A new report from Moody’s shows that Austin and 78 other metropolitan areas (out of 384 cities in the U.S.) moved from recession to recovery during the month of August. The report labels cities on a four level scale indicating (1) Expansion, (2) Recovery, (3) At Risk, (4) In Recession. Austin was rated as (2) Recovery. No city in the U.S. is rated as being in expansion mode which would indicate that the metropolitan area has grown beyond it’s pre-recession peak economy.
In Texas, 7 out of 28 metropolitan areas including Brownsville, Harlingen, Dallas-Plano-Irving, El Paso, Lubbock, and San Antonio are listed as being in recovery. No metropolitan areas in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Washington DC, Hawaii, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont or Wyoming showed signs of recovery. The parts of the country that have fared best are areas that experienced less of a housing cycle of boom and bust and that benefit more from relatively strong prices in oil and natural gas. This is certainly true of Texas.
Texas is ranked 6th in the country for economic performance with much better employment numbers and virtually no housing value decline. Austin, amazingly, is ranked 7 out of 392 metropolitan areas in terms of employment growth. The study notes that while housing prices have dropped in Austin, strong population growth supports demographically driven consumer demand and a well-educated labor force attracts high value-added tech businesses. On the negative side, competitive pressure of foreign high-tech manufacturing challenges local industry and the tech cycle adds to cyclical volatility of overall local economy.
The following year-over-year numbers compare Austin to Texas, California, and New York:
Single Family Housing Starts
Growth Over Last 6 Months
So what does this mean for real estate values? Real estate values are driven by a combination of supply and demand factors including migration, employment, financing options, new construction, and general economic health. On the positive side, migration is strong, employment and general economic conditions are improving, and new supply (outside of downtown) remains lower than in the past. On the negative side, financing options are severely constrained, especially for jumbo loans and first time buyers. Also, the high tech industry — which is a major part of the Austin economy — continues to feel the effects of the downturn.
In summary, nobody is expecting values to jump in the near term. The worst, however, may be over and with mortgage rates low it may be a good time to buy. In downtown, the large number of unsold units means that buyers should continue to look for good deals resulting from over-supply and competition between developers and seller of existing units. When this supply is gone, however, it will be a while before new units are able to hit the market.