Prospective real estate buyers are still in a tight situation, continuing the pandemic trend on houses and commercial properties.

Throughout the past year, demand for building resulted in one Victoria builder having its second highest annual level of new houses built in the company’s 31-year history.

Demand is staying strong, even amid the pandemic and economic hardship of the past year. Developer Steve Klein at Steve Klein Custom Builder said retirees, young couples getting married and having children, transfer employees for large area employers and folks moving from renting to home ownership all contribute to sustained demand. This also is complemented by continuously low interest rates set by the federal government and buyers who were not necessarily on the market to buy when COVID-19 arrived in Texas.

In 2020, he said they built 49 new houses.

Research Economist Luis Torres from the Texas A&M University Real Estate Research Center said Klein’s construction growth is in-line with the trends in the Victoria area and across the state.

In the Victoria Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Calhoun, Goliad and Victoria counties, housing is following the state trend of tight supply, Torres said.

Real value of houses built in the Victoria metro area increased by 11%, adjusted for inflation, Torres said.

The increase in average house values also comes as new permits and house construction increases from year to year.

In 2018 for the Victoria MSA, there were 70 new houses built. Then in 2019, 141 were built. Data are still outstanding for 2020.

Once the houses are built, how they are shown to buyers has shifted too.

Showing houses virtually — a method of showing houses now common for many real estate agents — is another way Klein said he has helped accommodate buyers, but has also contributed to sustained demand. This can include recorded videos or even live video chats where buyers can ask an agent to go into a specific room, open a cabinet or get a new angle of a room.

“We adjusted,” Klein said. “I think for any business, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, pretty soon, it doesn’t work. You have to be flexible. You have to adjust to changing times.”

On the supply side, lack of skilled labor to build houses is one reason that is adding to the shortage, Klein said.

Many of the needs include electricians, plumbers, framers and other workers with specialized labor skills — one reason he paired with Mid Coast Construction Academy to allow students of various trade skills to participate in apprenticeships while learning their trade at a house under construction.

In addition to new development on the northside of Victoria, Klein said new houses also will be built in the 500 block of DeLeon Street in an open concept, turn-of-the-century bungalow style. The first of these six houses will be completed by the end of the year and the other five are anticipated to be completed in 2022.

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Geoff Sloan reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He received his Bachelor's in international relations with minors in journalism and French from Texas State University. Reach him at gsloan@vicad.com or @GeoffroSloan on Twitter.

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Business Reporter

Geoff Sloan reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He received his Bachelor's in international relations with minors in journalism and French from Texas State University. Reach him at gsloan@vicad.com or @GeoffroSloan on Twitter.

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