Spring housing market starts with a rush

Posted by Emily Ray-Porter Group on Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 9:39am.

Steve Brown-Dallas News

This year is shaping up to be the best for the local housing market since before the recession.

Home sales are up in all but a handful of Dallas-area residential districts. And in almost a dozen areas, home purchases are running more than a quarter higher than last year.

Home sales prices are also rising slowly in more than half the neighborhoods that The Dallas Morning News tracks each quarter.

“The broad-based increase in North Texas home sales suggests that buyers have become more confident about the economic environment,” said D’Ann Petersen, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

“Current conditions including a pickup in job growth, low interest rates and relatively affordable home prices are likely spurring purchases,” she said.

“The supply of inventory in the North Texas housing market continues to shrink,” Petersen said. “If the trend toward rising sales and falling inventory levels continues, we could see prices tick up in 2012.”

Through the first three months of 2012, the biggest increases in pre-owned home sales from a year ago have come in Colleyville (up 64 percent), northwest Dallas (59 percent), McKinney (39 percent) and East Dallas (36 percent).

Overall, pre-owned home sales in North Texas are about 16 percent ahead of where they were at this time in 2011, according to statistics from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems.

“It is great to see the increases spreading across most of the region,” said David Brown, who heads the Dallas office of housing analyst MetroStudy Inc. “It is looking more like this recovery is sustainable and not just a short uptick like in 2010.”

While there is a widespread gain in the number of home sales, prices in the Dallas area are rebounding much more slowly. Overall, prices are up about 5 percent this year.

But median single-family home sales prices were still falling in the first quarter in more than a dozen residential districts.

In affluent North Dallas neighborhoods where sales are 27 percent higher so far in 2012, prices are down 11 percent for first quarter 2011.

“The sellers are finally taking low prices, after they sat there with the property for two years,” said top Dallas-area residential agent Allie Beth Allman. “In the upper end, the prices are just not increasing.”

Allman said buyers in the market are taking advantage of both bargain home buys and near record low financing rates.

“They are making very good purchases,” she said.

With the jump in home sales, Ebby Halliday Realtors CEO Mary Frances Burleson is optimistic that prices will ultimately turn higher.

“The market is the best I’ve seen in five years,” Burleson said. “Right now we have a lack of inventory in some neighborhoods.

“Last Friday one of our offices listed a house for $320,000, and they had 12 showings in the first day and four offers,” she said. “I was stunned.”

The number of pre-owned homes on the market in North Texas this year is 23 percent below the number of listings in the first quarter of 2011. And the inventory of homes for sale is about 30 percent below 2010 levels.

“We start getting the supply down, and the demand is there,” said Robbie Briggs, CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Real Estate. “Demand in certain neighborhoods is exceeding supply.

“We are not a sellers market,” he said. “But the buyers can’t come in and beat the seller up.”

After some previous false starts to the housing recovery, sales agents are understandably wary of this year’s market — even with all the good news so far.

“The spring market was really good last year, too,” Allman said. “The key is, will this last through the summer?

“Last year it stopped.”


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