Austin housing market edges down in new Freddie Mac ranking

Industry experts say slowing job growth might be playing a role in market’s cooling.


Highlights

Expert: Slower job growth sapping some of market’s strength

Overall, Austin-area’s housing market remains among top real estate markets nationally

The Austin-area’s housing market ranks No. 13 among the nation’s top 100 metros in a new report by mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Austin’s latest ranking is down three spots from last month and down nine notches from a year ago, the report found. Local housing experts say slower job growth could be a factor in the declines.

The Dallas metro area captured the nation’s No. 1 spot, followed by Nashville and Honolulu, with those cities having seen the most improvement in their housing markets, according to the report.

More than 80 percent of the country’s major housing markets have shown improvement during the past three months, the report said.

In recent months, Austin-area real estate agents said they’ve noticed the local market has cooled a bit.

Mark Sprague, a housing industry analyst with Independence Title in Austin, said Thursday that while the Austin area remains among the top real estate markets, it has waned somewhat.

“We have seen a slowing of job creation since 2013,” Sprague said, citing figures that show 39,200 jobs were created that year compared with 32,100 jobs this year and a projected 28,200 jobs next year. “Are we still strong? Yes. Just not as robust.”

Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist, said the survey “does not yet capture the recent jump in mortgage rates since the election, which will drive down homebuyer affordability and likely dampen demand for home sales next year in some markets.”

“While we see strong house price growth in markets like Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Phoenix and others, most are still well below their pre-2008 peak and still have significant room for improvement,” Kiefer said.

The Austin area has seen sharp increases in home prices in the past few years. And this year is shaping up to be another record year for Central Texas home sales, which would mark the sixth straight year of record volume, the Austin Board of Realtors said in its latest report.

In November, the median home-sale price in Central Texas rose 7 percent year-over-year to $294,245, while median price in the city of Austin increased 4 percent year-over-year, to $342,000. Williamson County’s median home-sale price last month was $275,000, a 12.1 percent increase from the prior November.

Single-family home sales rose 15.8 percent in November compared with November 2015, the board said, the biggest year-over-year sales jump in a little over three years. The last time sales jumped by a higher percentage was in September 2013, when they increased 30 percent over the prior September, the board said.

In commenting on the November report, Sprague recently said that rising interest rates likely are spurring more people to buy a home, a view some other experts share.

In an article this month, Jim Gaines, chief economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, said that while there could be some fallout from the Federal Reserve raising its key interest rate, “the immediate short-term impact on the housing market could be an increase in demand,” Gaines wrote.

“People who are on the fence about buying a home might anticipate rates, as well as prices, going up in the next six to 12 months. This might give them the push they need to buy now,” Gaines said.



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