No longer bucking the trend

December 16, 2008 4:27:30 PM PST
Houston quickly gained a reputation as a boomtown at the start of the economic downturn. While other major cities were hit hard by a housing crisis, Houston was bucking the trend. But new research out Tuesday shows things may be changing. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The Houston Association of Realtors calls this the biggest drop in home sales since at least 1996. But they say there's a silver lining to even the most grim of housing numbers.

When Demetrice Saulsberry decided to put the for sale sign outside her Missouri City home earlier this year, she never expected it would take as long as five months to find a buyer.

"It just sat on the market for a while," she told us.

She had to lower the price from $83,000 to $79,000 and had to install all new appliances just to make the deal more attractive. She finally got a contract signed last week.

"Oh definitely, it's a huge relief," said Saulsberry.

Saulsberry's experience is not uncommon among home sales in the greater Houston area. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, sales of all properties are off more than 33% compared to a year ago. Sales of single family houses are down more than 31%. The average home is selling at nearly $188,000 and that, too, is down 7%.

"I think you're beginning to see the market slow down," said Shad Bogany with Era Bogany Properties.

Year to date, however, home prices are two percent above 2007 levels, proof that the Houston market is on a much more solid footing that those in California, Florida and Nevada, where homeowners endured double digit depreciation in the housing downtown that started more than a year ago.

Bogany says sellers can really use the market conditions to their advantage if they lower sales prices even the slightest of amounts.

"If we give here, you're gonna make it on the other end because you're gonna take advantage of the lower prices and the builder discounts so do not sit and hold your house hostage," he said.

So right now, many realtors, sellers and even homebuilders are offering huge incentives.

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