Real Estate Agent with Ebby Halliday Realtors

Builders think they’ve found sweet spot


RAISING ROOFS: Luxury home builders have found success in a sagging housing market by building in the upscale Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas and the city of Prosper.  

In a North Texas housing market where starts are off a third from last year’s pace, mortgage lenders are cutting staff, Realtors are competing aggressively for a contracting number of sales and the number of foreclosures is the only thing on the rise, the first sign of hope — be it however modest — has emerged.

Houses in the $250,000 to $300,000 price range actually saw sales increase by 0.7% in the second quarter from 2,412 to 2,450, according to research by the housing consultant Residential Strategies.

While that number is far off the North Texas housing market’s glory days from earlier this decade, every other price point has continued to see dramatic drops, according to Residential Strategies data. Houses priced from $111,000 to $200,000, for example, saw a drop in sales of 14% in the last quarter. And closings on high-end homes — those costing $501,000 or more — did no better than hold steady.

Prosper builders are responding, with starts on houses in the $251,000 to $300,000 price range up 6.4% in the last quarter. All other price points saw a decrease, as many builders are trying to unload their inventory of finished homes.

“There’s lots of activity in different parts of the region,” said Bob Morris, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas. “It’s not new spec-built product. It’s been sitting on the market for six to eight months. There’s no rational reason to bring new product into the market.”

The numbers reflect “current market realities.It’s difficult for builders to get reasonable financing for houses at lower and higher price points.

“The segment of population that can afford homes are in the above-median price bracket,” he said. “And a lot of these buyers may be saying now is a good time to hire a builder who might be selling a $250,000 or $300,000 house that a year ago would have been a $300,000 to $350,000 house.”

‘Not business as usual’

Nationally, home sales are off by 62% since the peak of the housing market in January 2006, according to numbers from Residential Strategies. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, closings are off 32% from their peak.

“It’s not business as usual, but it’s not a disaster,” said Tiffany Sharkey, with Ebby Halliday Realtors. “You’ve got to readjust.”

And that’s what many builders have done, he said. Custom builders that had ventured into lower- and midpriced homes have moved back to houses priced between $350,000 and $600,000, Sharkey said.

“They just went back to their roots, figuring there was still a market there and more money to be made,” he said. “It’s gotten pretty competitive.”

Drees Custom Homes has houses for sale in more than 30 communities in the area, said Jamie Ovalle, director of marketing. Out of those, there are about five that have homes priced in the $150,000 range. Most of the new building is in the higher-end, Ovalle said, and the majority of the company’s sales are near Drees’ midpoint range of about $280,000.

Drees homes are selling well in areas like McKinney, Fate and Allen, Ovalle said, without disclosing sales figures. “It’s what’s hot at the moment,” she said.

The top market areas, according to Residential Strategies, include Prosper,Southlake, Frisco, Allen, Castle Hills, Keller, Colleyville, Plano and Lucas. In many of those areas, homes priced at $300,000 and up are driving the housing market.CONTACT TIFFANY SHARKEY AND TONYA PEEK FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PROSPER AVAILABLE HOMES  972-977-2254.

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