For area cities Bellaire, Southside Place and West University Place, housing is in greater demand than ever, area real estate agents say.
These communities offer proximity to downtown Houston, Rice University and the Texas Medical Center along with strong city services and recreational programs, said Realtor Maya Samardzijaof the Bellaire office of Coldwell Banker United Realtors.
“There’s a real community feel,” she said. “Bellaire has a lot of committees, and both West U and Southside Place do, too. You can really get involved.”
The cities in the southwest area are seeing a strong sellers’ market, Samardzija said.
“If someone’s looking to buy, they need to be prepared for multiple offers and a bidding war,” she said. “Buyers need to act very quickly if they find something they like.”
Samardzija attributes the strong sellers’ market in this area and throughout greater Houston to an increase of buyers drawn by low interest rates during a time when homeowners are more reluctant to put their homes on the market.
Some homeowners are trying to wait longer before selling in hopes of getting more money for their home. Others owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.
The market also is seeing more investors buying homes and renting them, as opposed to flipping the houses and reselling them.
“And we’re still feeling the effects of the depressed housing market of 2009 through 2011,” Samardzija said. “Fewer new homes are being built to keep up with demand.”
The low home inventory is especially evident in Bellaire, Samardzija said.
Real estate professionals describe home supply in terms of inventory months, which represent the number of months it would take to deplete the existing home inventory if no more houses were to enter the market.
An area with one to four inventory months of homes is considered a sellers’ market.
Five to six inventory months represent a stable market, and seven or more inventory months is a sign of a buyers’ market.
During the first quarter of 2013, Bellaire had 1.9 inventory months of homes, and as of early April, Bellaire had one inventory month of homes.
“For sellers it’s great,” Samardzija said. “They’re getting multiple offers.”
In addition to its location and overall environment, Bellaire benefits from the strength of its schools, Samardzija said.
Those schools include Condit and Horn elementary schools, both rated exemplary by the Texas Education Agency.
Demand is high for Horn’s pre-kindergarten program.
Bellaire also offers larger lots than West U and Southside Place for less money per square foot, Samardzija said.
During the first quarter of 2013, the average cost per square foot for a Bellaire house on the market was $221, compared to $284 for West U and Southside Place.
Samardzija, who lives in Bellaire, said she was attracted to the city’s location and small community feel when she bought there.
“I can drive to all of the important places and be there in 10 minutes – downtown, restaurants in Montrose, the (Texas Medical Center).”
Southside Place, a bedroom community developed in the 1920s, covers about 156 acres.
Like Bellaire, Southside Place has its own city government and police and fire service.
Between April 2012 and April 2013, Southside Place had an average of 2.8 months of inventory, Samardzija said.
Seventeen homes were sold in Southside Place during that time for an average price of $991,591.
West University Place
Like its neighbors, West U has demonstrated a strong sellers’ market as well with an average 1.8 month inventory between April 2012 and April 2013.
It’s normal for West U to have a strong housing market, Samardzija said.
“West University is a little closer to downtown Houston and the Medical Center (than Bellaire). And West University Elementary School is exemplary, too,” she said, referring to the school’s rating by the TEA.
The elementary school serves Southside Place, too, she added.
Linda Swope of Coldwell Banker United, a Realtor since 1988 who specializes in relocation, has lived in West U since 1985.
Today, she said, she would never consider leaving.
“It has the small town atmosphere. People are friendly. You have great city services, good infrastructure. It’s hometown U.S.A.”
Swope said she also enjoys West U’s pool/waterpark and the new community center, which has an Olympic-sized indoor-outdoor pool, squash courts, a gym, exercise rooms and fitness classes.
“Another thing I love about West U and Houston – they’ve become quite international,” Swope said.
“I speak multiple languages, and it’s fun and refreshing to meet people here.”
Swope said Southside Place is comparable to West U and popular among home buyers, too.
“They have the same feel: small town, very closely knit.”
ORIGINAL SOURCE:Flori Meeks for Chron.com