By Ralph Bivins
Houston residential sales increased 35 percent last month over October 2011, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.
Prices rose sharply and the inventory of homes for sale dropped to its lowest level in 11 years. The realty market is demonstrating an exceptional surge that is surprising veteran real estate pros.
“It’s incredibly, incredibly busy. The market seems to be totally on fire,” says Amy Bernstein of Bernstein Realty.
A lot of homes are being sold to professionals relocated to Houston by their employers, which include energy firms, but also for people working in technology, medical, accounting and law, Bernstein said.
“I never imagined we’d go over 30 percent. It’s fantastic,” says housing analyst Evert Crawford of the University of Houston’s Institute for Regional Forecasting.
Houston has reduced its inventory of homes for sale to 37,909 homes, a 19 percent decline from last October, the Houston Association of Realtors reported. That is considered a 4.4 month supply of homes, a low inventory level that has not been seen since December 2001.
“Inventories are tight. Multiple offers are common, all over town,” says Cheri Fama, president of John Daugherty, Realtors. “When (a new listing) comes in, it’s like a feeding frenzy.”
In the rarified mansion market, sales are brisk. A number of homes in the $5 million and up price range are under serious negotiation or under contract right now, Fama said.
The average and median price hit the highest points ever for an October, jumping over 8 percent from October 2011, the Houston Realtors association reported. The average price for a home sold in Houston in October was $223,366, while the median price (representing the midpoint with half sold for more and half for less) was $163,000.
The declining inventory will mean more price increases are on the way.
Tight inventories have been boosting sales of new houses for home builders also.
“The inventory squeeze has definitely created fertile ground for homebuilders,” said Wayne Stroman, HAR chairman and CEO of Stroman Realty. “Our active real estate market reflects the general health of the Houston economy, most notably the addition of close to 96,000 new jobs over the past year, according to the latest Texas Workforce Commission employment report.”
Counting single-family homes, condos and other residential realty, the Houston area registered 6,457 property sales in October, up from 4,781 sales in October 2011, the Realtors association said. Single-family sales totaled 5,379, up 32.7 percent from last October.