By Peter Ricci
Houston was one of 11 new metros added to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) in May, which now totals 84.
The NAHB adds cities to the IMI when housing permits, employment and house prices rise for at least six consecutive months, and Houston’s addition is just the most recent endorsement of the Bayou City’s strong economy and real estate market.
Christi Borden, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene in Katy who is on the board of directors at both the Houston and Texas Association of Realtors, said that Houston’s markets were already strong before the NAHB recognition, but now that the city is included in the IMI, it means it’s doing even better than before.
“We’ve always been so healthy, but now, we’re advancing even further,” Borden said, adding that activity in Houston’s Energy Corridor has been particularly strong for both new and existing homes; in fact, the latest crop of new construction, she said, has been so impressive that existing properties are sometimes difficult to sell.
Even a market as strong as Houston’s, though, is “not out of the woods yet,” Borden said, and she pointed to tough lending standards and low appraisals as persisting problems in the real estate landscape.
“Buyers want to buy; sellers want to sell,” Borden said. “The only things standing in the way of a full recovery is the lending requirements and appraisals.”
On a national scale, Barry Rutenberg, the NAHB chairman, said the diversity of the featured cities – the IMI now features cities from 32 states plus the District of Columbia – indicates the breadth of the current real estate recovery, something The Wall Street Journal reported on earlier today.
“The geographic diversity and growing number of metros on the latest IMI help spotlight the improvements we have begun to see in terms of home prices and job market conditions across certain parts of this country, which in turn are spurring more demand for new homes,” Rutenberg said.
Rutenberg also commented, like Borden, that there are still some thorny issues in many real estate markets, with appraisals and lending being the two biggest.
“Our members continue to assert the need for more reasonable credit standards and more accurate appraisal methods to perpetuate this positive momentum,” he said.