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Sinking Value

“Getting some equity going here was the whole point,” Carl Oneal says. “I wanted to be able to move in two or three years, but now we can’t.”

In 2007, Carl Oneal paid $595,000 for this North Austin house; now auctions are driving down the prices of nearby homes.
In 2007, Carl Oneal paid $595,000 for this North Austin house; now auctions are driving down the prices of nearby homes.

 

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North Austin is one of those neighborhoods that doesn’t get much new housing, so when Red Seal Homes unveiled the Enclave at Galewood Crossings in 2006, Carl and Rozella Oneal were glad to buy in early. They had lived nearby and thought it was a great idea to put 192 new single-family homes and townhomes on part of the 50 acres that made up the old Galewood rail yards, Carl Oneal recalls. (A portion of the land would get movie theatres and a union training center.)

In December 2007, the Oneals paid $595,000 for a five-bedroom single-family home across the street from what was to become the development’s central park. Two years after they moved in, the park is essentially a big mound covered with patches of grass, and Oneal says the development is “so disappointing.”

He points to cracks in the walkways, poorly nailed drywall, and other details, but the larger disappointment is financial. Sales at the development stopped, as did construction, and early this summer, a stock of unsold houses and townhouses went on the auction block. Houses similar to the Oneals’ have sold at auction in the $350,000 range—or about 41 percent less than the Oneals paid. (The Oneals made some upgrades, such as hardwood floors, surround sound, and a whirlpool bathtub, that may keep their home slightly above the prices of plainer auctioned houses.)

Obviously the couple had been hoping for the movement to be in the opposite direction. “Getting some equity going here was the whole point,” Carl Oneal told me as we sat on his front porch. “I wanted to be able to move in two or three years, but now we can’t. We’re stuck here.”

 

Photograph by Bob Coscarelli; photo assistant: Flint Chaney

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