Austin home sales up 5% in June, but some agents say market cooling

Boosted by a 5 percent uptick in June, Central Texas home sales are on track to potentially top last year’s record sales, the Austin Board of Realtors said Tuesday.

Despite the sales bump, however, some area real estate agents suggest the local housing market might have cooled off a bit.

The Austin metropolitan area saw 3,015 homes sold in June, pushing the midyear total to 13,917, a 4 percent increase over midyear 2014. Last year’s 27,768 sales for the full year were the most ever recorded by the board.

Through the first half of 2015, the area’s median price for home sales was $263,000, 10 percent higher than in the same period last year. For June, the median price rose 8 percent to $272,250, meaning half of the homes sold for more than that amount and half for less. Last month’s sales marked the first time the total dollar volume exceeded $1 billion in a single month, the board said.

Through midyear, homes spent an average of 50 days on the market, three more than the same period last year. The number of homes listed for sale was up 8 percent compared with first six months of 2014, the board said.

While the housing market remains hot, some areas of Austin are seeing an increase in listings, which has heightened competition and led some sellers to reduce their asking price, local real estate agents said.

Local real estate broker Chad Goldwasser said that, although sales and prices remain strong, the market “is not as white hot as it used to be.”

“A lot of sellers are still of the belief that every home in Austin, in every price range, will sell immediately and with multiple offers for over full price; this is not the case,” said Goldwasser, founder and owner of Pure Gold Realty. “I see more sellers trying to capitalize on what they think the market is doing” instead of pricing their house in line with current market value.

In May, local home sales declined slightly, dipping 2 percent compared with the same month in 2014, according to board data. And recently, some housing experts have predicted that home price growth here will ease some in the next year or so as new supply is added, and as some prospective buyers delay purchase decisions, following several years of rapidly rising prices.

Jeff Mikeska, broker and owner of Jacobs & Mikeska Realtors, said one of his listings, a 1,532-square-foot, three-bedroom home on Wilson Street in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood south of downtown, was priced at about $660,000 when it was listed in early April. At the time, that number supported by the market in that area at the time, Mikeska said.

But suddenly, an influx of new listings caused the market to “really soften up,” Mikeska said. The home’s asking price was cut to $599,900, and it remains on the market.

“Those prices went away as fast as they came, and our overly inflated prices had to make the dance downward and readjust,” Mikeska said.

But the market overall, Mikeska said, is “just as hot as it ever has been.”

“Every other listing I’ve had has gone under contract and sold within a week or less, and usually in a day or two, with multiple offers,” he said.

Luisa Mauro, broker and co-owner of Marathon Real Estate in Austin, is representing sellers in a Central Austin neighborhood who wanted their house listed at $850,000, despite Mauro’s advice that the sweet spot was $675,000 to $700,000.

After sitting on the market nearly two months, the sellers agreed to reduce the price to $700,000, Mauro said. Now, the house has two offers.

“You get to the point where prices get pushed too high, too quickly, for what the value really is for the property,” and that’s when you start to see price reductions, Mauro said.

Despite instances of price reductions, local real estate expert Charles Heimsath said he doesn’t see any indication of softness in the market.

“My main concern is housing affordability, and the fact that average home prices are rising faster than incomes,” Heimsath said.

Eldon Rude, another local housing industry expert, said he is seeing signs that the first-time homebuyer market is strengthening — as evidenced by the more rapid price increases in suburbs such as Hutto, Pflugerville, Manor and Kyle — while at the same time, the move-up market has slowed some in areas with more expensive housing, such as Northwest, West and Southwest Austin.

“In my over 30 years of tracking the housing market in Austin we always experience subtle shifts like this during up cycles as well as during down cycles, but the bottom line is that as long as we are creating jobs at the pace we have over the last five years, our housing market is going to remain robust,” Rude said.

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