee Copeland, Investment Specialist
AustinHomeNews.com, Team Dee Residential
eRealtyAlliance Commercial Real Estate

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hewlett Packard Consolidating and Coming to Austin

From the Austin Business Journal - May 17, 2006
"Hewlett-Packard Co. confirmed plans to consolidate 85 of its global data centers down to six in the U.S., one of which will be located in Austin. Other U.S. cities that will have HP (NYSE:HPQ) data centers include Atlanta and Houston. The Palo Alto, California-based HP says the consolidation will allow it to reduce its IT spending by about $1 billion. The data centers will also showcase HP's products and services."

HP currently has a plant on Wells Branch, a popular community in North Austin. This plant will be expanded. The second plant will be built at Ed Bluestein BLVD in South Austin, a popular area that has seen tremendous growth in the past three years.

According to the story, this is the third high-profile data center announced to come to Austin in the past four years. Our city has been inundated with investors and relocation buyers from other states due to our continued growth, yet affordable housing markets. We have a great place to live and work, so with more announcements from high-tech companies, we're charting the course for an economic boom. The housing market has been pretty heated since last summer, with multiple offers becoming the standard. The commercial market is also seeing less concessions in the office and multifamily sectors.  Retail lease space is also in demand.

Stayed tuned for more updates on this recent announcement by HP.

Dee Copeland, Investment Specialist
AustinHomeNews.com, Team Dee Residential
eRealtyAlliance Commercial Real Estate