Local realtors say they have seen signs of growth in the damaged real estate industry — despite statistics released last Thursday by the Austin Board of Realtors indicating that the local market is still troubled.
The volume of single-family home sales in May 2009 was down 19 percent from May 2008, according to the Multiple Listing Service report authored by the board. The median price of homes has also decreased by 1 percent — which could be a benefit to those searching for a home, but an obstacle to homeowners looking to sell their property, said Jay Gohil, chairman of the Austin Board of Realtors.
Gohil said that although those statistics reflect poorly on the state of the local real estate market, many other indicators show that home sales are on the upswing.
“All indications — including job growth, business opportunity, buyer confidence — are all kind of working through,” Gohil said. “We have a good stabilized market, more than when we had seen it in the last few months. We’re slow, but we’re becoming more steady and still stabilizing.”
Realtors are also affirming an increase in buyer confidence as a reason to hope the market will recover in light of the federal stimulus package, which will offer an extended tax credit worth up to $8,000 to those who buy homes before Dec. 1.
“Two or three months passed after the stimulus package passed, and there was so much confusion about who it applies to,” Gohil said. “In the last few weeks, it’s been clarified where the money was going to be used, so buyer confidence went way up.”
Brian Talley, Regent Property Group chief executive officer, agreed that the stimulus package has positively affected local sales.
“Prior to the stimulus bill being signed, very few buyers were willing to make offers on homes and the market came to a halt,” Talley said. “Literally, after that weekend, buyers began actively searching for homes. Prior to the bill, nobody was willing to take a chance on it.”
Other realtors say that the stimulus wields less influence on the volatile industry.
“The stimulus is helping for first-time buyers, but it’s only a small part of our business,” said Alan Ware, president of 512 Realty, a company that specializes in leasing to UT students. “The long-term investors are just looking at it from a long-term view and are just trying to hold on to what they have. Lenders across the country are reluctant to loan just about anything, and that trickles down to the Austin condo market.”
For now, the real estate market in the University area appears to be resistant to the national trend, he said.
“I think the sales have slowed down a little bit, but compared to the rest of the country, it’s nothing,” said Nathan Napolitano, a realtor for Austin City Realty. “This area is kind of recession-proof because there are so many students — as a whole, I think we’re really fortunate.”