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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dallas-Fort Worth Home Sales Surge 27 Percent in April

The Dallas News

North Texas home sales surged 27 percent in April from a year earlier.

Texas apartment and condominium sales rose even higher – up 49 percent.

Median home sales prices also rose a solid 7 percent in last month's report, one of the best recent year-over-year gains.

The jump in pre-owned home sales was fueled by the federal homebuying tax credits that just expired.

The April increase and an 11 percent rise in March were enough to put home sales ahead 9 percent so far this year in North Texas.

Local real estate agents sold 7,017 pre-owned single-family homes last month, according to statistics released Friday by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc.

It was the highest one-month sales total since last July and the second highest since mid-2008.

The rebound in home sales in North Texas will provide a boost to the overall economy, analysts say.

"Home sales generate revenues for service providers such as Realtors, lenders, title companies, appraisers, surveyors and attorneys, among others," said David Brown, who heads the Dallas office of housing analyst Metrostudy Inc.

"A big problem for the economy over much of the last year has been that the consumer has been on the sideline.

"Homebuyers tend to spend a significant amount of money on things like new refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and furniture," Brown said. "Many will make repairs and upgrades to the home. ... Thus, the home purchase will continue to have a positive impact on the economy over the next several months."

This year's increases in home sales look particularly large because housing transactions were almost at a standstill a year ago.

"Although much of the sales gain is likely due to the tax credit, other factors are at play as well," said D'Ann Petersen, a business economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. "Mortgage rates remain relatively low, prices appear to have bottomed nationally, and job growth is edging up.

"Most indicators suggest the local economy is moving in the right direction, even if the recovery remains fragile."

Through the first four months of 2010, area home resale prices are up 5 percent from the same period last year.

And April's substantial increase in pre-owned home sales isn't likely to fade right away.

The number of pending home sales in North Texas – properties under contract but not yet closed – is up 40 percent.

As sales go up, the number of houses on the market in the area has fallen about 7 percent from a year ago to just over 37,000 homes. That's the lowest April home sales inventory in more than two years.

Currently, there's just over a six-month supply of pre-owned Dallas apartments and homes for sale in the North Texas market, which includes 24 counties. That's considered a balanced market.

"Certainly, it's great to see the market starting to clear the excess inventory of existing homes," said Dr. Bernard Weinstein, an economist with Southern Methodist University. "The rebound in home sales reflects confidence that both the national and local economies are on the mend.

"Low interest rates, the tax credit and an abundance of competitively priced foreclosure properties have also helped push up sales of existing homes and Fort Worth apartments."