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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360 Rentals Hit Market Starting Under $2/SF

Earlier this year, the 44-story 360 condo project opened with most of it's 430 units sold out. A small number of owners held special investor deeds which allowed them to freely rent their units. Now, 20 units have hit the rental market with monthly rents ranging from $1,550 to $3,200.

20 units is a lot of units to hit MLS at once -- especially since they are being competitively offered by individual owners -- and the result is aggressive pricing on many of the units. For example, $1,550 will get you a 812 SF 1/1 on the 18th floor. $1,995 per month will get a 1,059 SF 2 bedroom / 2 bath on the 37th floor. These prices -- startingundert $2 / SF -- are very reasonable for a new downtown unit in tall building like 360. Plus, additional units are available on Craig's List.

With 12 units under $2,000, it's a good opportunity to live downtown and try condo life without making the full investment. While 360 is mostly sold out, some units do remain. In addition, 18 units are currently on MLS with prices ranging from $244,900 to $549,000.

Here are the units currently being offered on MLS:

360 Listings Now on Austin Towers

If you are shopping for a downtown condo but are averse to visiting sales offices or speaking with realtors, 360 has been a very frustrating project. They have refused to list units on their website, have avoided the MLS, and generally made it difficult for buyers to engage. With a supposed waiting list of more than 200 buyers for 430 sold out units, many prospective buyers decided it was a waste of time to even call.

Even with residents moving in and with some likely to sell, restrictive covenants have prevented buyers from selling their units. As a result, the 360 mystery has remained intact.

Now,with the project finally complete and the waiting list long ago evaporated, the sales office is finally listing units on the MLS. As always, we have added 360 to our Listings page. Currently, there are 9 listings for units in 360 ranging from $250K for an 812 square foot 1/1 on the 20th floor to $528K for a 1,308 square foot 2/2 unit on the 35th floor. While all units include 10 foot ceilings, oak flooring, 24-hour concierge, and a shared pool and fitness center, some units include upgraded appliances and features.

View the 360 listings here.

Here are additional images from the listings:

Where are the 360 units?

It’s been four months since 360 opened to the first residents and yet not one unit has hit the MLS. What’s up? Is there any way to get into 360? When will the units hit the market?

360 has been successful because it is tall, offers great amenities, is well located, and also because it’s priced affordably with the bulk of units originally priced between $200k and $500k.

While much has been made about the project’s sales -- they have been very strong -- we have received recent reports of units becoming available through the sales center. While 360 does have a wait list for some units, it’s still possible to get into the project if you are flexible when it comes to view, floor, and floor plan.

But, given that they have built 430 units, why have no resale units hit the market? The answer lies in specific rules put in place by the 360 developers:

- A non-refundable earnest money deposit is required at the signing of the contract and will be applied to your purchase at closing. At 360, we are offering a six-day rescission period on all contracts. After the six-day rescission period has passed, you may not terminate your purchase contract without forfeiting your earnest money. Also, resale of homes will not be allowed within six months of the first home closing.

- Unless it is otherwise approved in writing in advance by 360 (who has the sole discretion of withholding approval), you may not advertise your 360 home to a third party or offer your 360 home for sale until 6 months from the date of the first home closing.

- The contracts that buyers will be executing for homes at 360 are not transferable to 3rd parties. If you are unable to close on a home you have under contract, 360 will retain the home and earnest money.

- 360 Investor restriction: In total you may purchase two homes; one as a primary residence and one as an investment.

Because of these rules, the first resale units are likely to hit the market around Thanksgiving. Given the demand, it will be interesting to see if these first units carry a premium over the original units prices.

Inside 360: The Amenities Deck

When it comes to downtown Austin condos, the biggest news of 2008 is the recent opening of 360. With the opening, residents have begun to occupy the 430 sold-out units in the 44-story condo tower.

In many ways, the heart do the 360 project is the 9th floor amenity deck: the social center of 360 where residents go to swim, exercise, watch movies, play pool, socialize, or simply lunge among the palm trees near the outdoor fireplace. Located above the garage and below the residences, the Amenity Deck provides both indoor and outdoor entertainment for 360’s residents.

The images below provide an inside look at life in the 360 tower:

The Big Roundup: Our Austin Condo Market Update

Tonight, as the lucky future owners of 430 condo units at the 360 celebrate, the building has come alive with a 44-story vertical line culminating in a lit tower that is now the tallest structure in downtown Austin.

With a waiting list of 215 units, a list equal to 50% of the actual units in the building, the 360 has been an amazing success. Novare, the developer, hit the perfect combination of early timing, a great location, and an affordably-priced units.

With a major project completed, and a long list of people waiting for affordable downtown housing, it's a good time to take stock of other activity downtown:

- With their success with 360, Novare Group is on track for their next two towers -- Block 51 & 52 -- on the site of the downtown post office and an adjacent block on 5th street just North of Republic Square. These projects will add an amazing 900 condo units in 37 and 40 floor towers which should be completed by 2012. In fact construction will begin on the 37-floor tower in as little as 60 days. Novare is looking to repeat the model for 360 with a large number of affordably-priced units. However, with increases in downtown construction costs, the new Novare projects will inevitably be more expensive than the units in 360.

- The W Hotel & Residences, Four Seasons Residences, and Austonian -- all luxury projects -- are all proceeding quite well with construction as is the upscale Spring tower next to Whole Foods.

- The 34-story 7Rio Tower (AKA "CLB Unnamed" and "7th & Rio Grande" -- this is the first time we've heard this name) has bee so quiet that we had assumed it was dead (we moved it to "Pending" many months ago). According to the developers, they are still hoping to move forward and are aiming for a ground-breaking in Fall of 2009.

- 1115 Barton Springs, which have also labeled pending, is 30% slowed and slowly moving towards the 50% mark at which point they hope to begin construction. A smaller project with very expensive units, this project may have a difficult time getting built.

- Work has been suspended at La Vista on Lavaca at 1701 Lavaca St. for unknown reasons but is supposedly set to resume soon.

- According to the Statesman, groundbreaking on The Park, an office/condominium project at 801 Barton Springs Road, has been postponed to late 2009 for zoning reasons.

- The city is moving forward with the development of Seaholm and the Green Water Treament Plant - projects which will add a large number of affordable downtown units.

Shore, 360 Open to Residents

Over the last five years, Austin has experienced an unprecedented condo building boom. With many projects underway, the first two in the current wave are nearing completion.

This week, the 44-story 360 is throwing a massive party to celebrate the building's opening. Soon after the party, the first units will open. Over the next few months, the sold out project will be fully completed and all 430 units will be occupied. In addition to selling all units, the project's waiting list remains long. Like most projects, 360 is being completed sequentially starting from the bottom and working towards the top. As the building grows taller, work begins on the interiors of the lower floors. With it's opening, 360 becomes the tallest building in Austin - surpassing the height of the Frost Bank Tower by 50 feet.

In addition, The 23-floor Shore on Davis Street in the southeast quadrant is also nearing completion. Over the last few weeks, residents have begun to move in.

With the completion of 360 and the Shore, there will be as many as 1,000 new residents living in 622 new downtown condo units. While many additional condo projects are planned -- both of these projects are essentially sold out. If you are looking for a new downtown condo unit, at this point you will likely have to wait until the next round of units hits the market in 2009. That said, there are at least 2 listings on MLS for units in the Shore and likely a few more that will hit the market soon.

Question: What are condo buyers interested in? Answer: 360.

The growth of the site has been amazing over the last three months - we're now averaging nearly 1,000 visitors per month -- it's great to see so much interest in downtown high rise condo development.

On our home page, there is about 40 links. Interestingly enough, the link that gets the most click is not the blog or the project navigator or the condo project rankings. It's the link for the profile of Novare's 360 development. With 430 units across 44-floors, it's the biggest downtown project so far. With units starting at $190K, it's also the most reasonable. According to the developer, 75% of the units were under contract by the end of March, just 3 weeks after they went on the market.

The Austin condo market is so new that it is very hard to predict what will happen over the next few years. It's good to see that tall, well-designed, affordable projects in good locations are drawing so much interest and demand --- it bodes well for vibrant and dense urban core.

75% of 360 Units Sold in 3-Weeks

An incredible 75% of the 430 units in Novare Groups' 44-story 360 project are now under contract after just 3 weeks on the market. The units, which are mostly priced between $190K and $550K, rank among the most affordable units in the current downtown condo boom. This demonstrates, once again, that there is tremendous pent-up demand for reasonably priced units in central Austin.

Today, there are only 9 listings in the Austin MLS (360 is being marketed privately and is not reflected in the MLS numbers) in all of central Austin — areas 1b. 1a, 2, 4, 6, 7. To find similarly priced homes, buyers need to look far outside the city center. In contrast to other options, central high-rise developments seem to be very attractive to buyers. As this sales rate shows, units priced under $400K will move very quickly -- there will likely be ongoing demand to fill quite a few projects like this one. Novare, in fact, is planning additional 35-story and 40-story tower on the central post office site and an adjacent lot for completion by 2010. These units will priced in a similar range to the 360 project.

AustinTowers ongoing reader survey (please take our survey if you haven't already!) has shown so far that more than 90-percent of potential downtown Austin condo buyers are looking for units priced under $400K with the median target price for buyers currently around $300K.

Downtown Post Office Redevelopment

Not everybody is thrilled with the rate of development downtown. However, most Austinites would agree that the downtown post office at 6th & Guadalupe is one of the worst developed sites in the city. They took a prime downtown lot and built a small ugly 2-story post office that takes up less than 30% of the block. They surround it with a parking lot and a couple of mailboxes.

Last year, Mayor Wynn went to DC to lobby for redevelopment of the site. The fed agreed, proposals were submitted, and Novare Group Holdings of Atlanta---the firm behind the 360 project--was selected. Today, more details were announced. Read More...