Buyers See Bargins in Park Cities

Posted by Emily Ray-Porter Group on Friday, May 21st, 2010 at 9:55am.

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Paul Pinsukanjana thinks he timed his Park Cities home purchase pretty well.

He just sold his Katy Trail townhouse in Dallas to a buyer who used the federal housing tax credit.

And with home costs in the Park Cities area at the lowest level in five years, he thinks he made a good buy.

"The prices have come down some – that was a reason," said Pinsukanjana, who has a house on Mockingbird Lane under contract. "And I could see that it was a good time to sell our old place."

Also important, the effects of the economic crash seem to be fading.

"I think the economy is picking up," said Pinsukanjana, who works at a Richardson high-tech firm. "My company is actually hiring people, and our customers are hiring people, too."

A year ago, at the depths of the recession, sales of homes in the Park Cities area were at a low. But with bargain prices, low mortgage rates and improved consumer confidence, Park Cities home sales have almost doubled in 2010.

"Our April business was up staggeringly – better than anything in 2008 and 2009," said Sheila Rice of Virginia Cook Realtors, which sells homes in the Park Cities and throughout North Texas.

Rice likens the current home market to conditions almost two decades ago when the housing market got whacked by a regional recession.

"I remember what it was like in the late 1980s when I saw houses listed for a million and a half go for $750,000," she said. "It was a great buying opportunity."

Park Cities buyers recognize that today's home deals – while maybe not on par with the mark-downs of the 1980s – aren't likely to be seen again for a while.

Median home prices in the Park Cities area have fallen from almost $950,000 in first quarter 2007 to $775,000 in the first three months of 2010, statistics from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc. show.

"There are a lot of good buys," said David Griffin, founder of Dallas residential sales firm David Griffin & Co. Realtors. "Sales were abnormally low last year, so there has been pent-up demand."

Adding to the demand is the long-recognized appeal of the Park Cities area. "It is for many still the most coveted neighborhood in the city," Griffin said.

University Park residents Betsy and Rob Borrego just bought a house on Beverly Drive in Highland Park. Now they're selling the home on Purdue Street that they've lived in for 10 years.

"Most people tell you the smart thing to do is sell your home before you buy," Betsy said. "But I think our timing is good, and we decided to go ahead.

"I see a lot of pending sales signs all around," she said. "We've only had it listed two weeks, and we are working on an offer now."

The Borregos' agent, Carol McBride of Allie Beth Allman & Associates, said she sees a lot of savvy home shoppers these days.

"The buyers have usually looked around and are very knowledgeable of the market," McBride said. "People are interested in the low interest rates and see they are getting a good value now."

And there's plenty to pick from.

There are more than 600 pre-owned single-family homes listed for sale in the Park Cities. That's down more than 15 percent from a year ago but still represents more than a year's supply.

But the time it takes to sell a home in the Highland Park and University Park neighborhoods is still high at more than 120 days at the end of the first quarter. That's double the average time on the market to make a sale in 2006.

Longtime Dallas luxury home sales agent Ellen Terry of Ellen Terry Realtors says she hopes the worst is over for the area's high-end home market.

"I've seen four recessions during my 34 years in the business, and this has certainly been the most challenging," Terry said. "Markets are cyclical, and every six to seven years, there are adjustments in the market, locally and nationally.

"Hopefully we have turned the corner of the downward cycle."



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