For now, area real estate reflects seller’s market

Published 8:47 am Monday, March 12, 2018

By Ken Stickney

NEDERLAND — Beaumont-Port Arthur real estate was much like the rest of Texas in 2017 for nine month. Enter Harvey.

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“We’re on the same trend as rest of the state,” Benjamin Rodriguez, broker and owner of Triangle Real Estate, said of the post-Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey market. “Listings are down, demand up. There are fewer homes for sale, less turnover.”

But, he added, “You can only run this type of market so long.”

By the numbers, real estate in the Golden Triangle looked something like other corners of Texas for 2017. Home sales were up. Median price increased.

In fact, sales and median prices were at record highs in Texas.

In Beaumont-Port Arthur, home sales were up a robust 10.3 percent from 2016 to 2017. Median prices continued an upward swing to $147,000 here, up 3.5 percent, year over year.

But Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey decimated homes in the Beaumont-Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area market, which includes Hardin, Jefferson, Newton and Orange, in late August.

“Inventory,” the number of available homes for sale, is down to 2.9 months supply in Beaumont-Port Arthur. A healthy sales market has four months of supply.

“We need more new homes. We need more construction,” Rodriguez said.

Therein lies a problem. Mid County — Nederland, Port Neches and Groves — is largely built out.

“You’ve got cities on top of cities,” Rodriguez said. There’s little available land to build new subdivisions.

Rodriguez suggested Fannett, where one subdivision is under construction, might present the next potential frontier for building homes.

While other areas of Texas are gung-ho for real estate, buyers here are a mixed lot. Some folks are desperate for housing, and willing to buy under extreme conditions. They’ve got nowhere to live.

“It’s a straight sellers’ market, pretty much,” Rodriguez said. “Sellers know they have the upper hand.” At least for now.

He said he’s spent most of the last quarter writing multiple contracts for some eager real estate shoppers because it is “very rare” to get your first choice on a house. Available homes are selling that fast.

“People outside the area don’t realize how devastating it was,” he said of some buyers in this new post-Harvey real estate world. They get here and are astonished to find so few available homes on the market.

“If you’re looking at homes under $200,000” — most people are in this market — “there won’t be 20 houses on a given day,” he said. The availability of homes at under $200,000 is down 3.6 percent since 2015.

In fact, there’s little haggling over prices. Snooze, you lose. In some cases, buyers are willing to accept damaged properties and make their own repairs. Under normal circumstances, sellers would have to make those repairs before the close deals.

Other potential buyers are opting to rent — ours is a large rental market — until the market becomes less volatile.

He said for buyers, homes that did not flood are at the top of the pecking order. Mid County is favored. So are Port Arthur residences that lie within Nederland or Port Neches-Groves school zones.

Looking ahead, the health of this real estate market in 2018 may depend on many factors this year. Property taxes are high, and affect a buyer’s ability to pay. The cost of insurance is climbing.

“Home sales will depend on consumer confidence,” he said. “There’s no guarantee for buyers that they we will find anything.”

Still, he said, 2018 could be another record year for home sales — “if we have stuff to sell.”




Beaumont-Port Arthur, by the numbers, 2017

Homes sold: 3,753, up 10.3%

Median price: $147,000, up 3.5%

Active listings: 1,238, down 2.4 %

Days on market: 87, down nine days

Price per square foot: $83, up 3%