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What recession? Movie stars, CEOs keep market hot
Premium content from Austin Business Journal by Jan Buchholz, Staff Writer
Date: Friday, August 17, 2012, 5:00am CDT – Last Modified: Friday, August 17, 2012, 10:21am CDT
Staff Writer- Austin Business Journal
Hollywood celebrities and executives from around the country are scouring chi-chi Austin neighborhoods in search of the perfect luxury home.
“Dennis Quaid came through one of our homes recently, and we’re working with several musicians,” said Gary Dolch, an agent with Capital City Sotheby’s International Realty. “We’ve seen CEOs from the Northeast looking for retirement homes.” >Meat Loaf is another great example. The legendary rocker and actor is originally from Dallas and has lived in California in recent years, but earlier this year he chose Austin — reportedly a $1.4 million hilltop hacienda — as the place to settle for the foreseeable future.
Cord Shiflet of Moreland Properties Inc. said the traffic for homes valued in excess of $1 million is dominated by out-of-state buyers who are moving because of business. Some are moving because they work for corporations that have established a presence in Austin. Other buyers are entrepreneurs. “They are people who can work anywhere they want, and they want to live in Austin,” Shiflet said. Darin Walker, also an agent with Moreland, said he showed homes recently to an investment banker from New York. “He’s establishing a satellite office here and he wants to buy something over $3 million,” Walker said.
Tony Trungale, branch manager for PrimeLending, tracks the luxury market closely. The company is one of the few local lenders that specialize in jumbo loans — those for more than $417,000. “We’re seeing a large influx of people from California and many from high-tech firms,” Trungale said. “We’re just seeing a lot of money coming to Austin. They think this market is undervalued.”
The Formula One U.S. Grand Prix race in November should translate into more international buyers, several agents said, not that they don’t already exist. “We’ve already seen buyers who are Mexican nationals, and some people from Great Britain have two of the top purchases,” said Gene Arant of Keller Williams Realty. “We’ve also seen buyers from China and Japan.”
Some buyers, however, are nearby. “Like oil and gas executives from Houston,” Arant said. Many buyers are paying cash, though some of those who could afford to shun a mortgage are choosing to finance. “Most buyers are cash-capable, but because interest rates are so low they are taking advantage of that,” Shiflet said. An Austin executive preferred to pay cash, however, for a mansion at 101 E. Canyon Circle overlooking Lady Bird Lake. He paid $7.75 million for the listing that was handled by Steve Dalby of Moreland Properties. It’s the most expensive house to sell thus far in 2012.
On the market for more than two years and owned by a local tech executive, the 10,000-square-foot cliffside home with views of Lake Austin and the downtown skyline finally captivated a serious buyer. Dalby said he was surprised the house took so long to sell. “I felt it was the finest home in Austin, and I still do,” he said.
Overall inventory for luxury homes remains high with 589 active listings in June compared with 569 in June 2011, according to information provided by Walker. Still, that’s down from 670 active listings in 2010. The estimated time to sell a million-dollar home is 371 days, up from 349 days in June 2011. Compare that with June 2009, however, when it took 672 days to sell a million-dollar home.
While those numbers seem substantial, Walker said certain submarkets — particularly Westlake — have much lower inventories and more highly competitive interest. “Westlake offers tremendouse diversity … Lake Austin waterfront, homes with hilltop city views, Hill Country settings and master-planned communities like Barton Creek,” Walker said. “Couple that with a diversity of architectural styles, and there’s a variety of options for buyers.”
Contemporary homes in that area seem to be particularly appealing, Walker said. One of the ultramodern market options is the 5,400-square-foot home that belongs to actress Sandra Bullock. It’s been on the market since June and is listed for $2.5 million. Bullock reportedly wants to raise her young son Louis in Los Angeles and hired Margaret Parma, an agent with Capital City Sotheby’s to sell the property. Parma was unable to comment about Bullock’s home, citing confidentiality agreements.
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