- By Shonda Novak American-Statesman Staff
Central Texas home sales edged up only slightly in August, while the median home-sale price rose 4 percent to $300,000, the Austin Board of Realtors said Tuesday.
Some local real estate agents say the latest figures could indicate that, although demand is still strong, the local real estate market has cooled off a bit.
The board said 2,994 houses changed hands in August, a 1 percent increase over August 2016. Half of the houses last month sold for more than $300,000 and half for less, for a 4 percent increase in the median price, which was the highest on record for August, the board said.
August’s sales increase was preceded by larger gains of 9 percent, 4.4 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, in May, June and July.
The board said May through August combined marked the highest-grossing summer-selling season Central Texas has seen, as dollar volume topped $1 billion for the fourth straight month.
Within Austin’s city limits, sales climbed 6.1 percent year-over-year, with 927 sales recorded. Half of those homes for more than $361,000 and half sold for less, for a 2.7 percent increase in the median price over August 2016.
By county, sales were up 0.9 percent in Travis and 0.3 percent in Williamson, but down 1.1 percent in Hays.
The median price in Travis County was $350,000, up 2.7 percent. It was $276,500 in Williamson County, up 6.4 percent, and $262,990 in Hays County, up 4.4 percent.
August saw continued gains in listings activity and pending sales across Central Texas, the board said. Listings soared 16.1 percent year-over-year, with 7,781 homes on the market, and pending sales increased 8.1 percent, with 2,710 sales in the pipeline to close.
Still, the region’s housing supply remains below the level considered to be a balanced market, though it is moving in that direction, said Jim Gaines, chief economist for the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.
“The Austin-Round Rock (metro area) looks like it is moving toward a more normalized housing market,” Gaines said.
“Similar to what we’re seeing across the state, housing inventory levels are slowly increasing, despite continued increases in sales volume and median price,” Gaines said. “That could indicate that in the latter half of 2017, we will likely experiences some slowing of the home price increases that have become common in recent years – not price decreases — as the relationship between home buying and selling activity begins to balance out.”
John Martin, an agent with Keller Williams, said housing supply has been catching up to demand, taking some of the pressure off prices.
“Every market has a ceiling, a threshold, on where prices can go, and over the last two years we’ve approached that ceiling,” Martin said. “Now prices have finally started to level out. There’s not a huge incline anymore.”
Molly Avila, an agent with JB Goodwin Realtors in Austin, also said that prices “have been leveling off a little bit.” She has noticed some homebuilders offering concessions, which she hasn’t seen happen in quite a while.
Avila also said she is seeing homes staying on the market somewhat longer than previously.
She said one of her listings in Round Rock, a home priced at less than $200,000 and with no issues, took several days to land an offer, when not too long ago the house would have received multiple offers in just one day on the market.
“It was like a little flag to let you know things are changing,” Avila said.
The board said homes spent an average of 46 days on the market in August, two days more than in August 2016.
John Rosshirt, associate broker and co-owner of Stanberry & Associates Realtors in Austin, said that although new listings are taking longer to go under contract, “I take that as a good sign that we are moving into a more reasonable market balance and buyers will have a decent amount of time to consider their purchase. During the summer, over 50 percent of pending listings were on the market two weeks or less. In the last two weeks, the pending listings that were on the market two weeks or less was only around 33 percent.”
Rodney Rodriguez, an agent in Keller Williams’ Northwest Austin office, said he and other agents are “giving our sellers a realistic overview of what’s happening.” That can mean advising them to reduce their price if the house has had no traffic or offers after about three weeks, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he’s generally been seeing price reductions in the 3 percent to 5 percent range, “nothing too drastic, but it is drastic in the sense we hadn’t been seeing that. A year ago, that was unheard of.”
Of the nearly 3,000 homes that were sold across the region in August, 15.3 percent sold for less than $250,000; 57.2 percent sold for between $250,000 and $500,000; and 27.5 percent sold for $500,000 or more.
“I see longer market times but not a decrease in actual sales,” Rosshirt said, adding that he expects sales of “moderately priced homes to remain very strong.”
“Think of these low interest rates and all that pent-up demand in all those apartments,” Rosshirt said.