Top 10 Markets for First Time Homebuyers

North Texas is a hot area for first-time homebuyers, says Realtor.com in a new ranking released today. The data, pulled from Realtor.com searches and U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, ranks the Fort Worth-Arlington MSA fourth and the Dallas MSA eighth in their list of top 10 markets for first-time homebuyers. Pittsburgh, Pa.; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.; and Philadelphia, Pa.; were the top three markets for first-timers to buy.

“As we head into home buying season, these markets show favorable conditions for first-time buyers, which is encouraging because these buyers are crucial to the housing market,” said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, Inc. operator of Realtor.com. “First-time buyers have a widespread impact on the local housing markets. In transitioning from renters to owners, new buyers pay property taxes and other fees and taxes associated with homeownership that benefits local schools and services.” (more…)

Property For Rent

We wanted to get some boots-on-the-ground perspective from North Texas Realtors after Forbes named Fort Worth-Arlington and Dallas-Plano-Irving as the top two “best buy cities,” or areas in the U.S. where buying a home is a good investment. Forbes teamed up with Local Market Monitor to measure the “equilibrium home price,” which strips away several layers of market influence such as speculation and the cyclical boom-bust nature of housing.

Fort Worth-Arlington, Tex., and Dallas-Plano-Irving, Tex., top the list of our Best Buy Cities, at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Both cities offer homes that would be within reach for middle-class Americans, at $168,383 in Fort Worth-Arlington and $180,645 in greater Dallas. Prices in greater Fort Worth are considered 20% below their actual value, according to Local Market Monitor. Homes in the greater Dallas region are 12% down, so less off, but they are expected to rise more–29%–over the next three years.

For buyers who intend to rent out their homes, the populations in these cities are growing at a healthy clip: from 2009 to 2012, at 4.9% in Fort Worth and 6.1% in Dallas. At that rate, Dallas is tied for the fastest-growing city on the Best Buy Cities list. It’s ranked fifth in terms of job growth, at 3% as of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics stats.

 

While we do like our reports from Local Market Monitor, which give clear investment outlooks, our major sticking point with broad surveys such as this one is that real estate markets are hyper-local, meaning that West Plano could be having an outstanding year, with tons of price increases and new development, but on the other side of U.S. 75, growth may not be as great. The same holds true for neighborhoods such as Berkeley Place in Fort Worth, where some homes are reaching price peaks never seen before, while northern Fort Worth suburbs may be struggling to break even.

Still, Realtors remain optimistic, pointing to growth across all price points and through many different developments. Condos are up, single-family homes are up, new homes are up, and investment buyers are out of control.

“The fact that Dallas, Plano, and Irving are named as the No. 2 metro area to buy a home for investment in the U.S. is no surprise at all,” says Vivo Realty founder David Maez, who is based in Plano. “Our job market is, and always has been one of the best in the nation. That together with low cost of living, a high percentage of renters, and good schools, it’s an investor’s dream.”

Maez specializes in the northern suburbs of Dallas, where you’ll see tons of single family homes for sale and for rent, in his area, Realtors are noticing tons of activity on MLS for buyers and for renters. Maez is currently working with many investors, both local and out-of-state, all of which are looking to capitalize on the North Texas market.

“In the field we are seeing no more than 10 to 15 days on the market for a good lease, sometimes leasing on the same day. Supplement to that, home prices are also very affordable — you can find an amazing home here for $160K to $200K,” Maez added. “So whether you’re looking to purchase your first home or are a first-time investor looking to pick-up a rental, this is an amazing market to do so.”

 

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First-time homebuyers are finding it harder and harder to get into their dream home.

The National Association of Realtors said that first-time homebuyers make up only 28 percent of the national housing market in a Jan. 28 new story, the lowest number since the organization started measuring the demographic in 2008. According to the NAR, first-time homebuyers typically make up about 40 percent of the market, but several factors are keeping them from purchasing a home, including higher competition for lower priced properties, which are being swept up by investors at increasingly high rates.

Cash purchases accounted for 42.1 percent of all U.S. home sales in December, up from 38.1 percent in November, and up from 18 percent a year prior, according to RealtyTrac.

Tight credit is also preventing younger home buyers from qualifying for a mortgage to buy a home, as mortgage lenders require higher down payments. FHA loans, which many first-time home buyers turn to for the low downpayment requirements, have seen their market share decrease recently after an increase in premiums and fees this year made them less attractive to some.

However, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are lending more to first-time buyers, according to a report from Inside Mortgage Finance. The share of financing for first-time home buyers by the mortgage giants reached 19.5 percent in December, up from 14.1 percent a year prior.

Dallas agents have noticed this trend, too. Keller Williams Urban agent Britt Lopez says that in 2012 and 2013, first-time homebuyers made a huge impact on the market, coming off the fence to buy properties in the $300K to $400K range. In those two years, first-timers made up about 60 percent of her client base.

“I believe that the improvement in our basic economy here in Dallas has been the catalyst for the influx of ready, willing, and able buyers into the market,” Lopez added. “I also think that the interest rates and mortgage requirements play a huge part in the buying temperature. Potential buyers pay very close attention to the media regarding mortgage statistics and real estate prices. If a threat of rising rates and prices looks imminent then they will rush to buy now.”

On the other hand, some buyers have been squirrelling away, renting to save up for a down payment, waiting for the perfect time and perfect house to make the perfect investment. While planning is a great asset, sometimes buyers have missed out on deals by waiting too long.

“I believe that there are many buyers who have been ready for a while with their credit and down payment money, waiting for the most opportune time to buy. They watch and wait and pounce as soon as the right property comes available,” Lopez said. “The shortage of property has caused multiple offers to be much more common with many first-time buyers having to try for several homes before they get one.”

Kathy Murray has found that many first-time buyers have saved up for a considerable down payment — a must now that zero-down financing is more rare than a black rhino. Murray says she sees many first-time buyers with at least 20 percent down, but hasn’t closed on a first-time deal yet for 2014.

With new mortgage qualifications and increasing rates, it’s likely we’ll see fewer first-time buyers for the remainder of 2014. What do you think?

Swananoah Front

Homes priced at $1 million or more are moving like hotcakes in Texas, according to the 2014 Texas Luxury Home Sales Report from the Texas Association of Realtors. The figures, assembled using data from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, show that every Texas metro area posted double-digit growth in luxury price ranges.

Dallas posted a 22 percent increase in luxury home sales for the period between January and October 2013, the report shows, with Austin posting a whopping 55 percent increase (no wonder Trulia is calling our capital city way overvalued). Houston came in second with a 46 percent increase in luxury home sales, and San Antonio posted an 18 percent increase.

“Data from the Texas Luxury Home Sales Report shows that million-dollar homes are playing an increasingly important role in the Texas housing market,” said Dan Hatfield, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. ”The housing slump is behind us and as Texas’ economy and population continue to accelerate, we’re going to see increasing development and demand in larger, higher-priced homes with luxury amenities.”

So, what’s driving the increase? It’s mostly thanks to the influx of high-paying tech jobs in Austin, and in Houston it’s likely due to oil and gas wealth moving into the area. For Dallas, a brisk job market driven by a healthy financial sector, as well as oil and gas wealth, could be fueling the luxury real estate market. The increase in sales definitely shows appreciation, though, and it makes you wonder just how many of these $1 million-plus properties are second homes or even investments.

“It’s common for luxury homes to have a significantly longer sell time and higher housing inventory than the average home simply because the pool of interested homebuyers is so much smaller,” said Jim Gaines Ph. D., and economist with the Real Estate Center. “However, this data still indicates strong demand, particularly in Austin, where homes of $1 million or higher are close to 10 percent of all active listings and are selling in less than six months, and in Houston, where housing inventory is only 7.4 months.”

Here’s the Dallas-Fort Worth market breakdown from the report:

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 809 luxury homes were sold between January and October 2013. Luxury home sales made up 1.1 percent of the total housing market and experienced a 22 percent increase in sales compared to the same period in 2012. This is slightly higher than the 19 percent year-over-year increase of the Dallas-Fort Worth housing market as a whole. As of October 2013, there were 922 active luxury home listings, 4.1 percent of all active listings on the market. The housing inventory for a luxury home was 11.4 months, 8.4 additional months than that of the Dallas-Fort Worth housing market at large.

 

 

 

Home Equity Economy

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to see Case-Schiller reporting double-digit annual growth across all composites in their latest report. The 10- and 20-city composites showed gains of 10.3 and 10.9 percent through the year ending in March 2013.

For the Dallas area Home Price Level Index, the year-over-year growth according to Case-Schiller’s indicies was a very healthy 7.94 (117.02 in 3/12 and 124.96 in 3/13). So yes, we’re experiencing growth, but why is our total economic recovery so slow?

Mark Dotzour, chief economis at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, explains it this way:

We are witnessing a recovery in the housing market. Housing prices are increasing, and new residential construction is picking up. The increase in home prices has a positive effect on economic activity in two ways.

First, an increase in housing prices gives way to investment in new housing construction. Second, the “housing wealth effect” is magnified as an increase in residential prices causes some households to increase their expenditures on home improvement, consumption or both. But to do so, they must first get a loan from a financial institution. This is extremely difficult to achieve under current borrowing constraints and behavioral biases.

As discussed earlier, households have been deleveraging from high debt levels as they attempt to manage debt. Conditions are tight; banks are not willing to lend easily. Uncertainty about job retention and professional growth is another factor that lowers the probability households will increase their debt burden.

Dotzour goes on to add that homeowners with less-than-stellar credit are less likely to capitalize from the recovery of the housing market. It’s those homeowners who have pristine credit, high levels of equity, and very little debt who are able to make money from the process of selling their home.

So what amounts to a full economic recovery? Well, it’s bigger than the housing market, Dotzour says. Sure, a sharp decline in the housing market can tank the economy, but home prices and construction alone won’t revive it.

If household debt decreases and technological gains increase, then employment increases, and, therefore, household income rebounds, Dotzour adds. So while it’s good to be optimistic about the housing market, our economic recovery is still waiting in the wings.

 

Buy a bigger house

More and more homeowners are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and as the downward trajectory of the housing market turns upward, they are also seeing missed opportunities.

Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, says in a Wall Street Journal interview that national home prices are up 7.2 percent annually and that most homebuyers regret not buying a bigger home when the getting was good.

In Dallas, with our super hot housing market, you’ll be lucky to find a home at all. With a brisk market turning agents and sellers to hip pocket listings, I’m sure we’ll see more growth in the months to come.

Chicago's not so hot anymore. The huge mid-west MSA didn't even make the top 20 list of Forbes' fastest growing American cities! (Photo: John Gress/Reuters)

Chicago’s not so hot anymore. The huge mid-west MSA didn’t even make the top 20 list of Forbes’ fastest growing American cities! (Photo: John Gress/Reuters)

As Candy already mentioned, pre-owned inventory is scary low, which is driving prices up for Dallas properties. Sure, demand means a seller’s market, but what about all of the folks that are either being born or moving to Dallas? That’s putting our housing market in a tough spot! Several big corporations have moved to Dallas in recent years — Comerica Bank being one of the largest — which has made move-in ready pre-owned homes sell like hotcakes.

For the study, Forbes measured the top 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas using six metrics:

Using data from Moody’s Analytics, we assessed the estimated rate of population growth for 2012 and 2013, the rate of job growth in 2012, and the rate of gross metro product growth, or economic growth, for 2012. We also factored in federal unemployment data and median salaries for local college-educated workers, courtesy of Payscale.com. The result is a list of the 20 fastest growing metro areas in America in terms of population and economy.

I find it interesting that the three largest Texas cities — Austin, Dallas, and Houston — topped the national list based on these criteria, with San Antonio coming in ninth. Texas cities grew by 470,000 people in 2012!

Houston ranked second, behind Austin, followed by Dallas in third place and San Antonio in ninth. Robust labor markets, unemployment rates under 6% (well below the national average), no state income tax, a business-friendly regulatory environment, and strong population inflows all contributed to Texas towns’ high rankings.

Sure, we ranked high in 2012, but this is a year in which the Texas Legislature convenes, and we’re facing funding shortages across the board. Let’s see if we’re still considered “business-friendly” after the session in Austin.

Still, I wonder if this growth is sustainable for the Dallas housing market. Will we see an uptick in rentals? What will happen if the residential lending environment sours?

They may be talking Fiscal Cliff in D.C., but you can only say good things about our housing market unless, that is, you live in Chicago. Or New York. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Index shows home prices continued to rise in October, with prices up 4.3% annually within the 20-city composite index that S&P scrutinizes for us.

Why October? Because right now, in December, that is the latest month that has all the documentation in and complete from the recording offices across the nation.

S&P says it’s a “sustained recovery” in home prices, and S&P does not fool around. I heard Robert Shiller speak in 2009 and he was Debbie Downer when it came to housing then. S&P is not the only research firm calling for the bubbly. Lender Processing Services says that pre-owned housing prices are now up 4.3% year-over-year in October. In September the index was up 2.1%; it showed a 3.4% annual gain in October.

Poor Chicago and New York were the only cities with negative home price returns for October. September was a better story:

“The five MSA’s where home prices fell in October but not in September were Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis and Seattle”

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says housing is gaining strength. The strongest performances are in the southwest and California, like Phoenix where homes were selling for a quarter on the dollar just a few years ago.

Over the holidays, I met a delightful Phoenix transplant to our region who told me they had no problem selling their home to move here.

And again, we hear what I have preaching to you since Day One: real estate is a LOCAL story. You have to look at individual markets which show us how high we’ve come from the bottom pits of 2008/2009. And right now, even old, icky stuff is moving in Dallas,

See this treasure? It was vacant for more than 22 years in Oak Lawn Heights, Rob Elmore of the crack Garrey & Elmore team at Keller Williams got six offers in two days and closed in under thirty days… for 98% of list.

Dallas home prices were up 4.6% over October 2011, with a few gyrations there in September and October that I don’t really care about because I know how busy everyone is selling.

Blitzer almost seemed to say that our market is “normal”, like it was pre-steroidal market:

“San Francisco and Phoenix have also rebounded from recent lows by 22.5% and 22.1% with prices comfortably higher than 12 years ago,” said Blitzer. “The smallest recoveries are seen in Boston and New York, two cities in the northeast which suffered smaller losses in the housing bust than the Sunbelt or California.”