Home sales, prices rise as Central Texas market stays on record pace

2:56 p.m Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 Business

As it rolls toward another potential record year, Central Texas’ housing market remained on solid footing in November, with sales volume and the median home sale price both higher than a year ago.

Sales of single-family homes in the Austin-Round Rock metro area climbed 3.7 percent from the prior November, as 2,196 homes changed hands, the Austin Board of Realtors said Thursday.

Half of the homes last month sold for more than $296,500 and half sold for less, for a 2.9 percent increase in the median price.

Both the sales and median price figures are records for the month of November, keeping 2017 on track for a seventh straight record year of home sales and prices, the board said. It reported 27,710 local home sales through November, up 1.8 percent from the same period last year.

“If this month’s home sales volume exceeds that of December 2016, 2017 most likely will be another record-breaking year for the Austin-area housing market,” said Brandy Guthrie, president of the Austin Board of Realtors.

Both pending sales and active listings figures across the five-county Central Texas region indicate that single-family home sales growth could continue through the end of 2017, the board said. In November, active listings increased 13.7 percent and pending sales jumped 14.9 percent.

Sales were up 10.2 percent in Williamson County and 14.3 percent in Hays County, the board said. In Travis County, however, sales dipped 1.3 percent, due mainly to a 3.3 percent decrease in sales within Austin’s city limits.

“Due to rapid population growth throughout Central Texas, Austin continues to have one of the highest demands for housing in the nation,” Guthrie said. “Homes sales are the strongest where price points are the lowest and where development options are available, such as parts of Williamson and Hays counties. We are seeing some slowing home price appreciation and housing inventory gains, which is normalizing us to a more stable market and aligning us with long-term historical market trends.”

In Williamson County, the median price was $275,00, unchanged from November 2016. Hays County’s median price rose 4 percent, to $260,000, and in Travis County the median price increased 6.1 percent, to $341,000.

Within Austin’s city limits, the median price climbed 6.8 percent, to $360,000.

Katrina Fetzer Warren, an agent with Stone & Acre Real Estate in Austin, said hot neighborhoods continue to include Travis Heights, Bouldin and Rosedale.

“In Central Austin, supply does not stay on the market long,” Warren said. “We see a large demand for Austin metro living coming from out- of- state individuals relocating for their career who are often able to come in with cash offers. With demand steady, it is inevitable that home prices increase.”

Cari Clark, a vice president with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty, said she is starting to see some longtime Austin area residents — typically middle- to upper-middle-class retirees — moving away.

“I have several listings coming up in 2018 that this is the case,” Clark wrote in an email. “The traffic and property taxes are just too much, and it’s too hot.”

Clark’s clients, Lynne Hook and her husband, Wes Hook, are a case in point. The Hooks, who are in their late 50s and live in West Lake Hills, are downsizing to reduce their property taxes and prepare for retirement. Lynne Hook is a substitute teacher in the Eanes school district and Wes Hook is a sales executive with a San Jose-based tech company.

“House-hunting in Austin has not been a joy,” Lynne Hook said. “We find that we have to spend much, much more than our budget allows, even by going out to the suburbs. Even by spending $200,000 more than we had anticipated, we are not getting the home, location and property tax bill we had hoped for. My husband wants to move out of state now.”

Central Texas’ affordability challenges are expected to continue in 2018, housing experts say. Slowing job growth, the rising cost of labor and materials and the U.S. tax plan overhaul “are all factors that could hinder housing market growth and negatively impact housing affordability in the Austin area in 2018,” said Mark Sprague with Independence Title in Austin.