Texas housing market shows improvement

Housing figures in Texas are improving.A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (http://www NULL.dallasfed NULL.org/research/indicators/2011/tei1103 NULL.pdf) says that the Texas real estate market showed notable improvements in January, as home sales increased.

The report says that statewide, existing-home sales rose for the second straight month in January, rising 3 percent compared to December.

Home construction numbers also showed positive movement. According to the report, housing permits jumped 4.3 percent from December to January – the fourth straight month in which permits have increased. Also, housing starts rebounded by jumping 7.7 percent during the month after a 7 percent drop-off in December.

At the same time, home prices, according to data from Federal Housing Finance Agency, fell to close out 2010, sliding 1.6 percent during the fourth quarter of 2010, creating more affordable conditions for those looking at Houston properties.

Prices for Houston homes, however, have moved in the opposite direction. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, the average home price in the local market gained 2.2 percent in January, reaching its highest level ever for that month.

Pending home sales fell in January

Pending home sales have fallen.The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index dropped 2.8 percent in January, falling from a mark of 91.5 in December to 88.9 last month.

Despite the drop, pending housing sales are doing much better than they were last June (http://www NULL.marketwire NULL.com/press-release/Pending-Home-Sales-Decline-in-January-1402874 NULL.htm), when the rate was 20.6 percent lower. The pace of sales for the month of January was 5.36 million. This is slightly higher than the expected number.

"The housing market is healing with sales fluctuating at times, depending on the flow of distressed properties coming on the market," said Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

More good news for Houston real estate is that the index indicated that the South rose 1.4 percent to 97.7. The number is currently 0.4 percent below last January, but is well above the national average.

The Houston real estate market has been higher in many areas than the rest of the country, but it is still not out of the woods. Demand for Houston homes is still where it was a few years ago.

Americans are confident housing market will stay steady

Recent survey shows many Americans believe the housing market is steadyingA recent poll discovered that 78 percent of Americans think the current housing market will continue to be stable, or even improve, over the next calendar year. About 61 percent of those polled still think the recession will make the economy worrisome over the next year.

The poll, completed by Fannie Mae (http://www NULL.fanniemae NULL.com/newsreleases/2011/5314 NULL.jhtml;jsessionid=DVK520UE3AYTHJ2FECISFGA), was conducted from October to December of last year. The persons polled were both homeowners and renters, questioning their confidence of the current housing market and economy.

"More Americans believe that housing prices will remain stable over the next year. We also are seeing encouraging signs in the positive attitudes toward homeownership among younger Americans, despite the severe impact of the housing crisis on Generation Y," said Doug Duncan, the vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae.

Duncan added that most of those polled do not have enough confidence in the economy and are increasingly concerned if they plan to buy a home in the future.

The Houston real estate is faring much better than the rest of the country. Local home prices have risen for the past several months, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, while the national market has struggled.

Texas foreclosure sale rates below the 2010 national average

Foreclosure sales are less common in Texas than in other states.The Texas real estate climate continues to be better than the national market, as the sales of Houston foreclosures continue to be lower than average.

According to RealtyTrac (http://www NULL.realtytrac NULL.com/content/press-releases/2010-year-end-and-q4-foreclosure-sales-report-6402), foreclosure sales are 25.96 percent of all home sales nationwide. The average for the state of Texas is 12.88 percent. This is reassuring for prospective Houston-area residents, as it may show the housing market improving in the area.

Despite this, the national average is still struggling. James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac said that while foreclosures are still prevalent, they continue to sell for less than the average price. With less consumer demand, market will be sluggish.

Saccacio added, "The catch-22 for 2011 is that while accelerating foreclosure sales will help clear the oversupply of distressed properties and return balance to the market in the long run, in the short term a high percentage of foreclosure sales will continue to weigh down home prices."

Texas’ numbers are far lower than some other states. For example, foreclosures made up 57 percent of sales in Nevada.Foreclosure sales in Houston are actually more common that the rest of the state. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, they made up more than 20 percent of local home sales in January.

Changing neighborhoods illustrate shifts in Houston property market

Changing demographics show Houston's diversity.Large-scale shifts in the demographic information reported in the last census are an indicator of the almost dizzying rate at which the societal and ethnic makeup of Houston is changing, according to a report in the Chronicle.

Some changes brought negative consequences, the paper said. Census tract 5501 saw the sharpest decrease in the number of white residents – 70 percent since the last measurement – and the Chronicle describes large numbers of vacant storefronts and housing subdivisions getting more run-down.

By contrast, tract 4553's 80-fold increase in the number of Hispanic residents – the largest in the area – has brought a seeming boom to the area, the paper says, pointing out the area's rapid development and numerous new housing developments. As well, tract 6731 – which saw the biggest influx of Asian residents – now includes many luxury apartments and an upscale shopping center, La Centerra.

One thing Houston's suburbs have in common is the pace at which growth and decline occur, experts say, as rapid population shifts cause property values to fluctuate wildly.

Report: National home prices drop, but changes in patterns are seen

Report says prices dropping nationally.Purchase prices for U.S. homes dropped by 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to research released this week by S&P/Case-Shiller, but some large urban markets began to exhibit different trends.

The chairman of the company's index committee, David Blitzer, said in a statement that the trajectories of some major housing sectors have begun to diverge.

"Unlike the 2006 to 2009 period when all cities saw prices move together, we see some differing stories around the country. California is doing better with gains from their low points in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. At the other end is the Sun Belt – Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa. All four made new lows in December," he said.

Although Houston real estate was not specifically studied in the report, experts say the general trend for the area is good. Other recent studies – while not revealing any skyrocketing property values – showed generally positive movement and definite signs of an ongoing recovery from the housing crash.

Harris County population growth could mean higher values for Houston real estate

Population growth could push property valuesBetween 2000 and 2010, Harris County, Texas, has seen a 20 percent population increase, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, meaning that more housing is needed to shelter the extra residents. The county had 3,400,578 residents in 2000 and 4,092,459 in 2010, the government's figures said.

A former Census Bureau director and current demographer at Rice University, Steve Murdock, told the Fort-Worth Star Telegram that Texas has been a huge part of the growth of the U.S. population over the past decade.

"It has been a phenomenal run for Texas. Texas grew by nearly 4.3 million out of 17 million in the country; that's almost a quarter of the total growth of the nation," he said in an interview.

The Hispanic population increased at a greater rate than any other ethnic group, up nearly 50 percent in the Houston area.

Experts say the rapidly growing population will provide opportunities as well as challenges to the city's real estate market, pushing housing demand higher and causing a possible rise in average Houston home prices. 

Further evidence of sunnier days ahead for Houston real estate with green building announcement

Green buildings coming to Houston marketA firm of green home builders will showcase eight new models of eco-friendly housing in a large-scale open house event on March 5 and 6, GreenEco Builders announced today.

The company's sales manager, Wayne Green, said the company was focused on building its homes the right way.

"GreenEco's success is a result of our commitment to providing the highest quality of construction, and features for the best value, rather than the lowest price," he said.

The company also announced that, in addition to the environmentally friendly features present on all of its homes, prospective homebuyers were being offered assistance with down payments and closing costs, credit repair help, and mortgage tax credit certificates.

Experts say the news of these new green developments comes on the heels of the news that Houston home prices had increased for the first time in seven months as of January. This could mean that the time to get into the market could be right now, if the upward pricing trends continue.

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.

Home prices in America changing, but general trend is good

Fewer of these signs being seen in U.S.Several years after the onset of the economic downturn prompted by a housing crash, that market sector may be in the process of recovering value, according to a study from analysis firm CoreLogic.

That company's state-by-state data show that Idaho homes are losing value more quickly than the rest of the nation, down more than 10 percent in 2010 even without taking distressed home sales into account. On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii posted a 6.15 percent gain in value according to the same metric, though North Dakota takes the top spot if distressed sales are included.

For Houston homes, the news from CoreLogic is generally good, as single-family home prices saw a minor upward shift of 1.8 percent including distressed sales, or 0.51 percent if they were excluded.

The company said that the national trend, despite the wide variation, evened out almost completely, though this does mark a halt to the sliding values that have been seen in recent years. Keeping track of variations by area could let astute homeowners get a better deal than they may have otherwise.

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