1. Builders adapt to changing economic conditions
However, the number of home sales since 2014 has stayed consistent in the Spring and Klein area, dipping from about 5,600 to 5,500 homes sold in 2015 but rebounding to more than 5,700 homes sold in 2016, according to statistics gathered by the Champions office of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors.
“I think that we are very fortunate to be in this area because, just like Houston, it seems to be in a little bit of a protective bubble,” said Steve Owen, a real estate agent at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene. “I think that spurs on people wanting to move here and keeps demand for houses in good shape.”
Will Holder, president of Houston-based Trendmaker Homes and a former president of the Greater Houston Builders Association, said the 2014 opening of ExxonMobil’s 386-acre Springwoods Village campus was expected to increase demand for housing in the Spring and Klein area. However, that sector did not generate the expected influx of new residents after energy prices crashed in 2015.
“The supply side is geared more around a time when there were 100,000 new jobs coming, and they didn’t materialize,” Holder said.
However, demand in Springwoods Village has remained healthy in part because builders have responded to the new market, said Jonathan White, president of the Houston division of developer Taylor Morrison. Most of the 50 homes planned in the developer’s Audubon Grove community in Springwoods Village have been sold, but the buyer profile has changed since 2015, he said.
Some Audubon Grove houses, initially designed with floor plans as large as 4,500-5,500 square feet, were reduced to 3,500 square feet when the demand shifted toward smaller houses, White said.
“When we first looked at it, oil and gas was thriving, the industry was flowing and you had a lot of people relocating.” he said. “[Now] we’ve seen a lot more of the demographic being empty nesters and younger families, so the need to have a house that big goes away as well.”
2. New homes under $300K are moving fast
Homebuyers in Spring and Klein face steep competition for new houses priced at less than $300,000—a range considered affordable in the Greater Houston area, said Helen Edwards, president of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors, in Austin and Houston.
For example, The Park at Meadowhill subdivision off Spring Stuebner Road, which includes about 300 homes, had sold every unit except the model in late June, Brighton Homes sales consultant Dina Keimig said. The subdivision opened in 2009.
The houses range from 1,500 to 2,300 square feet and were sold at prices between $180,000 and $220,000, Keimig said.
“I think for the most part finding new construction at that price point is a rarity,” she said. “That’s why that community was successful.”
Statistics from Houston Association of Realtors show that home sales in the Greater Houston area increased from May 2016 to May 2017 in almost every price range, but sales of homes priced between $150,000 and $249,000 increased by 13.7 percent—the largest increase outside of the luxury category.
Homes priced between $250,000 and $500,000 also experienced a 12.9 percent increase in sales, while homes priced above $500,000 increased by a smaller margin—8.5 percent—from 2016 to 2017.
“The interesting trend that we are seeing now is that less is more,” Edwards said. “Buyers are not as interested in the huge homes that they wanted in the past decade. They tend to want a more simple and modern-style home.”
Will Holder, president of Houston-based Trendmaker Homes, said he believes buyers are looking for lower prices, but smaller houses are not the motivation.
“We’ve found that buyers just wanted smaller prices, they didn’t want less house,” he said.
3. Growth picks up near the Grand Parkway
A. The Park at Meadowhill: $180K-$220K, 300 homes built
B. Laurel Park: $272K+, 400 homes planned
C. Laurel Glen: $275K+, 310 homes planned
D. Audubon Grove: $300K-$400K, 50 homes built
E. Harper Woods: $400K+, 88 homes built
F. Sawmill Ranch: $200K-$322K, 317 homes built
4. Leasing is making gains against homeownership
Houston leasing and real estate experts say the stigma of renting apartments and single-family homes has receded as changing demographics and the financial risks of homeownership redefine the market.
“A lot of millennials will pay $2,000 a month on new apartments as opposed to dealing with a house and maintenance,” said Amy Smythe-Harris, owner of Houston-based Urban Provision Realtors. “A lot of empty nesters are wanting to experience living again … so they can lock up, leave and do their travels. Those two ends of that spectrum are really changing the dynamics of housing.”
In Spring and Klein, apartment complexes were constructed alongside new housing in many areas. The Belvedere at Springwoods Village, adjacent to several single-family home developments, commands rent as high as $2,845 for a three-bedroom apartment in a building with a swimming pool, a fitness center and other amenities. Waterford Trails Apartments, next to the Laurel Glen development, leases apartments with monthly rents as high as $960 to $2,220.
The cost of buying and maintaining a house deters some prospective homeowners, said Sam Upchurch, owner of Houston-based Texas Renters, which offers leasing services to owners of single-family homes.
“I think after the last financial issues we had some years ago that people realize that there are some risks in being a homeowner,” Upchurch said.
5. Home values outpace income growth in Spring, Klein
Prospective homeowners face affordability challenges, as median home sale prices across two populous ZIP codes in Spring and Klein increased from 2011 to 2015, while median household income in both areas decreased.
6. Energy-efficient, technology- equipped homes on the rise
The demand for smart homes—which offer remote access to features such as thermostats and front-door cameras—and for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technology is increasing among buyers of new homes as these options become more affordable.
“Those are going to be the big buzzwords,”said Amy Smythe-Harris, owner of Houston-based Urban Provision Realtors. “New construction is definitely going to be selling [smart homes] more.”
Creating an energy-efficient home is not an all-or-nothing proposition, said Jonathan White, president of the Houston division of developer Taylor Morrison. Because the cost of features such as double-pane windows and highly efficient heating and air conditioning systems has fallen recently, homeowners have a range of choices whether they purchase a home with built-in features or add them to an existing home, he said.
7. ‘Fixer upper’ homes are in demand
Existing homes are selling faster than new homes in the Greater Houston area and across Texas, according to the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center. In early 2017, existing homes in the Houston metropolitan area spent an average of less than four months on the market, while new homes took about five months to sell.
“One of the real challenges that the average person faces is that a lot of investors are looking to flip [older houses] or renovate them and rent them out, and most of those people are working with cash,” said Steve Owen, a real estate agent at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene.
Kimberley Lalou, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent in Spring, said part of the appeal of older houses is their style and layout.
“With my clients, I’m noticing folks are leaning toward the non-cookie-cutter type of home,” Lalou said.
The Spring area boasts a large number of neighborhoods built in the 1970s with features desirable to young homebuyers, she said.
“A good chunk of millennials is looking for homes with character,” Lalou said. “I can’t put my finger on why—maybe Pinterest is the reason.”
Amy Smythe-Harris, owner of Urban Provision Realtors, said she recently had multiple offers on a seemingly ordinary house in Klein.
“The house was not updated, but people wanted the square footage on the house in the area,” she said.