After several years of ever-increasing sales, there are signs that North Texas' million-dollar home market has hit a ceiling. Sales of high-priced Dallas-area homes have shot up in recent years, rising at a much greater rate than the overall housing market. There are now more than a dozen Dallas-area mansions on the market with price tags of more than $10 million, according to Realtor.com. While demand for low- and moderate-priced houses is still rising in North Texas, the latest sales numbers show that purchases of million-dollar properties have leveled off. For the last few years, million-dollar home sales in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have grown at double-digit percentage rates. Housing analysts say that the inventory is rising while more moderate-priced properties are in short supply. "The inventory is mostly at the upper end," said George Ratiu, senior economist with Realtor.com. "That's not where the most demand is."
Dallas-Fort Worth is again near the top of a shopping list for commercial property investors — behind only Los Angeles in a new survey. For the third year in a row, commercial real estate firm CBRE ranked D-FW second nationally in its survey of property investors. Houston also made the top 10. Investors said industrial and warehouse buildings and apartments were their most targeted properties for 2019. "We are seeing unprecedented investor interest for industrial and logistics properties in Dallas-Fort Worth coming not only from U.S. investors but also global capital from Asia, primarily Singapore, Europe and the Middle East," Randy Baird, CBRE executive vice president of Industrial & Logistics, said in the report. "D-FW is capturing the interest of all forms of capital because we are at a central point in the U.S. supply chain, we have a pro-business environment with a low cost of doing business, and we have nation-leading population growth.
The latest North Texas housing market numbers are not very encouraging, to say the least. Home sales were down in many Dallas-Fort Worth neighborhoods in February, and median home sales prices dropped for the first time since 2008-2009 in both Dallas and Rockwall counties. Dallas County home sales prices fell 2.5 percent in February from a year ago, according to the latest figures from the MetroTex Association of Realtors. Median sales prices slid 4.5 percent in Rockwall County. Collin and Denton counties eked out tiny year-over-year home price gains last month — less that 1 percent ahead of February 2018. The only solid home price gain in the region came in Tarrant County, where houses are still relatively affordable. Lower and moderate-priced house sales are still strong while purchases of expensive properties have lagged.
No place builds more new houses than Dallas-Fort Worth. As of the third quarter of this year, D-FW was the solid leader in U.S. homebuilding with almost 35,000 single-family annual home starts, according to a new report by housing market analysts at Metrostudy Inc. Houston was second nationally with 29,370 home starts in the 12-month period ending in September. D-FW and Houston have topped the country in home construction for several years. And the two Texas titan building markets show no sign of a slowdown. D-FW starts were up 8.7 percent and Houston starts were 6 percent higher than a year ago, Transwestern found.
While D-FW builders are still busy, what they are building has changed, according to Metrostudy's Paige Shipp. "Over the past 12 months, builders and developers have been addressing the need for affordable new homes by developing in previously overlooked submarkets and building smaller, less amenitized homes," said Shipp, regional director of Metrostudy's D-FW market. "As such, the median price has dropped since last year.The decrease in price is not devaluation, rather it's an indication that buyers are purchasing smaller, more affordable homes."
Shipp said that homebuyer traffic has slowed in North Texas in recent months. "While this cooling may worry some, it should be viewed as a positive stabilization of an overheated, frenzied market," she said. "Builders and developers should use this opportunity to catch their breaths and return to the fundamentals of homebuilding including land acquisition and selling." Shipp said the inventory of vacant new homes in the D-FW has increased to the highest level since 2012.
Dallas-area home prices grew less than 5 percent in August from a year earlier, according to the latest nationwide comparison. It was the first time in almost six years that Dallas-area home appreciation has been at such a low level in the closely-watched Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index. "Following reports that home sales are flat to down, price gains are beginning to moderate," S&P's David M. Blitzer said in the report. "The seasonally adjusted monthly data show that 10 cities experienced declining prices. Other housing data tell a similar story: prices and sales of new single family homes are weakening, housing starts are mixed and residential fixed investment is down in the last three quarters."
Home prices in North Texas have cooled in 2018 after years of double-digit percentage annual gains. Still, Dallas-area prices are about 45 percent higher than a decade ago, before the economic downturn and housing crash. "There are no signs that the current weakness will become a repeat of the crisis," Blitzer said. "Without a collapse in housing finance like the one seen 12 years ago, a crash in home prices is unlikely."
The slowdown in home price growth may be good news for potential buyers who have struggled to find homes they can afford. "It's more welcome news for would-be homebuyers, who must be breathing a collective sigh of relief that home price growth finally has slowed," Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research, said in a statement. "Softening appreciation after the rapid growth of just a few months earlier is a sign that fierce competition is dying down. Potential buyers who were intimidated during the heat of the market may find the breathing space now to make a calm, considered decision about whether to lock in a mortgage before rates rise further."
By Claire Ballor – Staff Writer, Dallas Business Journal, October 10, 2018
With a relatively low cost of living and population growth projections that outstrip other U.S. cities by two times, Dallas-Fort Worth has been named the top real estate market to watch in 2019.
The Emerging Trends in Real Estate for 2019 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute ranked the Metroplex as the number one market for overall real estate prospects in 2019 out of 78 other cities. Austin and San Antonio also made it into the top 20 for overall real estate prospects in the annual forecast report, which is compiled from thousands of interviews with real estate experts across a spectrum of industries.
Mitch Roschelle, a partner at PwC, said the economic data points analyzed for the report suggest the strength of the economy and the discipline being practiced in the real estate market. "If there is a downturn ahead of us, it won't be real estate that caused it," he said. "Right now there's way more discipline in all activities in real estate than there has been in any other time in the modern era. We haven't gotten ahead of ourselves in terms of real estate development. I hope that real estate folks remain as conservative as they have in creating new supply."
Roschelle said he's seeing that conservative behavior in Dallas-Fort Worth and it has kept the market from getting ahead of itself despite the ever-growing demand and push for growth.
As for what makes North Texas the one to watch next year, he said several factors come into play.
"The things that have been important in years past have been markets that have low cost of living and low, relative to the national average, cost of doing business. That's where companies want to be and that's where people want to be," Roschelle said.
The low cost of living, low cost of doing business and tax efficiency continue to draw people to Dallas-Fort Worth, he said. And so much so that the area's population growth rate is projected to be more than two times the national average in 2019.
"The growth in the population is skewed towards younger folks in Dallas," Roschelle said. "The growth in the 0 to 24 age category is high and in the 25 to 40 category. [The population] is becoming younger, and those people are all the workers for the future."
But as the population in the Metroplex grows, affordable housing is becoming more of an issue. Although affordable single-family homes are a contributor to Dallas-Fort Worth's success, there aren't enough of them, according to the report. The report says focus group respondents in the Dallas area pointed to an increasingly prevalent "not in my backyard" mentality as the reason for the slow down in available workforce housing.
"Dallas traditionally was a place where there was a piece of land, and if someone wanted to build on it, they just built on it," Roschelle said. Now, though, developers are often met with a "you're not building that thing near me" attitude, which tends to add hurdles like cost and time, he said. This contributes to the problem that Dallas-Fort Worth is facing with additions to housing supply not keeping pace with demand.
What the Dallas area has going for it, though, is a diverse and stable employment base thanks to the wide spectrum of industries represented in the area, Roschelle said. The report indicates that the market is expected to have high growth and low volatility when it comes to employment in 2019.
Here are a few things the report says to keep an eye on in 2019:
Issues on the horizon
Dallas-area home prices are rated as less likely to fall in a new risk assessment study. The Dallas area ranks as "low" in risk of a price meltdown in a new study by Arch Mortgage Insurance. That translates to about a 12 percent chance of seeing a price decrease by 24 months from now, according to the North Carolina-based company. Texas is still considered the country's most overheated housing market. Arch Mortgage estimates that home values in the state are more than 30 percent greater than they should be based on market fundamentals. "Texas is likely to become riskier going forward since affordability continues to deteriorate at a rapid rate and it is easier to build there than in most states," the report said. "Among larger metros, Houston (22 percent) was the riskiest." Dallas-area home prices are currently at record levels. But the rate of home price appreciation has slowed significantly this year. Through the first eight months of 2018, median North Texas home sales prices are up about 5 percent. Even with the higher prices, Arch Mortgage in its quarterly report ranked Fort Worth as the best market in the country for millennials to buy houses and get jobs. But they'd better not wait too long, the analysts said.
Is the housing boom running out of gas? During the last few years, the home market has been on a tear in North Texas and in other parts of the country, with prices soaring and buyers lining up as soon as a sign hits the front yard. But there are growing signs that the fast-paced housing market is shifting gears, with a decline in sales in many markets and smaller price increases. In July, U.S. preowned home sales fell from a year ago for the fifth month in a row. And nationwide new home sales were down almost 2 percent in July, causing analysts at IHS Markit to question if the bull home market has turned bearish. "The economy is strong. Labor markets are solid. Yet, new home sales and single-family housing starts and permits have stalled. How can this be?" said Patrick Newport, executive director of the U.S. economics team at IHS.
Newport said rising home prices and higher mortgage rates have cooled the ardor for home buying. "This has choked off demand," he said. A slowdown in immigration and household formation could also be factors, Newport theorizes. In North Texas, year-over-year preowned home sales have fallen in many neighborhoods, and for the entire region, year-to-date sales were up a measly 2 percent as of July. At the same time, the double-digit percentage home price gains of the last few years have faded in Dallas-Fort Worth. Through the first seven months of 2018, median home sales prices were up only 6 percent from the same period last year, according to sales data from real estate agents.
Property agents say that some first-time buyers have given up after losing out to other buyers or all-cash investors who snapped up affordable homes. At midyear, the number of prospective U.S. homebuyers who said they planned to make a purchase in the next 12 months fell to just 14 percent — down from 24 percent in fourth quarter of 2017, according to the National Association of Home Builders. That's still another sign that the home market — while not in a traditional bubble — may be headed for slower sales in the year ahead. "It's clear that the winds that have boosted sellers over the past few years are ever-so-slightly starting to shift," said Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas.