Ranches for Sale in Baylor County

 

Getting Their Dollar's Worth
Metroplex sprawl making rural land a hot co
mmodity
By Trish Choate/Times Record News

Editor's note: This is the third in a series on population growth in Archer, Clay, Jack and Montague counties.

Maybe Metroplex residents think there's gold in the hills and on the shores of Silver Lakes Ranch.

The new development set a record for the fastest-selling community in national developer Bluegreen Corp., Kristy Robinson, marketing coordinator, said. The 2,300-acre planned community in Montague and Wise counties is two years ahead of its sales schedule.

"A lot of people are getting tired of the traffic and the noise in the city," Robinson said.

In about an hour, they can be away from all that, sitting on the back porch watching wildlife.

Silver Lakes is the wave of the future, real estate experts said. The development is cashing in on the trend to settle in rural areas within commuting distance of cities. and that trend is pumping up real-estate values and fattening tax rolls in Archer, Clay, Jack and Montague.

Based at Sunset, Silver Lakes sells 2- to 5-acre tracts. What it offers can be had for much less than in the Metroplex.

The development's 2-acre lots go for $25,000 plus, Dr. John Baen, a University of North Texas real estate professor, said. Two acres is the size of two football fields. In the Metroplex, single-family home lots are $40,000 to $50,000. They are one-fourth of an acre.

Jimmy Jones of Jones Real Estate in Bowie credits Silver Lakes' advertising with improving his business.

The price per acre for Montague real estate has doubled in some locations, Jones said. Much of it is selling for $3,000 to $5,000 an acre. Jones recently sold land near Amon Carter Lake for $19,000 an acre.

Rod Heltzel, a former Metroplex resident, bought 240 acres in the mid-1980s in Jack County.

"I bought at the peak of the market when it was in the $500 range," Heltzel, who moved to his land in 1994, said. "and my property right now is probably $1,000 an acre."

Or more.

The going rate for prime Jack County property is $1,500 to $2,000 an acre, Kevin Wolf, a Jacksboro real estate agent, said. Drive 30 miles or so down the road to Bridgeport, Texas, and buyers can expect to pay $25,000 an acre.

In the last four years, Archer, Clay, Jack and Montague have registered an average 33 percent increase in the value of their certified tax rolls, according to officials. Part of that jump is likely from rising oil and gas prices.

A fatter tax base can ease the burden for all, officials said. But the help might not come soon enough.

Neighboring Wise County - for instance - is weathering explosive growth, officials said. Its population has more than doubled in 13 years. That new population demands services.

"We're always in a tight squeeze to meet these requirements," Wise County Judge Dick Chase said.

Taxes lag a year behind growth, Chase said.

and a ballooning tax base won't funnel more tax dollars into school districts for maintenance and operation, officials said. The state cuts its share of maintenance-and-operation funding when property values rise. and the state caps districts' maintenance-and-operation tax rate at $1.50.

But a separate tax rate pays off bond debt, officials said. A growing tax base can give a district financial leverage for a bond issue. The district can raise more dollars with a lower tax rate.

One of the good things about Silver Lakes is that it will contribute to the tax base in Bowie Independent School District, said Susan Campbell, Bowie economic development coordinator.

Bowie ISD has struggled to win approval from voters for bonds to improve its infrastructure.

Even Decatur Independent School District officials - at a district with a growing tax base - had to try more than once to convince taxpayers to approve a bond issue, Dr. Gary Gindt, DISD superintendent, said.

The district's taxpayers will see an 11-cent increase in taxes to pay off a $32 million bond issue approved last year, Gindt said. But since its tax base is growing, each taxpayer's share will fall as the district pays off the debt to improve schools.

Burgeoning tax bases and real-estate values all add up to one thing for anyone interested in country acres.

"Cheap land is just about gone now," Baen said. "I think if somebody wants 100 acres of land to retire on in 10 years, they better buy it now."
 

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