Suburban streets continue to be bought, sold, and constructed in the city's far Westside.
San Antonio Water System is resuming disconnections to past-due customers for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

In the five days U.S. Air Force veteran Rick Maricle’s four-bedroom home in the Villages of Westcreek was on the market last month, he had 35 showings, six within the first 12 hours. He received five offers from buyers and, when the sale closes Friday, the far Westside home will have sold for $35,000 more than what he paid for it five years ago.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Maricle said. “I figured everybody would want a new house. For that price, somebody could buy a new house. Why would they want mine?”

The answer is a real estate principle – location, location, location.

Urban core living might be the hot trend among millennials, but the fact that you get more for your money in San Antonio’s westernmost suburbs than in other parts of town is what keeps that area booming. Proximity to work and schools, lower price per square foot, and larger lots remain as attractive as ever for newcomers and current residents alike, despite the allure of walkability and other downtown lifestyle benefits.

During the first half of 2018, the far Westside neighborhoods in San Antonio were the place to buy and sell real estate, according to the San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR). Three adjacent zip codes – 78245, 78253, and  78254 – far outpaced every other in the city for single-family home sales.

“We do have quite a bit of movement into the urban core,” said Lorena Peña, board chair for SABOR. “The hard part is the prices are higher, depending on what you’re looking for, and lifestyles would be different. Walkability is what you will get, whereas in the far Northwest Side, you might get a bigger yard.”

Situated roughly west of Interstate 10 and north of U.S. Highway 90, the three zip code areas offer residents easy access to both Loops 410 and 1604 plus major work hubs, medical centers, and military installations. Much of the area is served by schools in the Northside Independent School District, the largest in San Antonio.

Price is another factor. “I feel like the far West and Northwest Side gives you a nice range of prices,” Peña said. “I would say right around 40 percent of home sales in San Antonio are still under $199,000. The other big chunk is between $200,000 and $500,000. Those three zip codes give you a wide array of those price points.”

There were 686 total home sales in the 78254 zip code during the first half of this year, the most of any in San Antonio, with a median sales price of $224,550. That zip code includes established neighborhoods such as Finesilver Ranch and Braun Oaks, but 39 percent of the sales in the area were new homes in neighborhoods such as Alamo Ranch and Westpointe.

The 78245 zip code, encompassing the Heritage and Laurel Mountain Ranch subdivisions, had 609 sales so far during 2018 and a median sales price of $186,550. Newly constructed homes in this area, which is the nearest of the three zip codes to Lackland Air Force Base, accounted for 28 percent of sales.

And in Maricle’s zip code, 78253, there were 579 total sales at a median price of $249,900, with 36 percent being new homes sold. The Villages of Westcreek is just one of several neighborhoods in the 54-square-mile area that stretches west toward the wide-open spaces of Medina County.

Rick Maricle and Lonnie Garcia walk through a park near The Villages of Westcreek. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Large lots with tree-shaded yards and well-kept homes are the characteristics buyers are finding in that area, said Lonnie Garcia of Premier Home Realty, a real estate agent who lives in Devine and frequently represents both buyers and sellers in West San Antonio.

“The desirability [of Westcreek] is its homeowners association, which tends to be a little strict. It’s well-kept, a good demographic living there, and a good reputation, so people seek it out,” Garcia said. “[Buyers] are just looking for value.”

He said the area is especially attractive to homebuyers who meet the income guidelines for USDA loans, which helps with down payments in parts of this area, deemed “rural” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Other buyers, Garcia said, are looking to escape City of San Antonio property taxes, and while some of these neighborhoods have been annexed in recent years, others west of town remain outside city limits but near enough to city conveniences.

The website states there are 29 new-home builders in this part of town, and an online search will turn up many of the largest production builders in the city, from KB Homes to Sitterle.

These new-home builders are attracting buyers by offering incentives that might be hard to pass up, Garcia said, including full appliance packages and extra percentage points for real estate agents’ commissions. Newer neighborhoods also offer some appealing amenities, like aquatic centers and gated entry, and the homes themselves have the energy-efficient building features and smart home technology many of today’s buyers are looking for, Peña said.

Maricle thinks his home’s quarter-acre lot on a quiet, safe street appealed to the single, active-duty U.S. Navy service member who purchased it. The 2016 American Community Survey shows the median household income in the 78253 zip code is $91,618; educational attainment rates are high, and 870 residents are employed by the armed forces. The median age in 78253 is 32.5 with an ethnic makeup that is 48 percent Hispanic and 38 percent white.

Maricle, 30, bought the red brick two-story after a year of renting a home in the neighborhood. Recently divorced, he finds the house too big for his needs and is relocating to Seguin to be closer to his job as an emergency medical technician.

But he appreciates that the home turned out to be a good investment. A Maryland native, Maricle said he has watched his parents struggle to sell the family home, only recently accepting an offer that is exactly what they paid for it 20 years ago.

Texas continues to be one of the nation’s healthiest residential real estate markets. SABOR reported home sales in Texas increased 2.7 percent in May for a total of 32,416 homes sold. The average price of a home sold in the state was $295,549, and the median was $241,000, both increases from last year. On average, homes were on the market for 53 days and sold for $127 per square foot.

In San Antonio, prices continue to go up, but at a steady rate, Peña said. Citywide, the average home price is currently $270,000, she said, and homes in two of the hottest zip codes in the city are near that level. For Maricle, it all came down to location, one that fits his lifestyle.

“It sounds weird, but I chose to live in the Northwest corridor because it’s quieter,” Maricle said. “It is a development, but there’s not the hustle-bustle like you see in [some neighborhoods]. It’s not busy and congested – it’s quiet, small and more private.”

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...