5 tips for buying in a competitive market It


It is an all-too-common situation in this hot market in The Woodlands.

My buyers were seeking a townhome; a year ago, that wouldn’t have been too much of a problem.

But the newly surging home market – and the diminishing inventory – had now created competition among buyers for Woodlands properties. My buyers lost out in one multiple offer situation on a home that would have been perfect – losing to a cash buyer after multiple offers had been received within days of the townhome coming onto market.

So we had to get creative. For us, the key was for me to start querying townhome owners about their willingness to put their homes on the market. Through a contact in our office we finally identified one owner who was willing to sell – a pocket listing, in other words.

But what if that strategy hadn’t worked? We would have had to continue to compete in this market if my buyers were to find a home.

To be competitive in a hot market, you need to know the market, No. 1 – and a Realtor is key to that end. For a full list of 5 tips than lead to a successful offer in a competitive marketHere is a report on the top 5 tips.



April sales jump 33 percent; county outpaces Houston region overall

Closed sales April 2012-2013

If you’ve been thinking it’s time to put your home on the market – you’re exactly right — and the numbers show it.

Homes sales and median prices continue to soar, according to the latest April sales data from the Houston Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County continues to outpace the Houston region as a whole in terms of closed sales and median price increases. Buyer demand for homes, and a dwindling supply, continues to improve the options for homeowners thinking about listing their homes for sale.

Median Price April 2012-2013Montgomery County home sales for April jumped 32.3 percent compared with last April, climbing from 535 to 708 homes sold. That compares favorably to the Houston region overall, which saw a 27.2 percent increase in homes sold for April, according to HAR. Homes selling between $80,000 and $250,000 registered the greatest increase in sales volume, according to HAR, and that tracks closely with Montgomery County, where the sweet spot for home sales hovers around $250,000 to $300,000.

The year-to-date numbers for Montgomery County are strong as well, rising 28.1 percent from 1,715 to 2,197 homes sold year to date in April.

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Days on Market, YTD April 2013With the inventory of available homes continuing to tighten, the result has been quicker sales and higher prices as demand for homes continues to grow, driven by population and job growth and low mortgage rates.

Meanwhile, within Montgomery County, The Woodlands and southwest Montgomery County continue to lead in terms of overall sales, median prices and the Days on Market (the average number of days a home will be on market before it is sold). But other regions showed a surge in the pace of sales in April. The Conroe/Northeast county area saw sales jump 60 percent in April, for example, while Lake Conroe area sales rose 39 percent compared with last April.

Meanwhile, in terms of median prices, all areas showed an increase of 10 percent or better compared with last April, with the exception of southeast Montgomery County, which saw its median prices fall. Here is a full chart of the Montgomery County April 2013 MLS Statistics.

The booming Houston region economy – we were the last in, and the first out, of the national recession – will continue to drive demand for housing, and until homebuilders can put up enough new homes to respond to that demand the value of existing homes will continue to soar in many areas of the county.

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Home sales for March in Montgomery County – up, up and away!

Home sales – up, up and away
County Monthly Home Sales for March 2013The long-term trends continue; home sales and prices are continuing their upward march to the next peak. What has been happening for a year in Montgomery County has now taken hold around the country – home prices are on the rise.

A survey shows U.S. home prices rose 10.5 percent in March compared with a year ago, the biggest gain since March 2006.

Core Logic, a real estate data provider, said Tuesday that annual home prices have now increased for 13 straight months. Prices are rising in part because more buyers are bidding on a limited supply of homes for sale.

Prices increased in 46 states over the past year – 11 of them posting double-digit gains. And when excluding distressed sales, which include foreclosures and short sales, prices rose in every state. A short sale is when a home sells for less than what is owed on the mortgage. In Texas, the Houston MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) posted a 7.9 percent annual gain (excluding distressed properties, the gain was 9.7 percent). For the PDF report: corelogic-hpi-march-2013

Nevada led all states with a 22.2 percent annual gain. It was followed by California (17.2 percent), Arizona (16.8 percent), Idaho (14.5 percent) and Oregon (14.3 percent).

Home prices also rose 1.9 percent in March from February, signaling a solid start to the spring buying season. And 88 of the 100 largest cities reported price gains compared with a year earlier, down slightly from 92 in February.

Consider the following statistics from the data of the Texas Real Estate Center for March. The data looks at home sales, including townhomes and condos, for Montgomery County:

County Monthly Home Inventory March 2013

  • Home Sales — Up 30 percent compared to previous March, rising from 528 to 684
  • Median Price —                 Up 5 percent compared with previous March, rising from $192,600 to $202,000.
  • Inventory — Falling 35 percent, plummeting from 6.2 months of available inventory to just 4 months currently.

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The interesting number to watch is the low inventory; it has been low for months, and I’ve been expecting to see builders respond to increasing demand for housing.

It has begun to happen. According to the graphic below, March building permits nearly doubled over the previous year. Eventually, that will help ease some upward pressure on prices — and more importantly, it will put more and more people to work and help the local economy.

Monthly home inventory March 2013

The Top 10 fast-selling areas in Montgomery County; location, location, location


Top 10 fast sellers April 2013 

One clear sign of the strength of home sales in any particular area, and where the market is likely to heat up even more next, is in the average Days on Market for homes.

Clearly, Montgomery County is now a “seller’s market,” defined as a housing market in which the existing inventory of homes is 5 to 6 months or less (the time it would take, given the existing pace of sales, to absorb all of the existing homes on market).

But Montgomery County is not uniform by any means, and housing sales are driven by any number of factors. The quality of area schools, the quality of construction, the availability and quality of area amenities, and proximity to jobs are all major factors that will drive home sales.

If you are considering listing your home, list it with Remax The Woodlands/Spring, the market leader in The Woodlands/Spring

And one measure of the strength of those sales is the Days on Market. After analyzing the Days on Market for the geographical market areas used by the Houston Association of Realtors MLS, I have determined the “Top 10 Fastest Selling Areas” in Montgomery County for April 2013. Go here for a chart showing the entire list, plus the number of sales in each area.

The graphic shows the Top 10. What makes these communities so popular? A look at the top 5 helps explain:

  1. The Woodlands – The Woodlands is the hottest market for real estate right now in Montgomery County. Homes are listed and sold literally in days in some cases. The reasons are obvious. The Woodlands boasts quality schools, fantastic area amenities including Market Street, great neighborhood parks, golfing and miles of hiking and biking trails and proximity to Interstate 45 and the Exxon Mobil campus currently under construction. At 12 Days on Market on average for April, homes have become a precious commodity in The Woodlands.
  2. Spring Northeast – Spring Northeast is No. 2 in our ranking, and it is driven by quality subdivisions like Imperial Oaks and Bender’s Landing, the community of Oak Ridge north, and proximity to I-45.
  3. Conroe southeast – At No. 3, the southeast area of Conroe – featuring custom home subdivisions like River Plantation and Crighton Ridge, is narrowly behind Spring Northeast in Days on Market. Again, proximity to I-45 is a key driver.
  4. Magnolia FM 1488 east – Home buyers here are drawn by the promise of spacious homes on large lots, a place in the country that still is not too far thriving areas like The Woodlands and thoroughfares like Interstate 45.
  5. Lake Conroe area – Lake Conroe is one of Montgomery County’s claims to fame, and a wide variety of lake area communities afford homeowners the best of both worlds, a lake area lifestyle, with city amenities just down the road.

December leaves a present in terms of surging home sales for month, year

As December came to a close, it left a present for area homeowners in Montgomery County and the Houston region – rising home sales and increased home values. Total sales jumped 30 percent in Conroe and northeast Montgomery County in December, and rose 16 percent year-over-year for the county as a whole.

Meanwhile, The Woodlands continues to be the leader in both median home value, the lowest Days on Market to sell, and the total number of transactions taking place, according to the latest figures from the Houston Association of Realtors.

Closed sales Dec. 2011-2012 The tremendous improvement in the housing market in 2012 is being driven by job and population growth and continued low interest rates. And that shows no sign of stopping. According to a recent story in the Houston Business Journal, more Houston employers are expecting to hire this year, continuing the trend of job growth in the area.

HAR Chairman Danny Frank with Prudential Anderson Properties captured that sentiment in a recent press release from HAR.

“2012 was a phenomenal year for the Houston housing market, thanks to the addition of more than 85,000 new jobs locally as well as continued low interest rates,” Frank said. “Market conditions have created excellent opportunities to sell a home in many parts of town, with some sellers receiving multiple offers. With less than four months of inventory on the market and continued demand, we could see further pressure on pricing until inventory levels pick up.”

The good news is abundant for Montgomery County and the Houston Region, whether you look at December monthly comparisons, or the year as a whole. If you’re interested in knowing more about the housing market for your neighborhood in particular, give me a call or send me an email – and I’m never too busy for a referral!

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Montgomery County

Monthly Closed sales for December grew from 469 in December 2011 to 490 December 2012, an increase of 4.5 percent

Year-to-date closed sales grew from 5,771 to 6,700, an increase of 16.1 percent.

Median Price

The Woodlands and southeast Montgomery County posted the strongest gains in median price in December

— Southeast Montgomery County median price grew from $162,970 in December 2011 to $182,000 in December 2012, an increase of 11.7 percent.Median Price YTD Dec. 2011-2012

— The Woodlands was the next strongest area for growth in the median price for a single family home, rising from $210,000 to $220,750 from December 2011 to December 2012 – an increase of 5.1 percent.

— The Woodlands/southwest Montgomery County is the price leader in median home prices for the year — posting a median price of $225,000 — $25,000 higher than the next-best area for median prices in Montgomery County, the area of Lake Conroe/northwest Montgomery County.

— The Lake Conroe area posted the strongest percentage gains in median price for the year, rising 12.2 percent from $178,000 in 2011 to $199,700 in 2012.

Closed sales

Conroe and northeast Montgomery County, and the Lake Conroe area, posted the strongest gains in closed sales for the month of December, rising 30.4 percent and 19.2 percent, respectively.

For the year as a whole, The Woodlands is clearly the leader in the total number closed sales for the year, posting three times as many sales as any of the other three geographic areas of Montgomery County with 3,832 sales for the year, an increase of 13.9 percent over the 3,363 homes sold in The Woodlands area in 2011.

But the strongest gains in closed sales for the year as a whole occurred in Conroe/Northeast Montgomery County and in the Lake Conroe area, rising 22.3 percent in Conroe/Northeast Montgomery County and 24.3 percent in the lake Conroe area.

Pending sales

The Woodlands posted the strongest gains in December for pending sales with an increase in 10.6 percent

Days on Market

Days on Market are plummeting all across Montgomery County according to the year-to-date figures; DOM fell the farthest, down 18.3 percent, in The Woodlands area, dropping from an average Days on Market of 82 to just 67.Days on Market, YTD Dec. 2011-2012

Houston Regional Snapshot

According to the latest monthly data prepared by the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR), December single-family home sales increased 11.4 percent versus December 2011. Contracts closed on 5,039 homes, driving inventory down to 3.7 months, the lowest level since December 1999.

All housing segments saw gains in December except for the low end of the market-those homes priced at $80,000 and below. Homes priced from $500,000 and above registered the highest sales volume and accounted for another hike in prices.

The single-family home average price jumped 11.3 percent year-over-year to $243,797 while the median price-the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less-rose 7.8 percent to $172,500. Both figures represent historic highs for Houston.

Sales of foreclosure properties continue to diminish, falling 24.0 percent compared to December 2011, according to the HAR Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Foreclosures currently make up 14.2 percent of all property sales reported through the MLS, half the share they comprised at the beginning of 2012. The median price of December foreclosures edged up 2.1 percent to $84,200.

So there it is; houses are on the market for a shorter period of time, home values are rising, and the pace of sales continues to increase. With good, strong job growth in the county and region, continued population growth, and what appears to be continued low interest rates, the picture for the coming year is very bright.

Jim Fredricks is a Realtor who lives in Montgomery County, Texas, and serves clients throughout the Montgomery County/north Harris County area. To subscribe to his biweekly newsletter, just text JIMSELLS to 22828.


She dreamed of a purpose; they dreamed of a future

Physical Location map Haiti with departements,...

Physical Location map Haiti with departements, Equirectangular projection, N/S stretching 105 %. Geographic limits of the map: N: 20.2° N S: 17.9° N W: 74.6° E O: 71.5° E (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a God story. It’s a story of how a little girl from Borger, Texas, now a successful stockbroker and wealth manager in The Woodlands, came to find her purpose in life in middle age in a chance conversation with a stranger.

It’s also story of how the elders in an impoverished little village in Haiti – a poor village in one of the poorest countries in the world – decided back in 2006 that they would somehow, in a country where education isn’t free, and without any resources of their own, build a school and teach their children in their isolated village – and give them a life the adults had been denied.

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And it’s a story of how these two different worlds have been brought together to make those dreams a reality, assisted by a dedicated group of American business people.

The little girl was Cindy Tice. Born in Borger – one of the first oil boom-towns in the Panhandle, but still boasting only 13,000 residents in 2010 – the career choices for little girls back then were limited, she said in a recent interview.

“There were three occupational choices for girls when I was growing up,” Tice said. “Teacher, nurse, or housewife; so I became a teacher.”

She pursued that career and made it a success as a speech and hearing therapist, but longed to do something different. Eventually, she would train to become a stockbroker and wealth manager, and through hard work and determination turned that into a success as well, first with Paine Webber and then with Morgan Stanley, where she now is first vice president and wealth adviser in the national financial firm’s Woodlands Waterway office.

She’s long known that “to whom much is given, much is required,” and so Tice made sure to involve herself in charity in her community in The Woodlands Rotary Club and CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates.

But even then, her involvement often was simply limited to “just going to a black tie event, drinking too much wine and winning an auction trip and writing a check out.”

She wanted to do more. But what?

“I had always felt like God had a purpose for me,” she said, “but I just couldn’t find what it was.”

Then one day at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, she was listening to a sermon from Pastor Rob Renfroe.

“One day Rob Renfroe was giving a sermon about the epitaph people want to have when they die. I remember him asking the congregation, ‘Will it be – I just waited all of my life to find out what my purpose was?’

“I realized – Oh my gosh — I had done that my whole life.”

“And then he said ‘there are opportunities all around us all the time; you just need to stand up and start saying yes.’ “

Two weeks later, just before Christmas 2011, Tice found herself at P.F. Chang’s in The Woodlands after a day of shopping, taking a break to sip on a glass of wine at the bar and text with friends; she noticed a young man next to her doing the same and they struck up a conversation.

“Something just clicked, and we started talking about charities of our choice. I said mine was CASA. He said ‘mine was Haiti,’ and he told me about this group of people who go to Haiti twice a year. They had built a school for this little village, adding to the economy by hiring local people to do the work.

The young man was Jeff Hynes, Sr. Treasury Analyst (Financial Derivatives) at CB&I  in The Woodlands. “He later sent me a couple of emails and invited me over with his family — and served me a little too much wine,” she joked.

“He said, ‘I’m going in March – would you like to go?’ “

It was an opportunity – and she said yes. And that’s how Tice would find herself one day surrounded by poor villagers in Haiti, helping them to furnish their new school with textbooks and a kitchen in which to cook the children one meal a day – a meal that for some was the only real meal of the day.

The group she joined is called “Hands for Haiti” and it serves the tiny village of Tremesse. The group’s Web site paints a picture of utter poverty: “There is no village center, pathways lead off into the jungle at every angle. There is no pavement in Tremesse, no electricity, no plumbing, no stores and until recently no real school.”

Hands for Haiti actually started with the dream of those villagers in Tremesse to offer a better future for their children. In fact, desperate to give the children whatever education they could, the villagers had picked volunteers and opened a fledgling school – nothing more than a tarp suspended by four poles, with no textbooks or learning equipment to speak of.

They had the will – but no way to achieve their dreams.

That would come in the form of Hands for Haiti, launched by a retired successful businessman in North Carolina, Mark Creasser,  who discovered the villagers’ plight during his own work in Haiti to relieve hunger.

“My friends and I had been involved in shipping food containers to Haiti, and I had been going down there for six or seven years at that point,” Creasser said.

“There was a group of elders that were in Tremesse that had gone to a doctor friend of ours, Ray Ford, and had asked him if he could find someone who could help them. Ford and his staff had established a clinic and orphanage not too far from the village.

“Dr. Ford said ‘Why don’t just you just come out and see the situation and see what you can do?

“I went out there to the tent school, and they asked us what we could do for them, and I was honest. I didn’t know anything we could do, but I told them I’d look into it.

“Like so many things, the good Lord pushed us into this thing.”

Eventually, Creasser and a handful for other men, including Hynes, formed Hands for Haiti, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit incorporated in the State of New Hampshire.

The group, initially funded by the generosity of board members, and now supplemented in part by monthly sponsorships,  already has done much for the children of Tremesse. The school now has 235 students and 12 teachers and administrators. The classes are pre-school to Grade 5 and began October 3. In addition, the group has improved the lot of the villagers in a number of other ways, including setting up an operational satellite and WIFI network at the school, providing 25 XO laptops and 10 regular laptops loaded with educational software, building a new kitchen, providing a solar-powered water system with generator backup, meals, and annual physicals for the children.

And yet there is much more to be done – such as providing a vehicle to give villagers a way to transport children or adults to the nearby clinic for emergencies and other needs. The tragic death of one of the school’s students demonstrates the tremendous need for a vehicle, Tice said.

“At least a third of the kids are malnourished,” Tice said. One 7-year-old boy, Ronaldo, had contracted cholera as a result of chronic malnutrition, and began having seizures.

“One day, his parents had to just pick him up and start walking/running toward the clinic,” Tice said.

He died along the way in their arms.

Creasser said the long-term goal is to continue building the school, adding grades through high school, and to raise a new generation of educated Haitians.

“Our goal is not just to have a school, but we want to have a school where we can provide or at least have a way of looking for the future leaders of Haiti and have them be created,” Creasser said. They hope to work with some of the companies moving into Haiti to develop vocational programs to train students for better jobs in factories or other corporate facilities – or to teach them better farming methods to improve agriculture.

For Tice, the work has been life-changing. She remembers one day visiting the village and being approached by one little girl eager to see her; she wanted to show off her new, bright red shoe.

One shoe.

“She was so happy; they were the first shoes she had ever had; she wore one of the shoes – and her sister wore the other.”

“Seeing how happy they can be with what they have….and how unhappy American kids can be when we don’t go out and buy them the latest toy; it’s just such a lesson for me.

“It’s just enriched my life.”

To learn more about Hands for Haiti, or to make a donation, go to the group’s Web site www.handsforhaiti.com.

County, Houston housing market continues to beat prior year on sales, median price

Houston region home sales have been beating prior year sales now for 16 months according to the latest September sales data, and Montgomery County is no exception to that continued strength in the housing market.

In virtually every category of data – the average days a home stays on market, median prices, total homes sold — the picture for single family homes continues to strengthen in Montgomery County.

Of course, what is fueling this continued growth in the housing market is a relatively robust economy in the Houston region and record-low interest rates.

So how about you? This market presents good opportunities to buy or sell; please contact me for a free market analysis of your home, or to inquire about finding the right home.

According to the Houston Association of Realtors, even though overall monthly sales volume dropped slightly compared to August, there was enough sales activity to lower available housing inventory to levels not seen since March 2002.

According to the data:

  • single-family home sales rose 8.7 percent compared to September 2011;
  • Contracts closed on 5,014 homes in September;
  • Inventory dropped to 4.7 months
  • The single-family home average price increased 4.7 percent year-over-year to $220,992, the highest level for a September in Houston;
  • The median price—the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less—climbed 6.1 percent to $165,000, also a record high for a September in Houston.

“Demand for homes throughout Houston continues to outpace supply as we transition into the fall season,” said Wayne A. Stroman, HAR chairman and CEO of Stroman Realty, in a HAR press release. “For those considering selling a home, current market conditions present excellent opportunities, and with interest rates falling to new record lows, this also remains an outstanding time to buy.”

“For those considering selling a home, current market conditions present excellent opportunities, and with interest rates falling to new record lows, this also remains an outstanding time to buy.”

In many ways, Montgomery County’s housing picture is stronger than the Houston area overall. The county continued to see strong home sales for this year in September’s data, year over year, with 591 closed sales compared with 503 in September 2011 — an increase of 17.5 percent. For closed sales, it was the best September since 2006, the year home sales peaked in Montgomery County.

Total inventory stood at 5.2 months in September, again, the lowest amount of inventory on the market since late 2006, early 2007, when the inventory stood at 5.1 in several months of the year and dipped to 4.7 months once.

Other highlights:

  • Year-to-date closed sales rose were positive as well, rising 14.3 percent, from 4,496 by this point last year in September to 5,138 this year
  • The time homes spend on average on market (Days on Market) fell from 89 to 80 days on average for a single family home – a fall of 10.4 percent

Burrowing deeper into the data, it’s clear that The Woodlands dominates the market compared with the county’s other geographical areas.

Days on Market

Properties are moving faster in The Woodlands and southwest Montgomery County, with an average days on market of just 68 days, compared with the average countywide of 80 days.

The Lake Conroe and northwest Montgomery County region had the highest Days on Market, averaging 104 for September.

However, the good news is that all four regions of Montgomery County saw the average Days on Market for single family homes decline

Median Price

Lake Conroe made the biggest gains in median price in September year to date, jumping 13.4 percent from $175,000 to $198,390; and as for comparing just September 2012 to September 2011, the median price in northwest Montgomery County and Lake Conroe jumped 40.8 percent, from $156,000 to $220,000.

However, The Woodlands and South Montgomery County continues to lead in median price overall, both year-to-date and for September monthly figures; The Woodlands and southwest Montgomery County year-to-date media price stands at $228,000.

Closed Sales

The Woodlands also is leader in closed sales, jumping 30.9 percent in September from 275 last year to 360 this September. Lake Conroe and northwest Montgomery County saw the next-largest gains, growing 16.3 percent from 98 last September to 114 this September.

As for year-to-date figures, while The Woodlands had three times or more closings than anywhere else in the county, it was Conroe and Northeast Montgomery County that showed the strongest growth in closed sales, climbing nearly 23 percent from 548 last year to 673 this year.

Thinking of buying or selling a home? Jim Fredricks can provide you a market analysis for your home to see whether it makes sense to sell. He is a licensed real estate agent with Chevaux Group in The Woodlands. You may contact him at jfredricks@thefredricksgroup.com