Home Sales Increase-Inventory Decreases-Seller’s Market

Two months after Hurricane Harvey, buyers are returning to the housing market in impressive numbers. Some are moving on from neighborhoods that flooded to buy in ones that didn’t. Others are buying storm-ravaged homes to fix up and flip. And then there are those relocating here for jobs, needing more space for a growing family or voicing any number of reasons people typically buy homes.”I’m even busier after Harvey,” real estate agent Matthew Guzman said. “We have clients that are rebuilding, clients that are purchasing and selling homes as is.”Buyers in October closed on 6,381 single-family homes, a 7.5 percent jump over the same time last year, the Houston Association of Realtors said Wednesday in a monthly report.The median price of a home sold last month was $226,491, up 3.9 percent from last year and a high for any October in Houston.Demand, combined with flood-damaged homes that have been pulled off the market, constrained inventory that had been loosening in recent months.Down from a 4.3-month pre-Harvey peak, inventory fell to 3.9 months at the end of October. Months inventory estimates the time it would take to sell all the homes listed for sale based on the previous year of sales activity. The figure continues to classify Houston as a seller’s market. Yet in a place as large as Houston, the market can fluctuate wildly by neighborhood.97,000 homes affectedHarvey dealt a serious blow to Houston’s single-family housing market with 97,000 homes affected by the storm, Bill Gilmer, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston, said earlier this week in a semi-annual economic symposium.Of those homes, 36,000 had major damage and 3,000 were destroyed, Gilmer said, citing figures from the state.Before Harvey, housing inventory had begun to loosen in parts of town, helping to moderate recent prices increases that had led to affordability concerns, he said.It’s too early to tell how the flood will ultimately impact neighborhoods and the overall housing market, he added.Plans to shore up Houston’s infrastructure will offer some answers when they are clear.Other unknowns relate to home construction. Builders are concerned about the availability of labor, the cost of materials and potential new flood control and drainage requirements that may be imposed on them.In October, all segments of the housing market experienced sales gains except for homes priced below $150,000. Homes priced from $750,000 and up saw the greatest increase in sales volume.On a year-to-date basis, home sales remain 2.8 percent ahead of the 2016 volume, according to the association’s Multiple Listing Service, which tracks residential property and new home sales listed by Realtors primarily throughout Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. Stress from floodingEven though the housing market has rallied over the past couple of months, Houstonians whose homes flooded are facing further stress.”We’re going to see foreclosures hit people that financially were in a tight spot already,” said Guzman, a Re/Max agent in New Caney, referring to flood victims who didn’t have flood insurance.Others are struggling to navigate the process of receiving insurance proceeds when they still owe money to a lender.Many Houstonians affected by Harvey are still deciding their next moves.The rental market continued to rise in October, bolstered by flood victims seeking temporary housing.Single-family home leases jumped 13.6 percent while townhome/condominium leases spiked 34.8 percent. The average rent for single-family homes was up 2.8 percent to $1,776 while the average rent for townhomes/condominiums increased 2.9 percent to $1,533.Lewis and her sales partner Jackie Zehl are confident the Meyerland and southwest Houston areas will be revitalized as “hopefully” infrastructure improvements are made.They’ve sold and closed several flooded homes there since Harvey.”It’s a myriad of buyers,” Zehl said. “It’s either individuals tearing them down and building anew, remodelers or investors that may fix them up and sell them.”icle text here.

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