Austin home sales still on record pace despite November dip

Despite a November decline, Central Texas is still on track to set a record for home sales this year, the Austin Board of Realtors said Monday.

November’s 4 percent sales decrease was only the second time this year that monthly sales were down compared to last year.

Home prices, however, went in the other direction. The median home-sale price rose 10.2 percent, to $270,000 — a record for November, the board said.

“While November single-family home sales volume decreased slightly compared to last year, year-to-date home sales volume continues to outpace 2014,” said Barb Cooper, president of the Austin Board of Realtors. “With the Austin-area population exceeding 2 million over the summer, growth in Central Texas is showing no signs of slowing.”

This year, 26,683 homes have been sold through November. The Austin area set a record last year with 27,794 sales, according to revised figures from the board. The board’s latest report shows 1,965 pending sales in the pipeline to close in December and into January, putting 2015 on track to surpass last year’s total.

“With the Austin area adding over 36,000 jobs in the last 12 months — a 3.9 percent growth rate — and with our population growing nearly 4 percent in the last year, the flow of new residents to Austin continues to translate into strong home sales throughout the region,” said Eldon Rude, principal of 360 Real Estate Analytics, an Austin-based real estate consulting firm.

In November, 1,814 homes were sold compared with 1,891 in November 2014. Half of the sales last month were below the $270,000 price point and half were above that amount.

The region continues to see prices rise due to strong demand and a short supply of available homes. Housing inventory remains at less than half of what experts consider to be a balanced supply.

“The sharp year-over-year increases in median and average home prices continue to reflect the reality that demand for homes in our region is outstripping supply, thereby forcing buyers to pay higher and higher prices for their homes,” Rude said.

But locally and in many areas across the country, buyers are starting to exercise more caution, according to a recent survey of sellers by Redfin, an online real estate brokerage firm.

“The Austin housing market has taken a small pause, and it is more than just seasonality,” said Andrew Vallejo, a Redfin agent in Austin. “Buyers are stepping back after the frenzied summer and really rethinking how much they are willing to pay for a new home. Sellers are expecting prices to continue the fast-paced double-digit growth that we’ve seen throughout the past year, but buyers aren’t willing to meet those expectations. This is true all over Austin, but especially in suburbs like Buda and Kyle.”

Drew Marye, a real estate broker who owns the Marye Company, said he also is seeing buyers be more selective.

“Buyers are definitely taking a little more time, maybe being a little more cautious, making sure they’re not overpaying for properties,” Marye said. “They are coming in with lower offers and testing the market, just seeing how motivated sellers are.”

But overall, the market remains “very healthy,” Marye said, and “well-priced homes in great neighborhoods and in great condition are still selling at top dollar and closing in 30 to 45 days.”

Marye and Cooper said they are encouraged by seeing more homes being listed for sale.

“If active listings continue to increase year over year, it could lead to a much-needed increase in the Austin area’s housing inventory level,” Cooper said.

Last week, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the first time since 2006 — a move that will cause a gradual uptick in rates for home loans.

“Even with this increase, however, interest rates are still among the lowest they have ever been, and we do not anticipate a significant impact on the Austin-area housing market,” said local housing expert Mark Sprague.

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