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Visiting Seattle

Visiting Seattle

gum wall, up close

Jude and I like to travel in December, and we recently took our annual winter trip.  This year’s trip began in Seattle, WA. Neither of us had ever been to Seattle before, and were pleasantly surprised at the cultural similarities that the two cities have, while also, in my opinion, having very different “feeling” downtown areas.  Naturally, we began comparing the two downtowns, and while Austin is doing a lot of things right within the urban-core to make it one of the most desirable places in the country to live, downtown Seattle is also doing a lot of things right, and is anchored by beautiful natural scenery. Our City leadership can look to Seattle in terms of continuing to optimize Austin’s potential, notably their [troubled] effort to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a hideous highway separating the city from the bay.

 

Seattle-skyline

But, before I begin really comparing, I think it would be a good idea to start with some historical facts / population stats for both cities:

Population of downtown area:
Austin: around 10,000 (Downtown Austin Alliance), close to 1% of Austin’s total population
Seattle: around 60,000, close to 10% of Seattle’s total population (Downtown Seattle Association)

Public  / Communal Transportation:
Austin: CapMetro Buses, Red Line Commuter Rail, Taxis, BikeShare, Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, ZipCar
Seattle: Metro Buses, Ferry, Seattle Center Monorail, Seattle Streetcar, Link Light Rail, Taxi, Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, ZipCar

Public Market:
Austin: Sunday Farmer’s market in Republic Square park
Seattle: Pike Place Public Market, a permanent installment open 7 days a week

Size of downtown area:
Austin: 9 districts, approximately 1.5 square miles overall (.005 of total size of Austin)
Seattle: 12 distinct neighborhoods, approximately 4 square miles overall (.03 of total size of Austin)

Population Growth:
Austin and Seattle are the two fastest growing cities in the nation.

Notable Corporate HQs:
Austin: Whole Foods, HomeAway, GSD&M
Seattle: Amazon.com, Tableau, Starbucks

starbucks-logo-seattle

The original and, ahem, more anatomically correct Starbucks logo that you see much more prevalently in Seattle

The most interesting of these statistics, to me, is that the relative size and population of downtown Seattle to the overall city is a much higher percentage than with Austin.  One way of interpreting that fact is to say that downtown is a bigger part of the total Seattle experience, and I have a feeling policy and funding follow suit (which brings more dollars and more vibrancy back into their downtown to flow out to the rest of their city).  However, I would say that most people in Austin realize that downtown IS the city’s cultural center and a must see / do.   I think all Austinites can continue to keep that perspective top of mind while encouraging continued growth in our urban core – realizing that a vibrant and engaging downtown brings benefit to the entire city.

However, despite their difference in scope – downtown Seattle and downtown Austin do have similarities. For instance, where downtown Seattle has graceful Gulls, whose calls evoke the sounds of the calming sea that traces the edges of Seattle’s downtown,…downtown Austin has Grackles.  (Okay, so Seattle wins that one.) Where downtown Seattle has insane hills that are the stuff of sleigh-riders dreams, downtown Austin has a gentle southeastern slope that makes outdoor activities a dream. Downtown Seattle has the Needle, downtown Austin has … the Austonian.  Downtown Seattle has a crazy Gum Wall, downtown Austin (well, close to downtown) has a graffiti wall (Hope Outdoor Gallery).

The examples above are a little in jest – but I will say that the culture of downtown Seattle did, in fact, feel pretty similar to downtown Austin.  For one, the city is very dog friendly.  Dogs were everywhere.  Additionally, many of the restaurants and night-life spots in downtown Seattle could have just as well been in Austin.

The natural surroundings, however, could not have been more different.  There were mountains viewable from downtown Seattle, as well as an active ocean port.  The weather is very rainy and generally much colder than in Austin. Likely, because of the weather (and maybe the hills), I did not see NEARLY as many folks jogging or bicycling around downtown Seattle, where in Austin, that’s the definite norm. One thing that REALLY struck me is that downtown Seattle and downtown Austin are very close to the same age, both “founded” in the mid-1800s. Downtown Seattle had a broader historic feel, but Austin is simply effervescent with youth and new growth.

The public transportation was robust and almost effortless (at least to us) in Seattle.  Also, downtown Seattle had more shopping – department stores and mom and pop shops happily co-exist in downtown Seattle.

Nordstrom Rack right next to the Monorail

Nordstrom Rack right next to the Monorail

Additionally, and this is a very timely issue for Austin, but busking in Seattle certainly felt MUCH more professional than what I see in downtown Austin…here’s one of the many talented street performers sprinkled around downtown Seattle. It’s important to note that Seattle has some very lax regulations on busking, however. In Austin, I think it should be monitored and systemized more than it is, and stakeholders like DANA agree (the City is currently obtaining more stakeholder feedback before re-presenting their proposal on busking regulations).

Now, it may sound like I just think Seattle is the greatest thing since sliced bread and why don’t I just marry Seattle because I love it so much….but, it’s not like that.  I LOVE downtown Austin, I really do. I believe we are a relatively “new” downtown (in the modern sense) and an incredibly fast growing one, at that. And the opportunities that brings for those of us in on the ground floor of this burgeoning downtown are incredible. And it only benefits us to look to more established downtown centers across the country and take what we can from those that have done it before.  City leaders and policy influencers are already doing this, of course – but it never hurts to keep it top of mind.

And, I think it’s important to note that more isn’t ALWAYS better.  For instance, the amount of vagrancy in downtown Seattle was frankly overwhelming.  Austin certainly has vagrancy issues as well, but, at least, anecdotally, Seattle felt FAR worse. And, there’s controversy as to whether Seattle is really doing their best to solve the problem in a sustainable way.

From searching a few online sources, Seattle’s cost of living seems quite a bit higher than Austin’s.  Most online source quotes that housing is at least 25% higher in Seattle than in Austin. This figure does not compare the downtown areas specifically, but I would think there is some disparity there.

In the last 90 days, downtown Austin’s median sold pricing is observed to be $490 per foot.  Semi-reliable online sources quote a recent median sales price for downtown Seattle the last 90 days at around $475 per foot.  So, if this is accurate, it may be that downtown Austin, is in fact, the more expensive housing market, at least at this specific point in time.  One reason for that may be the relatively lower inventory.

I think looking to Seattle can really help those that are shaping the new downtown Austin – especially in terms of public transportation, the city’s relationship with its natural surroundings (the Waller Creek redevelopment and Shoal Creek Conservancy efforts certainly are on the right track), and the SCOPE of downtown in relation to the size of the overall city: encourage vertical development in the urban-core, in order to preserve the beauty of our hill-country.

One thing is clear, Austin is a fabulous place to live – and it’s sunny.  Seattle can keep all that cloudy gloom for itself.





By The Numbers: Downtown’s Shrinking Inventory

By The Numbers: Downtown’s Shrinking Inventory

DT Resale Chart - May TTM

The data supports what we all see – demand exceeds supply for downtown condos, especially dwellings priced under $500,000.  May was the first month ever that both the average and median price per foot for a downtown resale was over $400/ft.

At the extremes, asking prices for new construction high-luxury condos are approaching $1000 per foot, and there are several recently recorded transactions between $700-$800 per square foot.

Downtown condo inventory as of 6/7/2013

1) total resales available = 49
2) total new construction available = 77 est.

As of this post, there are only 13 units for sale under $500,000, and built within the past 15 years, in all of downtown Austin.  This leaves us with just over one month of inventory available for the largest segment of condo buyers in downtown’s core.

The lack of new product in the market is putting significant upward pricing pressure on resales.  With no new condo development planned in downtown, as interest rates remain low, resale prices will continue to rise to meet the demand.

DT Resale Chart - May TTM - MaxMin

You’ll recall that back in January, for the first time, the average sales price of a new construction downtown condo exceeded, $1,000,000.  There were 14 closings in May for new construction condos: the Austonian, W Hotel, and Four Seasons Residences.  Spring is sold out.  [UPDATE: The Four Seasons is sold out, with contracts pending.]  The W and Four Seasons could officially be sold out after another couple months of sales and pending contracts close.  The Austonian has a pretty good inventory remaining, but soon lacking any competition sales could accelerate quickly.

May 2013 Resale Statistics

- Total sales volume (resales only) =  $12,717,900
- # of resale transactions = 22
- avg price per foot = $453
- median price per foot = $424
- avg sales price = $578,086
- avg sales price to list price (SP/LP) = 97%
- avg condo size = 1275 sq. ft.
- avg price per bedroom = $343,727
- avg days on market (DOM) = 43 days

May 2013 New Construction Statistics

- # of new construction transactions = 14
- avg price per foot = $700-$800/ft est.
- Total new construction sales volume =  not reported

Downtown Austin New Construction Closings - Through June 7th, 2013

ProjectDate of
1st Closing
# of
Closed Units
(Clerk)
# of
Original Units
(TCAD)
% Units
Closed
# of
Remaining Units
Average
# of Days
Per Sale
Trending Completion Date (estimated)
TOTALS39347084%77
Four Seasons ResidencesMay 7, 201014014895%88July 2013
W Hotel ResidencesJanuary 10, 201114015988%196September 2013
The AustonianJune 10, 2010
113163
69%5010June 2014
The data was updated on June 7th, 2013. Any closings since then are not reflected. Only deed records counted and adjusted based on information from respective buildings' sales offices. Data does not reflect units currently under contract. Deed records for parking spaces and storage units have been removed. Combined units are divided into their respective original units when possible to determine.

DT Resale Chart - May TTM





BREAKING: Sales Of New Downtown Austin Condos Average More Than $1,000,000

BREAKING: Sales Of New Downtown Austin Condos Average More Than $1,000,000

downtown-austin-condo-pricing-data-2012

For the first time, the average sales price of a new condo in downtown Austin is more than $1,000,000.

It’s not news that residences cost more than $1,000,000.  It is news when we’re talking about averages!  To be clear, we are focusing on new construction only, not resales (which have also had a banner year, and we’ll cover that in a future post.)

In 2012, the Austonian, Four Seasons Residences, W Hotel Residences, and Spring Condos (which in 2012 closed out their sales), accounted for 124 sales.

According to builder reports assembled by Capitol Market Research for new construction condos sold during the past 12 months:

  • average price = $1,061,682
  • average size = 1,701 ft.
  • number new condos sold = 124

The data is provided to us monthly as an aggregate of the above four buildings.  Anonymizing individual building sales was the only way to convince the developers to share their sales data.  To qualify the average price, we can approximate a median price using the 12 monthly aggregate records we have.

  • median monthly average price = $1,044,181 (min $777,813 to max $1,687,857)

The refrain which began in 2010 continues: there are no new downtown Austin condos being built.  Nor have we seen any new site plans for downtown condos.  Inventories continue to decrease (by 124 units in 2012) and residences are selling quickly at prices close to the asking price.  An ancillary effect of this shrinking inventory is rising prices for resales.

By my estimation, when compared against TCAD records, only 115 new construction units remain.  If interest rates remain low, the downtown Austin real estate market is on a trajectory to complete sales of new construction condos in 2013.

I’ll continue to provide detailed analysis of 2012 results over the coming weeks, including resales and analysis of building-by-building performance.

-Jude





BY THE NUMBERS (June): Downtown Austin Condo Sales

BY THE NUMBERS (June): Downtown Austin Condo Sales

downtown austin condo price trends

In June, we observed downtown Austin condo prices averaging $381/ft for resales and $590/ft for new-luxury sales. With no new projects planned, a chunk of downtown Austin’s condo inventory is removed every month.

Pricing in Austin’s urban core continues to trend up for three reasons:

1) Shrinking inventory emboldens sellers
2) Low interest rates – hovering at 3.40% – enticing buyers
3) Migration patterns into Texas, specifically Austin, more specifically downtown Austin

Combined sales of new construction and resales removed 41 units from inventory in June, representing $25,156,400 total sales volume.

Currently, there are 94 resales and 172 new construction units available for sale in the downtown Austin core.

downtown austin condo price trends

June 2012 Resale Statistics

- # of resale transactions = 28
- avg price per foot = $381
- avg sales price to list price (SP/LP) = 91%
- avg days on market (DOM) = 17 days
- Total resales volume =  $12,829,900

June 2012  New Construction Statistics

- # of new construction transactions = 13
- avg price per foot = $590
- Total new construction sales volume =  $12,326,500

Downtown Austin New Construction Closings

ProjectDate of
1st Closing
# of
Closed Units
(Clerk)
# of
Original Units
(TCAD)
% Units
Closed
# of
Remaining Units
Average
# of Days
Per Sale
Trending Completion Date (estimated)
TOTALS29847063%172
Four Seasons ResidencesMay 7, 201010414870%446March 2013
W Hotel ResidencesJanuary 10, 20119715961%624February 2013
The AustonianJune 10, 2010
97163
60%666August 2013
The data was updated on July 1st, 2012. Any closings since then are not reflected. Only deed records counted. Data does not reflect units currently under contract. Deed records for parking spaces and storage units have been removed. Combined units were divided into their respective original units.




BY THE NUMBERS: Downtown Austin Highrise Sales

BY THE NUMBERS: Downtown Austin Highrise Sales

downtown austin real estate prices

In light of the recent Statesman article highlighting new construction sales, I thought this would be a good time to update our trending chart for downtown condos.

Combined sales of new construction and resales of downtown Austin condos delivered a seasonally strong 46 transactions representing $26,720,149 total sales volume in March.

Currently there are 95 resales and 197 new construction condos available for sale in the downtown Austin core.  That’s not many.  Within the past 12 months, we’ve seen 201 resales and 186 new construction sales.

In the chart below, that little red trend line for average resale price per foot gets steeper each month as we see more resales in the top-tier buildings.  By this time next year, you will be able to count the total availability of new construction condos on two hands.

downtown austin real estate prices

March 2012 Resale Statistics

- # of resale transactions = 29
- avg price per foot = $364
- avg sales price to list price (SP/LP) = 97%
- avg days on market (DOM) = 32 days
- Total resales volume =  $12,038,599

March 2012  New Construction Statistics

- # of new construction transactions = 17
- avg price per foot = $554
- Total new construction sales volume =  $14,681,550

Downtown Austin New Construction Closings

ProjectDate of
1st Closing
# of
Closed Units
(Clerk)
# of
Original Units
(TCAD)
% Units
Closed
# of
Remaining Units
Average
# of Days
Per Sale
Trending Completion Date (estimated)
TOTALS52171873%197
Four Seasons ResidencesMay 7, 20109914867%496March 2013
Spring CondosAugust 17, 200924724899%1 (5 reported)4June 2012
W Hotel ResidencesJanuary 10, 20119115957%684February 2013
The AustonianJune 10, 2010
84163
52%797November 2013
The data was assembled on May 1st, 2012. Only new construction sales counted. Data does not reflect units currently under contract. Combined units were divided into their respective original units.

 





DAB Stats: Downtown Austin Sales

DAB Stats: Downtown Austin Sales

downtown austin condo sales - february 2012

February delivered strong numbers for sales of downtown Austin condos.  I count nine new construction sales and 14 resales (compared to six and 10 in January respectively).

The 14 resales averaged $397 per square foot – the highest monthly average for resales that I can remember.  Don’t mistake this for accelerating appreciation, though.  Included in February’s numbers is a resale at the Austonian.  And, while there’s clearly a gradual upward trend in the resale market, February’s price-per-foot surge is attributable to this burgeoning market for resales in the top-tier buildings.

trailing 12 months of downtown condo sales

You can anticipate that by the end of March all of the top-tier buildings will [factually] be over 50% closed. Each has already crossed the chasm.

Notably, Spring condos has only a couple of new units left, the [seriously amazing] penthouse(s) being one of them.  For most buyers, Spring condos can be considered sold out and opportunities to buy are in the resale market.  The Four Seasons Residences leads the pack in terms of percentage of units sold, though the W Hotel Residences is showing the greatest velocity. See below.

Downtown New Construction Closings

ProjectDate of
1st Closing
# of
Closed Units
(Clerk)
# of
Original Units
(TCAD)
% Units
Closed
# of
Remaining Units
Average
# of Days
Per Sale
Trending Completion Date (estimated)
TOTALS50371870%215
Four Seasons ResidencesMay 7, 20109314863%556March 2013
Spring CondosAugust 17, 200924724899%14March 2012
W Hotel ResidencesJanuary 10, 20118315952%764February 2013
The AustonianJune 10, 2010
80163
49%837November 2013
The data was assembled on March 4th, 2012. Data does not reflect units currently under contract. Combined units were split into their respective original units.




2011 Recap of Downtown Austin Condo Sales

2011 Recap of Downtown Austin Condo Sales

downtown austin condo sales - 2011 prices trailing 12 months

Challenged to articulate a narrative around 2011 downtown Austin real estate data, I’ve been keeping this post under wraps for a couple of weeks.  Data is useful to me and my clients, but these numbers have little meaning without context and history.

How do I convey that the best news is no news at all?

Stability in the downtown condo market continues to be the story. Stability attracts the timid buyers from the sidelines. Those additional buyers embolden timid sellers to enter the market.

What forces are creating stability downtown? Low interest rates, shrinking inventory, and multi-generational demand for urban lifestyle. We can see the outcome of stability in the chart below: the gradually upward sloping trend line.

downtown austin condos - 10 years of resale data

downtown austin condos - 10 years of resale data

In 2011, if you were a seller in downtown Austin, then you did slightly better than sellers in 2010.  If you were a buyer in downtown Austin in 2011, then you were more focused on lifestyle and proximity, rather than the post-bust discount pricing found in 2008-2009.

Highlights

Looking back on the downtown Austin condo market in 2011, we see $77,688,824 in total resales over 200 resale transactions.  Combined with an estimated $120,000,000 in downtown new construction sales from another 200 transactions, 2011 reflects a healthy real estate market, gradually trending up. [Read more…]





Crossing The Chasm: A Perspective On New Construction

Crossing The Chasm: A Perspective On New Construction

Crossing-The-Chasm-Adoption-Lifecycle

Because I’m a real estate geek, I’m continuously looking at sales metrics, updating my databases, and endeavoring to uncover useful information.  In this post, I’m attempting two things: 1) offer some perspective on sales in downtown Austin’s high profile buildings, and 2) predict when those buildings will approach being completely sold.  If you just want the data then skip to the end.

One of my mentors shared with me an insight: the first buyers are innovators – early adopters that fill up the bandwagon and help throttle the acceptance of something new.  It applies to new real estate development, as much as it does to new technologies.

Now that the cranes are long gone, where are the new construction projects in their sales cycles? [Read more…]