San Antonio is America’s seventh largest city, and one of the country’s fastest growing cities, according to Forbes. Anchored by the 15-mile River Walk (newly expanded in 2013), Market Square (considered the largest Mexican-style market outside of Mexico) and five Spanish colonial missions including the Alamo, the historic city feels other-worldly at times with its museums, performing arts center and 19th-century-style shopping. Yet for all of San Antonio’s growth and culture, the city’s luxury real estate prices have yet to catch up. “A 3,600 square-foot home, fully landscaped, may cost you only $500,000 — and that’s considered luxury,” explains Leesa Harper Rispoli, president of Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper in San Antonio. To coastal dwellers, that price-per-square-foot may sound like a bargain — and that’s part of the allure of San Antonio living. The promises of the Old West remain a powerful draw for savvy property investors tempted by the opportunity to own land and more square footage for their money.
“I estimate that a $1 million home in California would probably cost about $400,000 here,” she says. “That’s an enormous price difference. For $1.4 million, you could have a fortress here with acreage and a 5,000 square-foot house.”
Rispoli knows the San Antonio real estate landscape inside and out. As the daughter of real estate legend, D’Ann Harper, the native San Antonionian took the reigns of her mother’s real estate firm in 2016. Today, she manages 440 real estate agents in eight offices throughout San Antonio and the surrounding areas. The brokerage has recorded $1 billion in sales for the last three consecutive years — with 2017 bookmarked as one of the firm’s most successful years on record yet. Rispoli attributes part of the brokerage’s 2017 success to the new Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® identity, launched in April of last year. Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper fully embraced the new identity, which encompassed everything from a new logo and new signage to elevated collateral materials and a consistent message that expressed the brand’s history of looking towards the future. A big Texas-style debut in June saw the introduction of a new website dedicated to the company’s finest listings, cbharperluxury.com. The Coldwell Banker Global Luxury identity almost immediately resonated with a local community that takes pride in San Antonio’s future-looking, build-it-and-they-will-come spirit.
“The new identity has been an absolute game-changer for us,” she says. “Since June, we have had about 1,400 new listings as a company. We’ve also seen a 23% increase in new listings in the $500,000+ price range. I’ve recruited over $100 million in production in the last four months. The new agents are coming to us because the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury name is new. We’re piggy-backing on the program’s strength with our own recruiting message: ‘Grow to luxury.’”
International Dream Team
One of the real estate teams Rispoli successfully recruited last year, the Miguel Herrera Realty Group, brought in a record $52 million in sales volume alone— earning him the No. 1 position at Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper. Herrera is a legend in his own right, known for developing his own unique business model that leverages opportunities internationally. Leading seminars that teach real estate agents and business executives how to function in the global luxury world, Herrera and his team — which consists of an immigration attorney, business attorney and a CPA — frequently travel to Mexico to educate affluent Mexican nationals how to properly invest in American real estate. His international focus has made him a poster child for the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury message.
“I realized very early in my real estate career that there was a tremendous opportunity to service the emerging Mexican and Latin America real estate client looking to purchase and/or invest in the U.S. and Central and South Texas markets,” says Herrera. “We have been successful in securing hundreds of transactions simply by taking the initiative of going to those clients with the properties and products that are available to them and showing them how easy the bridge can be crossed. Teaming with Leesa and the firepower of the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury brand makes that initiative as well as the entire luxury home sales process smoother and much more effective. The tools and support provided to us by this relationship literally brings the entire world to our actual doorsteps and opens the opportunity to luxury that most have only imagined and dreamed about.”
Affluent investors from Mexico are not the only high-net-worth individuals looking at the San Antonio market as the land of opportunity. Rispoli says buyers from India and Turkey have shown interest in San Antonio real estate, as well those from China and other parts of Asia. Nancy Du, ranked No. 10 at Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper, specifically caters to Asian investors who tend to favor single-family homes with land over more vertically oriented residential offerings.
“The growth I have seen in my business in the past nine years is awesome,” says Du, who appreciates the camaraderie she has found among her fellow agents at Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper. “We have a great group of agents in our office who very supportive of each other as well. It is like a family which is so important to me since my family is in China. I started out not knowing very many people. Now I have built a business with a great community. I am very proud to assist my clients through the real estate process.”
While Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper’s agent-centric model has long attracted top real estate talent, the company’s comprehensive marketing platform is another point of distinction. Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper is “the only real estate brokerage in San Antonio with a Sunday showcase of homes on TV,” claims Rispoli. Agents like Du and Herrera also have an opportunity to advertise their top listings in a monthly “Showcase” magazine distributed to over 230,000 households, plus another million hits, thanks to distribution in local retail stores. Between the local exposure of Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper and the worldwide reach of the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program’s elite suite of agent tools (which encompasses a multilanguage website, blog, award-winning social media, flagship magazine and cutting-edge services and tools, like Proxio and Wealth Engine), the D’Ann Harper-aligned luxury real estate specialists are a true force.
Not surprisingly, Rispoli sees the new Global Luxury brand as a key turning point in her company’s growth trajectory.
“What has been so wonderful to me is the reaction from our luxury agents,” says Rispoli. “We have agents who have been with us for 30 years, and we have welcomed many new agents this year on the heels of the new brand launch. The Coldwell Banker name is 111 years old, and our local company is 35 years old. They feel like they have a strong luxury foundation to stand on in San Antonio. The value proposition of the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program, topped with my business model, has provided me with a tremendous recruiting opportunity. All of it has made it easier for me to bring the crème de la crème of San Antonio real estate talent on board.”
Land of Opportunity
The Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program offers a powerful fusion of brand strength, global connections and local luxury expertise — which may prove to be a formidable combination in a maturing real estate market like San Antonio. Savvy real estate investors — both domestically and abroad — are becoming enamored by the Alamo City for a few reasons, Rispoli theorizes.
Market stability is one factor. “When something happens to the country in regards to economics, it starts to hit the East Coast and West Coast first,” she says. “By the time the trend migrates to Texas, we’re not hit horribly since we’re in the center of the country.” For example, she says, the San Antonio real estate market only dropped 20% during the Great Recession — compared to other markets like Las Vegas and Naples, Fla., which were 50-60% off from the peak. Relatively stable local industries such as oil, healthcare and the military (San Antonio is home to the Defense Department‘s largest inpatient hospital, San Antonio Military Medical Center) have also insulated the city from volatile market dips. “San Antonio just does not see the high and low ebbs and flows that you might see in other marketplaces,” she adds. Case in point: 2017 starting prices in the top 10% of the San Antonio real estate market were relatively stable compared to last year, up a modest 2%, according to local MLS data. Demand also held strong in 2017 — with the number of homes sold in the top 10% of the market increasing nearly 4% from 2016. Tech companies like Hulu have also taken notice with planned moves, bringing both jobs and employees to the city. There’s even the San Antonio Tech District, where companies like Google Fiber, Grok Interactive, Geekdom, CodeUp, SeatSmart, and many more rising technology companies, entrepreneurs and startups are opening shop.
A tax-friendly atmosphere also factors into San Antonio’s appeal. “Texans don’t pay state income tax,” Rispoli notes. “Property taxes and state sales taxes are the only taxes we have. We’ve had a balanced state budget for years.”
A growing list of high-end cultural attractions are another draw. An emerging gastronomic ecosystem — led by top culinary talent like Diego Galicia, Rico Torres, Jeff Balfour, Bruce Auden and Mark Bliss — continues to woo foodies. While an emerging luxury shopping scene at retail hotpots like The Shops at La Cantera — which is anchored by a Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom — keep those with sartorial tastes happy.
Where are these affluent property investors concentrating their attentions? The city’s most desirable neighborhoods, such as The Dominion, Anaqua Springs Ranch, Stone Oak, Boerne and Bulverde, of course. The Dominion is “the hottest place,” says Rispoli. “Those houses are turning. People are selling to move up there. You can buy a $1 million home or a $4 million home, and some homes can go as high as $12 million. The Dominion offers a spread of luxury across a variety of high-end price points.” Mansions here are built around a private club featuring golf, tennis, fine dining, as well as Junior Camps and programs.
Anaqua Springs Ranch is another popular luxe community in Hill Country (located in the actual town of Boerne), attracting San Antonio Spurs players such as Tony Parker with its privacy and land, thanks to a gated entry with security guard, 24-hour video surveillance and 1- to 5-acre homesites typically priced from about $840,000 to $2.6 million. Up Highway 281 in north central San Antonio, there’s a master-planned, deed restricted, multi-use development called Stone Oak with two hospitals, great schools and thousands of homes, ranging from $250,000 all the way up to $1 million. For those buyers who want more land, there’s Bulverde in a very sought-after school district, with homes generally ranging from $159,000 to $2 million. The average listing price is about $522,000. The point is, Rispoli says, “People who move here do so because they love the land. They love the lifestyle. They want the country club that goes with it. They want the swim teams and the tennis courts. They want the community atmosphere of luxury and they want the high-class amenities, like the nail and hair salon, right outside their subdivision.” While San Antonio is primarily a single-family detached market, high-rise luxury urban living can also be found at The Broadway in San Antonio’s most desirable ZIP code, 78209, overlooking the museum district and not far from RiverWalk, starting at $700,000. Former San Antonio Spurs David Robinson and his wife Valerie reportedly own a condo here.
“In 2013, RiverWalk was extended to the famous Pearl Brewery,” says Rispoli. “You can walk, bike ride or take a boat all the way to the mission. The San Antonio Museum of Art is also located on the River Walk. There is a lot going on. Downtown is really coming to life.”
Coinciding with all of this growth and excitement was the introduction of the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury identity to the San Antonio marketplace, via Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper and its relatively new leadership under Leesa Harper Rispoli.
“We’re getting a lot of traction,” she says as she turns her eye to a recent press photo shoot where she is leaning up against a home listed by Herrera, in a sleek black dress.
“Already, the word on the street is, ‘What’s going on there?’ Agents want to know more.”