This housing trend shows no sign of slowing down
By Cody Baird
A national developer of build-to-rent homes has chosen Hutto for one of its first two communities in Texas.
Arizona-based Empire Group of Companies will build Village at Hutto Station on 30.6 acres in the Williamson County city northeast of Austin.
The community was announced in early August but the company recently provided Austin Business Journal with additional information about the project and why it was attracted to Hutto.
Hutto was picked because of its overall "economic climate" and because it is just a few miles from the new Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd plant and other large projects, said Bryan Freel, director of national land development for Empire Group. The development will consist of 276 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental homes, according to the announcement. Floor plans are expected to be about 680 to 1,300 square feet.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2023, Freel said, with leasing "potentially" beginning by the end of 2023. Empire Group has not yet determined a general contractor for the project. Felten Group Inc. is the architect and BGE Inc. is the engineer.
The homes will feature private backyards and smart home technology packages. Renters will also have access to a resort-style pool and jacuzzi, barbecue and fire pits, a fitness center, a clubhouse, walking paths, and a dog park.
Empire Group purchased the property from Hutto 117 Investors, Freel said. The purchase price was $11 million and the transaction was handled by Josh Cameron and Hal Guggolz of Land Advisors Organization.
The development has no official address yet, but will be located east of State Highway 130, north of County Road 138, and immediately south of the under-construction Southeast Loop.
"Empire Group successfully developed its Village brand of build-for-rent communities in Arizona, and we recognize there’s demand for single-family rental homes in other growing cities," stated Geoffrey Jacobs, partner at Empire Group. "It’s about providing options for people that may not be ready to buy and may be looking for the security, ease and amenities our gated rental home communities deliver."
The Central Texas debut of Empire Group — which as of April 2021 planned to invest $1.9 billion in build-to-rent communities, Phoenix Business Journal reported — fits into a trend of these purpose-built rental communities springing up around the Austin metro.
Another Arizona-based company, NexMetro Communities LLC, is constructing three such neighborhoods in Liberty Hill and Georgetown. Elsewhere, Ohio-based Coastal Ridge Real Estate Partners LLC and Florida-based Halstatt LLC plan to build a rental neighborhood in Round Rock, while AHV Communities LLC plans to construct one in Leander.
These kinds of rental homes are appealing to consumers seeking a new home without a mortgage or maintenance responsibilities, stated Jason Flory, managing director of NexMetro’s Austin division.
The cost of buying a home has been pushed higher in recent months by steadily rising mortgage rates.
"As interest rates inch upward, more potential homebuyers have lost purchasing power, which makes this best-of-both-worlds option even more appealing," Flory previously stated when discussing one of his company's new communities.
It's worth noting that a cooldown in Austin-area housing is restoring some of that power, although it's too early to call it a buyer's market.
The metro’s housing inventory hit 2.9 months in August, the highest level since September 2018, according to Austin Board of Realtors data. Meanwhile, the metro median sale price fell to about $496,000 in August, down from $550,000 in April and May and under $500,000 for the first time since February.
In addition to the Hutto community, Empire Group said it will build a rental community on 48 acres in Fort Worth.