The North Texas real estate market is showing signs that it is getting stronger. Today everyone is reporting the good news, Steve Brown at The Dallas Morning News, and Sandra Baker at the Fort Worth Star Telegram: pre-owned home sales in North Texas soared in February — up 27 percent from a year ago. That’s the biggest rise in six months. And last month’s increase was one of the largest gains the local housing market has seen in the last seven years. Meantime, the number of pending home purchases is increasing even faster: up a whopping 35 percent jump from a year ago.
What’s happening? The bottom feeders are out and biting. Housing analysts say that consumers are feeling more confident about the economy, they are making moves to take advantage of sensible seller pricing and record low interest rates.
According to the North Texas Real Estate Information System, that giant keeper of transaction data, agents sold 4,649 single-family homes through their multiple listing service in North Texas in February..
So far in 2012, pre-owned home sales are up 20 percent from the same period last year in the more than two dozen North Texas counties included in the survey.
I told you about Claire Dewar selling Park Lane: Claire has had one of her busiest months ever, and thinks the Ginsburg home sale may be an indicator. Beckey Frey sold that architectural delight with glass floors at 3601 Euclid last year, closing more than $35 million worth of real estate in 2011. As people see and hear of big sales, they become increasingly confident. Kyle Crews of Allie Beth Urban says he is on a sales roll over at the Ritz, just closing a three bedroom unit, cash deal.
Then there’s Terrell Owens: two of his condos were slated for the auction block this past week. The 1-bedroom, third floor condo with a $360,000 loan made in 2007 was snatched up by the lender, JP Morgan Chase who bought the property with a $293,000 auction bid. But Owens did sell a Commerce Street townhouse which had also been scheduled for foreclosure on Tuesday. So you see? Baby steps.
James Gaines over at the Real Estate Center, Texas A&M University thinks this may be a spring anomaly. We’ve finally bottomed, he says, but the recovery will be slower than this for all the year. And do not forget that sales of pre-owned homes in North Texas are still down about a third from when the market peaked in 2007.
Prices are edging up, slightly: prices looked up by a scant 1 percent in February from a year ago. Gaines says prices are flat. But that could change. There is this little problem called lack of inventory. The number of homes listed for sale in North Texas was 22 percent less in February 2012 than in February 2011. There were 27,836 properties on the market, which is a five-month supply. Normal is considered a six month supply. Now we’ve got an opposite problem. With lack of inventory, prices could inch upwards. Already agents tell me they are getting multiple offers on properties. And some properties, in fact a LOT, are selling before they even hit the market.
Let me tell you about 4229 Bobbit: $795,000. This home was snapped up before it could even hit MLS. The owners are known for fantastically remodeling homes, turning them into mid century museums, out of state buyers saw on the internet and bought.
Do you know the term Hip Pocket? It’s a home that is not formally listed but the owners would consider selling, maybe. When your house is for sale but NOT formally in MLS, the clock is not ticking as to how many days on market. There are tons of those right now. Agents are communicating like mad to each other looking for hip pockets, desperate for listings. Like this request from Dave Perry-Miller agent Christine McKenny:
“I have a buyer need in these general areas: Bluffview/Briarwood/Devonshire/Greenway Crest/West HP/Perry Heights Areas up to $400K, 2-3 bedroom, min 2 bath, prefer garage, small yard, good condition, nice kitchen. Have seen all in MLS. Thanks!”
Why is there so little inventory? When the market plunged, only those who truly needed to sell — for financial reasons, or because they were moving to another city — put their homes on the market. The advice has been thus: if you don’t have to sell now, don’t sell. Wait out the market. Then, with lending tight and bank regulators ending stated income loans and making financing more difficult, fewer could qualify for a mortgage. So they are all leasing. In fact, I found a darling Devonshire home to write up, when I called, it was leased.
Another thing: the brokers are trying real hard to keep transactions within the company.
Then too, we have a lot of people moving to Dallas from out of state, like Sean Payton!