By Ralph Bivins
Houston’s home sales continued its rebound momentum in January, as the city recorded the eighth consecutive month of increased home sales.
Home sales were up 9.2 percent in January, compared to January of 2011, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.
Houston housing, boosted by strong job growth and a solid energy industry, has been on a roll since last summer.
Upbeat economic news and predictions that home prices will rise in 2012 have boosted home buyer’s confidence, said Evert Crawford, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy. “People are in the buying mood more than they’ve been in a long time,” Crawford said.
The inventory of homes for sale has been dropping steadily, boosting the overall health of the market. The inventory of available properties, or active listings, at the end of January declined 15.1 percent from January 2011 to 42,067, the Realtors association reported. It is the lowest inventory since December 2009.
The positive January report indicates that Houston’s realty market has recovered from the decline that began about three years ago. Houston realty suffered some hard knocks, but it fared much better than some markets, such as California, Florida and Arizona where foreclosures reached epidemic levels and home prices fell by as much as 50 percent.
The HAR reported that current levels of pending sales are up 6 percent over this time last year. Importantly, this points to a positive beginning to the spring home buying season, when home buying is at its peak.
The home buying spree in January was spread across all price bands, except for the upper end of the market. The sale of upscale homes priced over $500,000 declined 2.1 percent in January, compared to January of 2011.
Sales of new upscale home in the Inner Loop, where old houses are torn down to make room for new million-dollar dwellings, face stiff competition from existing homes, said housing analyst David Jarvis of Metrostudy. Buyers who opt to build a new custom home get the exact design and finishes that they want, but they pay a premium for buying the new custom home.