It’s no secret that Central Texas is booming. Attracted to Austin’s iconic music and food scenes as well its natural landscape and temperate climate, newcomers have transformed the city into a thriving job center, and the influx of residents is showing in its rising home prices. According to digital real estate firm Zillow, Austin is poised to be 2018’s sixth-hottest market in the country, meaning prices will escalate even further by a projected 3.3% in the coming year—making the city’s bedroom communities such as Leander, Texas, an attractive option for potential buyers who want to be close to the action while also maintaining the hometown feel of a smaller community.
In response, the Texas division of national builder and developer Brookfield Residential conducted market research and determined that both first-time buyers and empty nesters looking for a low-maintenance home with fewer than three bedrooms are underserved in Austin’s neighboring communities. As such, the firm tailored its development strategy to add a more compact product to three of its existing communities in the area.
The Cottages at Crystal Falls, which sit beside Brookfield’s Cap Rock Estates in the same development, offer one- and two-story homes across open-plan layouts that leave no space wasted. The lower price points on the homes make the community more accessible to buyers of varying income levels. Marrying classic architecture with a modern twist, the design intent was to create open- concept homes that feel much larger than their actual footprints.
“We like to call them our ‘little big homes,’” says Mike Beckett, who co-developed the design of the homes as chief product developer for Brookfield Residential Texas. “But offering a lower-priced home shouldn’t mean inferior quality.”
Situated on a 10.15-acre parcel in a gated enclave, the detached homes priced from the mid-$250s are sized from about 1,200 square feet to just over 1,800 square feet and contain two to four bedrooms and one- or two-car garages fitted with lofts and flex spaces. In contrast, the homes at Cap Rock Estates start in the low $400s and range in size from 2,560 to 4,500 square feet with three to five bedrooms. Both lock-and-leave communities have access to shared amenities, including swimming pools, parks, and an award–winning golf course, and are in close proximity to hiking trails and prestigious schools.
The homes are similarly designed in a mix of Craftsman, bungalow, Hill Country, and Prairie architectural styles. Well-appointed with volume ceilings, detailed interior surfaces such as doors and trims, and hard flooring throughout, the cottages pay homage to Texas architecture without going beyond a starter home price. They are smart-product ready and fitted with modern fixtures that balance with the more classic Texas-style fittings, including Craftsman-style doors, door pediments, and tall baseboards.
Today’s buyers—particularly empty nesters, as evidenced through the company’s market research—are conscious of their operating expenses, so the energy-efficient homes boast a platinum Environments For Living certification, tankless water heaters, and highly insulated walls and windows that combine to produce an average monthly electricity charge of $48. Their smaller square footage means there are fewer unused spaces to heat and cool.
Making the most of their tight lots, the homes operate on what Beckett dubs a “soft-condo” concept, without metes and bounds, where buyers own the home and its footprint rather than the individual lots, which are owned by the HOA.
“A soft-condo concept allows for more flexibility in the design of the homes because there are less restrictions dictated by lot line boundaries. This allows us to effectively utilize and preserve the natural beauty of the heritage tree-lined streets,” says Beckett.
In addition to creative design solutions in the layouts, the concept also provides amenities similar to those at apartment complexes, such as lawn care and low-maintenance Texas native landscaping through an HOA. “As a home builder, it is vital not only to identify demographic-specific needs, but also effectively incorporate them into thoughtful designs,” says Beckett. “With an ever-evolving and competitive market, Brookfield has strategically moved away from a ‘one-house-fits-all’ mindset and tailored each design to fit the needs of the targeted demographic.”
Project The Cottages at Crystal Falls
Location Leander, Texas
Designer Kipp Flores
Builder Brookfield Residential
Size 1,200 to 1,800 square feet
Price From the mid $250s