Chaille Ralph, chairwoman of the Houston Association of REALTORS board, has worked as a licensed real estate broker since 1982. The native Houstonian began her career by managing and marketing commercial office buildings, and then she grew to include commercial construction and project management before shifting to residential sales in the mid-1980s.
Ralph would later expand her skills to relocation services and sales management. Ralph often helps train aspiring and well-seasoned real estate agents, and she combines state-of-the-art technology solutions along with support for her sales associates to bring a high level of service to costumers.Through her career Ralph has served on numerous committees, task forces and held leadership positions with HAR. Today Ralph serves as the 2014 chairwoman of the HAR board and holds director positions with both the Texas and National associations of Realtors.
How long is the Greater Houston area expected to remain a seller's market?
We expect that certainly throughout 2014 and into 2015 that we are going to see pretty much a seller's market. We think the market will stay strong well into 2015. Sales are strong right now; they continue to be strong on a monthly basis. If property is priced right it tends to move very quickly.
Is the market expected to turn back to a buyer's market in upcoming years because of new construction? Is there a fear of overbuilding?
I certainly do believe that we have learned our lesson in the overbuilding. I think we have probably started a little slow in the last couple of years building because the market was still coming back. I think you will start to see again, probably in 2015–16, a lot of that catch-up because right now they really can't keep up with a lot of the demand.
Who is typically moving to master-planned communities, and what makes these communities so
What makes them popular is your ability to live, work and play. You are seeing more development happen in the outlying areas from the commercial standpoint as well as the residential. You go back and forth at different times in our lives of not wanting a commute or wanting to work in the central business district and not worrying so much about the commute, but when we see facilities, such as the Exxon facility, going in The Woodlands market, you know people want to live out there. They don't want to commute out to that area, even though in some ways it would be a reverse commute. We are seeing a lot in our close-in markets, people have already in the last two years moved out to The Woodlands market because they want to beat the rush before the facility is finished and Exxon employs.
What factors are taken into consideration when determining housing costs?
Certainly inventory is going to drive prices up. When you have lower inventory, your prices for land go up as well. When you have a market such as we are in, you end up with issues with supply. You have issues with contractors to do the work and the cost of materials goes up.
How does multifamily housing typically affect local economic and demographic trends? Do apartments lower property values?
I see the biggest impact probably negatively would be on traffic patterns and things like that. I have lived in a suburb and I have lived inside the loop, and obviously we have a greater density inside the loop, and I think people are starting to feel that in other areas. It brings more people to the grocery stores, it brings more people to the restaurants, it brings more people to the facilities that are in the area, so it has a positive impact on the economy.
What kind of impact is the ExxonMobil relocation having on the housing market?
It's having a huge impact. The months of inventory around that market are 1.5 months of inventory. So if nothing else came in the market basically the inventory would be depleted in a month and a half, so it's definitely a big effect. It's in all price ranges that we have out there that the inventory is low, so the new construction is really important as well as there are people moving. I think people are fearful of putting their house on the market because they don't have any place to go. People are thinking, 'Should I wait to list my home in The Woodlands? Should I wait to list my home in the northwest side of town? Am I going to get more for it in the next 2 or 3 years?'
How does the lack of a city government presence affect the way real estate develops in unincorporated Harris County?
I really don't [believe the lack of government affects real estate]. Again I think it has to do with location and the amenities that are surrounding them. I don't think a lack of city government has that much effect on our buyers and sellers.
Owners are putting up properties for lease, but buyers are approaching them. Is that something that you are seeing a lot of with the lack of inventory?
Supply and demand is going to drive that factor. When people can't sell their homes, they lease them. You still have a lot of people that want to maintain a property because they see the value. We have seen some people move to The Woodlands but keep their home in the Heights as a rental property because they may want to be back in town some day. We are not seeing, in my offices, as much of it. What we are seeing is the rentals don't last at all. You have four or five, 10 or 12 applications day one on the market. There are people that can't afford to buy right now; there are people that aren't ready to buy or are unsure where they want to be so they do want to lease.