LOS ANGELES, Dec. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ --
Houston's housing market is one of the strongest in the country, and it continues to show growth each month. Just last week, the Houston Association of Realtors reported that sales were up for the 17th straight month, and inventory shrunk to a level not seen since 2001. Plus, experts say Houston's builder confidence is at its highest point since 2006. In fact, according to the consulting firm Metrostudy, Houston-area builders have built 9% more homes during the first nine months of 2012 than they did in all of 2011. But there's a looming cloud over the economy, and it could affect the housing market as well. The so-called "fiscal cliff" could send the economy spiraling downward into another recession if Congress doesn't act fast. While experts differ on the severity of impact the tax increases and federal spending cuts will have on the national economy, local economists say Houston may not feel the impact as much as other metropolitan areas. Why? Economists from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center (located about 90 miles outside of Houston) say there are three reasons why:
1. Smart building
Houston certainly is not immune to the effects of a recession, but it wasn't hit as hard the last time the economy crashed. Why? Unlike other metropolitan areas around the country, Houston never experienced an overbuilding period. In those other big cities, builders continued to build homes, even though the demand for them decreased. The housing market in those cities became saturated with properties that nobody wanted to buy, and when the economy crashed, there were even fewer prospective buyers shopping the market. In Houston, it was more of a controlled growth, so the available home inventory was never astronomically-high, like it was in other places. Since Houston has a lower inventory of available homes, there will be more competition among prospective buyers to purchase homes, meaning sales prices will increase.
2. More jobs
Areas with industry-specific jobs seem to handle a recession better than towns and cities that do not. If the economy falls into another recession, Houston's housing market will still be strong because there are jobs available here. Remember, wherever there are jobs, there are home sales. Houston and the surrounding suburbs are home to many companies in the energy industry, which is pretty recession-proof. After all, regardless of how bad the economy gets, people around the country still need electricity and fuel sources. They still need heating and air conditioning in their homes, and they still need gas in their cars. If anything, a recession triggers more work in the energy industry, as researchers try to find more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective ways to provide their services.
3. Fewer foreclosures
We've already established that Houston has fewer homes available for sale and more jobs than similar-sized cities. For these two reasons alone, there are fewer foreclosures here as well. With fewer homes available, there is less of chance that someone who can't afford a home will have the opportunity to purchase one. That means a borrower defaulting on a loan is less likely to occur in Houston than in other places. Also, with steady income from a good-paying, reliable job, it's a lot less likely that homeowners will get behind on their mortgage payments. And, since builders aren't overbuilding in Houston, it's also less likely that a new home won't sell, which prevents the builder from having to eat the cost of construction. All of these reasons mean fewer foreclosures, and research from the Foreclosure Information and Listing Service supports that assumption. They report that foreclosures are down in Montgomery and Fort Bend counties, and that Harris County (where Houston itself is located) is seeing the lowest number of foreclosures since the last recession began in 2008. Less inventory, more jobs, and fewer foreclosures means the future looks bright for the Houston housing market, and those are the same reasons it should survive the looming "fiscal cliff" and possible recession -- meaning you should feel comfortable saying, "Houston, we DON'T have a problem!"