One of the best pieces of advice I received when I moved to take on the Austin Directorship was “get out of the office…the numbers won’t tell you as much as the market.”  True that. Each quarter, once my research all-star team compiles the quarterly numbers, the analysis I draw out of the figures provides a road map for interesting micro-trends worth looking into over the subsequent ninety days.  The company gives me a gas stipend, might well use it, eh?

This summer, as I’m making my way from Sonterra in Jarrell down to Garlic Creek West in Buda, and everywhere in-between, I have an enhanced tool riding shotgun, giving me on-demand metrics of the subdivisions I’m touring.  The upgraded Builder Insight tool enables me to identify the most active communities in my area of interests on the fly to maximize my time when I happen to find myself in the far reaches of the ever growing Austin MSA.  Austin’s most active subdivisions are predictably in the northern part of the MSA along the thoroughfares that have historically been favored by builders and consumers.  The following is a look at my time exploring the Other top fives in the area.

Tuesday: Next Stop on the Craigslist Tour: Pflugerville. 

In chasing down discarded furniture to repair on the weekends, Craigslist directed me to a storage facility at Rowe Lane and Hwy 130 for an old coffee table that was destined to become a tufted ottoman.  I planned to meet a Samsung employee at 3:30pm, so I took off at lunch-time, with an iPad and a sandwich to take a look at the activity in one of Austin’s fastest growing submarkets.

Over the last twelve months, Pflugerville’s new home starts rate has grown 35%, from 619 to 834.  The echo boom in Pflugerville makes sense when looking back.  Coming out of a recession (2011) builders and consumers flock to our A++ micro-markets (read: Cedar Park/Leander).  As the market recovers and activity grows, prices grow accordingly, forcing Austinites to look for new markets.  With its relative access to downtown, and the market overall, and its relatively affordability, the area has become a desirable submarket.  The recent growth has caused prices to rise in this historically affordable area.  To the point, 52% of all starts this time last year occurred below $200,000.  In the last twelve months, only 28% of the starts occurred in this affordable price range.  Now the submarket still does a majority of its activity between $200,000 and $300,000, keeping the area relatively affordable to Austin’s top submarkets.  However, this market has changed with the introduction of new subdivisions whose amenities and housing products warrant the higher prices.

Wednesday: Any Excuse is a Good one to Drive Highway 71. 

After our Annual BBQ Real Estate BBQ event hosted at one of our founder’s ranches I realized that I had to return to the site as I had left some banners and coolers onsite.  (Full Disclosure: I accidentally left these banners and coolers out there like George Costanza accidentally left his furry Russian sable hat at his date’s house.  I’ll take any excuse to get out west.)  In order to take advantage of the beautiful day and a conversational mood, I figured I’d tour the most active developments in the Lake Travis submarket along Highway 71.  Homes in this area never disappoint.

This area of the world has participated in the recovery in terms of growing starts rates and high new home pricing.  Given the character of the area, the highly ranked school district, and the natural beauty, the developments carved into the near east portion of the Texas hill country have drawn buyers from sea to shining sea.  The mythological “California Buyer” (comes to the market to be surprised by what their money can buy and then pays in cash) has been credited with much of the success, but a discerning consumer looking for a unique hill country setting with access to retail and restaurants are coming from many states.  Encouragingly, this area is seeing the winding down of one of the top communities in Austin in recent years (Falconhead) but not losing starts activity due to the rise of Rough Hollow, Ladera Ranch, and Sweetwater in the last 18 months.

Thursday: HBA Event Turns into tour of Manor.  

Reluctantly getting hooked on the AMC show Mad Men, I told my wife, who has a master’s degree in marketing, “marketing seems like a pretty interesting field.  Maybe that’s something I could get into.”  With the exasperation of a woman who must consistently redirect a husband’s misguided assumptions, she quickly shared that what they’re doing is advertising and advertising is only part of the larger concept of marketing.  Too late, I had already signed up for the HBA’s Marketing Lunch and Learn in hopes of becoming the housing industry’s Don Draper.

Being located northeast of Austin, I figured I’d extend this lunch into a tour of the Manor market.  With the completion of the Manor Expressway, the tolled portion of US 290 east of town, the area should receive a boost in image, if not new home activity as well.  This roadway endeavor created such a headache for drivers that people could not wait to get through the area, leaving little patience to stop and look around.  In the last year, the Community of Harris Branch, Presidential Glen, and Pioneer Crossing West have all seen year over year gains greater than 60%.

The Austin market is becoming more niche as we enter new and frontier submarkets.  With this new Builder Insight tool in hand, these “new locations” will feel familiar soon enough.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX.