03 February 2010

Texas Real Estate Sees Modest Improvement

My San Antonio

Forget Texas' “bigger is better” mantra. In a tough economy, even modest increases in the real estate market are cause for celebration, according to a new Texas home sales report.

The statewide median home price increased 2.4 percent between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009, reaching $143,400.

The Texas Quarterly Housing Report from the Texas Association of Realtors also said the number of Texas apartments and homes for sale dropped, with the months of inventory falling statewide from 6.6 months to 6.5 months — considered the benchmark for a market balanced between buyers and sellers.

“The state was more or less flat, which was good. By and large the state of Texas did very well,” said James Gaines, research economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “Even when we were down, we were down much less than the rest of the country.”

In San Antonio, the median home price was $147,600 at the end of the year, down 1 percent.

Houston's median price was flat at $152,100; Dallas home prices were essentially unchanged at $155,400; Fort Worth prices dropped 3 percent to a median price of $113,300; and Austin's prices dropped 1 percent, to $185,600.

But sales volume increased 16 percent statewide, with more than 53,000 home sales in the last three months of the year.

There's no way to know for sure, but the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers likely spurred more sales, Gaines said.

The credit, available to those who haven't owned a home in the last three years, essentially gave home buyers $8,000 from the government.

“We don't have any way to really count it,” Gaines said. “My belief is that on the aggregate level it might have made a difference of as much as 10 percent. Most of those sales happened in October or November.”

The tax credit was an offer that was supposed to expire at the end of November 2009. But Congress extended it through June of this year and expanded it to include more people, which could help boost home sales in the first half of 2010.

The report uses data on single-family home sales from 47 multiple listing services in cities throughout Texas.

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