Austin-area home sales still robust

From today’s Austin Statesman, more good news for Austin sellers who have been waiting the past several years for the market to rebound.

By Kate Miller Morton
Thursday, August 18, 2005

Central Texas homes are selling in record numbers so far this year, and the buying boom shows no sign of waning.

Sales of existing houses have surged 18 percent in the first seven months of this year compared with the same months in 2004, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Half of the 14,022 single-family houses sold from January through July were priced at $161,220 or above, a 3 percent increase from the same period in 2004. Monthly sales jumped 17 percent in July, compared with a year earlier, with 2,560 houses sold.

Market researcher Charles Heimsath said all indicators point to a robust market. “Sales are up 17 percent, and the median price is up 5 percent, and the number of days on market is down 7 percent,” said Heimsath, president of Capitol Market Research. “Those are all positive indicators of a strengthening market. I think we’re on track for a record year again this year.”

Pending sales in July were up 4 percent from a year earlier, suggesting August is likely to be another busy month. “There are still a lot of people moving into town, interest rates are still nice and low, and there is a certain amount of activity that happens in the summer when people’s kids are out of school,” said Sharon Stanberry Rosshirt, president of Stanberry & Associates Realtors.

Although interest rates rose throughout July, which may have spurred some buyers, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remains below 6 percent, according to Freddie Mac. Fewer houses are being put on the market, which is helping to push up prices. The number of new single-family additions to the Austin Board of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service in July dropped 14 percent from a year earlier, while the total number of houses listed was down 12 percent from July 2004.

Although sales are up and listings are down, the market hasn’t yet shifted decisively in favor of sellers.

“There is still ample inventory,” said Helen Edwards, president and chief operating officer for the Austin region of Coldwell Banker United Realtors.
Sellers must also contend with competition from home builders who are starting houses in record numbers this year. Builders started 13,611 houses in the 12 months that ended in June, an all-time high according to market research firm Metrostudy.

July 2005 % change*
Sales 2,560, change + 17%
Median price $169,740, change +5%
Active listings 8,871, change -12%
Pending sales 2,468, change +4%
*compared with July 2004