A&M: Texas homebuyers rush to take advantage of low mortgage rates

From the Texas A&M Real Estate Center

Texas’ housing market rebounded in September as homebuyers rushed to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates. Existing homes sold through Texas Multiple Listing Services increased 10.7 percent from August and are running 2.6 percent higher relative to the first three quarters of 2019.

“Many prospective homebuyers who were planning to purchase next year have been pulled into the market early as their affordability has suddenly improved,” said Dr. James Gaines, chief economist for the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “This pull factor contrasts the pent-up demand that drove the summer sales surge.”

According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales increased 9.4 percent across the country compared with August 2019. First-time buyers accounted for 31 percent of September sales, down from 33 percent in both August 2020 and September 2019.

Home-purchase mortgage applications have increased within Texas despite tightening lending standards. “Loan-to-value and debt-to-income ratios are falling, while credit scores for qualifying applicants are rising as lenders acknowledge the current state of economic uncertainty,” said Gaines.

Aggressive fiscal and monetary policies in response to the coronavirus crisis have helped buoy housing demand, but the effect of those stimulants may be short-lived. Center Research Economist Dr. Luis Torres said consumer purchasing power has been affected since the onset of the global pandemic.

“Texas’ real income per capita increased 8.1 percent year over year during the second quarter, explaining much of the housing markets’ resiliency. This income growth, however, was driven purely by an increase in transfer payments, like the stimulus checks widely distributed at the beginning of the pandemic. Net earnings and dividends/interest/rent components of the real income calculation decreased as expected. Congress is still debating the extent of the next round of stimulus,” said Torres.

In addition to this uncertainty, supply-side factors present a growing challenge to the housing outlook. The number of new listings hitting the market have not kept pace with the sales rebound, diminishing housing inventories that were already at record lows. Texas’ months of inventory for existing homes fell to less than 2.1 months in September. Housing shortages are even more pronounced in the major metropolitan areas.

The combination of stimulated demand and dwindling supply have pushed housing prices upward. Texas’ median home price hovered around $260,000, a double-digit percentage increase compared to September 2019. Some of this home-price appreciation is due to a change in sales composition, as inventory constraints are more severe at the lower end of the market. The Texas Repeat Sales Index, however, accounts for compositional changes and has suggested real price growth closer to five percent.

About the Texas A&M Real Estate Center

Funded primarily by Texas real estate licensee fees, the Real Estate Center was created by the state legislature to meet the needs of many audiences, including the real estate industry, instructors, researchers, and the public. The Center is part of Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

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