Downtown Austin Condos

360 Condominiums Austin TXThe 360 Condonimiums in downtown Austin is completely sold out of all 430 units and has a waiting list of over 200 people. New residents start moving in next week. Today’s Austin Statesman has an article about the project and downtown condos in general (link below). The outlook among those quoted in the article remains about the same as it has been for the past year or more.

Some say there can’t possibly be enough demand to absorb the new condos and apartments coming on line in downtown Austin. Others say that demand is underestimated and that many of the projects will be placed on hold (as has already happened with some) and that a balance between supply and demand will be maintained. I’d venture to say that those are two sides of a coin that have been discussed in many metro areas before Austin, from Miami to Las Vegas to Denver, and that the outcome is not always easy to predict. But as we like to believe, “Austin is different”, and so it may be that.

No doubt, it takes a different mindset and set of needs to buy into downtown Austin living. From a strictly dollars and cents perspective, it’s hard to justify the high cost of being downtown compared to what your money will but in Circle C, for example. From a lifestyle and situational standpoint, for some people, it’s a no-brainier decision to live in the heart of downtown Austin.
When I’m downtown in Austin, I like being downtown. Sylvia and I occasionally eat at the Roaring Fork on Congress Ave, then go for desert at the Hideout down the street, then take a walk down 6th street and back. It’s a routine we’ve repeated many times That’s about a 3 hour night out, for about $100, and it provides taste of downtown living.

Each time we venture into the downtown Austin area, I definitely feel a vibe and energy that simply is not present when, for example, driving through suburban Austin. Nothing wrong with the suburbs, but there is a certain indescribable sense of “being” when I’m in downtown Austin. We would love to live there, but …

With school age kids, it’s not practical. Paying $500K+ for 1200 sqft of living space doesn’t fit into our financial, retirement, or space requirements. Paying $0.35 per square foot in monthly HOA fees doesn’t pass my frugality test either. And I like that, at present, I have no parking issues at my home for me or guests. It’s just never an issue but it would be downtown.

But for a young couple, single people, empty nesters, or urban oriented families, I think it would be wonderful to live in a compact urban environment where, theoretically, one might get by with a single vehicle and you have the hike and bike trails, restaurants, shopping, Whole Foods, etc. outside your front door.

From an investment standpoint, I’ll pass. Investing in or flipping a downtown condo isn’t something I would even consider. I did for a brief period a couple of years ago, but the reality of the risk vs. reward equation quickly became plain. I prefer slow boring ways of building wealth and I prefer single family homes in good neighborhoods that attend good schools. Downtown condos are too exotic and risky for me.

Nevertheless, the nagging attraction, the thought of “someday maybe”, never seems to go away, right there with my wish to own a vintage Corvette or a Harley. Both would be wonderful but not practical. Not yet. So for now it remains a distant and unlikely move.

You can read today’s Statesman article here.

9 thoughts on “Downtown Austin Condos”

  1. “All the product on the way probably doesn’t oversaturate the market. …However, it’s clearly too much to bring online all at once.”

    That is my new real estate koan.

  2. I agree – tempting but not practical. We did some ‘urban pioneering’ up north. After our first daughter was born, it was not nearly as fun any more. There was some excitement to being awaken in the middle of the night every once in a while, calling 911, and waiting for the police to arrive. But that ended when waking up several times a night became an every day thing.
    Plus, there are lots of other critters less desirable than Scorpions and Chiggers. Scorpions do not ask for change or urinate in between cars. It’s easier to protect the girls from the little pests than the bigger ones. 🙂

  3. Being from the northeast (NJ/NYC), $500K for a downtown condo is cheap. In northern NJ, $500K buys you a not so nice starter home in a far away suburb. Besides, the prices seem comparable to downtowns in other cities…

  4. Leon Fu,
    I have some beach front property that I’d like to sell you…

    You can’t make a simple apples-apples downtown condo comparison between cities without understanding the economy and the norms for a city. 500k is quite a bit of money in Austin, considering home prices, and will get you a very nice freestanding home within a few miles of these condos. Austin doesn’t have an established public transportation system (but its in work) or lots of cabs.

  5. Well, I think for some people a downtown condo will make sense, for others it won’t. For me and my family, at present, it doesn’t. As is pointed out, the opportunity cost of owning a condo in downtown Austin is a bit higher in Austin that it perhaps is in other metro areas.

    By that, I mean that with a 15 minute drive from downtown one can find very excellent suburban living at $100 to $120 per square foot. If it took a 1 hour drive to achieve that, then maybe the downtown condo looks like a better deal.


  6. anonymous,

    It’s a different lifestyle, especially if you work downtown. Even Steve has mentioned that there is a “vibe”. The reason is because downtown is the cultural, economic, social and political center of Austin. Also these condos have amenities and views you can’t get in a freestanding house.

  7. I bought a 1300 sq. ft condo downtown for $185,000 only five years ago. It’s amazing how fast prices have moved up since then. Prices are high right now, but I’m inclined to believe they’ll come down as the downtown supply continues to increase.


Leave a Comment