This recent article was posted in the San Antonio Business Journal about the residential real estate market in San Antonio. While the article focuses mostly on Alamo Heights I can attest that the seller’s market discussed is also happening in the downtown and central city neighborhoods. It has been my experience recently both on the listing and buying side that desirable homes that are priced well will receive multiple offers. The title of the article says it best, “The pace is back.”
“The Pace is Back.”
By Shari L. Biediger for San Antonio Business Journal
A co-founder of the boutique firm Nix Realty, Kate Park recently showed a charming 4-3-2 on a tree-lined street in Alamo Heights, only to receive a text message from the listing agent while walking back to her car.
The house just received an offer from another buyer — one who had not yet seen the property.
“The pace is back,” says Park. “It is fun.
Turn down those thermostats. Local home sales are heating up faster than the patio furniture cushions on a sizzling, summer day. And not just in the popular pockets of the past. Some of the city’s sleeper markets are awakening.
“The number of days on the market continues to drop, average sales prices continue to increase, while months in inventory continue to decrease,” says Steven Gragg, chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors. “Last year was a really good year. And now, within the first quarter of 2013, we are 15 percent ahead of 2012.”
Ready to pounce
It’s a trend that began last summer, says Park.
“The pace was fast in 2012 for the same three months, March to May,” says Park. “But this year, it seems as though there are more properties selling with multiple offers, which usually equates to the seller getting closer to their asking price, or even more than their ask in a few cases.”
Low interest rates and higher consumer confidence are drivers. It doesn’t hurt that election year has passed.
Recently, Park represented buyers who fought for a traditional family home that had four offers – two sight-unseen. The property sold for more than the asking price.
Bidding wars — even among houses that haven’t even been listed yet — are occurring in hot markets.
Armed with a wealthy tax base, the Alamo Heights Independent School District always has been popular for relocating families or local couples ready to have kids. While many other school districts in the area have the same or better ratings, there is a mystique about the area — often referred to by its last two zip code digits “09” — that makes it eternally coveted.
Sellers on solid footing
Average home price in the Alamo Heights Independent School District is $470,000, according to MLS. Residential properties moving the fastest in that area are priced between $400,000 and $650,000. In that range, buyers don’t have to resort to a jumbo loan, says Park, but million-dollar properties are moving more quickly as well.
“We never took a big hit in this area when the economy crashed — it just took longer to sell,” Park says.
Today, there is a 4.85-month supply of properties in Alamo Heights. Anything below six months is considered a seller’s market. And when inventory dips below 6.5 months, prices tend to go up more quickly, according to the Texas A&M Real Estate Center.
“Price appreciation is starting to happen again. The affordability index has never been lower. Even if mortgage rates go up 2 percent in coming years, they will still be very affordable,” writes Mark Dotzour, chief economist and director of research at the A&M center, in a blogpost.
What this upward bound market means to sellers: If you keep your price comparable to that of other homes in the area, “you can be more confident it will sell faster (than it did before),” says Park. Don’t overprice your abode, expecting huge gains — San Antonio isn’t quite there yet.
Eagle Ford Shale
Relatively low tax rates, safe streets and quality schools, proximity to downtown and Fort Sam Houston, make Alamo Heights and neighboring North Central areas highly desirable in the San Antonio market.
While buying battles are being fiercely waged in these historically peaceful villages of ‘09, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills and Monte Vista, there are signs that demand is increasing beyond these neighborhoods.
The oil-and-gas boom created by the Eagle Ford Shale play in South Texas is stirring up interest in housing on the city’s South Side. Many large oilfield services companies, such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger, have built sprawling campuses and employed thousands of workers on the city’s South Side.
“The city is growing pretty much everywhere, and there’s so much more going on south of town, including job growth,” says Gragg. “I grew up here, and we’ve never had as much growth south of town and downtown as in other areas. Eagle Ford Shale has had a great impact on us.”
That growth has pushed up the number of multiple offers all across the city to nearly double from last year, particularly in the $100,000 to $250,000 range, where most of the San Antonio market is priced.
“Obviously there are going to be more (bidding wars) in the lower price ranges because more people can afford that home,” says Gragg. “But homes that are priced well and show well will get multiple offers. There’s just not any way to track it because there are more than 7,000 realtors in San Antonio.”
In some cases, homes are selling before even being listed in the MLS. For house hunters, that means it often pays to hire an agent who knows the area and networks well with other agents.
Park is also seeing an increase in sales to buyers who plan to teardown and rebuild. These transactions are occuring in areas such as Olmos Park and Alamo Heights, where the land has value, but existing homes are small by today’s standards and need extensive renovation.
“I love my job. It’s a wonderful feeling when you can find something for your buyer when the market is moving this fast,” Park says.
SHARI L. BIEDIGER is a San Antonio freelance writer.