Real Estate 2011
Real Estate Round-up

Real estate watch: A San Antonio Pearl, Mexican real estate woes & slipping home prices

Real estate watch: A San Antonio Pearl, Mexican real estate woes & slipping home prices

News_Ralph_real estate conference_June 2011_The Pearl
The Pearl is now a collection of restaurants, shops, office space and apartments on the banks of the new northern extension of the San Antonio River Walk. Photo by Ralph Bivins
News_real estate_Mexico_condo_pool
The market for selling homes and condos in Mexico is off some 80 to 90 percent from its peak a few years ago.
Foreclosure sign on house
Overall, there are a huge number of distressed or foreclosed homes in the pipeline and would-be home buyers are worried about that. fstop123/Getty Images
News_Ralph_real estate conference_June 2011_The Pearl
News_real estate_Mexico_condo_pool
Foreclosure sign on house

The historic Pearl Brewery hasn’t produced a drop of suds since 2001. But it has become one of Texas’ best examples of re-using 100-year old structures for transformation into something that works well today.

The Pearl is now a collection of restaurants, shops, office space and apartments on the banks of the new northern extension of the San Antonio River Walk. 

The Culinary Institute of America is a key tenant in The Pearl. The institute has a large training facility for chefs on the 22-acre Pearl site. The Institute’s influence is felt throughout the project. Il Sogno, an Italian venture by Chef Andrew Weissman, has been getting good press across the nation. And The Pearl’s La Gloria Ice House, led by Chef Johnny Hernandez, has been receiving its share of accolades for its “street foods of Mexico” menu.

The latest news at The Pearl was released Friday. It was a good time to make a press announcement. Dozens of journalists from the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) were touring The Pearl as part of the association’s annual conference. Darryl Byrd, one of the developers of The Pearl, said a large mixed-use expansion is underway.

The 157,000-square-foot expansion will include multi-story buildings with retail and restaurant space on the ground level and office space and 82 apartment units on the upper levels of the new structures, which will be completed next year. The old Pearl Administration Building, built in 1904, will be incorporated into the project.

The developers have brought Dallas-based Woodbine Development, a specialist in mixed-use development, into the Pearl development team. The new buildings are designed by the Lake-Flato architecture firm.

Silver Ventures, the San Antonio-based developer of the project, places a high value on sustainability. The Pearl uses recycled water and has the largest array of privately-owned solar panels in the state of Texas.
The 100-year-old structures at the Pearl are built from sand-colored brick and they deliver a reminder that industrial buildings, factories, manufacturing plants – and breweries – don’t have to be ugly.

Mexican Woes

The headlines are gruesome. News of beheadings, torture and mass graves holding hundreds of bodies have been all over the papers for several years. An estimated 40,000 people have been killed since the drug wars started in Mexico about four years ago.

It can make for a very tough real estate market. It’s hard to convince an American to buy a house in Mexico when they just heard on the news that stray bullets flew over the border and hit the El Paso City Hall.

The market for selling homes and condos in Mexico is off some 80 to 90 percent from its peak a few years ago, said Christopher Hill, executive director of the Mexico Real Estate Coalition.

 It’s hard to convince an American to buy a house in Mexico when they just heard on the news that stray bullets flew over the border and hit the El Paso City Hall.

“We’re struggling,” Hill told journalists at the recent National Association of Real Estate Editors conference. “It’s bad and it’s not getting much better.”

The Mexico Real Estate Coalition has launched a marketing campaign to counteract the bad news, Hill said. The drug war violence is bad, but it is mainly centered on the border states and certain other dangerous pockets, said Hill, who is also chief executive officer of Stewart Title Latin America.

“We’re not going to hide from the fact that we have a serious problem right now,” Hill said. “But it’s not everywhere.”

Another side effect of the drug wars: thousands of Mexican nationals, many of them very affluent, are buying homes in the safe haven of the United States, said housing consultant Oscar Gonzales of the Gonzales Group.

What’s Next?

The housing market may have bottomed out, but there’s a long way to go before housing is truly healthy again, according to economists at National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in San Antonio.
Overall, there are a huge number of distressed or foreclosed homes in the pipeline and would-be home buyers are worried about that.

“Consumer confidence is pretty well shot,” said Jed Smith, an analyst with the National Association of Realtors. “It’s way below what it should be.”

The nation is not generating enough new jobs to pull the housing market out of the doldrums, said Ted Jones, chief economist for Stewart Title. The lack of new jobs combined with the large inventory of homes for sale - there’s a nine-month supply of homes on the market – makes it likely that home prices will slip on a national basis.

“I guarantee you that prices will continue to go down,” Jones said.

Tougher lending standards at mortgage companies and the softness of the housing market are encouraging a growing number of people to rent rather than buy a home, said Stan Humphries, chief economist for Zillow.
“Over the next two years, we’ll see 1.2 million to 2.2 million people transitioning from owners to renters,” Humphries said.