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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November 2007
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January 2008

December 2007

Acreage provides a little extra elbow room

Dscf0005 Did the neighbors seem a little too close for comfort this holiday season?  Maybe you've dreamed of having your own little slice of land one day. 

In SE Texas, if you want some acreage to call your own you are in luck because we've got land all around.

A quick look at the Beaumont Area Real Estate Market shows 50 properties that are for sale with acreage between 5 - 100 acres.  How affordable are these properties you ask.  Well, the price range is wide.  The most expensive property currently for sale is listed for $789,000, located in Spurger with 80+ acres and 4750+ square feet of living space.  Now, that's a nice little piece of land.  The least expensive property in the group is listed for $36,000, located in Chester with 6+ acres and a 2 bedroom 1 1/2 bath home.  You might call it a fixer upper.  The median price of all the homes listed is $224,000. 

So where are they located?

Fannett has the most homes with 5 or more acres right now.  They have 8.  Tyler County and Vidor come in tied for second with 6 a piece.  But you will find properties with acreage in almost all parts of the Golden Triangle. 

Want to do a little home searching on your own? 

Try Coldwell Banker's website or  These sites allow you to search for homes from the comfort of your home.  They are a great place to start searching before you are ready to go out and see some homes in person. 

Not everyone wants to take care of land.  Some of us would prefer the convenience of town home living.  No yard to worry about.  No grass to mow.  Whatever your dreams of the perfect home are you can find it here in The Golden Triangle, you just have to know where to look.

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Happy Holidays

Enjoy the holidays...

If you take any great holiday photos here in SE Texas and want to see them on the blog, email them to me and I'll run a post with the best SE Texas holiday photos.  Check out more holiday photos at Flickr. I'll be back with more SE Texas real estate news after Christmas. 

Blog_christmas Blog_christmas2 Blog_christmas3 Blog_christmas_white_house 

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Selling your home in 2008

Dscf0006 After the holidays have ended, the decorations are neatly boxed up, all the presents are open, and the relatives have left town, you may be one of many families in SE Texas that decide to buy a new home in 2008. 

If your plans call for a bigger home, smaller home, larger yard, better location in '08, then you are in need of some "tips to help you sell your current home quickly and for a lot of money".

Here are 10 things you can do to help your home sell:

  1. On the outside- mow, trim trees and plant flowers.
  2. Paint touch ups - where ever needed.
  3. Clear out the clutter- get rid of unnecessary furniture, clear off counter tops, closets.
  4. Clean, Clean, Clean - carpets, tile, windows, any stains must go.
  5. Replace broken doors, knobs, tiles
  6. Freshen up the interior - no smoking inside, keep trash cans empty, use baking soda
  7. Flowers, Potpourri and Air Fresheners inside - neutral smells are a must.
  8. Invite a "friend" to walk through as a potential buyer.  Get their opinion on whether or not your home is inviting.
  9. First impressions are made in the first 30 seconds before the potential buyer even walks through the door.  Front door, steps, porch all make a good or bad first impression.
  10. Enlist the help of a professional real estate agent who can help you stage your home.

For more information on preparing your home for sale, view Coldwell Banker's video on staging.  The art of making your home look great inside and out. 

In reality the market conditions, age of your home and location are going to play the most critical role in what price you can get for your home but following the 10 tips listed above will help you sell faster and maximize your sales price. 

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Jefferson County homeowners may see higher insurance rates with State Farm

State Farm, the largest insurer of homes and cars in Texas has filed for a rate increase with The Texas Department of Insurance.  The story covered by KFDM News states that State Farm is seeking an increase of 11.9%-13.8% in Jefferson County.

The Dallas News also covered the story.  According to State Farm the increase request results from higher reinsurance costs that the company takes out to help cover claims from natural disasters.  Some homeowners in non-coastal areas and those who have multiple policies may see a rate decrease according to State Farm.   

Its all up to the Texas Department of Insurance.  They have 30 days to decide whether or not to allow the increase.  Recently, the Texas Department of insurance did approve a rate increase for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  In the approval it was stated the rate increase was granted to help build up the reserves of the fund. 

If the Texas Department of Insurance approves the increase the new rates will go into effective March 1, 2008 for new business and May 1, 2008 for renewals. 

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Starting a new home search - step 1

Thinking of buying a new home but not sure where to start?  This video from Coldwell Banker addresses the first steps in a new home search. 

If you haven't bought a home before one of your biggest concerns is probably, how much can you afford. 

Its easier than ever to get an idea of what price range is right for your budget.  There are a number of on-line mortgage calculators that you can use.  One good one is Coldwell Banker's mortgage calculator.  If you want more detail about different loan programs and interest rates then talking to a loan officer is your next step.  Here in Beaumont, Lamar Mortgage is a good place to start.  They can give you a quick and easy loan review and let you know what you would be comfortably able to spend on a mortgage payment. 

Once you have been pre-approved for a loan then you are ready to start looking for your new home.  Most sellers want a pre-approval letter submitted with any purchase offer.  Taking the time to get pre-approved also helps save you time and prevents you from looking at homes that are not in the right price range. 

Looking for a new home can start with on-line searches from the comfort of your home or you may prefer to find a Realtor to help show you properties in person.  Eventually, as you narrow down your search you will want to see several of your top choices.  Once you have found the perfect home, then you will be ready for step two - making an offer.  There are strategies that can be used to your benefit when making an offer and we'll discuss those in another post. 

Just remember- step one- figure out what price range works for you.  Then let the fun and excitement of finding your new home begin. 

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Does SE Texas have a luxury home market?

Dscf0020 Let's first define a "luxury home".  To start with let's assume a luxury home in our market is at least 4000 square feet.  Then let's set a price range.  For this article, we'll say to be considered a luxury home in SE Texas the market price will exceed $600,000. 

Now, for some parts of the county $600,000 is the median price of a 4 bedroom 2 1/2 bath home.  CNN Money has an interesting article using Coldwell Banker's annual home price comparison index to show the average cost of a home in more than 300 markets across the country. 

"Be glad we don't live in California where 11 different housing markets all have a median home price of over 1 million dollars." 

Luckily for us, we live in an area where housing is much more affordable.  The average price of a home in SE Texas is $150,000. Therefore a $600,000 home is worth about 4 times the cost of an average home in the area.  Its a good price point to define the start of the "luxury market" in our area. 

So how many homes in SE Texas would meet the two criteria: 4000 square feet and larger, priced at $600,000 or above?

In 2007, there were 17 homes that sold through the MLS that met the criteria.  The majority of these homes were located in Beaumont. 12 of the 17 were all located in the same geographic area.  The section of Beaumont located S. of Eastex Fwy, E. of Dowlen Road, N. of Calder, and W. of I-10. 

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Of the 17 homes that sold in 2007, the most expensive asking price was $1,300,000.  It ended up selling for $1,150,000.  Surprisingly enough it was not located in Beaumont.  The most expensive sale was located in Fannett.  The property included a home, barn, and 124 acres of property.  Coming in a close second was a sale for 1 million.  That property included a 5900+ square foot home located in the section of Beaumont shown on the map above.

In fact those were the only two sales that closed at 1 million or more.  Two other homes had asking prices over 1 million but they closed in the $900,000- $1,000,000 range. 

That's a look at what sold. 

"What's currently for sale?"

There are 24 active listings priced between $600,000 - 1 million. The median price is $799,900.   Again the majority- 13 of the 24- of these luxury homes are located in the geographic area shown above.   3 others are located W. of Dowlen Road  and E. of Major where much of the new development is happening.  Of these luxury homes they currently average 108 days on the market.  4 of the homes are priced above 1 million dollars.  The largest is 7500+ square feet. 

The most expensive neighborhood appears to be the Estates of Montclaire.  Anderson Homes a local custom builder has a photography slide show of several luxury homes they have built on their website.  Worth a look! 

So to answer the original question:  "Does SE Texas have a luxury home market?"   The answer is "yes".  Its not a big portion of the market here.  Less than 2% of the sales qualify.  But we do have a luxury market and it appears to be growing.      

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Lumberton's housing expansion

Lumberton_on_state_map Just a few miles North of Beaumont, you will find the town of Lumberton.   Lumberton's history dates back to 1894 when the town was first established as a stop on the Gulf, Beaumont, and Kansas City Railway. 

Today, Lumberton is a rapidly growing town.  It is the largest city in Hardin County.  While the population of Lumberton in the 2000 census was 8,731 people, current estimates of Lumberton and the surrounding subdivisions show the number of people is closer to 25,000.  The City of Lumberton website keeps track of demographic and housing data.  According to their data, Lumberton has a housing occupancy rate of 92%+ and a vacancy rate of approximately 7%.  Some of the vacancy rate is due to the new construction in the area which has increased in the past few years. 

"For those looking to buy a single family home in Lumberton, there are currently 142 active listings in the Beaumont MLS."

A quick breakdown of the market shows a median price of $189,950 and an average price of $206,842.  The current days on the market is approximately 90 days.  The high end of the market shows a price range of $300,000-$500,000.  This is a relatively small portion of the total market with 16 homes in the price range - roughly 10% of the total market.  On the lower end of prices, there are currently 19 homes for sale priced under $125,000. 

The majority of homes- roughly 80%- are priced between $125,000 - $299,000. Lumberton is attracting new residents in part because of the affordability of housing and the school district.  Lumberton ISD has a good reputation in the community. For more information on schools take a look at the Talk about Education page on this blog.

While Lumberton's not about to catch up to Beaumont's size anytime soon, it is a community that is expected to continue growing at one of the fastest rates of any community in the Golden Triangle.  If you haven't been to Lumberton recently, take the drive up higway 69 there's a lot of new homes to see. 

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Residential Sales in 2007 edge out 2006 numbers

The final two months haven't been tabulated yet, but it looks like 2007 will beat out 2006 in volume of residential home sales.

Dscf0006 For those of you curious to see an in depth market analysis, the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University complies a lot of data.  The busiest month for sales activity in 2007 was May with over 250 homes being sold.  March and August were second and third.  Each month reached or surpassed the 250 homes sold mark.  The slowest month (excluding November and December which have not been calculated yet) was January. 

Where do we stand in "months of inventory"? 

Months of inventory represents the number of homes currently on the market divided by current sales rate.  It is quite simply the number of months it will take for all the homes to be sold if no other homes were to be put on the market and the sales pace remained the same.  2007 inventory supplies have remained between 5.1 months and 6.3 months. A very healthy supply.  Nationally the picture looks a little different.  Market Watch indicates that nationally the supply of homes is at a 22 year high and averages 10.8 months of inventory. 

One interesting graph- you can view on page 16 of the Beaumont Port Arthur Real Estate Market Survey- shows how Texas housing prices never experienced the extreme appreciation that happened in states like Florida and California. During 2002 - 2005 homes appreciated at a rate of approximately 25% in both Florida and California.  In Texas during the same time period appreciation stayed relatively stable at about 5%.  The fact that Texas home values never went sky high is now contributing to the health of our local real estate market.  While much of the country is experiencing the worst housing market seen in years, Beaumont - Port Arthur keeps getting mentioned on lists of the best real estate markets.

With the expansion and job growth projected for the area, it is likely our housing market will continue to beat the national forecasts and remain strong. 

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Home sales volume and the holidays

Christmas_tree Its the holiday season.  We are all out and about decorating trees, hanging lights, attending festivities, and trying to get all the holiday shopping done in the next few weeks. 

"So how are the holidays affecting home sales?"

A brief analysis of what has gone under contract and what has closed in Beaumont since November 1, 2007 shows some people - 27 to be precise-  are buying homes for the holidays. 

In Beaumont (no other areas included in snapshot) 12 residential single family homes closed between Nov. 1, 2007 and Dec. 6, 2007.  15 went under contract.  In the closed home category more than half of the homes that closed were priced under $130,000.  In the highest price range were two closed homes priced between $220,000 and $224,990. 

Homes that went under contract in the same time period show similar price points. Half of the pendings were in price ranges under $80,000.  The highest price range that had homes that went under contract was the $205,000- $209,000 price range. 

The median price of closed homes was $130,500.  The median price of homes that went under contract was $99,500.  With the average sales price in the Beaumont market equaling about $150,000, it is fair to say the lower end of the price ranges have been having greater activity this holiday season. 

Also worth noting is the average days on the market.  It took an average of 69 days before a home went under contract during Nov. 1, 2007 and Dec. 6, 2007.  It took an average of 123 days before the home closed.  Again, these are averages of the 27 sales that occurred.  Some homes sold quicker and other took a longer time.  But averages can give you insight into the market.  If you are thinking of selling your home you will want to plan enough time into your moving schedule to allow your home to be on the market for at least 69 days if market conditions remain similar after the holidays.

A final note: 

"On average, sellers accepted a sales price of 91% of the original list price."

(Simple math example:  Home on 123 street is listed for $100,000.  The home sells for $91,000.  The seller accepted an offer of 91% of their original list price.) Five of the 27 sellers got 100% of the list price while four sellers accepted sales of about 85% of the original list price.

If you are interested in knowing the market statistics for a certain neighborhood or area of town let me know.  I'd be happy to post about it.  Your comments are always welcome and encouraged.

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