Austin-area home sales, median price rise in February

The Central Texas housing market kept up its torrid pace in February, with existing home sales and the median sales price both rising compared to the same month last year, the Austin Board of Realtors said Monday.

In its latest monthly release, the board said 1,783 homes were sold last month, a 2.9 percent increase over February 2015. Half of the homes sold for more than $269,900 and half sold for less, for a nearly 8 percent increase in the median price, the board said.

Board officials said the figures point to the need for a regional approach to the area’s mounting transportation issues.

“The challenges facing our region’s infrastructure are approaching critical mass,” said Aaron Farmer, president of the Austin Board of Realtors. “Austin-area residents are relocating farther and farther outside of Austin due to affordability issues and yet are spending more and more time stuck in traffic each year. With the rate our region’s population is growing, this is simply not sustainable.”

The report said the supply of housing continues to lag behind strong demand, which is being fueled by the region’s job and population growth.

“There are a lot of buyers in Austin right now, and not enough houses for sale to meet their demand,” said Yvette Evans, a real estate agent with Redfin, a national real estate brokerage.

The board said there were more than 2,300 sales in the pipeline to close, signaling another month of higher sales in March.

Gay Puckett, a real estate broker with JB Goodwin Realtors in Austin, said she is seeing more multiple offers this month and contracts signed at above the listing price. She said she also is seeing more buyers write in their contracts that they will pay the difference if the house does not appraise for the sales price.

“The supply shortage of homes in close-in neighborhoods is causing a feeding frenzy as soon as a house goes on the market,” Puckett said. “My last three listings sold in two, three and five days, with six offers each and over 12 showings. Now that is a hot market.”

Evans said Redfin agents also are seeing more bidding wars in the current market, with five and nine offers common for some listings.

“These multiple-offer situations have contributed to the increase in Austin home prices,” Evans said. “I expect that prices will continue to rise through mid-July, and then they may begin to taper slightly as we close out the summer months and get nearer to the election season, which usually has a cooling effect on the housing market.”

Evans said there also are a lot of cash buyers in the market.

“But interestingly,” Evans said, “having an all-cash offer does not give you the same negotiating power today as it has in years past. Lending practices have become more stringent in recent years, which means that sellers can be more confident in a buyer’s offer, even if it’s mostly loan-based. This has put all-cash and loan-based buyers on a more even playing field.”

Eldon Rude, principal of 360 Analytics, an Austin consulting firm that tracks the housing market, said his firm’s monthly homebuilder survey shows a strong start to the year for the new home market as well, with sales for the first two months of the year up 24 percent over the same months last year.

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