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 Betty Bellomy, a sales associate for John Daugherty Realtors, who focuses in the Houston and Bellaire areas. Bellomy is a Houston native and has a 4.9 client experience rating (out of 5) from the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR). She has been in the real estate market for more than 30 years and was selected as a 2012 Five Star Professional by Texas Monthly Magazine.
Houston Agent (HA): We wrote an article recently about some of the key traits about the homes consumers bought so far in 2013. Nationally, many people purchased SF detached homes, and 51 percent are located in the suburbs. Are you noticing these trends in Houston?
Betty Bellomy (BB): It is no surprise that 51% of consumers buy in the suburbs. We have observed that inventory is tight all over the city, but it is particularly tight close in where there is very limited land for new building. The low inventory is what has driven property prices higher as builders found funding for spec homes dry up in 2008, but even now that builders are building again, there is just not enough land upon which to build to feed the demand.
We started seeing the trend of not enough inventory to feed the demand in the close-in areas the second half of 2011, when we first started seeing multiple offers on properties. As this began driving prices back up to their 2006 levels, buyers had to move further out for lower prices. The suburbs do not have the same land scarcity as close-in, where all communities have been built out for many years, thus builders are rapidly building homes in the suburbs to serve the demand for housing created by Houston’s job growth.
We are seeing buyers who have first asked for West U or Bellaire housing, finally find something in Sienna Plantation, for example. Currently we are seeing the intensity of the demand normalizing a bit closer in, but continuing in intensity toward The Woodlands, where Exxon and a few other energy related companies are moving their operations.
We expect to see a gentle upward trend in pricing continue in the close-in neighborhoods through the next few years, or until the next recession. As someone wrote recently, it is a seller’s market as the prices have recovered, but it is also a buyer’s market as interest rates continue to be low and Houston home-prices still below the rest of the nation.
HA: We recently wrote an article about some of the best apps/software for real estate. What apps/software do you use? And how do these apps help your business, in terms of efficiency and organization?
BB: HAR.com, is essential – we cannot operate without it. I surveyed my colleagues to find out everyone’s favorite apps, and to enhance my own repertoire of apps on my new iPhone 5 (had a Droid before). Besides HAR.com and the user-friendly DocuSign, some of the favorites include DropBox, Subspace (which measures rooms), Instagram, Turboscan, Houzz, ChronHomes and Flashlight (which literally turns your phone into a flashlight – I admit, this one is very useful, because it gets very dark in the winter).
Some of these apps are pretty new to me, and my assumption is that all of these will come in handy. I know specifically, DropBox is becoming so important because with all these photos, we’ve run out of room on our exchange system. We have a training class next week about using DropBox, at a popular demand. We have got to be able to access our files from anywhere we go, otherwise we’re never going to be able to go on vacation.
HA: Do you see inventory increasing at all in the next six months or so? In the next year? Why or why not?
BB: Inventory is continuing to improve, and Houston will catch up, but I don’t see as much easing close-in. The homes that are being built are mostly custom, and lots for building are still very scarce and going for top dollar in the desirable areas.
We are seeing homes being torn down and custom or spec homes being built in some neighborhoods a bit further out, such as Robindell, Maryland Estates, Maplewood, and Willowbend, where there had been only flipping activity previously. Once land prices go up, the new build is next