NEW NOW: Austin-area home sales flat in February as market cools


Median sales price was $287,000, a 6.5 percent increaseMedian sales price was $287,000, a 6.5 percent increase

Experts: Market beginning to stabilizeExperts: Market beginning to stabilize

Central Texas homes sales pulled back in February, with sales increasing less than 1 percent year-over-year, the latest figures show.

The median price for the metro area, however, climbed 6.5 percent, to $287,000, the Austin Board of Realtors said in its monthly report Thursday.

Within Austin’s city limits, sales rose 6.4 percent over February 2016, the board’s figures show. The median sales price in Austin was flat year-over-year, with half of the homes selling for less than $330,000 and half for more.

In the Austin-area market overall, spanning from Georgetown to San Marcos, sales were basically flat, rising only 0.9 percent, the board said. That was the smallest gain for a February since February 2009, when sales plunged 29 percent year-over-year.

Board officials said February’s weak sales — 1,829 in total — indicate the Central Texas housing market is beginning to normalize to more stable market conditions.

“The Central Texas housing market is just now beginning to catch up to itself after years of unprecedented sales growth,” Brandy Guthrie, president of the Austin Board of Realtors, said in a written statement. “It’s important to remember that current figures are being compared to very strong housing market activity in 2016, so a decline in home sales growth does not automatically mean that the market is softening.”

Mark Sprague, a housing expert with Independence Title in Austin, agreed.

“Low inventory levels, high home prices and slowing job growth across the region are preventing a resurgence of the record-breaking numbers experienced the last two years, but overall the region’s housing market remains very strong. The Central Texas housing market is normalizing into a more stable market.”

Single-family home sales declined from February 2016 in many cities surrounding Austin, with the exceptions of Buda — up 30 percent year-over-year to 26 home sales; Cedar Park — up 20.7 percent year-over-year to 70 home sales; Leander — up 8.8 percent year-over-year to 62 home sales; and the city of Austin.

“Home sales growth in the city of Austin is currently being driven by the sales of single-family homes priced $750,000 and higher, particularly within the luxury housing market,” Guthrie said.

February’s weak sales could be an indicator of what local experts have forecast — that this year will be another strong one for the local housing market, through perhaps not as roaring as 2016, when home sales set a record for the sixth straight year.

“We’ve started off to what looks like will be another strong market, though not as insanely robust as years past,” said real estate broker Eric Bramlett with Bramlett Residential in Austin. “The pent-up demand from the recession years is long gone and builders are finally getting more inventory on the ground, though not enough to keep up with our strong population growth. The result is a healthy market that’s appreciating at a normal 5 percent to 7 percent rate. Comparative to years past, this feels like a slowdown, but we’re really seeing a return to normal price appreciation that a world-class city like Austin tends to take for granted.”

Sprague said the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise U.S. interest rates yesterday “could dissuade some local homeowners from listing their homes on the market, or potential homeowners from buying a home.”

“Even with this increase, however, there’s still no better time to buy than now. Interest rates are likely only to increase over the next few years. Central Texans will not be able to buy a home for as low of a price and as low of an interest rate as they can today.”

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