Dallas Home Prices Turning the Corner: Why is Our Real Estate Market So Darn Tootin’ Healthy?

You must have heard by now that we here in Dallas are not living in sync with the rest of the nation. I had to make a quick trip to Rockford, Ill. over the weekend and was that an eye-opener real estate wise: things just are not moving, values just stuck. So it did not shock me at all that Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index came out Tuesday and Dallas is one of seven cities where prices are improving. Like, inching upwards. That would be us, Charlotte, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix, the ONLY cities in the 20-city metro composite where the annual rates of return, or home prices, are getting better.

Detroit, I get. When you can buy a $500,000 home for $49,000, folks go shopping. Ditto Phoenix, though I think that market still needs vitamins and then still has a way to go. What can you do in Phoenix besides wear a lot of sunscreen and golf, which is a dying game? Miami? Easy, water. Lots of foreign buyers sweeping in to buy up deals, and the deals are there. I’d buy in Miami in a heartbeat. A high-end agent I met a few weeks ago, Eloy Carmenate, tells me Miami luxury properties are selling like hotcakes.

And now, Dallas-area home prices are up 1.5% in March from a year ago, up for the first time in more than 20 months. We are obviously doing something right.

Nationwide, home prices continued to fall — down 2.6 percent from March 2011, according to Case-Shiller. The last time the Dallas Case-Shiller index showed an increase was in June 2010, when prices were 1.2 percent higher than a year earlier and following the “First-Time Homebuyer’s Credit” deal that accelerated a lot of purchases. The price index then fell for 20 straight months. Kaput.

Dr. James Gaines with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University has good vibes about the market this year. Good — not great. We may start seeing some fairly significant percentage increases during the next couple of months or so, he says, in some coveted areas, but his projection for the year as a whole is conservative.

I’m impressed: local reports show that pre-owned home sales prices in North Texas are up 6 percent so far this year compared with the same period of 2011. Pre-owned home sales were up 14 percent in the first four months of this year.

I just don’t understand Atlanta, where home sales prices fell 17.7 percent in March, according to Case-Shiller. Or Las Vegas, where prices were down 7.5 percent. Chicago, and really most of northern Illinois are hurting down 7.1 percent in Chicago from a year earlier. And that’s Obama territory.

Keep in mind Case-Shiller tracks single-family homes, no condominium and townhouse sales, and no new construction sales are included in the index. Knowing what’s happening development-wise in Frisco and McKinney, I would call our Case-Shiller numbers conservative.

But why are we doing so well? I know that some parts of town are still sluggish, while others are experiencing multiple offers and a one-month supply of inventory. Park Cities and parts of Lakewood are now a seller’s market. Sunnyvale doing well, too. In fact, lack of housing stock seems to be our biggest concern right now. In fact, I am starting to write about homes not in MLS, on the market, that are selling without ever touching MLS. Example: 4001 Turtle Creek.

I dialed up David Brown at MetroStudy and hope to hear from him soon. Meantime, please tell me what you think. Why is the Dallas market doing better than so many others — and why is Houston not up here with us? And why is Atlanta tanking? Does it have anything to do with how the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area adds another person every four minutes and 10 seconds, making us the fastest-growing metropolitan area in America?

Dallas-Fort Worth swelled with 126,037 residents between July 1, 2010, and the same date last year, according to newly released population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau . So I guess everyone’s moving here, and working, and buying homes. Is there anything else we do right?

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