Home sales down

Sales of homes like this one, currently listed for sale in the 77018 zip code, have slowed in Houston as a whole, but local realtors say the decline is not as stark in area neighborhoods. (Photo from HAR website)

Home sales have slowed across the Houston region amid higher interest rates, but that has done little locally to stem the interest in buying in the area, according to several real estate agents.

Single-family home sales declined about 17 percent in July, compared to the same month in 2021, according to an August report from the Houston Association of Realtors. That makes it the fourth-straight month of declining sales, according to the report.

But just because the region has seen some slow-down doesn’t mean the Leader’s coverage area has as well, according to Michael Clark, a Houston area real estate agent.

“It’s all neighborhood and market specific,” he said. “Some areas are slowing down more than others. But the hot areas are remaining pretty lively.”

Clark does a lot of work on the northwest side of town, including Oak Forest and Garden Oaks, and told the Leader this week that that area remains strong, he said.

The market might have slowed slightly, but not by much, he said.

“The homes that used to take a day or two to sell are on the market a little longer, but not much longer,” he said. “Especially in the area we’re talking about – that northwest market.”

Elizabeth Villarreal, another real estate agent, agreed with Clark that homes are still selling fairly quickly.

“I’m still busy,” she said. “Listings are coming and people are still showing homes.”

Despite the optimistic view of local real estate experts, July’s 8,370 home sales is the lowest one-month total since January, and the market is trailing 2021’s pace by about 1.3 percent, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.

“The scorching pace of Houston housing throughout most of the pandemic was completely unsustainable, so the cooling that we have experienced over the past four months was expected and is all part of a market normalization,” said Jennifer Wauhob, chair of the association.

Experts have projected a real estate slowdown for several months now. The U.S. Federal Reserve this year has steadily raised interest rates up to about 2.25 to 2.5 percent in an effort to tamp down on inflation, according to a Wall Street Journal report from July.

That increase has led to higher interest rates for a host of services, including home mortgages, cars and credit cards, according to a Spectrum News Article.

While the majority of those that spoke to the Leader were cautiously optimistic that the slow-down wouldn’t have major effects on the market, Sara Black, another real estate agent living in the Heights, said she’s been telling customers to expect further declines.

“Buyers are proceeding cautiously,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of properties with reduced prices on a daily basis.”

Certain neighborhoods are doing better than others and higher interest rates mostly effect affordability, but buyers, especially those looking for higher dollar homes, are being more cautious now than they were earlier in the pandemic, Black said.

“Houston is always a strong market, but I have a feeling things are going to decline a little further,” she said. “I know I’m going against what a lot of others are saying, but I think they don’t want to scare the public.”

While Black is expecting some further declines, she added that she’s told customers that if they expect to stay in a home for five years or more, then they should be fine.

“I’ve been saying that since the height, when prices were up 20 percent or more,” she said.

Despite the market slowdown in Houston, the average price of a single-family home still rose about 9.9 percent in July, up to $426,494, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.

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