New Year brings good news for Houston real estate

Houston gets good New Year's newsStatistics tracked by the Houston Association of Realtors rose almost across the board in January 2011, as signs of the recovery's continued health continued to appear, the group said in a statement.

The city saw its first monthly increase in property sales since June 2010, according to HAR's report, and the average price of a single-family home hit its highest January level on record, driven primarily by strong numbers in the luxury housing market. However, the group also noted that surges in volume were seen among all home price levels, from a 26.3 percent rise for homes below $80,000, smaller but still notable gains for those between $80,000 and $500,000, and a 17.6 percent spike for those in the $500,000-and-up range.

HAR chairman Carlos Bujosa said the study should give Realtors in the area reason for cautious optimism, since it appears that the market may be continuing to move back toward where it was before the housing crash.

"Houston's residential real estate market has definitely gotten the new year off to a healthy start. Housing inventory appears to be balancing out, but the economy as a whole remains somewhat fragile, so I believe we need to see how home sales perform in the next month or two before being able to accurately predict what 2011 has in store for us," he said.

Year-over-year, the statistics were also strong, HAR said, as single-family home sales were 7.5 percent higher in January 2011 than in the same month of 2010. The mean average home price also rose over the course of 2010, according to HAR, up 2.2 percent to $196,879.

The increase in home purchase volumes seen in January 2011, the group notes, is the first that cannot be directly attributed to the effects of the federal government's tax breaks for homebuyers, instituted in the hopes of stimulating the troubled housing market. Those ended at the same time as the last monthly gain.

The median cost of a single-family home in Houston was $139,000, well below the national median of $169,300. This indicates that costs of living in the area are lower than average and that homebuyers in Houston may be able to get more bang for their buck than in other places, HAR said.

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