No Real Estate Recession for South Texans

The obvious benefits of the shale gas boom can be seen in increasing rates of employment across the country, but especially in south Texas, the real estate market is not just prospering, it's skyrocketing, thanks to the Eagle Ford Shale.

Not just single family homes, but RV parks, hotels-builders can't keep up with the demand for housing. And that doesn't even take into consideration commercial properties, where there's a dire absence of space for lease or purchase for facilities like pipe yards and warehouses.

Rick Montelongo of Montelongo Homes and Remodeling recently organized a seminar for members of the Greater San Antonio Builders Association (GSABA), encouraging local builders to ply their trade in the Eagle Ford Shale counties while they can.

"San Antonio is still not really popping yet," said Montelongo, a former GSABA president. But South Texas is.

"There's such a huge need for housing down here," Montelongo said. "It really needs to be done by the San Antonio builders. We're the biggest city in the area."

Meanwhile, hotel rooms, apartments, rental homes and boarding houses are full across the breadth of South Texas towns where oil companies have descended to draw gas and oil from the Eagle Ford Shale formation, which sweeps from the border across the state to East Texas.

The Houston-based Remote Logistics International, which offers housing and gourmet dining for oil company workers in far-flung locations across the world, is working to open a site near Carrizo Springs. It already has an oil field camp in Three Rivers.

Hud Gibbins, vice president of sales and operations for the land camps division, said the new camp will be at the Double C Ranch, known for its hunting, and will have 256 beds in its first phase. Ultimately, the company plans to have 1,000 beds and to offer amenities such as skeet shooting tournaments.

"We base our locations off of where our customers need us, and they said Carrizo Springs is where we need you," Gibbins said. "You can't get a place to stay in a 40-mile radius. It's ridiculous."

Pleasanton native Garrett Ruple moved back home from Houston about two years ago when he realized how much work was available in the Eagle Ford Shale.

"All of my friends from college are now in Houston, and everybody and their dog was trying to figure out a way to do projects in South Texas," he said. "I was watching from afar."

So Ruple went into business with his brother and dad brokering oil leases and mineral rights, and later building oil field yards and warehouse buildings with office space off Interstate 37 — some on spec and some build-to-suit for clients. "There's no infrastructure here so it's as good as leased or sold as soon as you build it," Ruple said.

Ruple also has gotten a kick out watching how his hometown has changed.

"I saw an old farmer at a gas station recently. He was filling up his Maserati," he said. "I had to laugh."