HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – April 2019 was the strongest April ever for Houston home sales as 7,586 single-family homes were sold, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.
The April sales total represented a 7.8 percent increase over April of 2018, the association said.
“April sales are historically strong in Houston because buyers want to be settled and moved for the following school semester,” says Eric Nelson, a top producer at Carnan Properties. “Interest rates have been very favorable compared to the previous few quarters, adding some additional readiness to purchase.”
Mortgage rates continue to decline, according to a new survey released Thursday by Freddie Mac. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.10 percent for the week ending May 9, down from average rate of 4.14 percent last week. A year ago, the rate was 4.55 percent, Freddie Mac reported.
Houston’s home sales are sailing into the Spring buying season with strong tail winds. On a year-to-date basis, home sales are 2.2 percent ahead of last year’s record pace. And 2018 was a record year for home sales.
Strong energy prices, with West Texas Intermediate crude priced over $60 a barrel this spring, provided a strong underpinning to the local economy.
“Houston’s April home sales were good because our economy is growing and the price of energy is increasing. This is very positive for Houston,” said John Daugherty, chairman and CEO of John Daugherty, Realtors. “I think the residential realty market is going to be strong as we move into the summer.”
Nancy Almodovar, President and CEO of Nan & Company Properties/Christie’s International Real Estate, said her firm’s sales were up in April, in line with the market’s uptick.
Lisa Barnes, who heads the Lisa Barnes Group at Coldwell Banker United, Realtors says her sales have been remarkably strong due to strong inventory and she’s looking forward to an equally robust summer.
Houston’s single-family homes inventory expanded to a 4-months supply in April. That is up from 3.5 months a year earlier and marks the greatest supply of homes since September 2018. But the Houston market is still a sellers market. A 6-months inventory is considered a balanced market.
The inventory of homes for sale is also tight in the upscale West University Place market, said residential broker Roger Martin.
“Houston neighborhoods all have very distinct price ranges and inventory,” says Cathy Blum with Greenwood King Properties. “We are seeing some neighborhoods increasing in value, and some are holding firm. We are not really seeing prices decline like we did after Hurricane Harvey. Some neighborhoods to take notice, The Heights is going strong, River Oaks has had a very active spring and West U, Southampton, Southgate, Braes Heights, Bellaire and Braeswood continue to be a favorite for buyers. Buyers are actively looking and we are still seeing multiple offers and back-up contracts on homes that are priced correctly.”
HAR reported the upper end – homes priced at more than $750,000 – were the strongest orice band in April.
“There is incredible strength in the $400K-$950K price range and activity for first time homebuyers entering the market,” Blum said. “ The $1,200,000 to $1,500,000 price range is moving swiftly. The very high end is also moving but naturally there are fewer buyers in this market so it takes the more expensive home longer to sell.”
Across the city, prices reached the highest levels ever for an April, HAR said. The median price increased 2.1 percent to $245,000, up from $240,000 in April of last year.
“It’s a strange market – homes are selling, but homes in certain price ranges are not and there are more sellers than buyers,” says Melinda Noel of Greenwood King Properties. Indeed, HAR reports a whopping 41,086 in available choices, up 13.8 per cent and the highest level since last September. “There is definitely an increased inventory in River Oaks, with listings at between $1 – 2 million, there are eight listings,” says Noel. “Two have sold and a third is pending. In the $2- $3 million field, there are 18 listings with three pending, and six have sold this year. In some cases, I see buyers going to Royden Oaks or Avalon because some of the older homes do not have open kitchens.”
“I think this market is so interesting – in the West U area, there is also a big inventory, with 30 or so houses are for sale; they’ve sold 14 in the $2 million plus category. There are 54 homes from $1 – $2 million; 35 are pending with another 44 that have sold. So, it’s moving. What concerns me is that it’s a great market for sellers and there are pockets that aren’t moving as well as in the past, for example, the range between $1 and $2 million. What is selling is the newer homes, built later than 2005,” Noel said.
“Of course, it seems the prices are going up for my buyers who desire areas near downtown and the prices appear to be going down for the Willow Meadows area,” says Gail Nash, with Keller Williams. “I think well-done flips cause an area to become more attractive, because they can ask high prices and get them! My last 3 buyers had prices in the low $400,000’s. They were all three first time home buyers. Leases seem to be better than a couple of years ago, but my lease listings for my investors are on the market longer than we expected. May is a big month for my main market, the Texas Medical Center, because when med student’s graduate college, they are ready to buy a condo or rent one for the time they are in med school.
“Also, Linkwood, a neighborhood that was so heavily flooded by Harvey appears to be coming out of the dark times,” Nash says. “Only two flooded lots are active on the market now, three are pending to close this month. That is good, good news!”