Housing market heating up

Posted Monday, Sep. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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If you’re a Mansfield resident looking to sell your house, now may be the time.

The supply of homes is tight, prices are up and they aren’t staying listed for long, according to Mansfield real estate officials and industry reports.

“It’s a wonderful sellers’ market,” said Mansfield real estate agent Elizabeth Taylor . “It’s not a buyers’ market at this time.”

The potential good news for sellers follows years of depressed home prices in the post-housing-bubble era, even though the housing markets in Mansfield and much of North Texas weathered the recession better than many other regions, officials say.

Single-family homes in Mansfield sold for an average of $234,175 in August, 14 percent higher than sales in August 2012. The price was about $1,800 less than average among 150 statistical areas in a 29-county region of North Texas researched by Real Estate Center of Texas A&M University.

The average Mansfield home sold in August was on the market 32 days, down more than half from a year ago and considerably less than the 50-day average for the region.

New listings grew 13 percent last month, to 144 houses, but the average for the first eight months of the year was down 3 percent from the same period last year, according to the A&M center data.

“From what I hear, when houses pop up, their offers are generally coming in pretty fast,” said Steve Taylor, director of Mansfield Mortgage and husband of agent Elizabeth Taylor. “A month ago or so, most of the agents were having to bid on three or four houses just to get one for their clients.”

Despite the advantage for sellers, buyers continue to be motivated by low borrowing costs, especially now that loan interest rates have started to tick upward. Mansfield real estate agent Dee Davey said she was seeing interest rates around 2.8 percent on 30-year fixed mortgage loans.

“That’s gone up to an average of 4.5 to 4.75 percent, which I’m writing now,” she said.

She added that most home buyers would find stricter qualification requirements than existed before the recession, and no more zero down payment.

“I think we started doing the nothing down from about 2005 to 2008 – those were the banner years,” said Davey, who moved to Mansfield 37 years ago and became an agent 35 years ago. “Banks were willing to loan a lot of money.”

Most lenders are requiring a minimum credit score of 620 and a 5 percent down payment for a conventional loan, and a 640 credit score and 3.5 percent down payment for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, Steve Taylor said.

“However, some lenders have lowered the credit score (requirement) on FHA loans to 580,” he said. “They feel like the values have been increasing and they think that’s going to continue.”

The FHA, the mortgage insurer in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will loan up to $271,500 for a home purchase in the Mansfield area, which can result in some expensive foreclosure homes, Davey noted.

“If a HUD home like that goes into foreclosure, it could easily go on the market for $250,000 or $260,000,” Davey said.

The average value of a newly constructed home in Mansfield was $303,000 last year, according to the city. But the market has a wide range of home prices, Davey said, ranging from five figures “all the way up to $2 million.”

Overall, the city’s supply of ready-to-build lots is smaller than last year’s. Currently there are 225 residential lots in final plats approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, said city planner Art Wright. But he counted more than 450 additional lots, mostly on the east side of town, that are at various steps in the approval process.

The number of building permits issued – a good barometer of housing construction activity – hasn’t indicated a clear trend. The city issued 145 permits during the first eight months of this year, an increase over the 132 permits given during the same period last year, but less than the 167 permits issued through August 2011.

City Planning Director Felix Wong said about 228 new homes annually have been built in Mansfield over the past several years.

Though the Mansfield market may seem hot, it ranked a lukewarm 43rd last month among 140 of the statistical areas in the region ranked on the “hotness ratio,” according to the A&M center. Mansfield scored 35.5 percent on the ratio, which is the percentage of active home listings that are classified as pending sales.

The Colony topped the list with 74.1 percent. Two sectors in east central Arlington known as Areas 84 and 86 were ranked second and third with scores of 71 and 63 percent.

The Colony also had only a 1.2-month inventory of homes, meaning it would take that long for all homes currently for sale on the market to sell.

Mansfield had a 2.8-month inventory in August, 23 percent smaller than its supply in August 2012 and below the four- to six-month inventory considered normal in the industry.

Davey said low inventory means people are checking out Mansfield and liking what they see – from parks to schools to medical facilities and community activities.

“I live here and have lived here for 37 years,” she said, “because a city that provides those sorts of things is what I want.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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