Houston MLS Report for March 2011

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In what reads like a carbon copy of the February housing report, local home sales fell slightly in March while the average price of those homes rose.

In what reads like a carbon copy of the February housing report, local home sales fell slightly in March while the average price of those homes rose. The lower sales volume compares to sales activity in March 2010 that was driven, in part, by the federal government’s first-time home buyer tax credit incentive.

According to the latest monthly data compiled by the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR), March sales of single-family homes fell 4.4 percent versus one year earlier. As in February, the popular middle segments of the Houston housing market, consisting of homes priced between $80,000 and $250,000, experienced declining sales while the low and high ends saw an increase in number of sales. Compared to March of 2009, a year without unusual market factors such as Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the 2010 tax credit, single-family home sales were up 6.6 percent.

Luxury home sales boosted the average price of a single-family home for a third straight month. The average price rose 3.3 percent from March 2010 to $217,597, the highest level for a March in Houston. The March single-family home median price—the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less—dipped 1.7 percent year-over-year to $150,900.

Foreclosure property sales reported in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) increased 3.6 percent in March compared to one year earlier. Foreclosures comprised 23.5 percent of all property sales in March. The median price of March foreclosures fell 7.1 percent to $82,000 on a year-over-year basis.

March sales of all property types in Houston totaled 5,509, down 5.0 percent compared to March 2010. Total dollar volume for properties sold during the month declined 2.3 percent to $1.1 billion versus $1.2 billion one year earlier.

“The year-over-year March 2011-March 2010 analysis is a bit skewed in the sense that it continues to reflect a comparison to the period a year ago where the home buyer tax credit encouraged consumers to purchase a home prior to the April 30 deadline,” said Carlos P. Bujosa, HAR chairman and VP at Transwestern. “It is encouraging that properties continue to go under contract at the levels we saw last year, a time when the tax credit was a huge incentive.”

The month of March brought Houston’s overall housing market largely negative results when all listing categories are compared to March of 2010. Total property sales, total dollar volume and median price declined, while average price rose on a year-over-year basis.

Month-end pending sales for March totaled 4,190, down 1.2 percent from last year. That suggests the likelihood of lower demand when the April figures are tallied. The number of available properties, or active listings, at the end of March rose 4.2 percent from March 2010 to 51,091. The growth in available housing pushed the March inventory of single-family homes to 7.6 months compared to 6.7 months one year earlier. That means that it would take 7.6 months to sell all the single-family homes on the market based on sales activity over the past year. The figure still compares favorably to the national inventory of single-family homes of 8.6 months reported by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

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