By Landan Kuhlmann
and Betsy Denson
Spring and summer are typically a busy time in the housing market and although Hurricane Harvey knocked the city for a loop – in more ways than one – area realtors are optimistic about the upcoming months.
Allen Frieze, a real estate specialist in the Heights and Timbergrove, said that the local market has significantly picked up since Hurricane Harvey, and for him, the first quarter of 2018 has been busy.
“People have finally gotten their insurance money, so what has happened is that many people – now that they have their money – they have decided to put their house back together in efforts to attempt selling it,” he said. “Three houses I’ve sold this quarter have been Hurricane Harvey houses. The market is hot right now, because we have all those people making decisions post-Harvey and investors who are out looking for a good deal on those who aren’t going to rebuild their home.”
Caroline Schlemmer with Greenwood King Properties concurs.
“Market activity has grown significantly in first quarter,” she said. “With oil and gas stabilizing and Houston recovering from Harvey, the overall Houston market has a lot of positive factors influencing the increased market activity.
Overall, the market still seems fairly balanced between buyer and seller with slightly increased inventory levels.”
It’s not just the realtors who are benefiting from this increased activity said Frieze but also those who work with them, including photographers, and title companies.
“They are experiencing a ton of business right now and should continue to do so moving forward,” he said.
Compared to 2017, Frieze said this year has started off stronger.
“We notice it a lot just by working with vendors who accompany the realtors,” he said. “In 2017, you didn’t have to wait for photographers or to have a closing – there was a lot of availability. But right now, we actually need to schedule things, because there’s not nearly as much availability. All signs, at this juncture, point to 2018 being one of those good, healthy years [for the market].”
Ashley Day with Circa Real Estate says that she is already seeing a surge in the market on correctly priced listings in a variety of price points.
“Multiple offer situations are occurring again, which had significantly dissipated since 2014,” said Day. “The forecast for The Heights, GOOF, and Spring Branch looks bright — I anticipate the surge will continue, especially in the areas zoned to particularly coveted schools.”
Even in a healthy market, sellers need to continue to be wise, according to Frieze.
“What I tell my clients is that to accomplish their goals, they need to set themselves up, from Day One, to do that,” he said. “Don’t overprice the homes and make sure all necessary repairs are finished before it goes on the market. I don’t think people are necessarily looking to overpay for a house right now.”
Frieze said that people need to look at recent sales when pricing their homes, and not those that were sold a few years ago.
“In 2014, we had a crazy, out-of-control market, and what your neighbor sold for in 2014 is not what you’re going to be comparing yourself to in 2018,” he said. “However, you also need to be aggressive as a seller with conditions and pricing. Basically, price it to be attractive. And since a lot of people shop for homes online, photo day is the most important day for a seller – the home needs to be as perfect as possible, and the photos need to be outstanding.”
For those looking in a particular area, the starting price point varies. Ashley Day said that prices are all over the place in the Heights but townhomes in Shady Acres can stay under $400,000, a Norhill bungalow is in the $500,000 range and Sunset Heights is still attainable under $650,000. In the Heights proper, Day says she’s encountered first time homebuyers in the $700,000 range.
“Truly, they are in every price category and size, depending on individual budget and client wants and needs,” she said.
For those looking into the Garden Oaks housing market, the entry level is nearing the $400,000 mark according to Katy Hall Wyly with John Daugherty Realtors.
“There are lots going in the $300,000s and on the other end there’s a house on the market in Garden Oaks for $1.4 million,” she said.
As for Oak Forest, Amanda Cruser with Bernstein Realty said that on the west side it will be be hard to find a single family home with a good sized lot for less than about $450,000.
“I think school zones will continue to play an important role in determining home values throughout Houston,” she said.
On the east side of Oak Forest, she said that a similar single family home with a lot could be found for under $300,000.
“I am hopeful that those homes closer to 290 will see some increase in value,” said Cruser. “Both the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest neighborhoods have some recent construction townhomes that allow entry into the neighborhood for a bit less, due to the smaller lot size.”