Longview housing market tight, prices on the rise | Local


Ten or so years ago, when Jessica Holmes first started working in real estate, on any given day there might be more than 100 homes for sale in Kilgore.

The broker/owner of Kilgore-based East Texas Preferred Properties checked recently, though, and found eight homes for sale in the city.

The East Texas real estate market is tight, with low inventory and higher prices, and with new pressures affecting home sales.

Holmes said she’s seeing more people from the Houston and Dallas areas looking to buy in this area, with more cash prices being paid than she’s seen before in her 10 years of experience.

“I’ve also seen some crazy bidding wars,” she said, referring to a sale that took place in the spring. The $159,000 property attracted 20 offers within 24 hours.

“The offer that won it was substantially over the asking price,” and it was a cash price, she said. “And they were not local. That was interesting.”

She’s seen several people from out of state — California, Oregon and Utah — looking to buy here in recent months. They either were retiring to Texas, or just wanted to live here, and it didn’t matter where they live in terms of their work.

Those themes are reflected in year-end home sales data reported by the Longview Area Association of Realtors. For 2021, homes sales in Longview showed median prices that were up almost 21%, to $220,000, with listings that were down almost 27% for the year and with less than two months of inventory available. The Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center says six months of inventory is normal. The state had about 1.6 months of inventory in October, the latest figures available.

“I think there’s just not as much inventory,” said Holmes, who is chairwoman this year of the Longview Area Association of Realtors board of directors. “People don’t have a place to move to. They’re looking for properties. They want to sell, but they don’t have anywhere to go in the meantime.”

Closed sales rose almost 7% to 1,038 in Longview, with homes generally staying on the market 19 fewer days than in 2020, or 74 days.

Holmes is seeing buyers with a new requirement in their home searches.

“The No. 1 question we get when people call, obviously, is price,” and if she has listings. The next question, though, has become, “Does the home have access to reliable, high-speed internet?”

“That’s one of the big questions, because they work from home,” Holmes said.

Local trends are a reflection of statewide trends, according to the most recent report available from the Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center, from October.

“Elevated demand persisted as homes averaged roughly one month on the market,” the report says. “On the supply side, single-family housing permits increased for the second consecutive month, but housing starts declined as lumber and other input material prices rose. The relatively low level of inventory available for sale is the greatest challenge to Texas’ housing market. The state’s diverse and expanding economy, favorable business policies, and steady population growth, however, support a favorable outlook.”

The Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center said mortgage rates will increase this year, which should ease demand and counter low inventory.

“I’ve been telling my buyers and sellers, if they’re thinking about wanting to sell, I think this is a great time to sell,” Holmes said. “If they’re wanting to buy, be prepared to pay sticker price, if not more.”

At Longview-based Texas Bank & Trust, Bryan Robinson, senior vice president and director of mortgage lending, anticipates the demand for housing will remain high this year.

“The Longview area only has about 1.5 months of inventory of homes. Rates will likely rise this year as previously anticipated. We’ve already seen the 30-year rate move up about a half of a percent since mid-December,” he said. “I think it is realistic to see rates at 4% in the third quarter, at the latest, which is still very low by historical standards.”

Inflation, along with increasing home prices, will factor into the real estate market. Personal income isn’t growing at the same pace, Robinson said.

“Now, add in inflation, at levels which haven’t been seen since the early ‘80s, to that mix and it does have a negative effect on borrowers. This impacts lower-income borrowers the most,” he said.

In spite of that, “we should still see an active housing market with plenty of demand, continued low inventory, and attractive interest rates,” he said.

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