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Central Texas Home Sales Stay on Record Place

By: Lori Hawkins and Shonda Novak
Austin American-Statesman

It’s shaping up to be another record-breaking year for Central Texas home sales, as a crush of buyers continues to compete for a limited supply of properties.

For the first six months of this year, Central Texas home sales were up 3 percent over the same period in 2013. That keeps 2014 on track to surpass last year’s record home sales total, the Austin Board of Realtors said Monday.

The board reported 13,426 single-family home sales in the Austin area from January through June. The median price of those sales was $239,000, a 7 percent increase over the same period last year.

The mid-year tally was boosted by a surge in sales in June, which came in just shy of 3,000, a 13 percent increase from June 2o13’s volume and setting a record for June sales. The median sales price was $252,520, a 7 percent increase from June 2013, the board said. Nationally, June home sales were up 5 percent over June 2013, according to Real Trends.

Amid Central Texas’ ongoing job and popultion growth, 2014 “could very well turn out to be another ‘best year ever’ for Austin-area home sales,” said Bill Evans, president of the Austin Board of Realtors. “Both homebuyers and sellers can expect the rest of the summer selling season to be highly competitive.”

Single-family new Austin homes spent an average of 39 days on the market in June, four days fewer than the prior June and the fastest rate since 2001, the board said.

Carol Dochen, a local real estate broker, said this is the strongest market she has experienced in her 32 years selling houses in the Austin area.

“It’s a crazy, crazy market,” said Dochen, president of Carol Dochen Realtors.

House hunters, especially in Central Austin, continue to find themselves in bidding wars and competing against all-cash offers, said Susie Dudley, an agent with Amelia Bullock Realtor in Austin.

“We have so many people coming in and we have so few properties, people just become frantic,” Dudley said. “I’ve been in this market for 26 years and I think a lot of people are making decisions much too quickly. They get caught up in the frenzy and don’t have the time to think about it.”

Dudley said buyers are coming from California, Chicago and the East Coast, as well as older people who are retiring and coming back to Central Texas.

Media consultant Ashley West has experienced both sides of Austin’s hot housing market. Earlier this summer, she prepared to sell her Hyde Park home and received three offers before it was officially listed. After a bidding war, she accepted an all-cash offer for above the asking price.

But finding a new home has been far more challenging. West has spent the past year following listings, checking out anything in her price range and losing out to other bidders, including an all-cash offer.

“Selling was easy and simple. It’s buying that’s the super, super painful part,” said West, who eventually found a home in Tarrytown. “I have a lot of friends in the same situation. They watch the market every day. If you really like something, chances are there are 10 other people who also really like it. If you are not on it, you are out”

Some real estate agents note that the market is slowing slightly from its sizzling pace earlier this year.

Experts attribute the easing to an increasing supply of houses for sale, even though demand is still outpacing supply. June’s inventory wasjust under a 3-month suppy, the highest level since August 2013 but less than the six months that represents a balanced market. Listings for June rose 6 percent from the prior June, with 6,246 pre-owned homes for sale.

“For the first half of 2014, the shortage in Austin-area housing supply prevented the market from being able to grow,” said Madison Inselmann, regional director of the Austin market for Metrostudy, a housing research and consulting firm. But he said “developers are making great strides” in bringing new homes and lots to market to catch up with the area’s strong housing demand, and are set to surpass last year’s numbers.

Evans said that rising housing prices in the region do not appear to be curbing demand. And if the supply of housing continues to increase, “we could see corresponding increases in home sales activity,” Evans said.

Janet Martin-Clark and her husband William Clark are planning to move back to Texas from Honolulu, where she said “real estate is so expensive it doesn’t make sense to stay.”

Martin-Clark, a University of Texas graduate who recently sold a tech company she owned, said that while prices have gotten “a lot more expensive in Austin, it’s way cheaper than Hawaii.”

In Hawaii, they rent a two-bedroom apartment for $2,300 a month — and that doesn’t include electricity of up to $450 a month and other bills, Martin-Clark said.

“I lived in New York City before Hawaii, and compared to that (Austin’s) a steal,” she said.

 

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