Dan and Cindy Boutwell started their own company, Boutwell Properties, in late 2019 after a nearly 20-year career as licensed Realtors for RE/MAX. The couple said even as the local real estate market became more competitive due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they continued to maintain plenty of listings from past clients and referrals.

The Boutwells work in Longwood, Fairfield, Lakewood Oaks Estates, Rock Creek, Towne Lake and Bridgeland, among other Cypress-area neighborhoods. Cindy said as more communities are developed in Cypress, the market will get busier. Low interest rates, low inventory and increased home prices have defined the local market throughout the pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are the biggest factors influencing the local real estate market?

Cindy: I think, right now, the lack of inventory is the biggest thing. When COVID hit, people kind of panicked for just a few days, and then they were like, ‘Get me out of the apartment that we’re in right now.’ Other people thought, ‘We need to get a bigger house.’ It just went from there and kind of kept on going.

New construction has been very difficult to deal with. Right now, builders are anti-Realtor because they can sell stuff left and right. What consumers don’t understand is you need to get the house inspected because it’s been built so fast. New construction is coming up on a downturn because there’s not enough people to build houses, and there’s not enough materials. So they’re getting ready to not sit pretty, and then they’re going to come back and want us to help them.

What draws people to the Cy-Fair area?

Cindy: There’s a couple of things. It’s the small businesses that are here. We stayed open, and our small businesses flourished. We have a ton of mom and pop businesses here, and everyone really rallied around them—especially during COVID. Community feel, schools and sports are big. It’s a small town without really being a town.

What challenges are buyers and sellers facing?

Dan: For sellers, they’ve got to have a place to go. We’ve run into that where they want to sell, but they have to find something ... because when they do find something they know they can sell what they have. Two years ago, everyone was just like, ‘I’ve got to sell this first, and then I’ll find something.’ Right now, it’s kind of flipped a little bit: ‘I’ll find something, and then I’ll sell.’

Cindy: And for the buyers, it’s knowing how to write multiple offers. We’ve got a team that we’ve trained on how to write an offer to get it accepted without going crazy because you still have to represent the buyer. We got eight offers on one of our listings recently, and there was really only three of them that we would even consider—the offers were poorly written and asking the seller to do all kinds of crazy things.

What trends are you seeing when it comes to what buyers are looking for?

Cindy: They’re still wanting it to be clean; they’re wanting it to be open concept; and they’re wanting space. That’s one thing we’ve noticed, especially ones that have come from apartments. A lot are still wanting the bedrooms and bathrooms to be updated. But with the shortage right now, people are not as [selective].

Have you seen demographics change as home prices have gone up?

Cindy: No, not really. Most of our customers are families, and we’ve seen some people move from in town. Maybe they’re younger, and they want to have kids, and they don’t want to be in the Heights or Montrose anymore, so they’re coming out here. We’ve seen some move in from out of state.

Dan: One demographic you don’t see is first-time homebuyers. They just can’t get anything. A daughter of a past client and her husband, no kids, they want to buy a house with a 5% down payment. They’re getting killed. Everyone comes in with 20%-50% cash, and then they’ll waive appraisal, and they just can’t do it.