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Bryan-College Station housing market pulling out of COVID-related dip
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Bryan-College Station housing market pulling out of COVID-related dip

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The Bryan-College Station housing market showed strength in June after a decline through the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry leaders and experts said demand for home purchases is high but supply is down compared to a year ago.

Additionally, College Station’s assistant city manager said that residential and commercial permits, which dipped in March and April, have largely rebounded. She added that the city has scaled back on some infrastructure projects due to anticipated pandemic-related revenue losses.

The Bryan-College Station Regional Association of Realtors released its market report for June last week; the report indicated that 446 listings closed in the metro area last month, up 14.1% from June 2019. The median home sale price, at $226,500, is up 2.5% from a year ago.

Homes in the area spent an average of 106 days on the market from active to close during the same time frame, nine days longer than in June 2019, according to the association’s report.

According to a report from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, low mortgage rates bolstered demand for first-time homebuyers, who accounted for 35% of national sales in June.

Real Estate Center research economist Luis Torres said in a Friday interview that there are fundamental challenges facing the housing market in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic. Torres said inventory for existing homes plummeted to a record low of 2.7 months, exacerbating shortages — particularly for homes priced under $300,000.

“A stable market has around six months of inventory, so 2.7 months of inventory is low compared to a normal market,” Torres explained. He said that active listings have declined, another indication that though demand for homes is there, supply is low. “There’s not a lot of housing out there — people are not showing their homes as much with respect to the demand.”

Torres noted that those in the financial position to buy a home tend to be in a more stable place in terms of work and life situation, though the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are ubiquitous and far-reaching.

“The housing market has maintained itself,” Torres said. “People still want to buy a house and have the idea of buying a house. That sector of the economy is doing well.

“The good news is that the indicators are showing recovery,” Torres added before encouraging those watching economic trends to pay close attention to local, state and national COVID-19 data in the coming weeks and months.

College Station Assistant City Manager Jennifer Prochazka said Saturday that residential permit submissions, which initially slowed in late March and April during stay-at-home orders, rebounded in recent weeks. January-through-June numbers so far in 2020 are on par with 2018 numbers and slightly ahead of 2019’s pace, Prochazka said.

Regarding multifamily and commercial projects, Prochazka said that early in the pandemic, there was an initial slowdown regarding new projects, though among projects that were already underway, there was a speeding-up of the timeline for some of those projects.

“New project submissions are feeling normal again,” she said, noting that not all commercial projects are the same. “Overall on the private side, people stepped back for a month or six weeks, but it has picked back up.”

Prochazka said that the city, in its proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget, has decreased the amount allotted for capital improvement projects such as street, water and sewer work by 35% to $46 million due to an anticipated drop in revenues.

“This is a very concerted effort to decrease our spending as a city and ensure we are being fiscally responsible with taxpayer funds,” she said. 

Jimmy Pitman of Pitman Custom Homes said Friday that there is high demand for homes in the Bryan-College Station area — bolstered, he said, by low interest rates — but that inventory has been lower than normal.

Pitman said that due to the pandemic’s varying impacts, product availability for particular building items has been spotty and unpredictable at times.

“Right now, it’s really difficult to get cedar,” Pitman said, saying availability is “six to eight weeks out” presently, and lumber prices have gone up considerably.

Additionally, Pitman shared an update on the ongoing work Pitman Custom Homes and Magruder Homes has done as part of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dream Home Showplace. Pitman said the group raised an additional $10,000 from the community along with the $485,000 that the second “Hope House” garnered, all to support St. Jude research to fight and ultimately end childhood cancer.

Pitman said work on the third “Hope House” will commence in the next several weeks and that residents and businesses alike will have the opportunity to help raise funds and awareness for the ongoing project.

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