TEXAS, USA — The coronavirus pandemic slowed real estate sales the first part of the year –down 5.2%.
Home sales in June increased 9.3% year-over-year. Home prices are up, too. The median price for a home is up nearly 5% to $340,000.
Austin's suburbs are seeing the biggest growth. Williamson, Hays and Caldwell counties saw double-digit percentage increases. Year-over-year Williamson County went up 16.1%, Hays County went up 38.6%, Bastrop County went up 7.4%, Caldwell County went up 40.9% and Travis County went down 0.8%.
"I technically work for a company called Health Fitness that contracts out to 3M," Amanda Norcott said.
John and Amanda Norcott bought a house in the middle of this pandemic. She teaches classes at 3M, he trains athletes at Southwestern University.
“We had signed that Sunday for the house that we would start the process and then that Wednesday, I was sent home from 3M. So it was kind of scary because we'd already signed on the dotted line,” said Amanda Norcott.
As scary as it was, they are not alone. While home sales in many cities have slowed, in the suburbs of Austin they have not.
"People now are actually looking for a little bit more space,” said Realtor Job Hammond.
Hammond helped the Norcotts find their new home. One of the challenges is pricing. Even with slowing sales, prices are up and there is one big reason, according to Hammond.
"We've had the perpetual shortage issue here in Austin for the last eight years, so inventory has gone down," said Hammond. "So if you look at the May 2020 numbers, you'll see two months' worth of inventory, especially at the bottom part of the market. Anything $350,000 or less is where we have had that perpetual shortage."
“Extremely low inventory is one of the factors that affects overall sales dollar volume, while simultaneously creating a very competitive and tight market. Homebuilders aren’t building quite as many new homes and sellers were hesitant to list their home during shelter-in-place orders,” said Romeo Manzanilla, 2020 ABoR president.
Realtor Chris Watters said the greatest increase in demand is in the suburbs and rural areas.
"So areas like Round Rock, Cedar Park, Liberty Hill, Buda ... they are going to continue to grow like wildfire," Watters said. "And I think one another big surprise is that ranches, properties like large-acreage properties over 10 acres in the rural areas are going. I'm already starting to see it. I think we're going to see a huge spike in transactions in the rural areas."
Watters – known for buying people's homes if they don't sell – has noticed as people continue to work from home, families are realizing space is important.
"I reflect back on the past 10 years and it's kind of like, the demand for these large homes was kind of going away and people were wanting to skew towards smaller homes, have a lower payment and spend more money on experiences like traveling, things like that. It seems like that's just going in the complete opposite direction now. People now they want a house on more land,” said Watters.
High-density housing was in high demand before the pandemic. Watters told KVUE that may begin to shift.
“I think the condo market in Austin is really going to struggle,” Watters said.
Manzanilla told KVUE that strong home sales in June are good news for the real estate market across the region.
“The increased sales last month helped limit the impact of the pandemic on the first half of the year overall," said Manzanilla. "Increased pending sales signal a strong month of sales in July, but we have to remain cautious as Texas experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases and we are seeing shrinking housing inventory.”
The Norcotts picked a newer-development in Georgetown. It's a neighborhood with walking trails, a dog park, playgrounds and a pool.
“The amenities kind of sold it for us,” said Amanda Norcott.
The changing face of life in a boomtown – in a changing world.
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