Turtle Creek Gardens: Living Well And Wisely While Saving For Down Payment

Turtle Creek Gardens’ peaceful pool

Homeownership is the most consistent way to build up the nest egg you’ll need in retirement. People who downsize their homes are cashing out equity built up over a lifetime (and telling the kids they’re on their own). Sure, there are many reports that claim folks who rent in some areas make out better. But they’re always predicated on the renter investing the difference between the rent and the mortgage/taxes – which almost no one does. Instead, flush renters eat out more, buy more shoes (or in my case, shirts) or wend their way around the world collecting selfies.

The increased incidence of renters is troubling in many countries. When I spoke to HGTV presenter Richard Blanco in London recently, he agreed it would have an impact on tenants later in life. While student loans are an issue here, the issue both countries shared was a desire by younger people to live a catered life (as they did with mom and dad) where they farmed out the reality of living.

For those smart enough to embrace property ownership, the down payment is often a stumbling block for younger buyers. So without living in your Star Wars-decorated childhood bedroom, how does a potential homebuyer save? Especially when Uptown digs can scrape $3 per square foot per month?

First, look for older apartment complexes that have managed just fine without a coffee butler, kitty concierge, or Friday night wine tastings (tenants indirectly pay for all that tat). Second, look for rental units in condo buildings.

I like the condo building option. The properties can be quieter and better maintained (owners versus sloppy tenants who have no skin in the game). Digging deeper, look for buildings with uncertainty. Why uncertainty?  Because uncertainty lowers prices.

Think about it. If there’s talk of a tannery or landfill being built, residential properties in the consideration zone are highly likely to drop in value. Rentals in the area will similarly drop in price as panicked folks run (good for you).  If the talk turns real, tenants can up sticks in the time between project approval and completion. The savvy tenant harnessed uncertainty to save the most down payment money while retaining the ability to move on before any deterioration in living conditions occurred.

Unit 204’s living and dining combo with exposed brick and light

Turtle Creek Gardens

Located at 2525 Turtle Creek Blvd., Turtle Creek Gardens offers uncertainty in a pretty sweet location. The uncertainty is the result of its multiple attempts to sell the 4.7-acre complex to developers in recent years. Uncertainty also comes from years of reported deferred maintenance (why maintain if the goal is to tear down?). There’s also a certainty that may add to negotiability. Next door is 2727 Turtle Creek, which is planning to begin construction in 2021, which will temporarily depress rates (who wants to live near construction?) before likely raising them once the 5-star neighbor is completed.

Unit 204’s good-sized kitchen with nook in back of photographer

Making a purchase in such a complex doesn’t make sense if the goal is to live there for a long time, because the complex could be sold with or without your approval (HOA documents spell out the threshold of owners needed to vote for a complex sale). It also doesn’t make sense from a maintenance perspective. Like musical chairs, you don’t want to be on the HOA dues hook when the music stops and major deferred maintenance is required (dues increases and/or special assessments).

Let’s break down the numbers.

Unit 204’s master bath with a runway of counter space and storage

Currently, unit 204 is both for sale and rent by Linda Lunn of Keller Williams Urban, so we can do an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s a two bedroom, two bathroom modernized unit with a healthy 1,338 square feet. The complex of 104 units is a series of low-slung buildings in a park-like setting – something very difficult (expensive) to attain in the area.

As a for sale property, it’s listed for $225,000 or $168 per square foot. It carries an estimated property tax bill of $3,929 per year ($327.42 per month) and monthly HOA dues of $919 (which include all utilities). Assuming a 20 percent down payment and a decent interest rate, the monthly mortgage payment would be $1,395 for 15 years or $980 for 30 years. That results in a monthly nut of $2,226 for 30 years or $2,641 for 15 years. On a fixed mortgage, property taxes and HOA dues increases are the uncertain monetary items. The potentially positive uncertainty is if the complex sells, how much will an owner pocket above the sale price?

204’s second bath is also spacious and updated

Unit 204 is also currently for rent at $1850 per month – $1.38 per square foot – including all utilities. The saving-minded tenant wanting to live in the Uptown area would be pocketing between $376 and $791 per month (save, no new shoes or double-foam-iced-mochaitinos). Slap in a roommate and costs drop in half ($925 per month) while saving doubles. Meanwhile, in one of the newer Uptown apartment buildings, it would be a moment’s work to spend up to a grand more per month on a smaller unit that didn’t include utilities.

Turtle Creek Gardens offers one option for future homebuyers needing some saving-room before jumping into property ownership. Regardless of what part of the Metroplex you want to live, there are rental options that are perfect for a few years while the pot builds. Looking out for those places where uncertainty works in your favor is worth the time to investigate. Ultimately, owning your own home will make you the envy of all your real (and imagined) friends in a more profound way than any selfie or apartment concierge ever could.

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

2 Comment

  • I’m a millennial who will eventually want to buy. I opted for condo living and found an older North Dallas unit south of 635 earlier this year at $1.19/sq foot for 1300+ sq feet (2bed/2.5 bath) – we have tons of storage, a walk-in pantry, gigantic bedrooms, and 2 eating areas. It was gutted and modernized within the last 5 years with quality finish outs. I don’t miss the amenities of my former complex that I rarely, if ever, utilized. We have a pool and ample parking which is all I really care about. The $2-3/sq foot luxury properties that seem to be proliferating in Dallas and elsewhere are just an amenity game that I wanted to avoid at all costs. This is really solid advice!