Austin-area housing market remains on track for record year

Mortgage

It’s shaping up to be another record year for the Austin-area housing market.

That’s according to the Austin Board of Realtors, which in its latest monthly report projects that once the year-end totals are in, 2018 will set records for sales, the median home-sale price and dollar volume in the Central Texas region. It would mark the eighth straight year in which sales and the median price topped the previous year’s figures.

The Austin-Round Rock region also set a record for the month of November, with the most sales volume and dollar volume for any November on record. Additionally, the median home price is the highest it has been for the month of November.

Year to date, sales are up 3.3%. Pending December’s sales total, due out next month, “the Central Texas housing market is on track to have the highest-grossing year on record,” Steve Crorey, president of the Austin Board of Realtors, said in a written statement.

Austin, Texas

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The board reported 2,201 sales for the month of November, up 0.7% from the prior November and bringing total sales year-to-date to 28,325.

November had 2,217 sales contracts in the pipeline to close; December would need to log at least 1,735 sales, if 2018 is to top last year’s total of 30,059 home sales.

Year-to-date, the median price of all home sales was $311,900, up 4.3% compared with January through November last year. The median for the sales in November alone was $301,391, a 2.2% increase over November 2017.

In Williamson County, home sales rose 4.5% in November and the median price was $280,000, up 1.8% from November 2017. In Hays County, sales were up 1.9% in November and the median price was up 2.8%, with half the homes selling for $262,047 and half for less.

Within Austin’s city limits, sales in November declined 5.4%, with 618 houses changing hands. The median price in the city was $374,900 in November, up 5% from November 2017. Year to date, Austin’s median sales price is $376,500, up 4 percent from the same period last year.

“Families and young professionals continue to move to the suburbs where there are more opportunities for homeownership at a more reasonable price point than in the city of Austin,” Crorey said. “While home sales growth isn’t as rapid in the city, demand is still strong.”

Monica Blackburn, an agent with Blairfield Realty in Austin, said this year was a strong one for her, and she sees the “steady trend of 2018 continuing as we start moving into 2019.”

She said some of her clients, ages 50 and older, are looking to stay in Austin but downsize, while others are couples wanting to move up to accommodate their growing families.

“Austin is a diverse market and continues to see so many people move here for job opportunities,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said she hasn’t seen as many multiple offer situations this year than previously, “but if the house is priced slightly lower than neighborhood comps it is bound to have multiple offers.”

“Price reductions tend to happen when the home starts off too high,” Blackburn said. “Many times the seller is requesting the higher asking price since Austin is a seller’s market. Pushing the higher price does not always work and price reductions are needed.”

As the U.S. housing market slowed during the second half of this year, John Kovas, an Austin real estate broker with Kovas Associates, said he observed a shift in the local market as well, starting around mid-August. Demand has slowed some, he said, and “people are getting a little concerned.”

“We’re transitioning from a hyper sellers’ market to a more balanced market, where the negotiations are more even-handed,” Kovas said. “Both sides have a say in the matter, whereas the sellers used to run the whole show. They’d make the rules, and if you didn’t play by the rules, you didn’t get the property.”

The transition to a more stable market appears to be the case in the Dallas area market also.

In a column this month, written the same week a Wall Street Journal article reported that “Dallas’ once-vibrant housing market is sputtering” — Steve Brown, real estate editor for The Dallas Morning News, wrote that “rumors about the demise of the local home market are probably exaggerated.”

“The local home market has returned to something more like normal — modest price increases and slower sales. And after the boom in housing we’ve seen over the last few years, any kind of slowdown is likely to cause some anxiety for sellers,” Brown wrote.

Brown reported that the latest outlook calls for home sales in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to decline about 1% next year, which would make 2019 the second-highest for home sales on record in North Texas.

“Having said that, anyone trying to sell a house knows the residential market this year has changed,” Brown said. “Homes are taking longer to sell. And in most cases there isn’t a line of buyers fighting to overpay for your property.”

Brown noted that the cooling “is different from past cycles because the region’s employment market and population — both of which fuel housing demand — are still exploding.”

“The (Dallas-Fort Worth) area housing boom of the last few years is unlike almost any in the last 50 years. And if price increases hadn’t slowed, we’d be looking at a California-style housing crash soon,” Brown said.


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