Austin is on the national radar for its fast-growing master-planned communities — a reputation that could flourish in the coming year as the population continues to swell.
Three subdivisions near the Texas capital were recently named among the 50 top-selling master-planned communities in the nation, including No. 11 in the United States, Sonterra in Jarrell.
That was according to the closely watched annual ranking produced by Washington, D.C.-based RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, the latest edition of which was released Jan. 3.
Sonterra — which is about 40 miles north of downtown Austin — sold 741 homes in 2019. Sonwest is the developer and builders active in the community include D.R. Horton Inc., Lennar Corp., LGI Homes and Starlight Homes.
The other Austin-area communities to make RCLCO’s list were Sunfield in Buda and Santa Rita Ranch in Liberty Hill. Sunfield, developed by Scarborough Lane, came in at No. 17 with 550 sales last year and Santa Rita Ranch, developed by Mariner Real Estate, came in at No. 48 with 372 sales.
Both Sonterra and Sunfield are seeing rapid growth because they are supplying many homes that start at under $300,000. Those more affordable homes are in low supply and high demand, said Vaike O’Grady, Austin regional director for residential real estate data collector Metrostudy.
Sonterra is on the northern edge of Williamson County. That can mean a one-way commute of over an hour to downtown Austin when traffic is heavy.
But O’Grady said Sonterra and other Williamson County communities are benefitting from the growth of employment hubs on the north side of the metro area, like The Domain and Apple’s new $1 billion campus off Parmer Lane.
“Having employment growth on the north side of town really benefits that northern corridor,” she said. “Not everyone is having to commute to downtown Austin anymore.”
Austin Business Journal highlighted some of those employment and demographic shifts at its most recent North Austin Growth Summit, held in April. Tech giants are building offices, homebuilders are anxious to turn empty fields into new neighborhoods and commercial developers are not far behind with new stores and restaurants.
RCLCO also named the top-performing master-planned communities of the decade. Four communities in the Houston area made the list — but none from Austin did. Master-planned communities have propelled much of the growth in the Houston area in the past 10 years, especially in suburbs like Katy and The Woodlands.
O’Grady pointed out that Austin has a history of big, successful master-planned communities, from Circle C to Steiner Ranch. And she expects more Austin communities could make the RCLCO list next year as some new developments start to deliver.
She also noted that many large homebuilders are starting to develop their own master-planned communities, such as Dr. Horton’s Lively Ranch development near Georgetown and Liberty Hill.
“The bigger builders need lots in front of them to grow,” O’Grady said.