A native Texan, Keith McMullin was born in the Rio Grande Valley and raised in Houston. He first came to Corpus Christi in 1987 while working for Foley’s Department store, but soon realized that retail wasn’t the business he wanted to pursue. He then returned to Houston and worked in the telecommunications industry until working in the cellular industry brought him back to Corpus Christi in ’92. His work required a lot of travel and around 2005 he decided to take a break from the road, discovering in the interval a keen interest in the real estate business. He settled in Port Aransas and opened up a brokerage. During his time, he has both witnessed and been instrumental in the island community’s rapid growth.
As a broker, Mr. McMullin explains why vacation homes in Port Aransas are exploding. “Real estate down here is a good investment. You can enjoy it with your family and friends, and when you aren’t using it you can rent it out and use the proceeds to pay for the house.” And as more people discover Port Aransas, more people are deciding to stay.
Mr. McMullin’s unique perspective on Port Aransas and the growth of the small town’s tourist appeal comes from being both in the real estate business as well as working in city government. Mr. McMullin began serving Port Aransas as a councilman in 2006, and in 2010 he became mayor. As he enters his third term as mayor, he’s excited to see Port Aransas continue to grow.
Here’s an excerpt from Mr. McMullin’s interview with Texas Beach Homes:
[Discussing Port Aransas’s recent growth]
KEITH MCMULLIN: Port Aransas has had so many different factors go in to making it a success, and unfortunately some of those have been because of the demise of other places. Hurricane Ike put Galveston out of commission for a lot of Houstonians, and Hurricane Dolly put South Padre Island out of commission. And so a lot of people – people being creatures of habit who tend to go vacation where we’ve been before, somewhere we know, somewhere we’re comfortable with – had to venture out and find other places. I’ve had so many people say they used to just drive right past us on the way to South Padre – they didn’t even know we were here.
Another thing not many people talk about, but is still a key thing, is that the lakes in the Hill Country are so low. Lake Travis in Austin has been effectively closed for a couple of years. So the folks in Austin who used to just go Lake Travis to interact on the water are coming. So, all of these things worked as catalysts – but at the same time, our Chamber of Commerce found a great ad agency, they honed their message, and they targeted families in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. And success begets success – as more and more people come down, more have stayed. Our Hotel/Motel Budget has exploded, so every year we have more money to advertise the right message to the right group. It’s really a result of all of these things collectively.
As a result of that, where that translates in real estate is that interest rates are painfully low. It’s good if you have a mortgage, but it’s bad if you have money you want to invest. A lot of people have fallen in and out of love with the equity market for various reasons. Normal people have come to realize that real estate down here is a good investment for them. One, they get to enjoy it with their family and their friends. But secondly, when they’re not using it, you have the benefit of renting it out and letting other people pay for your house. More and more people have seen that.
As we’ve enjoyed success over the few years, the growth rate has been very rapid – the term I use is “velocity of change.” Quite a few folks aren’t necessarily thrilled with that, because obviously there’s a lot that comes with that – traffic, congestion, crowds, and all sorts of trying times on the infrastructure. We were just talking about how the phone company can’t keep up and the DSL is up and down and a little slow at times. So, we’re struggling with growth just like so many other places experiencing it.
Then, on top of everything we just talk about, you throw in the Eagleford Shale play. In large sections of the Texas economy, that’s a game changer. I can’t say that it directly translates to that here, but it’s certainly a big plus. Especially as it relates to how that helps San Antonio and Austin and the I35 corridor between. And on top of that, it translates into Corpus Christi’s port booming. It’s bringing in all these international companies to the port for the port industry. That’s going to be an additional boom for us.
So, it’s really kinda – I don’t want to say “perfect storm,” but it is a little. There is a wide variety of factors going into it.
Q: Let’s go back. How long have you been mayor?
KEITH MCMULLIN: I’m starting my third term next month. I’ve served two two-year terms, so I’ve been there for four years – since 2010. And I was on the city council and mayor pro-tem before that. I’ve been on the council since 2006.
So, between the two “hats,” I have a really interesting vantage point. I see it from the City standpoint, as it relates to developers like the golf course and Cinnamon Shore, etc. – but I also have a “boots on the ground” standpoint with real estate. The inquiries of people who walk in the door help me figure out what they’re looking for, just by the types of questions they ask.
Q: So let’s do that. Let’s talk about all of that. Let’s talk about what you saw when you came here and started to sell. Were you in the area?
KEITH MCMULLIN: I came here in 1987 working for Foley’s, and I lived in North Padre at the time. So my first introduction to Port Aransas was as a visitor from North Padre, coming up to do what people did then and still come here to do today – which is to eat at the nice restaurants and go to the bars and just to play. And I remember – I was essentially a city-boy, having been in Houston nearly my whole life – I remember coming down here and finding Corpus kinda sleepy, but this sleepier still. And I enjoyed that. Just as a reference – when I was in high school, I was an exchange student in Brazil, and I had my seventeenth birthday in Rio. I always say that pretty much scarred me for life, [laughs], and sent me careening on this path of beach and tropical and all things “island.”
So, I was really excited to come to Corpus. And when I knew I was coming to Corpus, I never gave a second thought – I knew I wasn’t going to live in town, I knew I wanted to live somewhere on the Island. But at the time SPID didn’t go all the way through, and all those streets had red lights. Just getting in from the Island was a pretty good commute, so living in Port Aransas wasn’t an option at the time. But I fell in love with the town then, and when I came back I was still in the telecom industry working in sales I moved back to North Padre, and I was spending more time up here than down there.
I had a condo on North Padre, and I thought, “You know, I’ll buy a condo in Port A, and as long as I have internet and a cell phone I can live anywhere.” At first I decided to just split my time, but I realized very quickly there was no reason to keep the condo in North Padre, because the only place I wanted to be was here. So, I sold that, and I’ve been here full time since 2000. And short of spending some winters in Costa Rica, I don’t plan on going anyplace but here.