Property values dropping in 281 corridor thanks to TxDOT's bait & switch toll plans

Link to article here. None of these toll road decisions happen in a vacuum. They affect real people, businesses, and schools. We’ve said from the beginning that property values would be adversely impacted by converting 281 into a toll road (leaving only access roads as the free lanes). TxDOT’s refusal to install the gas tax FUNDED overpasses in 2003 up until the present has reaped devastating economic results: declining property values (and likely less money flowing to businesses), and less in tax receipts. What TxDOT is doing to real PEOPLE in this corridor is criminal!

The citizens were promised not only those overpasses, but the expansion of 281 and the addition of access roads since 2001. The gas tax money to do the improvements has been sitting in a TxDOT account since at least 2003, and it’s still there. The original plan: $100 million; the toll plan: over $400 million. So if TxDOT did the less invasive, abundantly more affordable gas tax plan, the $100 million that’s still in a TxDOT account can fix nearly 100% of the highway and keep it a FREEway. The citizens have been demanding that TxDOT install the gas tax funded plan IMMEDIATELY and stop tinkering with peoples’ lives and livelihoods! We don’t need tolls, we need overpasses. Demand the gas tax plan NOW!

Stone Oak real estate slowing
By Jennifer Hiller

People beat down the doors trying to buy real estate in Stone Oak just a year and a half ago.

Today, home sellers practically have to flag people down in the street and wave them into the driveway.

The hottest real estate markets in San Antonio can be found inside Loop 1604 instead.

Like many suburban areas, Stone Oak’s home sales have turned sluggish, partly thanks to increasing traffic and longer commute times.

Other factors include stiff competition from home builders and a wait-and-see attitude about where boundary lines will be drawn for the new high school in North East Independent School District.

Inside-1604 areas such as Churchill Estates, Olmos Park, Deerfield, Elm Creek, Monte Vista, San Pedro Hills, Alamo Heights, Shavano Park and Castle Hills are where homes have seen some of the highest price increases in the city since the start of 2005.

“These are all parts of our city where, because of transportation or congestion, there’s been an increase in interest,” said Travis Kessler, CEO of the San Antonio Board of Realtors.

Sally Romo, real estate agent with Bradfield Properties, said the congestion at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 looms large in home buyers’ minds.

“There are a lot of people who won’t go up 281,” Romo said. “It takes a long time. I know people who would have moved up there and just didn’t want to face it. It’s definitely affecting sales. The farther you go north, the longer it takes to get home at night.”

It’s a stark reversal from the several years when home buyers couldn’t seem to get far enough outside Loop 1604.

And in 2006, North Side real estate sales benefited from something of an unnatural market force when North East ISD capped enrollment at Reagan High School. The district gave new residents an April 2006 deadline to buy a house or sign a contract, or their children would be sent to farther-away MacArthur High School.

In the first four months of 2006, about 1,100 Stone Oak-area homes sold or went under contract, and it was common for houses in good condition to go off the market within a few days. Buyer’s agents were vying to be the first to show a home and arrived with their clients — and a contract — in hand.

This year in the Multiple Listing Service area that includes Stone Oak and the east side of U.S. 281, it’s taking an average of 79 days to sell a home, up from 66 last year. Homes that sold in September were on the market an average of 115 days.

So is once-sizzling Stone Oak starting to fizzle?

It’s hardly that dramatic.

Romo points out this is a slow time of year for all real estate — Stone Oak and elsewhere. Buyers still consider the area highly desirable. And prices still are rising, just not in the way that drops jaws.

Since January 2005, average sales prices increased 9.6 percent in the area to reach $267,973.

Meanwhile, the average sales price for San Antonio as a whole rose 27 percent, reaching $184,257.

With the opening of the new Johnson High next fall, North East ISD is getting ready to redraw its boundaries again, and for now, no one knows which neighborhoods will feed into which high schools.

With school boundaries up in the air, Kessler and others say buyers have switched from hurry-up-and-buy panic to choosy moderation.

“I think until there’s a decision on that one, I think some people are waiting to decide where they will be,” Kessler said.

For now, there’s an overabundance of pre-owned and new homes for sale.

“Days on the market is doubling or tripling,” said Cheryl Atherton of Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper Realtors. “Prices are softening. There are lots of expired and canceled listings.”

The new-home market has put particular pressure on sales of existing homes in suburbs, where buyers tend to either want a new home or a recently updated existing home. A house that requires significant elbow grease languishes on the market now, agents say.

Home builders who have excess inventory outside Loop 1604 are offering such deep discounts that the deals are proving too tempting for home buyers to pass up.

“They’re offering lots of incentives … that people who are selling their pre-owned home cannot match,” Romo said.

Jason Glast of the Phyllis Browning Co. said builders see a price cut as a business decision, but it’s emotional for homeowners.

“I just sold a $262,000 home, and the builder took $40,000 off the price like it was no big deal,” Glast said. “They wanted to get it done. The home builders are relatively sophisticated. It’s all business.”

Since the start of the summer, Glast even has turned down listings if he felt the sellers were unrealistic about their price.

There are other forces at work in the market, Atherton says.

Many potential sales are falling apart because buyers can’t sell homes in other markets.

“San Antonio’s economy is flourishing,” she said. “The buyers that are coming in can’t sell their house. If they can’t sell the house, guess what? They can’t qualify. We’re suffering a backlash.”

As for the traffic, which real estate professionals pinpoint as the biggest gripe of home buyers, Bob Gardner, owner of Gardner Financial Services, which makes loans under the name Legacy Mutual Mortgage, thinks the push to live inside Loop 1604 is more significant for areas along U.S. 281 than neighborhoods along other highways.

“I don’t see the same phenomenon on Interstate 10 and Loop 1604,” Gardner said.

One Reply to “Property values dropping in 281 corridor thanks to TxDOT's bait & switch toll plans”

  1. Esteban Erik Stipnieks

    If you add four dollars a day to the commute in a given area…how can anybody in their right mind think that property values will remain static? The studies that justify the tolling do not account for human nature. If you make an area more expensive to live in…ya think people will stay there.

    Just a small detail TEX DOT did not consider.

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