An inside look at the residential real estate market in Southeast Texas including: the hottest neighborhoods, proven home selling strategies, home buying and negotiating tactics, median prices by neighborhood, average days homes are on the market, and professional advice on how to get the best deal when buying or selling a home.

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July 2008
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September 2008

August 2008

August Home Sales Are In, Almost.

Today is the last day of August.  Okay, not actually the last day, but it is the last day for a real estate closing to count for the month of August.  The next business day is September 2, Tuesday.  Right now with all eyes on the tropics, there might not be any real estate closings on Tuesday. 

So how was the month of August for home sales in Southeast Texas?

If you don't check the Texas A&M Real Estate Center Site, here's a helpful graph. Each month the Real Estate Center keeps up with sales data from all over the state.

RecentergraphLast year 256 properties were closed in August.  The count for this August is still out.  As of yesterday there were 100 closings already on the books.  The final sales won't be in for a few more days.

A few statistics of interest:

  • More FHA loans were used this month than conventional loans.
  • About 20% of the closings so far have been cash.
  • Average days on market is 116.
  • The median price is $105,000.

What will be the final sales count for August 2008? 

We will know next week after the storm blows through or hopefully blows by.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know.

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So Far In 2008: Southeast Texas Home Sales.

Reading the real estate headlines today a few statistics jumped off the pages and caught my attention.  Did you know? 

  • Nationally, existing-home sales hit a five month high in July. 
  • Nationally, median prices are down 7.1% from a year ago and there is an eleven month supply of homes for sale. 
  • Single-family home supply actually declined from June but the overall supply is up due to an increase in condo inventory.

So how does that compare to our own Southeast Texas real estate market? 

  • Median prices are up about 10% since this time last year.  (Varies by area)
  • There is approximately a 7-8 month supply of homes for sale.  (Includes single-family and condo)

What areas are the hottest sellers?   

Since graphs are an easy way to understand data, here are two.  Graph one is the number of sales so far this year by area.  Graph number two is the percentage of total sales by area.  *Data is complied from the Beaumont MLS.  Enjoy the graphs.  Need more data about the Southeast Texas market?  Call me.

Sales_by_area

Sale_pie_chart 

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Buy Your 1st Home, Get $7,500 Tax Credit.

Atm_machineFirst-time home buyers have 7,500 reasons to buy a home now.  The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 was signed by President George Bush on July 30th.  One of the most exciting parts of the new bill is the provision for first-time home buyers.  There is a $7,500 tax credit you can receive next year.  Owe nothing on your tax return?  You could get a check for $7,500.

How do you get the $7,500 credit?

Buy a home between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009 and you are eligible for the $7,500 tax credit.  You have to be a first-time home buyer or haven't owned a principal residence in the three-year period prior to the new home purchase.  Married couple?  Neither spouse can have owned a home in the past three years to qualify. 

Are there restrictions?

There is a maximum income for individuals.  It is $95,000 in yearly earnings.  There is a maximum for couples filing jointly.  If your combined income is over $170,000, you won't qualify.  (Sorry, you make too much. No tax credit for you.)  Other restrictions just to keep us all honest and using the credit for what it was intended for. You have to buy a principle residence.  It has to be located in the United States.  That's about all the restrictions. 

The tax credit is a great incentive to buy a home before next July, but the money is not completely free.  It has a payback period.  Think of it as an interest free loan.  The credit has to repaid over the course of 15 years.  You will be paying back about 6.67% per year.  If you received the full credit of $7,500, you would be paying back about $500 per year. 

This recovery act is still being deciphered by very knowledgeable people, but the $7,500 tax credit is really there.  Buy a home and next year you can get up to a $7,500 check courtesy of Uncle Sam. 

Want to learn more about the tax credit and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act?  Read More.

If you are a first-time home buyer, there is no better reason - than these $7,500- to stop waiting and buy a home now.

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New Construction Booming In Southeast Texas.

Are you a fan of graphs? 

They can help interpret data so well.  Here's two I put together to give you an inside look at the residential new construction numbers in Southeast Texas. 

Graph 1 presents median price by area.  *For an area to be included there had to be a minimum of three active listings in the Beaumont MLS. 

New_construction_graph_6

Graph 2 shows average days on market by area. 

New_construction_graph_dom_5

Ten other insights about new residential construction in Southeast Texas:

  1. Average Days on Market of single family homes for the entire area is 120.  Keep in mind builders often list new construction homes prior to completion.
  2. Median Price for the entire area is $239,500 for single family homes and $260,000 for Condo/Townhomes.  (Hum)
  3. Silsbee and Kountze tie for the most affordable new construction with a median price in both areas under $150,000.
  4. Pinewood has the most expensive new construction at a median price of $381,000.
  5. Beaumont (all West locations) is the second most expensive with a median price just under $300,000.
  6. Nederland has the lowest average days on the market at only 12.
  7. Beaumont has 31 new construction condo/townhomes for sale.  Metropolitan Park is where you'll find over half of them.  None are completed yet.
  8. Lumberton has 40 single family new construction homes currently waiting new owners with an average price of $228,187.
  9. $1,099,900 is the most expensive asking price of any new construction home on the market.  Its located in Montclaire.
  10. Over $115 is the average cost per square foot of living space in Beaumont.

Need to know more about residential construction boom in Southeast Texas?  Call me.   

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Sales Pace Remains Red Hot in Westchase Village!

Dscf0013With only two active listings, fifteen sales since January 1, and an average of less than 40 days on the market for active listings Westchase Village is one hot Southeast Texas community.

What makes this Beaumont, Texas neighborhood so hot? The great location doesn't hurt.  Neither do the high quality new construction homes.  Three of the areas well-known builders participate in building homes in Westchase.

The average price per square foot in Westchase is approximately $120.  Two homes closed at over $140 per square foot.  Now that's good quality.  The average sales price this year is $357,829. 

Homes vary from 2200 square feet to over 3400 square feet.  The majority (12 of the 15) closed homes offered 4 bedrooms.  It is fair to say you will find most of the modern amenities when purchasing a home in Westchase Village.  Granite counter tops, crown molding, high ceilings, double sinks, jetted bathtubs are some of the luxuries that make these homes worth their lofty prices.  If you can't stretch your budget to the mid 300's, you can still afford one of the smaller homes in the neighborhood.  There have been two sales under $260,000 this year.  Both homes were approximately 2300 square feet. 

So far there have not been very many resales in this new neighborhood.  Only four of the sales this year have been resales.  The remaining sales have been new construction bought from the builder.  Everyone loves new construction.  New home smell may be better than new car smell. 

It looks like the three home-builders and fifteen astute home buyers found a winner in Westchase Village.  Sales have been hot all year and even though summers almost over the sales in this community don't appear to be cooling off anytime soon. 

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The Cost of Closing In Texas.

TaxesNew York, Texas and Florida have something in common.  According to Bankrate.com, they are the most expensive states to close on a home.  North Carolina is the least expensive state to close on a home.

The top five most expensive states are:

  1. New York:  $4,016
  2. Texas:   $3,975
  3. Florida:   $3,683
  4. Oklahoma:   $3,558
  5. New Mexico:   $3,465

The least expensive state, North Carolina, averages $2,650 in closing costs.  The full article gives this basis for the higher costs in New York.  Most closings in New York are prepared and handled by attorneys.  Their fees are higher than closing agents which are commonly used in other states. 

The reason Texas and Florida are number two and three on the list is both states title insurance rates are promulgated by the insurance department.  In simple terms, the state government sets the fees.  Its illegal for title companies to charge rates other than those set by the state insurance departments. 

The typical closing costs in the ranking above were based on a $200,000 purchase price.  Its important to know your closing costs will vary from lender to lender.  You will want to have a Good Faith Estimate prepared by any lender you work with.  The title fees will be the same but what the lenders charge can vary by a few hundred dollars. 

Its a fact of home ownership.  You can't avoid closing costs.  At least in Southeast Texas property values have gone up enough each year that your closing costs turn into home equity usually in less than one year.    And, that's one more good thing about buying a home in Southeast Texas. 

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Homes Sales Up. Inventories Are Declining.

HeadlinesThe national housing market has taken a beatin' over the past three years.  All the experts are trying to predict where we are in the housing cycle.  Is the bottom near or have we already hit it?

Here's a few headlines that indicate the U.S. housing market could be turning around.

Over the past few months there have been signs of a shift in market momentum.  Foreclosures have started to decrease recently.  This is a positive sign.  As soon as the market stops being flooded with REO properties that are sold below market prices, inventory levels will stabilize.  When inventory levels stop increasing then prices will stop decreasing.

Nationally, there is still a ten to eleven month supply of unsold homes out there.  Here in Southeast Texas we have about a seven month supply.  Six to eight months of inventory is considered a healthy market.  Its not tipped in favor of  buyers or sellers.  Its a level playing field.  That's just what you want a market to be.

Here in Southeast Texas our median homes prices have continued to increase over the past three years.  In January of 2006 the median price in Beaumont (as tracked by Texas A&M Real Estate Center ) was $98,300.  In January of 2007 it increased to $119,400.  In January of 2008 it increased to $134,300.  For you math whizzes out there that is a little more than a 35% increase in three years.  Not a bad return on your investment.  All indications are we are still looking at another year of median price increases for the area.  If you are still waiting to buy, how much higher do you want prices to get?

According to the latest headlines it sounds like the national housing market may have found bottom or at least be very close.  Homes sales going up and inventories going up now that's good news for the whole country.

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Active, Pending, Sold: Delaware Place

Closed_signDelaware Place. It is a popular neighborhood conveniently located in town all in a good school track.  Homes don't stay on the market long when they are listed at a good price.   

So let's take a look at what's happened in Delaware Place this year? 

Actives:  (Right now there are three)

  • prices range from $199,900- $289,900.
  • square footage range 2339-2765.
  • days on market range 37-196
  • *statistics from Beaumont MLS as of today.

Pendings: (Right now there are two)

  • 4705 Ashdown is a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath, 2918 square feet.  Asking price $272,900.
  • 4770 Dunleith is a 5 bedroom, 2.5 bath,3233 square feet.  Asking price $375,000. 

Solds: (Since January 1, 2008)

  • prices range from $195,000-$240,000.   Delaware_place_3
  • square footage range 2321-2750.
  • days on market range 45-122.
  • price per square foot range $80-$93.
  • four homes have closed.

With a great location in Beaumont, Delaware Place is a popular place to call home.  Good schools and convenience to nearby shopping on Dowlen Road contribute to the popularity of this quaint neighborhood. 

Want more information on what's currently available in Delaware Place or any other neighborhood in Beaumont?  Click on the map search in the right column.  You can search all homes listed for sale in the Beaumont MLS. 

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New Home Inspection Requirements Start Soon.

Magnfying_glassLess than thirty days from now, all homes built or undergoing a major remodeling project in the state of Texas will be subject to new inspection requirements.  The new home inspection requirements will require a minimum of three inspections for all homes built or remodeled in unincorporated areas or in cities that do not offer municipal inspections.

The Texas Residential Construction Commission has enacted the mandatory reviews.  All projects started after September 1, 2008 will be subject to the new requirements. 

Three Inspections Required:

  1. The foundation inspection must be conducted prior to the placement of concrete.
  2. The framing and mechanical systems inspection must be conducted prior to the placement of exterior wall insulation or interior wall coverings.
  3. The final inspection when the home is complete.

The inspections will have to be completed by a licensed engineer, a registered architect, a professional Texas Real Estate Commission inspector or a third-party inspector certified by the Texas Residential Construction Commission. 

There will be fines levied against builders and re-modelers that fail to have their projects inspected.

The Texas Residential Construction Commission has put together a list of Most Frequently Asked Questions about the program.  They have also added Contracted Inspections Instructions

What does the Foundation inspection look for?

  • compliance with engineered drawings
  • proper placement, support, sizing, and spacing of graded rebar
  • ensuring proper beam depth, width, and placement
  • vapor/moisture barrier placement check
  • if drawings are not sealed by an engineer, then the foundation must comply with the building code

What does the Framing, Mechanical inspection look for?

  • electrical systems must be properly grounded
  • all connections in junction boxes
  • proper gauge wiring is installed
  • outlets spaced properly
  • adequate access to machinery
  • duct work should not be encumbered by other building materials
  • ducts are installed to applicable building code
  • roof is supported and sloped
  • plumbing system should be reviewed

What does the final inspection certify?

  • yard is graded properly for water flow
  • HVAC is in complete working order
  • HVAC exterior unit is located on a level surface
  • all air ducts free of obstruction
  • doors and windows operate properly
  • finish materials are properly installed
  • the flatwork around home is free of any structural cracks
  • all roof cladding is installed to manufacturer's recommendations
  • flashing is installed
  • fixtures are correctly installed and working
  • all appliances are installed and working
  • there are no apparent safety issues.

This is not a complete list of everything the inspections cover.  The inspector must also verify the project meets the applicable building code.  You might hear some rumbling and grumbling from the contractors you know but the program is designed for the good of the consumer - you and me.  Three inspections is really very minimal to require for a residential structure.  The home builder I worked for required ten inspections before they would deliver a completed home to a new home owner.

Does it make you wonder what was required before the new program?  Two inspections or maybe just one inspection to deliver a home.  At least now the Texas Residential Construction Commission has stepped up the requirements to protect home owners.  All homes built or remodeled must be inspected three times. Starting soon!   

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What City Tops The Home Equity List? Beaumont, TX.

20houseStories about the housing market are a hot topic for news headlines these days.  Forbes.com just published a story about the U.S. cities with the most home equity.  Guess what town made number one?  "Yes, you are right."  Beaumont, TX.

The Beaumont Enterprise also ran the story on the front page of the news today.  Its good press for Beaumont.  Home equity is a measure of how much your home is worth vs. how much you owe on your mortgage. 

A catchy title, and an interesting story but how much how equity we have in our homes doesn't really indicate how strong the local real estate market is.  A good point is people with positive equity are less likely to let their homes go into foreclosure.  Less foreclosures mean a more stable housing market. 

One fact about our Southeast Texas real estate market over the past ten years there has been a slow, steady increase in home values.  Texas A&M Real Estate Center keeps track of sales data for the whole state. 

This is one of the graphs you can view on their website.

Beaumont_home_pricesAnyone who is interested in real estate in Texas needs to add the Texas A&M Real Estate Center to their favorites.  Its an amazing resource. 

Over the past year while most of the country has been dealing with a housing crisis, Southeast Texas home owners have been enjoying a healthy market.  Our 2008 numbers are a little off the records set in 2007 but once again- for the fourth or fifth time this year- Beaumont, Texas gets some national attention about our residential housing activity.  If you haven't bought a home in Southeast Texas yet what are you waiting for? 

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