Central Texas home sales dip 2 percent in May

After setting a sales record in April, Austin-area home sales declined 2 percent in May compared to the same month last year, while the area’s median sales price rose about 9 percent, new figures show.

In its latest monthly report, the Austin Board of Realtors said 2,767 sales were recorded, with half of those houses selling for below $271,000 and half selling for more than that. The median price was a record for the month of May, the board said.

The last time area home sales saw a year-over-year dip was in August 2014, when sales were down 4 percent, the board said.

Home prices in Central Texas are rising at a rapid rate that is outpacing historical appreciation, which is typically 4 percent annually, according to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. The majority of homes coming onto the market continue to be priced outside of an affordable price range for many residents, with only 25 percent of single-family housing options in Central Texas priced below $200,000, the board said.

“Affordability remains an issue across the region,” Barb Cooper, president of the Austin Board of Realtors, said in a written statement.

Eldon Rude, a local housing market expert, said that “the rapid increases in home pricing in the higher price range in recent years is likely resulting in more prospective buyers hitting the pause button before making the commitment to buy.”

Rude said he expects the next few months of data will show that the intensity of demand seen over the past few years in the market for homes priced above $350,000 will begin to ease, especially in suburban areas.

“At the same time, my conversations with my builder clients indicates their strongest sales in recent months have been in their communities offering homes priced below $300,000, suggesting a rebound in the first time homebuyer market,” said Rude, principal of 360 Real Estate Analytics, an Austin-based consulting firm. “It is likely that not enough inventory is available in the lower price ranges to satisfy current demand, otherwise overall sales would be higher.”

A combination of a slight decrease in home sales and an increase in active listings caused inventory levels to rise in May, the board said. But it noted that the supply of available homes is still well below the 6.5-month level that is considered a market in balance between buyers or sellers.

“It’s still a strong sellers’ market,” said Gay Puckett, a real estate broker with JB Goodwin Realtors in Austin. “Inventory is still extremely low. You almost have to (search the database of available listings) right before your buyers’ eyes so they can understand. They don’t believe you’re showing them all the inventory.”

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