Oc­to­ber saw 2,292 homes change hands in the Austin area, up 2.2%.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Shonda No­vak sno­vak@states­man.com

In a year that’s shap­ing up to be an­other record-breaker, Cen­tral Texas home sales in­creased more than 2 per­cent in Oc­to­ber and the me­dian sales price climbed more than 4 per­cent, the lat­est fig­ures show.

Year to date, sales across the re­gion are up 1.7 per­cent, putting the re­gion on track for an an­tic­i­pated sev­enth straight year of record sales, the Austin Board of Real­tors said Tues­day.

“The Austin-Round Rock hous­ing mar­ket con­tin­ues to slightly out­per­form last year’s home sales ac­tiv­ity, keep­ing 2017 on pace for an­other record year for home sales,” Brandy Guthrie, the board’s pres­i­dent, said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Oc­to­ber saw 2,292 homes change hands in the Austin area, up 2.2 per­cent from the same month last year, the board said. Half the houses sold for more than $286,742 and half for less, for a 4.3 per­cent in­crease in the me­dian price, the board said.

In Austin’s city lim­its, the me­dian home-sale price in­creased 9.1 per­cent, to $360,000. How­ever, vol­ume was down 1.7 per­cent, with 699 home sales recorded.

“Low hous­ing in­ven­tory lev­els, along with con­strained hous­ing de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity through­out the city of Austin, are pre­vent­ing home sales growth at the city level,” Guthrie noted.

At the county level, home sales in­creased 1.4 per­cent in Travis County, 5.4 per­cent in Wil­liamson County and 6.2 per­cent in Hays County, ac­cord­ing to the board.

Hous­ing in­ven­tory lev­els con­tin­ued to edge up­ward in Oc­to­ber across the five-county re­gion stretch­ing from Ge­orge­town to San Mar­cos. How­ever, the mar­ket re­mains tipped in sell­ers’ fa­vor, with sup­ply still be­low what’s considered to be a bal­anced mar­ket.

Gains in hous­ing in­ven­tory this year have been driven in part by strong hous­ing de­vel­op­ment through­out much of the re­gion. Met­ros­tudy, which tracks new home con­struc­tion, said home starts dur­ing the 12 months that ended in Septem­ber are at a 10-year high, with a ma­jor­ity of that con­struc­tion con­cen­trated in lo­cal mar­kets sur­round­ing Austin such as Pflugerville and the west side of Cedar Park and Le­an­der.

“De­vel­op­ers and builders are be­gin­ning to ex­per­i­ment with lower-cost, higher-den­sity prod­ucts be­tween $200,000 and $300,000 in subur­ban mar­kets, where prod­ucts like town­homes and smaller sin­gle-fam­ily homes can be built more eas­ily,” said Vaike O’Grady, Austin re­gional di­rec­tor for Met­ros­tudy.

John Ko­vas, a real es­tate bro­ker with Ko­vas and As­so­ciates Real­tors in Austin, said his­tor­i­cally low mort­gage rates and more moder­ately priced hous­ing in ar­eas out­side of Austin’s

city lim­its prompted many ten­ants to not re­new leases this sum­mer and make the leap to home own­er­ship.

That has left “a sig­nif­i­cant hole in the rental mar­ket, es­pe­cially in Cen­tral and North­west Austin, where in­ven­tory for sin­gle fam­ily homes and du­plexes is up — just drive around and see the in­crease in signs,” Ko­vas said.

On the pric­ing front, the sweet spot in the Austin area mar­ket con­tin­ues to be homes priced be­tween $350,000 to $500,000, in gen­eral, “al­though sweet spots are a lit­tle mis­lead­ing in our city since pric­ing varies so much be­tween neigh­bor­hoods,” said David Pruitt Sr., bro­ker and vice pres­i­dent of sales for Cold­well Banker United Real­tors in Austin.

In the higher price ranges, “I do have con­cerns with the $1 mil­lion-plus in­ven­tory that is on the mar­ket now,” Pruitt said re­cently. “We are sit­ting at the high­est level in two years of homes in the Mul­ti­ple List­ing Ser­vice priced be­tween $1 mil­lion and $4 mil­lion. Even if no new homes hit the mar­ket, we are at an 11.5-month sup­ply of in­ven­tory. In­ven­tory of around six months is typ­i­cally thought of as a healthy mar­ket not fa­vor­ing ei­ther buy­ers or sell­ers.”

But over­all, “our real es­tate mar­ket should con­tinue to re­main healthy given that the Univer­sity of Texas and state gov­ern­ment are not mov­ing any­time soon and that as a re­gion, we con­tinue to at­tract new em­ploy­ers to the area,” Pruitt said.

“A more bal­anced real es­tate mar­ket is wel­comed for many, in­stead of the fre­netic pace that some of us ex­pe­ri­enced over the past few years.”

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