Supply is low and demand is high when it comes to real estate in Hays County, especially near the I-35 corridor, where hundreds of houses are being built to satisfy the need.

U.S. Census Bureau numbers show the demand as the population increases in San Marcos, Kyle and Buda is a major component in driving the number of residents to an estimated 230,000 in the county.

“We are selling houses with multiple offers the first day they go on the market,” said Allison Pflaum, a Realtor with the Hays Home Team at Keller Williams Realty and a resident of Kyle. “Interest rates are unheard of, so we have been busy.”

At the same time, low inventory has been an issue in Hays County. Pflaum said sales have been a good mix of newly built and existing homes, but Buda inventory is down 38% from May 2019 numbers and down 24% in Kyle. San Marcos shows a slight gain in inventory year over year, but local Realtors said the closer to Austin, the hotter the market.

Pflaum said multiple offers on existing homes often drive buyers in the area to new construction, and dozens of builders are answering the call between San Marcos and South Austin.

The coronavirus has also caused buyers to look for different options in a new home as working from home and online education have changed needs.

“They are looking for home offices,” Pflaum said. “They need extra space, sometimes room for two offices and a room for the kids and [online instruction].”

Builders in the area are enticing buyers with larger lots and amenities that include golf courses, pools, splash pads, park space, trails, and walking distance to retail and restaurants in some cases. With Buda, Kyle and San Marcos residents looking for smaller communities without the high prices and high taxes of the region’s larger cities, the I-35 corridor continues to boom with new residents.

“I’m just as busy as I was before,” Realty Austin Realtor Darcy Newton said. “This really hasn’t slowed people down.”

Newton, a resident of Buda, said the coronavirus has brought uncertainty to real estate, with some having to make sure their employment is stable as they commit to buying a new home.

Still, the south-of-Austin market continues to shine bright.

“People like the downtown area of Buda and being close to Austin,” Newton said. “You get more bang for your buck here; there is new construction and good schools. It’s a sense of community you get when you buy here.”

It is an advantage to live in the communities where Newton and Pflaum sell real estate, they said.

“I raised my two boys in Kyle, so it’s not difficult to sell it,” Pflaum said. “Clients recognize it is genuine [to sell in the area you live] and not trying to trick them into buying. These are great communities with phenomenal schools. People moving here will help property values, and it’s a great place to live.”

Hays County and Texas

County numbers are stronger than what the state of Texas is showing for sales during 2020. In fact, according to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, existing home sales are at their lowest level since 2012.

“The month of May marked the housing market’s deepest decline thus far during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said James Gaines, the center’s chief economist, in a report from the university. “Texas’ existing home sales plummeted 32% year over year on top of a 22% slide in April.”

Real Estate Center economist Luis Torres said May showed a bit of a rebound statewide but remained down 16% in home sales compared to May 2019. He said he expects June data to make a comeback because restrictions were reduced, but the “recent resurgence in contracted coronavirus cases and hospitalizations could reverse the recovery.”

According to data from the Austin Board of Realtors, residential home sales are up 8.6% from January-May over the same time last year in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Existing home sales are up 1.6%, while new-construction closings are up 22.8% so far in 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. Also in 2020 so far, the median sold home price in the three cities has increased 5.9% compared to 2019, at $247,000.

When it comes to months of inventory, the three cities had a combined 2.3 months of residential inventory at the end of May.

Single-family homes are in short supply, with 1.5 months of inventory. New-construction residential has 3.7 months of inventory.

When compared to the state of Texas numbers, the ABoR reports residential home sales are down 5.9% from January-May compared to the same months in 2019. Existing home sales increased 2% for the year so far, and median home prices in Texas are up 4.2% to $245,000.

Inventory statewide is at 3.3 months for single-family homes, while new construction is at 4.1 months of inventory.

The proximity between San Antonio and Austin makes San Marcos, Kyle and Buda desirable to first-time homebuyers and people planning to retire or who are retired.

According to local real estate agents, the market in Hays County is not as harshly affected by the slowdown because of the value and mobility with I-35.

“Builders are working hard to keep up,” Pflaum said. “There is a lot of new construction.”

There will be more as additional communities are being planned along the corridor.

Adjusting the way they sell

The coronavirus has also caused Realtors to change the way they sell homes. Virtual tours are commonplace, as are a supply of booties, masks and gloves for any in-person tours.“It has caused us to be more cautious,” Pflaum said. “We are following all the protocols and doing everything to be safe.”

Newton said the coronavirus has made more communication necessary, and there are challenges in showing properties.

“We are doing so safely and taking all the precautions,” Newton said. “A lot of people are changing the way they do business.”

Newton said she hopes a day comes where more can be done in person after the threat of the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

“I miss being with my clients and being able to celebrate with them,” Newton said. “There will be changes, but I hope we will be able to be with our clients again.”