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Good News for Housing Industry

More people bought new homes nationwide last month, giving the housing industry a shot in the arm. It follows three straight months of declines. One local realtor says home sales in Houston are still a challenge. Pat Hernandez has more.



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The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose 11-percent in March, after the worst winter for sales in almost 50-years. The median price of a new home rose nearly 3-percent to over 213-thousand dollars.

Carlos Bujosa is chairman of the Houston Association of Realtors. He says new home sales in the Bayou City seem to reflect the national trend. But it also illustrates the continued higher value and lower cost of living available to consumers in Houston.

“Our unemployment rate in February according to the Texas Workforce Commission, went from 8.4-percent in February, to 8.3-percent in March, and the Houston area added 16 thousand jobs last month. So, that tells me that the real estate business is going to be improving.”

Jenny Wang is a realtor for ReMax Metro. Besides new subdivisions springing up, she says the Houston area definitely has homes for sale.

“It depends on the price range. If people shop in the inner loop area, we have the medical center area and it’s very popular. We have the West University area, we have the River Oaks area, we have downtown, uptown area, where everybody knows and considers a very popular area. And then suburban area of course, it depends on the schools.”

She says her challenge comes in helping potential buyers qualify for a loan.

“The lending industry is so strict. Mostly they do conventional loans, meaning that you gotta have at least ten percent, twenty percent down payment. So there are a lot of people, they just simply haven’t saved enough money and go with a conventional loan. If you’re a W-2 salary, there also is a chance that they probably cannot be qualified for a conventional loan. So,  you go to an FHA loan, where you don’t have to come up with so much down payment.”

But leasing in Houston recorded a jump. HAR’s Bujosa says the demand for single family home rentals soared over 31-percent in March, compared to a year earlier.

“There are some people that are having more difficult time qualifying because of more stringent standards by the lenders, and also I think there are maybe some people coming in from out of town, because of the job situation being so good in Houston that, those people are probably not yet ready to buy a home.”

So, while March new home sales nationwide rose to a seasonably adjusted rate of 300-thousand homes, it remains far below the the 700-thousand-a-year pace that economists view as healthy.

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