HOUSTON — Houston home sales were down 2 percent in January, compared to January of last year, despite a sluggish local economy, reports the Houston Association of Realtors reports.
January single-family home sales were down 2.1 percent versus January 2015 with a total of 4,024 sales compared to 4,109 a year earlier, HAR reported.
Homes in the upper-price brackets showed weakness as affluent homebuyers grapple with the falling oil prices and widespread layoffs at energy companies.
“In the luxury market — a million dollars and up – we’re seeing some softness,” says Dr. Ted C. Jones, chief economist for Houston-based Stewart Title. “A home in that price range is worth 7% less today, some analysts say. I think people are concerned about the future and they’re deciding not to spend $1 million to purchase a home.”
Sales of Houston area homes priced at $500,000=and-up were down over 9 percent in January, HAR reports.
“The high-end market is the softest market right now,” says Houston realty broker Shad Bogany of Better Homes and Gardens Gary Greene. “We are seeing some slowness because oil and gas is beginning to catch up with us. Oil is down to $28 a barrel right now.”
The year-end inventory showed a build-up in million-dollar homes. At the end of 2015, 1,100 homes priced at $1 million or more were on the market for sale in Houston, a 28 percent increase from a year earlier.
“A lot of folks have nervously anticipated that falling oil prices would have a devastating effect on real estate, but so far, the Houston market has weathered the energy downturn without dramatic shifts in sales and pricing,” says HAR Chairman Mario Arriaga with First Group. “The most noticeable impact has been declines in the luxury market, but mid-range housing actually saw a healthy sales volume in January and inventory levels grew.”
In Houston, the median price of a single-family home in January was $200,000, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, HAR reports.
The inventory of homes for sale remains fairly tight in the Houston area and many parts of the local economy are strong, says Jones of Stewart Title. So 2016 may be less robust than 2015, but the declines are not expected to be severe, Jones says.
“Home sales over the past two years have been great. But 2016 will see a dip in sales because of the comparison to those two record years,” Jones says.
Houston had a 3.3-months supply of homes for sale in January, the HAR reports. A 6-months supply is a balanced market, so Houston still is a sellers market. Over the last 20 years, inventory has been below a 4-months supply very rarely.
In the February edition of The Economy at a Glance, the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) reports that 23,200 jobs were added across the Houston metropolitan area in 2015, an increase of less than one percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. GHP is forecasting the creation of approximately 22,000 jobs in 2016.
In January, the single-family home average price eked out a fractional 0.3 percent year-over-year increase, reaching $262,663 while the median price—the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less—rose 5.3 percent. Both figures represent all-time highs for a January in Houston.
Pending sales indicate that that Houston’s home market is fairly healthy and February should be strong.
Mortgage rates remain low with 30-year home loans at less than 4 percent and have drifted lower in recent weeks.
The Super Bowl is over and buyers are coming out of hibernation and sales should blossom into a decent spring home buying season, despite the energy downturn.
Feb. 11, 2016