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As Texans adjust to life under orders to stay at home during the new coronavirus pandemic — and scramble to cover expenses with incomes that were drastically cut or abruptly shut off — housing and real estate experts say it’s hard to predict what the parallel public health and economic crises will do to home values and sales.

A lot depends on how long the twin troubles last.

“We definitely will have a slowdown, but the question is how much and how long,” said Scott Norman, executive director of the Texas Association of Builders.

That’s a sudden about-face for what had been, until now, one of the most dynamic real estate markets in the country. The state has had five consecutive years breaking records in terms of numbers of houses sold and median prices, according to Texas Realtors. And Texas’ homebuilding industry has been solid, too; no other state had more building permits in 2019, according to census data.

Luis Torres, an economist with the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, said that the housing sector can be a barometer for the economy as a whole because it affects jobs of laborers, builders, realtors and a litany of other professions.

“And it has a multiplier effect into the rest of the economy, from moving companies to furniture stores,” Torres said.

Already, experts are seeing slowdowns in home showings — which are now largely done virtually — and expect that permits for new construction might also drop. For regions whose residents rely largely on the energy industry for work, like Houston or the Permian Basin, or on cross-border trade, like the Rio Grande Valley, home values and sales may dip more than in other Texas regions. And those areas may take longer to recover, too.

In Houston, there are already fewer people putting homes on the market, but home values among houses sold have actually improved. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, new home listings of single-family homes decreased 4.8% last month when compared with March 2019. But, at the same time, home prices increased 3.6%.

“Housing markets will be hit differently depending on the region. Yes, Houston would be hit harder, but Midland-Odessa would be hit even more,” said Torres. “Smaller economies are more volatile because they are less diversified.”

Another area that might see an economic downturn is the border because of a slowdown in commercial trade with Mexico.

“[Regions] like El Paso, McAllen, Laredo and Brownsville will also be hit hard because they weren’t doing that well before the COVID-19 sudden stop, and their economies will also be affected by the recession in the Mexican economy,” Torres said.

Statewide, physical home showings are down between 38% and 44%, according to Texas Realtors Chairman Cindi Bulla.

“We don’t yet know what percentage of that downturn is a reflection of our members’ commitment to narrowing down selections through virtual showings, sellers declining to allow their homes to be shown, or buyers unwilling or unable to move forward at this time,” Bulla said.

Statewide home sales data for March is not available yet, but researchers say prices should be stable, at least in the first months of the crisis.

“Home prices are sticky, and it’s difficult for them to decline drastically,” said Torres. “Economists are now expecting a U-shaped recession and recovery.”

What happens with Texans’ jobs after the public health crisis subsides will be a key driver of what happens with home sales and values.

“It’s too soon to predict the market impact of this disruption, but its duration will be highly determinant,” said Bulla. “Demand is heavily influenced by employment numbers, and those numbers will depend on how long our employers can sustain under shelter-in-place orders.”

In the meantime, the Department of Housing and Urban Development suspended foreclosures and evictions for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration until the end of April. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored institutions that back mortgages, are doing the same for at least two months. The Texas Supreme Court also halted evictions until April 30, and many local governments extended similar measures.

But some fear these policies are postponing a larger problem: the delinquencies that might come from unemployed homeowners.

“That’s when you can have falling prices,” Torres said. “[Homeowners] might try to sell a home at the best price that they can, and that might be with a discount, and that could have an effect on home values.”

Comptroller Glenn Hegar said last month that the state’s unemployment rate could be headed for double digits, which could exceed the historic high of 1986’s 9.2% unemployment rate. Torres said that banks need to prepare for this scenario by, for example, giving two or three months free of pay and then adding them at the end of the contract. But even that might not be enough for people who are unemployed for longer periods of time.

“Mortgage debt will continue to exist and is not going away,” said Torres. “This is going to be an important issue that we are going to face after the sudden stop [of the economy] ends.”

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Builders, Texas Realtors, and the Texas A&M Real Estate Center have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. 


Landscape view of city of Houston

 

The annual Rice Business Plan Competition was canceled for 2020 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The Rice Business Plan Competition was scheduled to take place at Rice University between March 26 through 28. RBPC is one of the largest student startup competitions in the world.

“We received word Sunday evening that Rice University, with guidance from the Rice Crisis Management Committee, is prohibiting all on-campus public events and gatherings with more than 100 people to minimize close contact among large groups of people,” according to a statement on the RBPC website.

Rice has canceled all classes at the university for a week citing fears of spreading the coronavirus as the cause. Conversations were had about holding the event in an alternative way, but it was found to not be possible.

“We have successfully run the competition for 19 years, and we were very excited to host and celebrate the 20th edition later this month,” per the statement.

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Houston’s commercial property values will continue to trend upward in 2020 as demand for development opportunities expands amid the region’s positive job growth, according to Deal Sikes, a leading Houston-based valuation firm.

“Although there are a few exceptions, the real estate market in Houston is headed for another good year,” said Mark Sikes, principal with Deal Sikes. “The region’s economy is healthy and although the energy industry is in a lackluster period, the overall economic outlook is outstanding.”

Houston’s industrial market is attracting interest from around the nation and research indicates that more than 15 million square feet of warehouse space is under construction in the Greater Houston area.

“Prices for land or urban infill development property has risen significantly in recent years,” Sikes said. “Rising land prices have pushed the wave of industrial development farther away from the center of the city and outer suburban land prices have increased accordingly.”

Property values in the urban core of the city remain strong as developers and builders locate buildings for redevelopment or seek sites that are appropriate for new construction, Sikes said.

“Multifamily construction is strong in Houston and researchers report more than 25,000 units are now under construction, although the pace is expected to be slightly more moderate in 2020 as the new inventory is absorbed,” Sikes said. “Investor demand is good and multifamily valuations have not yet peaked in most submarkets.”

Newer office buildings and Class A towers under construction are leasing briskly, although Houston’s office market is the most sluggish sector.

The Texas Medical Center, where more than 100,000 people are employed, is a source of growth for Houston and several hospitals and research facilities are expanding.

“Houston’s commercial real estate values will be on a solid upswing in 2019,” said Matthew Deal, principal with Deal Sikes. “With Houston expected to gain population significantly in the next decade, the long-term forecast must include rising property prices that will be very impressive over the long haul.”


Memorial Hermann Health System, Houston’s largest health system, opened a new 17-floor critical care tower at its Texas Medical Center hospital.

Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s new tower, dubbed the Susan and Fayez Sarofim Pavilion, began accepting emergency room patients effective Feb. 20, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Susan and Fayez Sarofim, the billionaire behind Houston-based investment firm Fayez Sarofim & Co., donated $25 million for the project — the largest gift Memorial Hermann had ever received when it was announced in February 2018. The Sarofim Pavilion was part of a roughly $700 million renovation and expansion project at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, according to Memorial Hermann.

“The Sarofim Pavilion enables Memorial Hermann to stay ahead of the fast-growing advances in medicine, keep pace with the extraordinary growth of the greater Houston metropolitan region and, most importantly, meet the health needs of our community for years to come,” David Callender, president, and CEO of Memorial Hermann said in a news release.

The new 17-floor tower has more than 140 patient rooms; 24 operating rooms, including three hybrid ORs; a 335-seat cafeteria dubbed the Arboretum Café; and 900 new parking spots. Sarofim Pavilion also is the new home of the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC — one of two adult Level 1 trauma centers in Houston.

Operations for Memorial Hermann’s air ambulance service, Life Flight, moved on top of the new tower. The new John S. Dunn Heliport is 10,000 square feet larger than the old helipad and is capable of handling the weight of a Black Hawk helicopter.

“As the Houston community is growing by leaps and bounds, the need for access to quality health care increases exponentially,” Susan Sarofim, chair of the Memorial Hermann Foundation board between 2015 and 2017, said in the release. “Memorial Hermann has stepped up to the plate to deliver a new facility with greatly increased patient capacity and state-of-the-art equipment. Fayez and I are so proud to support Memorial Hermann as the health system continues to deliver award-winning, innovative care to the Houston community.”

Construction began on the Memorial Hermann-TMC expansion in 2015. The building of Sarofim Pavilion took over 5,500 workers and 3.5 million man-hours, according to Memorial Hermann. Houston-based Vaughn Construction served as the project’s general contractor.


Sandy Aron, president of Hunington Properties

Construction is getting underway on a long-awaited mixed-use project just north of Washington Avenue.

Los Angeles-based Parkview Financial provided a $38 million construction loan to Houston-based Hunington Properties, according to a Feb. 20 press release. Greystone Capital Advisors arranged the financing.

The 126,500-square-foot, the six-story project is being built on 1.38 acres at 1107 Shepherd Drive, formerly the site of Bethel Church. Plans for the project, which Hunington has been calling The Interpose, have been in the works since at least 2016.

Now, it’s expected to be completed in mid-2021, per the Feb. 20 release. The project will feature 168 residential units, more than 20,475 square feet of ground-level retail space, and an above-grade parking structure with 305 spaces.

The apartments will be micro-units, according to Hunington’s website. Each unit will feature stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen plus a washer and dryer. Some units will include balconies or private patios.

Community amenities will include a rooftop deck, resort-style pool, outdoor kitchen, fitness center with vinyl plank flooring, clubhouse with quartz surfaces, business center, lush landscaping, dog park and outdoor space with stadium seating.

“This project promises to be highly competitive and successful as it will offer best-in-class amenities to prospective tenants at a lower per-unit rental rate compared to other nearby communities, due to the smaller floor plan design,” Paul Rahimian, CEO of Parkview Financial, said in the release.


TA Realty acquired the East Belt Business Park, a 350,000 SF, four-building industrial plan near the Port of Houston in Houston’s Southeast submarket. The seller, Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing was represented by the JLL Industrial Capital Markets. East Belt Business Park comprises two rear-load and two cross-dock buildings that feature 20- to 24-foot clear heights, 114 dock-high doors, 14 drive-up ramps, 510 parking spaces and truck courts ranging from 120- to 180-foot . The property has been more than 90 percent leased since delivery. East Belt Business Park is three miles from the Port of Houston, a 25-mile long waterway that services 8,200 vessels and 215,000 barges each year.


 

The boutique small real estate firms of Houston are now even smaller. Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield purchased Colvill Office Properties and now more Houston local brokerage offices are being absorbed by the largest brokerage firms in the world. Chip Colvill, the founder and former president/CEO of Colvill Office Properties, joins Cushman & Wakefield as Executive Vice Chairman.


​​​​​Elite 25sm, the premier membership organization for luxury real estate agents, has announced its expansion in Spring 2020 with the launch of chapters in Houston and Dallas, Texas. Established in 1994 and based in Austin, Texas, Elite 25sm  represents a city’s top luxury residential agents, providing ample opportunities to increase exposure, bolster reputations, network with fellow top luxury agents and stay educated on real estate trends and happenings. Beyond the value for members, Elite 25sm also presents an incomparable asset for buyers and sellers, taking out the guesswork of finding an agent.

“We’re excited to bring this exclusive opportunity to luxury realtors in the largest real estate markets in Texas,” said Tony Trungale, Managing Director of Elite 25sm and a Senior Loan Officer with PNC Bank. “This organization has proven to be an invaluable resource for our members, allowing unmatched time and space for networking and dealmaking.”

Founding Elite 25​ Austin member Cindy Goldrick of Wilson & Goldrick Realtors said of the group: “I’ve been a member of Elite 25sm in Austin since its inception 25 years ago and it has been an essential part of my real estate career and success. Elite 25sm membership provides individual agents recognition as verified leading producers of high-end homes and, equally important, it offers camaraderie with other top agents and the opportunity to network. I’ve been excited and motivated to work to meet the criteria each and every year.”

Members apply on an annual basis and are chosen based solely on production numbers, ensuring a true representation of the city’s top professionals. Criteria for membership varies year to year, but eligibility begins with a minimum of four homes sold each over $1 million. In 2019, each of Austin’s 34 members sold at least eight homes over $1 million – a major marker of Austin’s booming housing market – for a staggering collective sales total exceeding $1 billion.

“In today’s fiercely competitive market, Elite 25sm is the perfect platform to provide a competitive edge for my clients,” said Dara Allen, Broker Associate and Sales Manager for Compass Austin. “All members of Elite 25sm are experts in the luxury market and our monthly luncheons – always in a member’s fabulous new listing – give us the opportunity to share coming soon and pocket listings.”

Elite 25​ Houston and Elite 25​ Dallas will continue under the leadership of Tony Trungale, with Advisory Board members to be announced. Marketing efforts will continue to be managed by Commission.Co, a boutique Austin-based agency specializing in social media, video, and design for luxury and commercial real estate.


There’s a sophisticated new restaurant in one of downtown’s most prestigious buildings but you wouldn’t know it from the street. That’s because Adair Downtown is at the tunnel level, connected to Wells Fargo Plaza at 1000 Louisiana by the snaking system of underground pathways.

Quietly open for a few weeks, the restaurant is already being discovered by downtown office workers as a new dining destination with a slick menu that covers breakfast, lunch and after-work happy hour with a full bar offering wines and craft cocktails. Tenants of the 71-story tower — one of Houston’s premier Class A office buildings that is home to Wells Fargo Bank, PwC accounting, and top law firms – now have a handsome dining room with bar and patio to entertain clients.

“We are beyond thrilled to have Adair Downtown in the tower, and we are excited to offer this thoughtfully curated addition to our amenity base for our tenants,” said Marilyn Guion, senior vice president for CBRE, the commercial real estate firm that manages the building.

The building’s owners tapped Adair Concepts (Adair KitchenEloise Nichols Grill & Liquors, Skeeter’s Mesquite Grill, Los Tios Mexican Restaurants, Bebidas, and Betsy’s at Evelyn’s Park) to bring their restaurant know-how to the project designed by Gensler Architects and Houston-based McGarr Design & Interiors. The sophisticated, 4,628-square-foot buildout on the southeast corner of the tower may be at tunnel level but it is washed with natural light. The unusual construction takes advantage of an existing patio space that is accessible both from the street level, the tunnel system and the building’s lobby.

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The space includes a coffee bar clad in white subway tiles; a retail area with grab-and-go meals, fresh flowers, and upscale packaged foods; the main dining room with waiter service; a full bar; and a patio. The look is chic: walls of glass, marble and herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, antique mirrors, tufted banquettes, bistro tables, antique mirrors, and globe lighting fixtures. It’s a chic look (perfect for a power lunch) that looks plucked from River Oaks.

“It’s a tunnel restaurant that doesn’t feel like the tunnel,” said Nick Adair, who along with his sister, Katie Adair Barnhart, oversee operations for Adair Concepts. The partners describe the French bistro-looking space as “Eloise Nichols meets Adair Kitchen,” a nod to two of the hospitality company’s brands.

It is those brands that guide Adair Downtown’s food and beverage menus. Breakfast options include avocado toast, breakfast tacos, chicken and waffles, omelets, steel-cut oats with fresh berries, and breakfast bowls filled with rice, kale, sweet potatoes, black beans, avocado, and a poached egg. Lunch includes salads (kale and quinoa salad, Thai chopped salad, citrus Caesar) and bowls (superfoods bowl, tuna poke bowl) as well as lemon artichoke soup and tortilla soup. But there are also entrees such as grilled pesto salmon with cilantro rice; chicken paillard with arugula salad; New York strip steak sandwich on a baguette with peppercorn sauce; turkey club sandwich; and a classic beef burger and a veggie burger. The menu is overseen by executive chef Roberto Ozeata, culinary director for Adair Concepts.

After lunch, the space segues into its bar bites menu to pair with beer, wine, and spirits. The bar menu includes tuna tartare, cheese board, sliders, bruschetta, fried calamari, caramelized Brussels sprouts, fried asparagus with cilantro ranch, beef tenderloin crostini, guacamole and chips, hot chicken with house pickles, and meatballs with garlic bread.

The bar offers cocktails, an extensive collection of bourbon and scotch, wines by the glass ($11-$18) and bottle ($40-$178), and beer including local brews from 8th Wonder, Saint Arnold, and Karbach.

Barnhart said the company has longed to be part of the downtown dining scene. Adair Downtown, she said, offers office workers a place that can be both casual and artisan – “unique to what you’d expect from a downtown dining experience.”

Company founder Gary Adair said that his restaurant businesses were built on “being local and neighborhood-y.” Adair Downtown manages to bring that type of dining experience to a part of town not traditionally seen as local or part of a neighborhood, he added.

Adair Downtown, 1000 Louisiana; adairdowntown.com. Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (serving breakfast 7 to 11 a.m.; full-service lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; full bar and bar bites 3 to 8 p.m.).

 


Marcus & Millichap (NYSE: MMI), a leading commercial real estate investment services firm with offices throughout the United States and Canada, has announced the sale of The Shops at Champions, a 16,112-square foot retail property located in Houston, Texas, according to Ford Noe, Regional Manager of the firm’s Houston office.

Alex Wolansky and Gus Lagos, investment specialists in Marcus & Millichap’s Houston office, had the exclusive listing to market the property on behalf of the seller, an individual/personal trust. The buyer, a private investor, was secured and represented by Gus Lagos.

The Shops at Champions is located at 6265 Cypress Creek Parkway in Houston, Texas.

About Marcus & Millichap (NYSE: MMI)

With nearly 2000 investment sales and financing professionals located throughout the United States and Canada, Marcus & Millichap is a leading specialist in commercial real estate investment sales, financing, research and advisory services. Founded in 1971, the firm closed 9,472 transactions in 2018 with a value of approximately $46.4 billion. Marcus & Millichap has perfected a powerful system for marketing properties that combines investment specialization, local market expertise, the industry’s most comprehensive research, state-of-the-art technology, and relationships with the largest pool of qualified investors.