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 Karina Loken, a Realtor with Keller Williams, and founder/leader of the team business, The Loken Group. Loken in real estate for five years and is very passionate about training, being solution-based and helping her clients get what they’re looking for out of their transactions. Prior to her career in real estate, she was an elementary school teacher.
Houston Agent (HA): It’s been revealed that mortgage standards will be tougher in 2014. Do you think they will ever ease up?
Karina Loken (KL): I’m not a mortgage professional, so I’m not in a mastery position to speak as far as mortgage standards, but from what we’re seeing for our clients, things have eased up just a little bit. We’re starting to see some mortgage companies that are willing to loan to people with a lower credit score if all their other pieces are in place, but these are companies that usually write their own paper. If the loan makes sense, they’re willing to do it if it’s not a mortgage company that sells it often.
I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to where we were. At one point, it was so bad the joke was, “If you could breathe and walk through the front door, you could get your mortgage.” I think that mortgage companies have learned their lesson and as a result, we’ve gone so far the opposite direction.
If you have any questions about mortgages, I definitely recommend speaking to a preferred lender about this.
HA: With the economy gradually improving, the housing market should improve as well. What kinds of signs of improvement have you been seeing in your area?
KL: We’re definitely seeing prices on the rise. It’s taken a little while for appraisals to catch up to that, so it’s still a fine line for our sellers and buyers. For the market to catch up with what the market will bear, all the other pieces have fallen in place with that as well. It’s common knowledge that supply is still down and demand is still pretty high, and with interest rates still being really good, I think it’s just a real optimal time for folks to make a transition in real estate if they’re looking to buy or sell property.
We’re seeing a lot more multiple offers, which is driving up prices – we’re seeing at weekly and biweekly price increases from our builders. There’s not nearly as much available. We’ve had a couple of builders come in and sponsor our lunches, and they’ll bring their inventory sheet and literally have one home in inventory and it’s August/September until they’ll have another one on the ground.
We’re seeing a lot of folks having to plan ahead a little bit further because they’re either catching homes that are mid-building stages or they need to start from the ground up and choose their lot, which means it’s going to be a few months until their home is done.
HA: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Existing-Home Sales report revealed that inventory is finally turning around the corner, increasing 6 percent from January. Have you noticed an improvement in the quantity of inventory as well in Houston?
KL: I think every year, you can see a bell curve in sales. When we had that tax break a couple years ago, the bell curved a little earlier. But every year, we see a bell curve trend and more purchases over the summer, and I think that’s due to life cycles and styles – people who want to change housing in between school years, job moves, etc. I think that we always see an increase in supply in summertime, so I think it will be really interesting to see what our supply looks like come September/October, once we’re through the summer rush and the bell curve starts to swing back down again.
I think the bell curve has always been steady, as far as our sales cycle in real estate, so I don’t think that’s going to change. As far as inventory? Every year, I joke, “I wish Santa would bring me a crystal ball,” because I never know what it’s going to be like. We’ve turned a corner so quickly in our market. What we are now in Houston, versus what things were like in January and February, are worlds apart.
To say what it’s going to be like in another six months depends on a lot of factors, such as politics, the economy and interest rates. Obviously with prices coming back up again, that’s a great trend. If we’re facing what’s happening in our market in the last six months, it’s looking pretty good and we’re moving forward.