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Victoria's housing market sees improvement, low inventory

By ALLISON MILES
Jan. 21, 2012 at 3:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 21, 2012 at 7:22 p.m.

A burst of smiles and laughter follow Dorothy Powers' written acceptance of a bid on her Victoria home. Realtor Joyce Mitchum, left, and Powers had a lengthy discussion about the legal and financial ramifications of the bid.

GETTING STARTED

Looking to purchase or rent a home but not sure where to start? Joyce Mitchum, Realtor with Pooley Land and Realty Co., offers some tips:

Get pre-approved before anything else. That way, you know what you can afford and what to be looking for.Go with a local lender. While online companies can do the job, it's easier for real estate agents to work with local guys. Not only do they know them already, but there's easier access if trouble arises.Go with a Realtor, not just a real estate agent. Realtors are held to higher standards and ethics and must take continuing education courses.In today's market, patience helps. However, if a home you want becomes available, be prepared to make a decision quickly. Otherwise, you might lose your chance.

A closer look at December home sales:

Sales closed: 74Average days on the market: 87Sold dollar volume: $11,144,262Average sales price: $145,138Median sales price: $128,000Source: Victoria Board of Realtors

The two women perched on wrought-iron chairs, a small mountain of papers between them.

And, as Pooley Land and Realty Co. Realtor Joyce Mitchum explained what each sheet meant - closing dates, sales prices, waiting periods and more - Dorothy Powers initialed again and again and again.

"I'm signing my life away," she said with a laugh.

The client meeting was the first stop in a busy day for Mitchum, who also found herself checking brick repairs, showing homes and making periodic stops at the office.

But "busy" is good for a real estate agent, she said, and many Victoria real estate agents have found themselves busier in recent months.

The local housing market is on the upswing, even making the National Association of Home Builders/First American list of improving markets.

2011's fourth quarter brought 211 Victoria home sales, according to data from the Victoria Board of Realtors, versus 170 sales during that same time in 2010.

Max Pooley, broker with Pooley Land and Realty Co., attributed much of that growth to ongoing Eagle Ford Shale drilling. The activity brought many people to the region, he said, explaining the real estate industry really picked up within the past few months.

"There's nothing available," Pooley said, noting his company has no more rentals to offer. "It has caused a boom in the real estate market. It's kind of a double blessing there."

While many people find themselves looking to rent or purchase homes for themselves, he noted others purchase properties to rent out. Those people often put extra work and improvements into the homes."

"It stimulates the economy from several different directions," he said. "It is good news."

Robert Rivera, broker and Realtor with Centro City Realty, agreed the market improvement means good things for Victoria.

He said he believed the change related back to both the area's oil activity and incoming industry, such as Caterpillar's under-construction hydraulic excavator plant.

With interest rates at a record low, he said that's another incentive pushing people toward purchasing homes.

"If you can buy, this is the time to buy," Rivera said.

Potential home buyers might have more troubles than low inventories to deal with, Rivera said, explaining many organizations require higher credit scores for those applying for loans than in the past.

Regardless, he said the city sits at a healthy balance.

"It's a buyer's market and a seller's market, too," he said. "The market is good in Victoria."

TDECU's area mortgage office has experienced year-over-year increases since 2009, said Gabriel Lopez, director of mortgage lending.

2009 brought $19.6 million in loans, 2010 brought $33.3 million and 2011 hit $47.7 million, he said, adding that includes things like home improvements and equity, not just mortgage loans.

The company launched TDECU Real Estate Inc. Jan. 2 for the Victoria market, Lopez noted.

He said business remains steady even through what is typically the slow season, but there are some concerns down the road.

A lack of inventory could hurt the market in April or May, when the busy season really picks up, he said. It can be especially difficult to find homes within that "sweet spot," between $160,000 and $230,000.

His one request? That builders continue building.

"Come on out," he said, "because we know good things are coming to the market."

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