I love the way the Fort Worth Star Telegram started this story:

 “New-home sales in Dallas-Fort Worth continue to decline, according to the latest quarterly market report from Metrostudy, released Wednesday.”

Actually, I don’t love it. I think it stinks. Of course NEW home sales declined. Of course builders closed sales on only 3,505 new homes from April to June 2011, more than a quarter (26 percent) less than they closed second quarter of 2010. Remember this thing called the First-Time Homebuyer’s Credit?

Steve Brown didn’t do much better:

D-FW new-home market still losing ground from a year ago

Why do most reporters bury the good stuff, like the fact that home sales — I’m talking re-sales of existing homes — are up nearly 9 percent from the first quarter of 2011? And pending sales, said Metrostudy, were up 35% in May from a year ago.

I know why: because new home starts affect our economy more than re-sales.

Now if you want to compare everything to those days when the real estate world was on steroids, new home sales peaked about the third quarter of 2007.  A whopping 10,037 homes were sold. So anything done now in this recession is going to look extremely wimpy. And truth be told, DFW home starts are down a good 70% from that high. We are at a 15 year low in new home inventory, which is frankly amazing and I marvel at any home builder who is still standing. You can thank tighter lending practices and all the foreclosures the market is trying to absorb, but you can REALLY thank the recklessness of Wall Street. Builders cannot start homes without financing, and with higher down payment requirements, fewer builders can get into the game. Way fewer. 

But! The good news is that compared to first quarter 2011, home starts in the second quarter are up 18 percent, so says the folks at Metrostudy.

In fact, David Brown, director of the Dallas-Fort Worth office says it looks like first quarter 2011 may be the low point in home-building activity, you know, after those tax credits expired.

“We are beginning to see signs the housing market is slowly coming off the bottom after the drop-off in sales that began in May of last year.”

Inventory of finished new homes was 8,658, end of June 2011 which is down 25 percent from the end of June 2010, he said. But Brown says that if current job trends hold strong, if unemployment should fall, new home sales could pick up in 2012. The Catch-22 here is that building new homes creates jobs —    but you cannot build a home without financing. The estimated one-year local impact of building 100 single family homes in a typical metro area is an infusion of $21.1 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and government revenue, and 324 jobs. This according to the National Association of Home Builders. 

 

Does the Dream Home lead to a nightmare? Comes word that Dean and Lynae Fearing are splitting. (But I love the way they are handling it — absolutely possible for grown ups to end a marriage and remain friends!) In August of 2009, they moved from their Devonshire digs to a larger, more expensive home in Bluffview. This Hill Country-esque beauty has four bedrooms, three and a half baths, is nestled on a half-acre yard lot and pool, and has a great kitchen. The home was listed at $1,095,000 when they bought, and it didn‚Äôt take the Fearings long to sell Purdue in Devoshire, which was listed at $715,000 and sold for $690,000 even in 2009 before the first-time homebuyer’s credit.

But you have to wonder: how much of a role did a new house play in the demise of this marriage? I recall a very painful time in my own marriage, when we moved into a larger “dream” home that needed constant repair and maintenance, and it was extremely stressful to my marriage. The marriage counselor ended up costing more than the remodeling. Reflecting back, I see the role I played: that of a total spoiled brat.¬† (No, he was not perfect, either.) There were many times I wished that we had never bought the house, never upgraded because the step-up for our portfolio was looking like a killer for our relationship. But then you cannot remain static. And if a relationship cannot sustain change and all the ebb and flow that comes with life, well, maybe it’s time to move on.

Sometimes the relationship needs the nudge so it can grow, and test itself. In this respect, I love how our homes become the laboratories of our lives.