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Downtown San Antonio’s Dolorosa Bridge as seen from the Riverwalk

I have a few friends that moved to San Antonio after college. One of them is an architect and the other was a medical student. Both were initially bummed about moving to the Alamo City. It was so different from Houston and Austin and Dallas. They weren’t sure they would like it. They didn’t know a lot of people there.

I now see them post cool photos of cycling trips, historic buildings, trips to local watering holes and parks … they either learned to love San Antonio, or they busted their bottom to build the momentum the city needed to be a cool place. And you know what? More and more Millennials are doing the same thing, opting for San Antonio and Houston over Dallas and Austin according to Trulia’s dissection of U.S. Census Bureau surveys.

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Lance Armstrong Lake Austin

I guess it’s good to be in the middle of the pack sometimes, especially when it comes to making lists that label cities and towns as “Most Expensive” or “Most Affordable” real estate markets. It’s a lot like dating, right? You don’t want to come off as too easy, or seem too prude, either, when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Well, Dallas doesn’t have that problem, and neither does Austin, Houston, or San Antonio. In fact, no Texas towns made Coldwell Banker’s “apples-to-apples” comparison of more than 1,900 towns in their Home Listing Report. The report, which compares similarly sized four-bedroom, two-bath homes across the nation shows where potential homebuyers will pay the most, and the least, for what they get.

This year’s report has Malibu coming in first as the most expensive place to find a four-bedroom home at $2,155,900, not a shock to anyone familiar with the exclusive beach community that is practically littered with celebrities. What’s really interesting is that the top five most expensive cities are all in California — Newport Beach, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and San Francisco. In fact, only three towns outside of California managed to squeak into the top 10 — Stone Harbor, NJ, at No. 6; Orono, Minn., at No. 8; and Weston, Mass. at No. 9.

Coming in as the most affordable is Cleveland, Ohio, where you can find a good family home for just $63,729. The “Most Affordable” list is a bit more diverse than the “Most Expensive” list, with Ohio, Michigan, New York, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, and Illinois, having more than one city on the list.

Are you shocked that this report skipped Texas altogether, with no mention of how pricey Austin is getting for single-family homes?

 

New Home Construction

I know “housing shortage” should sound very ominous, but really, we should be celebrating! Thanks to a growing job market, Texas is adding more workers faster than it can build housing for them. According to this story in Bloomberg News, there are bidding wars all over Texas, with some sellers turning down cash offers that would have seemed ample just a few years ago.

While the Bloomberg story is a bit general and doesn’t show that in some neighborhoods homes sit on the market for 90 days or more depending on location and price, it sheds an interesting perspective on why Texas wasn’t hit so hard when the housing bubble burst and why home builders are slow to meet brisk demand:

Values also didn’t inflate as much because builders could move quickly to meet demand given the state’s abundance of land and relatively easy zoning requirements. Texas home prices fell about 2.5 percent from a peak in 2007 to a trough in 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The state’s homebuilding industry, which fell into hibernation during the recession, awoke to a rebound that it was unprepared for. Developers, constrained by banks reluctant to make construction loans, had few lots in its backlog, and many homebuilders closed or downsized. Trade workers left for jobs in the energy industry as oil prices surged.

You have to read some of the anecdotes in the story, too, which we’ve heard some version of from Realtors in the Dallas area. In the story, CoreLogic economist Sam Khater says that Texas’ surge in prices “begins to defy fundamentals,” noting that the swing from moderately brisk to frenzied isn’t driven by normal market forces. Instead, Khater wages, it is driven by investors.

Which brings up another point: Are investors driving up prices too much? According to Trulia’s “Bubble Watch,”  Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston residential real estate markets are becoming “overvalued.”

Trulia Bubble Watch Table

 

 

(Table: Trulia)

Interesting to see these cities among locations such as Orange County, Calif., Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon. And while Dallas is experiencing a surge in both demand and prices, it’s heartening to know that we came in last.

Still, these numbers and observations seem a little too general for me, as residential real estate is best gauged looking from home to home within a neighborhood, rather than comparing areas as disparate as Portland to Dallas.

So, what do you think? Are these Texas cities poised for another bubble? Or will low inventory and high demand maintain the market for the foreseeable future?