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Austin-area Home Sales up 26% in February

April 2013

Central Texas’ surging housing market posted another strong month in February, with home sales up 26 percent over the same month last year and the median home price rising 7 percent, the Austin Board of Realtors said Wednesday.

The board said 1,626 homes were sold in February, outpacing the 1,286 sales recorded in February 2012. The area’s median home price was $208,500 compared with $195,000 a year ago February. It was the 21st consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases for the area.

The region’s job and population growth, low mortgage rates and rising apartment rents are continuing to propel housing demand, even as inventory is at record lows, experts and real estate agents say.

“Strong demand for Austin homes continues, but the number of (new) listings on the market remains consistent. This has led to steady increases in price while keeping housing inventory at record lows,” said Cathy Coneway, chair of the Austin Board of Realtors.

“All our listings are disappearing before they even have a chance to hit the market,” said Christina Gulla, an agent with JB Goodwin Realtors. “Due largely to an increase in job opportunities in Austin, people are moving here at a quick rate; the housing inventory is just striving to keep up with the increasing demand.”

Listings were down 25 percent from February 2012, and pending sales were up 15 percent. On average, homes spent 71 days on the market last month, 15 fewer than the prior February.

Overall, the market is down to a 2.6-month supply of homes for sale, 1.6 months less than in February 2012. The inventory level is at its lowest point in the past 12 years, said Gay Puckett, a real estate broker with JB Goodwin. The market has 3,500 fewer homes on the market than in 2011, she said.

“There’s a huge supply and demand imbalance,” Puckett said. “It’s not healthy when you have a two months supply.”

The housing squeeze is prompting many agents to get creative about finding homes for their buyers.

“When you have a supply and demand problem, you need to think outside the box,” Puckett said. One example: Puckett recently provided a family she’s helping to find a home with the names and mailing addresses of homeowners in the desirable Regents Hills neighborhood in Southwest Austin.

“They are handwriting notes to the owners of the houses they’d like to live in, to see if they’re interested in selling,” Puckett said.

Another sign of the hot market: more “Coming Soon” signs in front lawns, before a house officially hits the market.

It’s a way to get the most possible offers, in a shorter amount of time, “so you can pick the most qualified buyer and terms most favorable to the seller,” Puckett said.

Many buyers who manage to get a house under contract are paying at or above the asking price, Gulla said.

“It’s a good time to be a seller, but it’s a competitive market for buyers,” Gulla said.

Gulla and other agents say properly priced homes in many Central Austin neighborhoods often are getting multiple offers and selling quickly at or above the asking price. Agents are networking among themselves “to find out what listings they might have or know of which are not yet officially listed but are coming soon,” Gulla said.

Janet Dean, another local agent, said she’s seeing buyers snag a property by letting the sellers lease the house back until they find their next home.

“The sellers frequently don’t have the next home under contract. So while price is important, the most attractive offer is often the one with options for the move date,” Dean said.

Sales are robust not only in Central Austin, Dean said, but “also extending to the north and northeast areas of Austin and into Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto where a buyer can still find a nice home for under $200,000.”

However, Dean said she’s also seeing overpriced homes “simply sit for months.”

“It may be a seller’s market somewhat,” Dean said, “but the market will always have the last word on a home’s value.”

 

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