2014 a record year for Central Texas home sales

Austin-area home sales reached record levels in 2014, new data show, and local housing market experts say the region is poised for another strong year in 2015.

The Austin Board of Realtors said Wednesday that agents sold 27,768 houses in the metro area in 2014, the fourth straight year of record annual home sales increases in the local market. The 2014 volume marked a 1.7 percent increase from 2013, which closed with 27,298 sales.

The area’s median home sales price climbed 8.3 percent last year, with half of all homes selling for more than $242,500 and half selling for less, the board said. That was the area’s highest median price ever for a calendar year, according to the board’s figures, although some individual months, including December, have seen higher medians. December’s median was $246,530, up 10 percent from December 2013.

Monthly sales also set a record for a December. The 2,283 single-family homes that changed hands last month were 14 percent higher than December 2013’s sales total.

“The Austin area experienced a strong, stable housing market in 2014, with year-end 2014 showing similar market conditions to those one year ago,” said Barb Cooper, new president of the Austin Board of Realtors. “The U.S. Census Bureau named Austin the third-fastest-growing big city in America since 2000. That steady job and population growth has continued to drive increases in home sales volume and, combined with low housing inventory levels, home prices as well.”

Market experts said that with the region’s job and population growth expected to continue, the Austin market should continue to remain hot in 2015.

Jonathan Boatwright, co-owner of Realty Austin, said he thinks 2015 will be another record year for local home sales.

“We wrapped up 2014 with strong momentum, which has carried over into a very strong start to 2015,” Boatwright said.

Housing supply in the metro area continued to lag behind demand last year, despite a slow rise in inventory in the last half of 2014. In December, Austin-area monthly housing inventory was 2.2 months, well below the 6.5-month level that’s considered a market tipped in neither buyers’ nor sellers’ favor.

Although the housing market is strong, increasing the region’s stock of more moderately priced housing is a pressing issue. Home prices in Central Texas have risen sharply over the past several years, making the metro the most expensive housing market in the state.

“More homes on the market, at all price ranges and throughout all areas of Austin, will be crucial to maintaining Austin’s affordability in 2015,” Cooper said.

At a housing forecast event Tuesday, local housing market consultant Eldon Rude said he expects most of the growth in new home starts this year to be in the $250,000-and-below range as builders seek to meet anticipated increased demand among entry-level buyers.

David Armbrust, a veteran real estate lawyer said demand exceeds supply in the local market due to the lengthy process in the city of Austin to get approvals for new residential developments.

“Builders cannot catch the market,” Armbrust said. “I think the city should designate a special review team for single- family residential housing with an expedited process and perhaps even some fee waiver incentives at different price points. That would be some action that would impact supply and affordability at the same time.”

Greg Casar, a newly elected member of the Austin City Council, said the growth in the local housing market “reinforces something I’ve heard over and over again — we don’t have a prosperity problem here in Austin, we have a shared prosperity problem.”

He said the city is committed to working with builders, real estate agents, community groups and housing advocates “to create housing solutions for lower-income and middle-income families who are struggling to find or keep their housing.”

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