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Multiple Listing Service of the Houston Association of REALTORS® includes residential properties and new homes listed by 47,000 REALTORS®

December 1998 Sales
December Home Sales Cap A Record Year For The Houston Real Estate Market
1998 Home Sales Reach 51,904; Total Dollar Volume Exceeds $6.4 Billion
HOUSTON (January 20, 1999) - There was no rest for weary Houston-area Realtors in December as they capped a string of 12 consecutive months of record home sales to give the Houston real estate market its best year in history with 51,904 homes sold, according to statistics released today by the Houston Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service (HARMLS).  The home sales total bested by more than 26 percent the previous record of 41,033, set just last year, and reached new heights for median price and total dollar volume.  Last year saw the median price for single-family homes reached the $100,000-mark for the first time in a single month.  The median price for single-family homes in 1998 soared to $96,880, representing a 6.3 percent increase over the previous record median price set in 1997.  Record high prices and sales totals translated into a total dollar volume for 1998 of $6.44 billion.

"Despite the economic swings the country experienced including the world financial crisis and fluctuations in oil prices, the Houston market performed better than anyone could have predicted," said Mark Woodroof, 1999 Chairman of the Board of the Houston Association of Realtors.  "The industry has taken the lessons learned in the 1980s and applied them now to create one of the strongest real estate markets in the nation."

There also were notable lows during the past year including available inventory and days on market.  After beginning 1998 with a 16-year low of 25,020 listings available on the HARMLS, the supply has steadily dwindled down to the current level of 21,256 homes.

A shrinking inventory coupled with record low interest rates and rising prices moved homes at a significantly faster pace.  The days that homes spent on the market in 1998 dropped from 106.8 in January to 81.0 days in December, including a low of 77.0 days in August, one of the many signs that homes were moving faster than ever before.

"Another traditional indicator of how the market will fare in the coming 30 to 60 days is the number of contacts pended," noted Woodroof.  "However, some homes moved so quickly that they were placed on the market and sold between the beginning and end of a calendar month, meaning that they were never counted as pended."

Year-to-Date Comparison 1997 1998 Percent Change
Total home sales 41,033 51,904 + 26.5 %
Total dollar volume $4.84 Billion $6.44 Billion + 33.2%
Median price, single-family home $91,125 $96,880 + 6.3 %
Ave. active listings per month 28,661 24,145 - 15.8 %

A recent article in the December 30 issue of Fortune magazine stated that real estate is currently defying history. Traditionally, the housing market generally slumps along with stocks during a recession. Despite sagging stocks and recession, the housing market has weathered the storm. Housing is expected to contribute 40 percent of projected GDP growth in 2002, more than twice what it usually adds.
Year-to-Date Comparison
1997 1998 Percent Change
Total home sales 41,033 51,904 +26.5%
Total dollar volume $4.84 Billion $6.44 Billion +33.2%
Peak median price, single-family home $91,125 $96,880 +6.3%
Avg. no. of active listings per month 28,661 24,145 -15.8%
High Rise Properties and Townhomes Surge Ahead

The past year also was a record year for high rise properties and townhouses.  In 1998, Realtors moved 374 high rise and loft residences, topping 1997 by 41.1 percent.

The median price for high rise properties in 1998 was $173,000, a 6.9 percent increase over 1997.

Additionally, 4,865 townhomes and condominiums were sold in 1998, representing a 23.2 percent increase over 1997.  Townhomes and condos sold at a median price of $62,300, up from $55,715 in 1997.

"High rise properties and townhomes enjoyed a resurgence in 1998 fueled by downtown revitalization and Inner Loop construction which presented a variety of unique urban living opportunities," said Woodroof.

Residential lot sales increased 14.1 percent in 1998 to 2,623 lots sold, as well as multi-family property sales, which increased modestly over 1997 to 255 sales.

Geographic Breakdown

All 40 HARMLS areas in Houston and the surrounding seven counties contributed positively to the record numbers.  Among the areas experiencing the hottest growth in single-family home sales over 1997 were West Houston (44.8 percent), Brazoria County (41.6 percent), Far Northeast Harris County (40.4 percent), Hempstead West (35.5 percent), Northeast Harris County (35.0 percent), Far West Harris County (32.6 percent) and Northwest Montgomery County (30.1 percent).

In overall single-family home sales, Northwest Harris County, located between Interstate 45 and Texas 249 and Beltway 8 to the south and Spring Cypress to the north, led all areas in 1998 with 2,718 home sales.  Southwest Montgomery County, including the Woodlands, finished 1998 with 2,474 home sales, while Clear Lake sales totaled 2,210 and Bear Creek ended the year with 2,201.

Hottest December on Record

Single-month statistics show that December 1998 was the best December on record with 4,452 home sales, an 18.7 percent increase over the previous record set last December.  The median price for single family homes in December was $99,000, also a new December record and the fourth-highest median price for any month in the city's history.

There were 2,814 contracts opened in December, compared to 2,784 during the same month last year.  "The high number of contracts pended coupled with the continuing trend of low interest rates appears to indicate that the strong sales trend could continue into early 1999," added Woodroof.

The HARMLS also reported the median price for townhomes and condominiums in the Houston area during December was $70,000, while the median price for high rise residences was $223,500.

Editor's note:
Cumulative year-end reporting captures sales entered into the MLS system after the monthly reporting date, resulting in a larger figure than the sum of the 12 monthly figures reported during the year.
The computerized Multiple Listing Service of the Houston Association of Realtors includes residential propertiesand new homes listed by more than 17,000 Realtors throughout Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller and Wharton counties. For specific questions regarding a certain area, contact your Realtor. The information published and disseminated to the HAR Multiple Listing Services is communicated verbatim, without change by Multiple Listing Services, as filed by MLS participants. The MLS does not verify the information provided and disclaims any responsibility for its accuracy. All data is preliminary and subject to change. Monthly sales figures reported since November 1998 include a statistical estimation to account for late entries. Twelve-month totals may vary from actual end-of-year figures. (Single-family detached homes were broken out separately in monthly figures beginning February 1988.)

The Houston Association of Realtors is the largest trade association in Houston and the largest local Realtor association in the nation. Residential home sales statistics as well as listing information for more than 34,000 listings can be found on the Internet at