Home sales strong over­all, but high end drags

Clos­ings come in at their sec­ond-high­est level ever for the Hous­ton area

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Paul Taka­hashi

Area home sales rose to a near-record in May as buy­ers drove the me­dian price of sin­gle-fam­ily dwellings to the high­est level ever in the metropoli­tan area, the Hous­ton As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors re­ported Wed­nes­day.

Closed sales climbed 1 per­cent from a year ear­lier to 8,157, the sec­ond most homes sold in a sin­gle month in the Hous­ton area. The mar­ket seg­ment be­tween $500,000 and $750,000 was par­tic­u­larly strong as sales rose for the fourth con­sec­u­tive month, jump­ing more than 10 per­cent from May 2017 and help­ing to push the me­dian price to more than $305,000.

Sales of lux­ury homes, those priced above $750,000, con­tin­ued to dis­ap­point. Clos­ings were flat for the third con­sec­u­tive month, which real es­tate agents at­trib­uted to slug­gish hir­ing in the high-pay­ing en­ergy-sec­tor, which drives the lo­cal econ­omy.

While oil prices have risen — they hit $70 a bar­rel in May for the first

time since 2014 be­fore re­treat­ing re­cently — area en­ergy com­pa­nies have yet to start hir­ing in earnest, real es­tate an­a­lysts said. Amy Bern­stein, founder of Hous­ton firm Bern­stein Realty, said that dur­ing the oil boom that ended in 2014, her real es­tate firm han­dled five to seven cor­po­rate re­lo­ca­tions in the oil and gas sec­tor in a typ­i­cal week.

To­day, that num­ber is down to two or three per week, she said.

“The slow lux­ury mar­ket is con­cern­ing since all the eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors are so strong right now,” Bern­stein said. “We’re hope­ful that the hir­ing fol­lows the re­bound.”

Sev­eral other fac­tors could be con­tribut­ing to the slow­down in lux­ury home sales, in­clud­ing the re­cent fed­eral tax over­haul that capped lo­cal prop­erty tax re­duc­tions at $10,000 and po­ten­tially led buy­ers to seek lower-priced homes with lower taxes, real es­tate spe­cial­ists said. At the same time, Bern­stein said, empty nesters are down­siz­ing, sell­ing large sub­ur­ban homes to move into town­houses and con­do­mini­ums closer to the city.

Sin­gle-fam­ily home in­ven­tory is at a four-month sup­ply, down slightly from a year ago. U.S. hous­ing in­ven­tory also stands at a four-month a sup­ply.

The av­er­age Hous­ton home took 52 days to sell, ac­cord­ing to the Hous­ton As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors. That’s up from 51 days in May 2017.

A grow­ing hous­ing in­ven­tory and slower sales bodes well for buy­ers, but for the time be­ing, said Kenya Bur­rell-VanWormer, HAR chair­woman. “Hous­ton re­mains a seller’s mar­ket.” paul.taka­hashi@chron.com twit­ter.com/paultaka­hashi

“The slow lux­ury mar­ket is con­cern­ing since all the eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors are so strong right now.” Amy Bern­stein, Bern­stein Realty

Jim Par­sons

This house on Grov­e­land Lane in River Oaks is for sale for just un­der $13 mil­lion. While to­tal sales of sin­gle-fam­ily homes were strong, clos­ings for houses priced above $750,000 were flat for the third straight month.

Hous­ton Chron­i­cle file

Sin­gle-fam­ily home in­ven­tory is off slightly from last year.

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