Urbanspace Finds Success During Downturn

While the economic crisis and continuing problem in the national real estate market dominate the news, Austin's own urbanspace realtors today announced that the firm has added 12 new realtors and plans to move into a new downtown headquarters. For followers of the downtown market, their strength and growth is a powerful sign of the continued interest in downtown Austin living.

Here are some details from the announcement:

As Austin is growing, so is urbanspace. In concert with the growth of the urban market place, the Company has expanded both its team and physical space. In the past six months, the urbanspace team has welcomed 12 new residential and commercial agents to better serve the specialized needs of a dynamic Austin urban market. urbanspace's move into its new home allows it to complement its growth with a space designed to enhance the client experience as well as create a warm work environment for its agents.

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Everyone Agrees: The January Real Estate Uptick

In conversations with realtors and developers who focus on downtown Austin, everyone agrees that the last few months have been really tough. Ever since the fall economic collapse, the downtown real estate market has essentially ground to a halt. Surprisingly enough, everyone also seems to agree that there was a noticeable uptick in January.

While the AustinTowers | urbanspace Downtown Market Index shows 4 transactions totaling roughly $1.5 million, we have been able to $10 million in downtown condos that was either put under contract or closed. After a very slow November and December, January was a positive surprise.

According to the analysts, price drops and record low interest rates have helped to spur a new round of real estate transactions. January, however, also included a couple of $1 million + reservations in new projects which would not have benefited from reduced interest rates (jumbos are high) or aggressive pricing. While one month does not make a trend, it's good to see increasing strength downtown and across the city. While activity has picked up, it is important to note that prices are not on the rise. Most experts still predict modest declines for central Austin during the first half of the year.

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Spring: The View from 41

Tonight, Spring hosted hundreds for a special party on the 41st floor of the newly formed tower. After a shaky ride in a 20-person exterior construction elevator, visitors were treated to some of the highest views in Austin from a vantage point that has never before existed.

The views were amazing. Most notable was the ability to watch the city and the traffic and the water and the Long center and Whole foods and all of the downtown action from a quiet perch in the sky. As we have reported, Spring is now 55% sold with units remaining priced from $300K to roughly $1 million. In addition, there is a full-floor 42nd floor penthouse which will be available for $5.5 million.

We saw Kevin Burns from urbanspace at the event who provided good advice on picking a view: go for a corner with both water and city in sight. The water is always beautiful, and the city lights provide visual interest when the hills and the rest of the city disappear after dark.

Here are some images from the top of the tower:

Spring view of 360 and Lake

Spring Austin Condo Sunset View

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Project Updates: Spring, Four Seasons, 360

In spite of the difficult economy, the major downtown Austin condo projects continue to move toward completion. Lots of news updates this week:

- Tomorrow, Spring will celebrate its topping off. The 42-story building on 3rd and Bowie just east of Lamar has reached the top and is on track for completion in July. The 246 unit tower will be the first project delivered in 2009. According to the developers, an impressive 55% of units have already been pre-sold. With units starting around $300k, Spring is the most affordable downtown skyscraper currently under construction.

- 360, which was completed last year, has now officially sold 99% of its 430 units, making the project effectively sold out.

- The Four Seasons released a very detailed update of current sales and downtown market conditions including the news that they have now pre-sold nearly 50% of units:

"As we enter 2009, Four Seasons Residences Austin is nearly 50% sold. Understandably, the last quarter of 2008 was slow, but sales activity in 2009 has picked up considerably. In the last week we signed a new contract for a 2,700 square foot residence and have a number of additional contracts in process. We continue to see an influx of interest from people who love Austin and are exploring the opportunity to live at Four Seasons. . .

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The New AustinTowers | urbanspace Downtown Condo Market Index

AustinTowers is very pleased to announce one of the biggest enhancements to the site: up-to-date information on downtown Austin condo sales and inventory.

The AustinTowers | urbanspace Downtown Austin Condo Market Index provides a month-by-month snapshot of the strength of the downtown Austin condo market. The index includes three components which will be updated each month:

- The Monthly Sales Index provides a snapshot of actual downtown Austin condo sales including the aggregated number of units sold, sales price, price-per-square-foot, and average days on market.

- The Monthly Inventory report provides aggregated data on all downtown condo units listed on the market.

- The 12-month Rolling Sales Index looks at the previous 12 month sales average to better capture current market trends. Unlike pure monthly results which fluctuate wildly with seasonal changes and the effects of outliers on small transaction volumes, the 12-month index provides a clearer view of the trend over time.

The index can be found on the main navigation bar under the heading "Market Index." The results will be update each month when the prior data becomes available. AustinTowers would like to thank our good friends at urbanspace realtors for providing the data to make the index possible!

See the index here.

January, 2009 Downtown Condo Sales


We've received the latest monthly downtown Austin condo sales report from our friends at urbanspace realtors. Here are the results from January, 2009 :

Month
Sales
Avg. Price
$/SF
Avg SF
Avg Year
% Ask
ADOM
Jan-08

5

$384,600

$315
1,172
1991
93%
73

Jan-09

4

$358,225

$321
1,129
1996
93%
85

Change

-20%

-7%

2%
-4%
5.00
-1%
16%

While 4 units is a small number no matter how you look at it, January has been a historically slow month for the downtown market. Last year, in a much healthier market, only 5 units were sold. While there were small price shifts, the sample is really to small to be meaningful

Most notably, the January results include the first two units from 360 to hit the MLS resale market. The units sold for an average price-per-square foot of $353 with an average of less than 30-days on the market. The sellers received 96% of their asking price.

As usual, these results do not include units sold directly by developers in buildings such as 360, the Austonian, Spring, etc. The monthly MLS data tends to under-report sales, especially of high price units. Still, other market reports, have confirmed that downtown sales slowed during the final months of last year.

The full results and current inventory are available on the new AustinTowers | urbanspace Downtown Austin Condo Market Index.

W Hotel & Residences . . . . & Offices?

According to the developers, plans for Block 21 -- the large second street development featuring the W Hotel & Residences -- have been revised to include 35,000 feet of office space. Assuming that the size of the project remains the same, office space will account for about 3.5% of the planned one million square foot multi-use project. This is the first new office space to be added downtown in a few years

The project update also included the following new facts:

- The W Hotel & Condo plans remain unchanged.

- So far, 44% of condo units are accounted for -- a number virtually unchanged from the 45% under contract as of 12/1/09. According to the developers, sales have practically stopped since the beginning of the economic crisis in November. With delivery 2 years out, the developers believe they have plenty of time to sell the remaining units.

- The project is proceeding on schedule: the first floor should be poured within the next few weeks

- The size of the Austin City Limits theater may be increased from 2,200 to 2,500 square feet

The $295 million project, to be located directly behind City Hall, will be an important retail and entertainment anchor to the blossoming 2nd Street district.

Block 21 Rendering
Block 21 Renderings Austin W Hotel & Residences

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The Downtown Austin Condo Rumor Mill

Over the last year, there has been an amazing flow of rumors about the major downtown Austin condo projects. Most of these rumors have been false. In particular, both the Austonian and W have been plagued with gossip that the projects were facing cancellation. Even in the last month, when construction patterns changed during the normal building process, rumors again started that the project would not be completed.

We've carefully researched these rumors -- including meeting with one of the Austonian developers --and are very comfortable that they are not true. The source of the rumors, for the most part, have been innocent assumptions by people who have been made hyper sensitive by the current crisis. With the housing market struggling, observers take any change as a sign of impending disaster.

The problem has become so acute that the Austonian today announced plans to move an office trailer and remove a crane -- both part of normal operations. The announcement was made to avoid another round of false rumors.

Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:

Developers of The Austonian are again warding off rumors of changes to the luxury condo’s plans as the construction team prepares to remove its trailers and a crane.


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