The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

June 26, 2013

On the rise: Local real estate market appears strong

By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — State real estate market professionals are noting an uptick in home sales this year, and local real estate agents report home sales in Palestine seem to be mirroring that trend.

The Texas Association of Realtors (TAR) released the year’s first Texas Quarterly Housing Report in May, and data cites a surging demand for Texas homes, coupled with rising prices and shrinking inventory, has strengthened the state’s housing market. TAR’s report, as published at www.texasrealestate.com, indicates 53,937 single-family homes were sold in Texas in the first quarter of 2013 –  a 17.53 percent increase over the same time period last year.

“The word is out that Texas is a great place to live and these results are further evidence of that – 2012 was a strong year for Texas real estate and, based on these first-quarter results, 2013 looks to be even stronger,” TAR Chair Shad Bogany stated in a press release accompanying the report on the TAR’s Web site. “We’ve heard a lot about the growth of Texas and now we’re starting to really see the impact on our real estate market.”

Palestine’s Realtors have already hit the ground running in 2013.

“Summer typically slows down but we’re all still very busy right now,” said Jacque Johnston, a broker representing Sussdorf Real Estate in Palestine. “If it’s priced right, it’s selling quick.”

Mike Whitworth, co-owner and agent of Combined Associated Real Estate in Palestine, agrees.

“We’re not seeing so many quote-unquote “stupid prices” as we were three or four years ago,” he said. “And we’ve been fairly busy recently. How long we can expect it to last is the unknown factor. Who knows what interest rates are going to do?”

The median price for Texas homes in the first quarter this year was reportedly $158,000, which is 7.04 percent more than the first quarter of 2012. Average price was $204,718 – 6.87 percent more than last year’s first quarter.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, the median value of owner-occupied homes in the city is $84,100. Median home value within the county is $82,900.

“Historically, the median price for Texas homes has increased about 4 percent each year and we usually see the biggest jump in price between the first and second quarters,” said Jim Gaines, Ph.D., an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, in a release published on the TAR’s Web site. “So, with price increases already in the range of 7 percent in the first quarter, we could see Texas homes increase in value significantly this year.”

As to why the region is experiencing an upswing in real estate sales, several factors seem to be working in Palestine’s favor.

“The majority of what we’re seeing is people from Houston or Dallas wanting a home with acreage – everyone wants their own little kingdom to retire to,” said Mark Price, a representative with United Country in Palestine. “Economically, both the state and the city are experiencing strong growth and as the economy picks up elsewhere, people are better able to sell their homes there to move here.

“We’re also seeing a strong interest in (potential) rental properties. With Sanderson Farms coming to town, the need for rent houses is going to skyrocket and we really don’t have enough.”

The hitch in the state and local market’s growth, however, could potentially be a shortage of available homes for purchase. In first quarter 2013, the state’s market featured about four months of inventory, which is almost two months less than last year and significantly less than the six and a half months of inventory cited by the Real Estate Center as a market in which the supply of homes is balanced with demand.

“We’re already starting to see a shortage of good, quality homes in the $80,000 to $130,000 range even now,” Whitworth said. “Naturally, that’s going to slow us down some.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, the city of Palestine boasts 7,912 housing units within the city limits and a home-ownership rate of 58 percent, slightly lower than the state’s rate of 65 percent. Anderson County reported 20,201 housing units and a 72 percent ownership rate – up from the state’s rate of 65 percent.

The Texas Quarterly Housing Report is analyzed by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University using statistics compiled from 48 multiple listing services in markets throughout Texas. The report, published four times a year by TAR, includes data for single-family home sales over the course of one quarter and is published on the TAR’s consumer Web site, TexasRealEstate.com.

With about 80,000 members, the Texas Association of Realtors is a professional membership organization that represents all aspects of real estate in Texas.