A news release from the Austin Board of Realtors said 40,165 homes were sold in 2020 in the MSA for a grand total of $17,579,802,503. Hays County homes accounted for 4,864 of the home sales, for a total of $1,833,669,611.
“The pandemic only increased demand for all types of housing across the region, pushing inventory to near-zero levels and creating the strongest sellers’ market [ABoR] has ever seen,” 2021 ABoR President Susan Horton said in the news release.
Dr. James Gaines, former chief economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center, said in the news release that the market is fueled by years of high population growth and employment gains, lifestyle changes following the pandemic and record-low interest rates.
"The pandemic fostered an environment where many families increased personal savings helping some transition from renting to ownership, while others needed to ‘move up’ for more space while working from home," Gaines said. "Despite a steep slowdown during shelter-in-place orders this spring, the market came roaring back in the summer with no drop-off at the end of the calendar year.”
Realtor Eric Johnson of Keller Williams said the current climate made for a market that was friendly to sellers and buyers alike, with low interest rates being the biggest factor he witnessed behind the boom in sales.
Johnson sells homes across the central and south Texas and was the San Antonio Board of Realtors 2020 REALTOR Salesperson of the Year.
"Right now's really a good time to buy or sell a house because the home prices have gone up, and the sellers are reaping that additional money for their home, but the buyers, because they qualify for so much more now ... it's allowing more buyers to be in the market and to be able to afford this," he said.
Johnson listed some of the same market drivers Gaines and Horton mentioned, such as changing lifestyles due to the pandemic. He also said out-of-state buyers taking advantage of comparatively lower home prices were increasingly prevalent.
"I would say a third of my business has come from California, New York and Colorado [in 2020] because they can just afford so much more," Johnson said. "A lot of these are work-from-home people and they're still getting their wage from their [out-of-state] employment, and they're just able to buy so much more between the home [price] and then with the cost of living."
In December, housing inventory in Hays County dropped year over year from 1.4 months to 0.4 months of inventory, the lowest figure of all counties in the MSA, which contributed to multiple offers being made on many homes. However, the number of listings in the county actually rose by 6.6% last year to 5,220.
These factors contributed to 2020 median prices for homes in Hays County increasing 10.9% year over year to $295,000.
“The Central Texas housing market is incredibly competitive and moving at lightning speed right now,” Horton said in the release. “The complexity of a home sale is at an all-time high, as it has become commonplace for homes to receive multiple offers well over list price.”
Johnson said demand for flex rooms and extra bedrooms for home gyms and office spaces also rose since the pandemic began. Pools—already a premium, he said—were also in higher demand as families spent more time.
Johnson added that first-time homebuyers from the millennial and Gen Z generations were seizing the opportunity of lower interest rates, moving further toward home ownership or moving into higher-priced homes.
"I've been dealing with a lot of first-time homebuyers this year, and we're seeing a lot of interest in first-time homebuyers getting out of an apartment or getting out of a small house that they're leasing to start building equity and building their net worth," Johnson said. "The biggest hurdle for them is saving up for the down payment for for program."
Gaines said the outlook for the housing market this year was strong as well and that homes are likely to continue to sell quickly.
"If you are ready to buy a home, now is the time to take advantage of low interest rates that boost your buying power and plant roots in Central Texas,” Horton said.