By SHELLY WILKISON
Housing starts and closings in the Liberty Hill ISD during the first quarter of 2014 are the highest in seven years, according to a demographic study released this week.
Liberty Hill school Superintendent Rob Hart told trustees Monday that a study of housing activity produced by School District Strategies shows 62 new home starts and 41 closings during the first three months of 2014. Compared to the first quarter of 2013 when there were 40 starts and 27 closings, Hart said the “spike” in activity is indicative of significant growth in the area with even greater population increases projected.
“Not only are they building, but they’re selling,” Hart said. “This quarter, it seemed to just take off.”
The annual rate for home starts climbed by 62 percent to an all-time high of 210 over the past year. Annual closings totalled 157 — a 76 percent increase and the highest total since 2007. In the first quarter of 2014, some 344 new lots were delivered, which means the lots have been platted and approved by their respective jurisdictions.
Hart, who provides trustees with a demographic report quarterly as a way to project growth and plan for future needs, said the first quarter growth pushed Liberty Hill ISD to number 12 in a ranking of new home closings among Greater Austin school districts — surpassing San Marcos Consolidated ISD and Jarrell. In the last quarter of 2013, LHISD was at number 13.
The Superintendent said the most noticeable change over the fourth quarter 2013 report, however, was the addition of more than 3,000 lots to the Santa Rita Ranch subdivisions — bringing the total to 6,046.
Santa Rita, which is located north of State Highway 29 on Ronald Reagan Blvd., has a South and a North development that includes a major commercial component. The developments, which are located on both sides of Ronald Reagan, fall within both the Liberty Hill and Georgetown school districts.
While only six homes have closed in Sana Rita South, infrastructure is already in place for thousands more lots in the North subdivision. Hart said Santa Rita acquired the Cross Creek development, which went into foreclosure some time ago, and picked up the additional 3,000 lots.
The study showed Rancho Siena sold the most new homes in the past 12 months — 63. Stonewall Ranch, which has 898 lots remaining before buildout, performed second with 27 closings.
Hart said most new homes are being built in the $251,000-$300,000 price range. The first quarter median home price was $283,830 compared to the Greater Austin median new home price of $248,754.
“The price range is significant because these are not starter homes,” Hart said. Homebuyers “are bringing in older kids.”
With an estimated .8 students per household, Hart said projections show the district could reach an enrollment of 5,394 by 2023. On Monday, Hart reported the current enrollment as 3,023, which reflected an increase of 144 students since the end of school last June.
The report showed 12,013 total future residential lots are planned for the school district. In addition to the 6,000 at Santa Rita Ranch and the 800 at Stonewall, a 1,200-lot development called Morningstar is planned for the Northeast corner of State Highway 29 and Ronald Reagan. The 900 acres known as the Wedemeyer Tracts will have 2,970 lots served by Leander MUDs 1, 2 and 3. The Wedemeyer property is across the highway from Rancho Siena.
While new home development is typically the focus of the demographic report each quarter, the presentation also included information on the resale market in the school district.
In the first quarter of 2014, there were 73 new listings and 43 closings compared to 61 listings and 38 closings over the same time period in 2013. The average number of days on the market in the first quarter was 80 this year compared to 159 last year.