No. 1 in the nation

No holiday break for real estate: Home sales surge to record levels as builders struggle to keep up

No holiday break for real estate: Home sales surge to record levels as builders struggle to keep up

sold, house for sale, palm trees, December 2012
Another month, another jump in home sales in Houston. Virtual Realty Store
4, Ralph Bivins, home building in Bellaire, construction, October 2012
It's hard for home construction to keep up with the growing local demand. Photo by Ralph Bivins
sold, house for sale, palm trees, December 2012
4, Ralph Bivins, home building in Bellaire, construction, October 2012

Houston home sales took no time off for Thanksgiving. Sales surged in November, extending a record-setting rebound in Houston housing.

The inventory of homes for sale shrunk to its skinniest level in 12 years. The average and median home price statistics jumped to the highest points ever for a November, the Houston Association of Realtors reported. Home prices are expected to rise significantly in 2013.

 Houston has been leading the nation in home building. 

The realty market typically cools off this time of year as holiday travel, shopping and family get-togethers dominate the consumer’s mindset and calendars.

But this November was different. Houston’s home sales jumped 27.3 percent over the sales total of November 2011, the Realtors association said.

“Homes are selling at an unusually hefty pace for this time of year, and that has left fewer properties on the market and driven up prices,” said Wayne Stroman, chairman of the Realtors. “With continued local job growth and historically low interest rates, this aggressive home buying trend is likely to continue into the new year.

"Homebuilders now face the challenge of meeting the demand.”

Local home builders have increased construction, which had dwindled to microscopic levels during the recession and a sustained slowdown that gripped the market in recent years. Inner Loop home building has skyrocketed in 2012 as builders have vigorously jumped on the tear-down lots in Bellaire West University Place and other close-in neighborhoods.

Suburban construction is picking up, too, and developers are starting new master planned communities.

Houston has been leading the nation in home building. At end of the summer, it was reported Houston area builders registered 27,000 single-family building permits for the 12-month period ending in August to lead the nation, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

With strong sales and subdued construction, the inventory in Houston of homes for sale is down 19 percent from November of last year. Houston has a 4.1 month supply of homes for sale, the lowest since December 2000, the Realtors association said.

The median home price in November was $167,000, up eight percent from a year ago, the association reported.

“The prices may have gone up, but they are poised to go up even more because of low inventory and increasing demand,” said Evert Crawford of the University of Houston’s Institute for Regional Forecasting.

 The median home price in November was $167,000, up eight percent from a year ago. 

Houston home prices could rise as much as five percent in 2013, Crawford said. However, uncertainties in the economy or a stumble over the fiscal cliff could derail the expected price surge.

The Realtors association reported sales of condo units and townhomes were exceptionally strong, up 40 percent from a year ago. Leasing activity was up substantially as well.

A total of 4,978 homes were sold in Houston in November, up 27.3 percent from November of last year.

Pending sales, a measurement of the amount of activity expected to close shortly, was up eight percent over last year.

The overall market generated a big dollar volume. A total of $1.3 billion in Houston residential  real estate was sold in November, up 41 percent over the total sales of November 2011.

Houston realty has shown increases every month for the last 18 months, but November represented one of the biggest monthly gains in the winning streak.