Central Texas housing market stays on record pace


Austin-area home sales jump 15.8 percent in November.

Median home-sale price rises 7 percent, $294,245.

Central Texas home sales soared nearly 16 percent in November over the same month last year, keeping the Austin area on track for a sixth straight year of record volume, the Austin Board of Realtors said Thursday.

In its latest report, the board said 27,107 houses have been sold through the end of November, 3.7 percent more than during the same period in 2015.

Once December’s sales are in, the board expects 2016’s sales to top last year’s 29,068 transactions, which marked the fifth year in a row of record sales in Central Texas. That means 1,962 homes would need to sell in December to beat last year’s total.

For the month of November, the board said sales surged 15.8 percent, with 2,055 homes changing hands. The median sale price rose 7 percent, with half the homes selling for more than $294,245 and half for less.

“This end-of-year surge in home sales is an unusual and welcome surprise to what’s typically the lowest months for Central Texas home sales volume during the year,” said Aaron Farmer, president of the Austin Board of Realtors. “Demand for Central Texas homes has been driven by strong population and job growth in recent years, and that looks to be continuing in our region. At the current pace, 2016 will likely turn out to be another record year for Central Texas home sales.”

At the county level, Hays, Travis and Williamson all saw double-digit sales gains, of 24.2 percent, 11.3 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively.

Within the city of Austin, home sales jumped 13.7 percent compared to the same month last year, with 656 homes changing hands. Austin’s median sales price rose 4 percent to $342,000, the board said.

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, said the Austin area’s strong November mirrors the national trend.

“We are seeing an abnormally strong fall across the country,” Smoke said.

Jason Botello, an agent with 24th Street Realty in Austin, said: “Generally we see a slowdown in sales and overall interest from buyers but so far this holiday season I haven’t seen much of a slowing down.”

Shawn Culhane, an agent with Culhane Premier Properties in Austin, also said activity has been strong in December.

“We’re just seeing a lot of positivity and optimism out of buyers and sellers,” Culhane said. “People are just feeling good right now, whether that’s warranted or unwarranted.”

Mark Sprague, a local housing market expert, said the jump in home sales could be due to he U.S. presidential election being over — “it appeared many buyers were waiting to see how the election turned out before deciding to buy,” he said — as well as rising interest rates.

“Millennial homebuyers, who comprise 51 percent of the Central Texas market, have never experienced an interest rate greater than 4 percent and thus could be motivated to buy sooner,” said Sprague, state director of information capital for Independence Title in Austin.

Smoke, the Realtor.com economist, said the expected rise in interest rates is putting more urgency on some buyers — particularly first-time homebuyers — to make a purchase.

“There are people who have been sitting on the fence thinking they have time (to buy) who now realize that they need to be acting sooner rather than later,” Smoke said. “They’re realizing what an impact the higher rate has to their monthly budget and what they can afford, and to their ability to qualify.”

Smoke said interest rates are expected to move up gradually, “not in one big jump,” which should give prospective buyers a year-long “honeymoon period” to adjust.

Botello and Culhane both said they think 2017 will be another strong year for the region’s housing market, although Culhane said prices and sales might not increase as much as they did this year over last.

“It’s just been going to fast and wild, we’re due to start coming down,” Culhane said.

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