ON THE MOVE: Understand real estate market data when moving to Houston By Michelle Sandlin | Sunday, September 1, 2019
When people are moving to Houston, they can easily find an abundance of resources and data about the local real estate market. But, how do they know which information is the most up to date and accurate, and more importantly, how do they interpret that data on a very local scale?
This is one of the most perplexing issues that people face when moving to an unfamiliar city and trying to decipher the real estate market. According to C. Harris Benson, a Realtor with John Daugherty, Realtors, educating relocation clients about the local market is one of the most critical aspects needed for them to be able to make the right real estate purchasing decisions. He said that the main issue with the information that is readily available, is that most reports on the local market are based on Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). That encompasses a ninecounty region, covering over 9,000 square miles. Thus, the Houston area cannot be considered as one continuous market, but rather a collection of multiple micro markets. For that reason, Benson said that he takes a macro to micro approach when trying to help his clients understand the Houston market. He first explains the market in broad terms, and then he drills it down into a specific market area or neighborhood to give his clients a true picture. “When I’m speaking with people who have never been here before, I try to educate them about the importance of looking at the market from a macro to a micro perspective,” said Benson. “I think it’s important for relocation clients to work with an agent who takes this approach, and has the ability to look at different market areas and fully explain the information.”
He added that when a client becomes interested in a particular property, he uses the same approach to help them understand the market as it pertains to that property. That’s because a market can be narrowed down to a specific street or block, and then further narrowed based on the age or size of a home, as well as other differentiating factors. Benson said that a good example of this can be found in Bellaire or the Heights. “If a client is looking at a house in Bellaire, I tell them that the market is totally split based on when the homes were built. So, I break It down based on age, because if you look at Bellaire as a whole, the data is kind of muddied. A home that was built in 1993, for example, shouldn’t be compared to one built in 2013,” he said. Additionally, the exact location of a home within a neighborhood can drastically impact property value. A home could be located on a busy street, or back to a shopping center, or be within close proximity of a railroad track, or any number of things that could affect desirability. So, from a location standpoint, Benson said that he keeps drilling the market down deeper and deeper to give his clients the information they need to make an educated home-buying decision. As for the information that is available to consumers, Benson said that it can be a little misleading since it often gives statistics based on the entire Houston MSA, which isn’t relevant to every micro market. “I run my own reports from data that I gather from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. I trust their ability to sift through data, and remove a lot of the redundancies,” Benson said. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University provides a great deal of information, resources, and reports on markets throughout the state. “We have a research agreement with the MLS boards across the state, including the Houston Association of Realtors, where we receive all of the MLS data in the state and produce housing
C. HARRIS BENSON Sales Associate with John Daugherty, Realtors
statistics,” said Gerald Klassen, a research data scientist at the Real Estate Center. He added, “We have built a data warehouse to process the data, calculate it, scrub it, audit it, de-duplicate listings, and produce a very accurate set of statistics that we make available to the boards through a product called the Texas Realtors MarketViewer.” Through the Real Estate Center’s website, www. recenter.tamu.edu, Realtors and consumers have access to a multitude of data, including housing reports, housing affordability, housing activity, home price indexes and much more. “Our job is to help the boards and help Realtors communicate the most accurate information about the market to their clients, to the media outlets that they communicate with, and to help buyers and sellers know what the market conditions are, so that they can make better real estate decisions,” Klassen said.