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HOUSING FORECAST

Experts say expect another strong year for Austin housing market: This year’s housing market in Central Texas could shake out much like last year’s, with labor and lots in short supply, strong demand due to job and population growth — and a continued rise in home prices.

That was the outlook this past week from real estate expert Eldon Rude, delivered at an annual housing forecast event. The forum, sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, took place at the AT&T Conference Center on the University of Texas campus.

Rude, principal of Austin consulting firm 360º Real Estate Analytics, is the former regional director of Metrostudy in Austin and has been tracking the local housing market for more than three decades. His annual forecast covers the entire Austin region, which spans a five-county area from Georgetown to San Marcos.

Last year was “an exceptional year” for the housing market, Rude said, and he predicted 2018 will be another robust year.

Job and population growth fuel demand for housing, and signs point to continued growth of both in the Austin region, Rude said.

Central Texas has been adding jobs at an average annual rate of 3.3 percent, or 27,300 jobs per year, over the past 10 years, Rude said.

A key factor for the housing market is technology-related companies, which continue to grow significantly in Austin and bring more high-paying jobs to the region, Rude said.

“Major tech companies will continue their drive for growth this year, and Austin has emerged as one of a handful of cities most attractive to the industry for expansion,” Rude said. “This will keep tech workers flowing into Austin in 2018.”

Rude cited examples of several large leases in which technology companies will occupy the majority — and in some cases, the entirety — of new area office buildings. Those include Google, Facebook, Indeed, HomeAway and Parsley Energy.

The Austin Board of Realtors said this month that both sales of pre-owned homes and the median home sales price in the region — about $300,000 — hit all-time annual highs in 2017. It was the seventh year in a row that the previous year’s numbers were surpassed.

In the new-home market, Metrostudy reported that builders started construction on 16,000 new homes in 2017, the highest level since 2006.

Amid strong demand for housing and lagging inventory in recent years, the Austin area’s median home price has soared 45 percent over the past five years, Rude said. But despite the significant price increases in a market grappling with affordability challenges, “people are continuing to buy,” Rude said.

DELL DEAL?

Reports say Dell considers selling itself to subsidiary VMware: Round Rock-based Dell Technologies is considering a sale to VMware, a publicly held cloud computing firm that Dell already controls, according to media reports last week.

News of the potential sale — which would effectively be a reverse-merger — comes after earlier reports that privately held Dell is weighing a variety of options, Those include an initial public offering of stock or purchasing the rest of VMware, as it looks to pay off the huge debt it took on in its acquisition of data storage company EMC Corp. in 2013.

CNBC, which first reported the potential VMware deal, said the information came from people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

Dell spokesman Dave Farmer said that the company does not comment on rumor or speculation.

With a sale to VMware, Dell could again become a publicly traded company without having to pass through the more complex process of an IPO, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Oregon-based Enderle Group.

“It’s a creative way to solve a number of problems,” Enderle said.

Dell Technologies founder and CEO Michael Dell “would basically be selling the company to itself,” Enderle said. “It’s much more controlled than an IPO. With the IPO, you take a huge gamble with what is happening with the market. You don’t control the buyers. This could be cheaper and faster, and you could still rename the company Dell.”

By moving forward with a sale, Enderle said, investors could still gain a return on their investment because VMware could issue Dell shares publicly.

Investors, however, would likely see a larger return from an IPO since the process usually generates buzz for a company and initially results in a bump in share prices, Enderle said.

“Major investors would prefer more money,” he said. “There’s a certain feeding frenzy with an IPO.”



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