Texas Housing Market Recovering

Texas Housing Market Recovering
AUSTIN, TX - The latest Texas Quarterly Housing Report, released today, shows statewide increases in both sales volume and price. Texas sales volume for existing single-family homes was 42,682 for the first quarter of this year, up four percent from the first quarter of last year. The median home price in Texas jumped from $137,200 in first quarter 2009 to $141,500 in 2010, a 3.13 percent increase.

The Texas Quarterly Housing Report is issued four times a year by the Texas Association of Realtors with multiple listing service (MLS) data compiled and analyzed by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. "First quarter 2010 figures were up compared to 2009, despite sales being down in January and February," said Jim Gaines, Ph.D., an economist with the center. Gaines noted that the positive year-over-year gain was due solely to significant March sales being strong enough to bring up the whole quarter. "With March's increased figures we are cautiously optimistic that we'll continue to see positive results in the second quarter," he said.

According to Gaines, several local MLSs reported a larger percentage of sales coming from foreclosed properties. But he added that Texas has maintained a near-balanced market of 6.8 months of inventory, statistically unchanged from 2009. In addition, the market is showing strength by maintaining property values, indicating the market is absorbing the foreclosed properties and not experiencing an excess of supply.

"We are seeing gradual improvement in the Texas housing market and managing our foreclosure rates well compared to national rates," Gaines said. "Other states, such as California and Florida, are seeing significant foreclosure increases due to high unemployment rates in combination with exotic mortgage-financing options such as option ARMs. Texas is not experiencing the same levels of pressure in these areas."

Bill Jones, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors, sees a correlation. "For more than a decade, our state's home-equity lending laws have provided Texas homeowners with some of the strongest consumer protections in the nation," Jones said. "And that's one reason we've been able to avoid drastic foreclosure increases compared to other states."

The Texas Association of Realtors played a pivotal role in getting these consumer protections passed in 1997 when the Texas Legislature was considering home-equity-lending legislation. Texas Realtors lobbied for and won several consumer lending protections for homeowners. The most important of these protections is that homeowners can only borrow a maximum of 80 percent of their appraised home value.

Chairman Jones continued, "Many of the states facing the highest foreclosure rates and largest drops in real estate values are the same states that allow homeowners to borrow 100 percent or more of their home value. Over time, Texas has maintained relatively low mortgage foreclosure and default rates as a result of these consumer lending protections."

While the March uptick is positive, the next two quarters will determine the real strength of the market for 2010, Gaines said. He thinks the second quarter should continue to show positive improvement due to increased demand and government incentives, notably the federal homebuyer tax credit, which expired April 30. The third quarter, typically the best quarter in the year, "will show us how well the market can sustain itself."

Concluded Jones: "In Texas, we've been more fortunate than other areas of the country. Sound public policies have contributed to our quality of life and relative low cost of living. And, as the latest numbers show, we've enjoyed improvement over the past year in our housing market, which is a key driver of the Texas economy. In the past, the summer has been a busy time in the real estate market. This year, we expect that will be the case once again as we see continued market growth throughout 2010."

To view the Texas Quarterly Housing Report for 2010-Q1 in its entirety, visit www.TexasRealEstate.com.

Data for the Texas Quarterly Housing Report is analyzed by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University using statistics compiled from 47 multiple listing services in markets throughout Texas. The report includes data for single-family home sales over the course of one quarter and is scheduled for release by the Texas Association of Realtors on the following dates each year (or the next business day): Feb. 1, May 1, Aug. 1 and Nov. 1.
Source: Texas Association of REALTORS

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