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There is a print pub in Houston called Houstonia Magazine.  Seems the Ashton-Martini Group of agents at Martha Turner Sotheby’s International ran an ad in the magazine — the ad above (photo credit to Chris Skiles) and a couple of subscribers to the magazine got miffed. What bothered them? They were upset that the ad depicted a mixed-race marriage — white mother, black father, and three darling biracial babies.

I know, I am scratching my head, too. Can you double check me here? Is it 2015? Thought so.

In the words of Houstonia editor-in-chief, Scott Vogel, a doctor in Tomball, a suburb of Houston in Harris County, was provoked by the Ashton Martini Group’s biracial real estate “message” sitting in his waiting room — so he rattled off an email to the advertiser: (more…)

Anderson_MTSIR-40_RT_NPLooks like I am going to have to put Houston Real Estate on my Google alerts. Found out last night from a Martha Turner agent that one of the oldest, and most successful high-end independent real estate brokerages in Houston has been swooped up by Sotheby’s International Realty Inc. of New York. Yes, Martha Turner Properties, which closed more than $2 billion in sales volume last year, has been acquired by Sotheby’s.  The new firm will operate as Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty. All six Houston-area offices, and of course all 220 associates, are retained in the deal. According to the Houston Chronicle, MTP’s founder, Martha Turner, and biz partner Tom Anderson will stay on as co-presidents of the company.

Martha Turner Properties ranked as the No. 8 independent brokerage in the nation in 2012, with an average of more than $7 million closed sales volume per agent. That’s about $210,000 per agent in commissions, not including the broker split. Which sure beats the national real estate agent’s median income of $39,070 (though I have seen articles claiming $26,000 as a more realist figure). No wonder the Big Apple is paying attention to Texas. BlankSlate, a Brooklyn-based technology and business management platform for on-line real estate blogs, recently entered into a partnership agreement with Swamplot, Houston’s leading real estate blog.

This is Sotheby’s first tip toe in Texas as a broker. The firm operates brokerage offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Barbara and Carmel, Santa Fe, NM; Greenwich, CT; Manhattan and the Hamptons. Of course, we all know our fantastic Briggs-Freeman is a franchisee of Sotheby’s, as is Fort Worth-based Williams Trew Realty.houston-skyline

Anderson_MTSIR-40_RT_NPLooks like I am going to have to put Houston Real Estate on my Google alerts. Found out last night from a Martha Turner agent that one of the oldest, and most successful high-end independent real estate brokerages in Houston has been swooped up by Sotheby’s International Realty Inc. of New York. Yes, Martha Turner Properties, which closed more than $2 billion in sales volume last year, has been acquired by Sotheby’s.  The new firm will operate as Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty. All six Houston-area offices, and of course all 220 associates, are retained in the deal. According to the Houston Chronicle, MTP’s founder, Martha Turner, and biz partner Tom Anderson will stay on as co-presidents of the company.

Martha Turner Properties ranked as the No. 8 independent brokerage in the nation in 2012, with an average of more than $7 million closed sales volume per agent. That’s about $210,000 per agent in commissions, not including the broker split. Which sure beats the national real estate agent’s median income of $39,070 (though I have seen articles claiming $26,000 as a more realist figure). No wonder the Big Apple is paying attention to Texas. BlankSlate, a Brooklyn-based technology and business management platform for on-line real estate blogs, recently entered into a partnership agreement with Swamplot, Houston’s leading real estate blog.

This is Sotheby’s first tip toe in Texas as a broker. The firm operates brokerage offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Barbara and Carmel, Santa Fe, NM; Greenwich, CT; Manhattan and the Hamptons. Of course, we all know our fantastic Briggs-Freeman is a franchisee of Sotheby’s, as is Fort Worth-based Williams Trew Realty.houston-skyline

Lance Armstrong Lake Austin

I guess it’s good to be in the middle of the pack sometimes, especially when it comes to making lists that label cities and towns as “Most Expensive” or “Most Affordable” real estate markets. It’s a lot like dating, right? You don’t want to come off as too easy, or seem too prude, either, when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Well, Dallas doesn’t have that problem, and neither does Austin, Houston, or San Antonio. In fact, no Texas towns made Coldwell Banker’s “apples-to-apples” comparison of more than 1,900 towns in their Home Listing Report. The report, which compares similarly sized four-bedroom, two-bath homes across the nation shows where potential homebuyers will pay the most, and the least, for what they get.

This year’s report has Malibu coming in first as the most expensive place to find a four-bedroom home at $2,155,900, not a shock to anyone familiar with the exclusive beach community that is practically littered with celebrities. What’s really interesting is that the top five most expensive cities are all in California — Newport Beach, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and San Francisco. In fact, only three towns outside of California managed to squeak into the top 10 — Stone Harbor, NJ, at No. 6; Orono, Minn., at No. 8; and Weston, Mass. at No. 9.

Coming in as the most affordable is Cleveland, Ohio, where you can find a good family home for just $63,729. The “Most Affordable” list is a bit more diverse than the “Most Expensive” list, with Ohio, Michigan, New York, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, and Illinois, having more than one city on the list.

Are you shocked that this report skipped Texas altogether, with no mention of how pricey Austin is getting for single-family homes?

 

New Home Construction

I know “housing shortage” should sound very ominous, but really, we should be celebrating! Thanks to a growing job market, Texas is adding more workers faster than it can build housing for them. According to this story in Bloomberg News, there are bidding wars all over Texas, with some sellers turning down cash offers that would have seemed ample just a few years ago.

While the Bloomberg story is a bit general and doesn’t show that in some neighborhoods homes sit on the market for 90 days or more depending on location and price, it sheds an interesting perspective on why Texas wasn’t hit so hard when the housing bubble burst and why home builders are slow to meet brisk demand:

Values also didn’t inflate as much because builders could move quickly to meet demand given the state’s abundance of land and relatively easy zoning requirements. Texas home prices fell about 2.5 percent from a peak in 2007 to a trough in 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The state’s homebuilding industry, which fell into hibernation during the recession, awoke to a rebound that it was unprepared for. Developers, constrained by banks reluctant to make construction loans, had few lots in its backlog, and many homebuilders closed or downsized. Trade workers left for jobs in the energy industry as oil prices surged.

You have to read some of the anecdotes in the story, too, which we’ve heard some version of from Realtors in the Dallas area. In the story, CoreLogic economist Sam Khater says that Texas’ surge in prices “begins to defy fundamentals,” noting that the swing from moderately brisk to frenzied isn’t driven by normal market forces. Instead, Khater wages, it is driven by investors.

Which brings up another point: Are investors driving up prices too much? According to Trulia’s “Bubble Watch,”  Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston residential real estate markets are becoming “overvalued.”

Trulia Bubble Watch Table

 

 

(Table: Trulia)

Interesting to see these cities among locations such as Orange County, Calif., Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon. And while Dallas is experiencing a surge in both demand and prices, it’s heartening to know that we came in last.

Still, these numbers and observations seem a little too general for me, as residential real estate is best gauged looking from home to home within a neighborhood, rather than comparing areas as disparate as Portland to Dallas.

So, what do you think? Are these Texas cities poised for another bubble? Or will low inventory and high demand maintain the market for the foreseeable future?