Every week, we ask a Houston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top three stories from the week before.
This week, we talked with Ericka Thomas de No, a Texas real estate broker since 1985 who specializes in property listings, sales, leasing and management in the Houston, Memorial, Energy Corridor, Katy and Sugarland areas.
Houston Agent (HA): There are certain sections of Houston that are seeing upticks in new construction activity. Are you seeing a pick up in homebuilding around your area? And do you see homebuilding picking up in 2013?
Ericka Thomas de No (ETDN): Yes. Developers have been quick to meet the increased demand for new housing in the suburbs and master planned communities around greater Houston. Custom builders that have been transforming West University and Bellaire for many years now are also impacting older neighborhoods such as West Memorial and Spring Branch, where buyers are seeking newly-built homes closer to town. Since the trend is so strong and builders inventory is kept low, everyone is confident that housing starts will continue to expand through 2013.
HA: Consumer confidence has been on the rise throughout 2012; are you sensing a greater level of confidence among the homebuyers and sellers that you work with, compared with the past couple years?
ETDN: Economic factors of high unemployment, govenment debt and the fall out from the massive financial crisis has certainly caused a palpable drop in public morale and customer confidence. Such uncertainties in short term outlook paralyze the market, and evidence of that fear from well-qualified buyers was apparent during the first half of 2012. As employment numbers and the general economy have improved, no doubt spurred on by the very low interest rates, Houston has fared very well compared to other cities throughout the recession, and the announcements of additional relocation of companies moving to the area are announced regularly and adds to this positive outlook.
HA: As always, agents and potential homebuyers remain concerned about the lending process. Have you seen the lending process loosen somewhat, in 2012, or does it remain a challenge for some homebuyers?
ETDN: For most of 2012, financing has been the biggest headache for buyers and their brokers. Extended time has been taken with processing loans, requests for increased downpayments, higher credit scores and conditions that have to be met; these are some of the issues that are now dragging a mortage approval process from three weeks to three months! Buyers and sellers are irritated about the delays and this area must improve in 2013 for continued dynamism in sales activity.