Housing market here remains strong

HOUSTON Healthy is a relative term -- healthy in relation to cities in California and Florida, but the sales slowdown is hitting the Houston market. And that was before the hurricane. Combined, they're increasing the housing slowdown here, but the worst that Houston has seen this year is far better than other parts of the country.

Lee Poquette is scheduled to close on his new home in a few days. His loan was approved last week by a local bank.

"That was not involved in the subprime concerns, so they were able to stay liquid along with me," he said.

Loans and closings have been on the decline in the Houston area. In August, sales were down about 20 percent over last year. Then again, 2007 was a record year for home sales because of easy to obtain mortgages, which is why the stock market is in the current crisis.

And then there is Ike. Homes are being taken off the market for storm related repairs. September home sales in Houston are expected to reflect a sales decline as well.

"I think it's just people who are just holding off on making a purchase so the number of sales are down, but the median and average sales prices are still up," said HAR Chairman Michael Levitin.

Even as sales fell in August, the average single family home price in the Houston market rose to nearly $224,000, an increase over last year. The median price, which is the halfway point between high and low prices was $160,000. The question is whether those bright spots will continue or dim. And like everything else now, it depends on the economy.

"I think it is going to be in a flat to slightly down, but certainly better than elsewhere in the country where they're still ringing up the effects of the bubble," said Dr. Craig Pirrong with the Bauer College of Business.

To put all this in perspective with the Houston oil bust in the 80s, foreclosures here are less than half of what they were then two decades ago.

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