7:45 am, Thu Sep 22, 2011.

Houston home sales show dramatic growth in August By MICHAEL REED
Regional News Bureau Houston Community Newspapers | 1 comment

Houston-area single-family home sales spiked in August, however, as in recent months, much of what otherwise would be a rosy picture was dulled by the lackluster numbers from last year used as a point of comparison.

“The Houston real estate market’s vital signs appear to be quite healthy as we move from the summer buying season into the fall,” said Carlos P. Bujosa, Houston Association of Realtors chairman. “But we must remain mindful that we are still comparing 2011 home sales to that period last year when transactions slowed dramatically after the tax credit expired.”

Total sales in the Greater Houston Area jumped from 4,257 to 5,542 homes — 30.2 percent — over last year at this time, HAR data showed. The increase followed sales gains in January, June and July with all segments of market, from the sub-$80,000 to the $500,000 and above, posting strong sales numbers for the month.

A positive comparison to August of 2009, even though less dramatic, may bode well even better news for those looking to sell homes, though. In a year that felt no unusual market influences such as Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the 2010 tax credit, single-family home sales were up 10.4 percent.

Bujosa said he was encouraged to see how the monthly numbers “stack up” in comparisons to August 2009, “the last normal year for our housing market.”

August sales of homes priced under $80,000 showed the biggest gains in month-to-month comparisons, a whopping 45.4 percent. The smallest increase by market segment came in the luxury market — $500,000 or more — but those sales still climbed 22.4 percent.

Even as the number of sales appeared strong, prices remained near the same level as a year ago, HAR data showed. Average prices in month-to-month comparisons rose only 0.7 percent, from $215,506 to $217,047. The highest August level ever was $222,638, occurring in 2008. Median prices creeped up even less, 0.3 percent, from $158,500 to $159,000.

The number of townhouses and condominiums that sold in August climbed significantly as well, 19.5 percent, compared to last August. It marked the third sales increase of the year. In the Houston area, 460 units were sold last month vs. 385 units in August 2010.

Average prices for townhouse and condominiums increases in month-to-month comparisons to $156,522, or 3 percent. Median prices, however, were down slightly, 0.8 percent, to $120,000.

Meanwhile, lease-properties remained in high demand with single-family rentals up 21.8 percent vs. August 2010. HAR said local employment numbers have driven the market for several months.