According to the Houston Association of REALTORS Multiple Listing Service, 6,681 properties changed hands in April a 4.7 percent increase over April 2007. Total sales equaled nearly $1.2 billion a 9.4 percent increase over last April. Year-to-date sales are about 4.2 percent over 2004's pace, according to the MLS.

Surprisingly, the MLS numbers also reveal an inventory-rich market with approximately 44,140 properties available for sale at the end of April. This inventory represents an 8 percent increase compared to last year at the same time. Like many other areas of the country, Houston's median home prices also are climbing. According to the MLS, the overall average price of single-family homes reached $188,087 in April, an increase of 6.5 percent over the same period last year.

Ted C. Jones, Ph.D., director of investor relations for Stewart Information Services Corp. and HAR's immediate past chairman, says the sales market has been brisk for the last six months. He points to job growth, low interest rates, rising wages, and the aging Baby Boomer generation as a few of the key driving factors. "Not only do we have more than 2 million more individuals working, but we're also in an environment where (on average) everyone has about 4 percent more money in their pocket than they did a year ago,"" says Jones. ""Combine that with the population growth, low interest rates, and aging Boomers, and you end up with a significant demand for housing.""

Numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics back up Jones' assertions. As the fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston's population of 4.8 million has watched the region's unemployment rate fall significantly over the last year. The number has decreased from 6.4 percent in March 2006 to 5.5 percent in March 2007 (not seasonally adjusted). Houston's rates are comparable with the state's March 2005 rate of 5.5 percent.

Houston is a major distribution center that capitalizes on its port, two international airports, two rail lines, and more than 1,000 trucking companies that distribute manufactured goods and products domestically and internationally. The region also has a strong high-tech manufacturing support infrastructure that includes engineering/design, electronics, measuring and controlling products, machining and tooling, data processing, and telecommunications. Its top employers include Johnson Space Center (17,000 employees), Continental Airlines (17,200), and Exxon Mobil Corp. Energy Services (16,761).

As those companies grow, the region's homebuilders are answering the call for new housing. ""Houston is a residential construction haven,"" says Toni C. Nelson, HAR chairman and division vice president for Coldwell Banker United, REALTORS. She says much of the development is concentrated around Houston's interloop, where a number of new townhouse and condominium projects are underway. Pelican Builders Inc., for example, recently broke ground on The Briarglen, a $300,000 to $400,000-per-unit development situated on the West Loop. Also growing are master-planned communities like The Woodlands.

In terms of existing sales, Nelson says her company's sales are up for the year. ""It's never been better,"" she says, adding that homes priced in the $180,000 to $200,000 range are selling particularly well right now. She keeps a wary eye on the balance between sales growth (4 percent in April) and inventory levels (up 8 percent in April over the prior year). Nelson sees good things ahead for Houston's real estate market, based on the slow and steady nature of the home sales and prices. ""We don't have this bubble issue like they do in the coastal areas, where people are buying two or three properties at a time,"" says Nelson. ""Houston isn't the place to come and put your money down and expect to make a quick profit. It's a place where you can feel a bit more secure about the money that you do put in.""

" Posted by Tamborrel Bulox Team on
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