June 16, 2006

Why does Texas real estate suck?


I've always been amazed at the comparitively low prices in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and even Austin (although that one is rising). Here's a report from the #1 most undervalued market in a recent study - College Station.

Even the flippers haven't got prices up by selling to each other.

So what is it about Texas real estate that keeps is in the doldrums?


When economists in Cleveland and Boston recently ran the numbers, they concluded that houses in this college town were a huge bargain.

The analysis by National City Corp., a Cleveland banking concern, and Global Insight Inc., a Boston consulting firm, ranked the adjacent towns of Bryan and College Station -- home of Texas A&M University -- as the most "undervalued" housing market in the country in this year's first quarter. So, as the real-estate market cools along the East and West Coasts, are savvy investors racing here to buy every house in sight?

On a recent afternoon, there was little sign of a stampede.

Janet Higgins, a veteran real-estate broker here, drives a visitor past a four-bedroom home custom-built seven years ago, with marble floors and a "gourmet" kitchen. It is on sale for about $420,000, down from $440,000 last year. "It's a wonderful house," Mrs. Higgins sighs. "It's got all the whistles and bells." But she says it is tough competing with new homes on the edge of town. A few hundred feet away, she points to another mini-mansion: "This house they almost gave away."

106 comments:

ocrenter said...

yes, Texas real estate does suck. For guys that think they can't get burned by real estate busts, I give this example. 50 y.o. divorcee renting a room with four other single males working as a medical assistant years after loosing all of his savings and basically his shirt after getting burnt by the last Texas RE bust.

Now we have Las Vegas comparing themselves to Houston, you know the end is near for Vegas.

Anonymous said...

I hate Vegas, greedy, slippery, scumbags, I wish I could short the city down to 0.

bugsy said...

Well National City Corporation would certainly be the ones to listen to about real estate seeing how they have made such brilliant investments up to date. Their keen insight into the world of property finance has led them to lend in places like Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and those properties have really taken off.

Anonymous said...

Maybe investors haven't gone in to Texas because of the very strict State laws governing lending. there's very little you can do with a property to get rich. For example, it wasn't until just recently that you could do a 2nd mortgage or line of credit. there's also a 12 day rescission period for closing. I'm not a resident there (I work for a lender in Ca) but maybe an HP resident can confirm this.

Joey said...

Keith, is this a troll post or what? Maybe it's a rhetorical question, then?

OK, I'll take the bait...Texas real estate sucks because Texas sucks. It's the same reason why real estate in Siberia or Sudan sucks.

Yes, I have been to Texas, and yes Austin is cool - but the rest of the state is ass.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Hell, err, I mean Houston, for a year. Giant bugs, humidity, traffic, crime, and sprawl. Yes, it's a real paradise on Earth.

My brother lives in Dallas and it's ditto everything above. Now I'm sure there are some nice parts of TX, but the places where most people live and work are hell-holes. Add to that the highest insurance rates in the country and it's not too hard to see why RE prices are depressed.

bugsy said...

Don't forget the property taxes. They prevent land speculation in this way.

Anonymous said...

Texas ie having a land shortage. It takes all day to drive across the state and it is nearly all developed.

David From Texas said...

Two things keep real estate in Texas cheap.

1. Huge amounts of undeveloped land. If prices go up, you just go out a little bit farther out and build it yourself.

2. Property taxes. The property taxes on my 1400 square foot home in dallas were $7,000 last year. I moved to florida and the taxes on a 2400 square foot home are about $2,300.

For everyone who hasn't been to the cities of Dallas, Houston, Austin, these cities are fantastic. Very large, very culturally diverse and lots to do. Most people who experience the crappy parts of these cities are only experiencing the suburbs. I live in Florida now and I'm bored off my ass with the slow paced back woods attitude of the entire state.

foxwoodlief said...

Living in Austin I can say that the biggest "negative" to real estate appreciation is property taxes. Own a million dollar home in Arizona? Maybe, if fully assessed and not in a historic district (where you get 50% off tax on personal residence) $10,000 a year. Austin? $30,000 a year if fully assessed! Most people can't afford taxes that can be higher than a mortgage so it reduces speculative appreciation. The average $300,000 home can cost $7800 a year (with homestead exemption of 20%) so any so called "low price" can add at least $100,000 somewhere else to have the same costs so a $300,000 home really is $400,000 for mortgage costs.

Insurance? Higher? Not for me. Better coverage on our cars and house for a lot less, at least 20%, over Phoenix.

You don't think every state has awful places to live? Try Bullhead city Az, Blythe Ca, Bakersfield Ca, Sacramento Ca, just about any place in Central Florida or the panhandle, can you say anything about Mississippi or Alabama? And just about every state if you leave the BIG cities. This site isn't about bashing places to live, one man's paradise another mans......" but realistic valuation of cost and value of homes across America.

We all know (and yes, not everyone would buy or live in all places) that if you could buy the exact same home in La Jolla as Phoenix for the exact same price La Jolla would win out for value but that is why a house costs more in La Jolla in the first place, location, location, location and supply and demand.

I may think a house cheap in Taylor Texas but to live there? NOT! Only 28 miles to downtown Austin but miles away in ambience, charm and attitude. I may also love Monterey California but to pay a mil for a shack to see the ocean to me isn't worth the cost either even if I could manage the payment.

And yes, until just recently one couldn't borrow against their equity past 80% loan to value and there is a lot of land to build on across the state. In Austin prices are high because of high environmental costs, desirability, regulatory rules but even there you can see the distribution by area. Anything near the Edwards Aquifer or Barton Springs in the Hill Country side of Austin (also some of the prettiest parts) low density and strict regulations and high cost of land even though there is just as much land to the west as the east. Go to the North or East away from the environmentally sensitive areas and lots of growth and cheap houses. Nine miles SW of downtown, expensive, nine miles east, cheap! On the east you can buy 3,000 sq ft for $195,000, on the west side double to triple that cost.

Taxes though are the problem. Regressive and needs to be corrected. If the state imposed an income tax and reduced property taxes to the national average say 1% of value instead of upwards of 3% (and a little more in the city) Texas would suffer the same price appreciation as many other parts of the country. Either way you're screwed. You can pay less for the house but your costs won't go down. If I were still in Phoenix I could pay $400,000 more for a house and my costs would be the same for the house I bought here for half the price. The only advangtage? The same quality house might cost another $200,000 on top of that and I would have to endure 115 degree summers and no TREES!

Joe Logic said...

Hey, anon (who hates Vegas), you could short STN. They own all the local market casinos. There stock price was at $80 before the dow fell recently. They rode that up from $15 in 2002 after the housing boom started. I've been predicting that stock to plummet after the local HELOC well dries up and there are no more paychecks to play "paycheck poker" with.

Helen said...

Anonymous said "I lived in Hell, err, I mean Houston, for a year. Giant bugs, humidity, traffic, crime, and sprawl. Yes, it's a real paradise on Earth."

You don't go to Houston to live. You go to Houston to work. You live there because you have a decent job (of which there are many) and you can afford to live there, and plus there's enough to do to keep you from going crazy. I know, because I did exactly that. Is it a great town? Maybe yes, maybe no, all in the eye of the beholder.

But: taxes are high, lending laws are stiff, and land itself is fairly cheap, so that helps keep prices down.

texasdiver said...

As a resident of Texas having moved here from the northwest I concur with the previous posters who cite low land costs and high taxes. However, there are a whole bunch of other factors that also make Texas real estate cheap.

1. Not only is land cheap and abundant, there are few regulatory barriers to development. Try creating a subdivision in California and you might face 5-10 years of environmental and zoning reviews and all sorts of other hassles. In Texas? Buy the land and roll out the bulldozers.

2. Construction is cheaper than anywere else in the US. Most of the developable land is flat hard-pan soil. I watch the McMansions go up in the subdivision around me and they basically just smooth things out with a skid loader then start pouring the slab foundation. No expensive site prep like in wetter areas. Add to that the unbelievably cheap labor costs with the hordes of undocumented migrants working in construction, and low cost of materials as Texas is fairly centrally located.

3. Lack of geographic features to add "value". In cities like Portland and Seattle where I've lived previously there are all sorts of exclusive geographic features that add value to real estate. Shoreline, water views, mountain views, etc. etc. In flat Texas most neighborhoods are more or less the same as any other neighborhoods. There are a few exceptions like the Westlake Hills area of Austin. But mostly the fancy suburbs of most of these cities are geographically nondescript. That means the next builder can come along, find another cornfield, and turn it into the next "exclusive" development with larger newer houses. There are only so many shoreline and ocean view lots in a place like San Diego. So those sorts of exclusive features will always add value.

Anonymous said...

One great feature of California Real Estate is the locking in of the assessed value!!!

When prices drop dramatically buying at the discounted prices will also cause the assessed values on those properties to change.

VERY GOOD for the next upswing!!!

austingal said...

I am a recent transplant to texas, and agree with the previous posters about the problems. What I don't understand, is why the california investors descended upon new mexico in such droves, and not texas, when texas is so much nicer.
New mexico is like arizona, with additional cold winters, and brutal wind/sand storms.
I think texas is paradise compared to that. The only reason to rent in texas, is to be in a really good school system. Then, renting is much cheaper, than buying a house. Other places, you may as well just buy.

Anonymous said...

Short answer: lack of land use controls. See the studies done by Glaeser at Harvard and you'll see that the single greatest factor driving prices above replacement cost in a region is how extensively land use regulation has taken hold in the area.

Why would supply and demand get so far out of whack to cause long run prices to increase behind the cost of construction plus profits, were it not for the government stopping people from building and buying houses demanded. The best economics I've read says there is no reason.

Anonymous said...

texas real estate sucks for one reason. most people want to be somewhere else. the speculators always swoop in on the new new new thing. dallas and houston would seem like obvious choices, but the smart money is not there.

and to the austin-transplant-from-phoenix, dude, get over yourself. you obviously hate phoenix, but you must be a complete tool to not have realized it is hot here in the summer. you can have austin. nice place obviously for you. but please, get over your issue with phoenix and arizona. yawn.

Joe Logic said...

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Austin was much hotter in the summer due to the humidity.

Anonymous said...

"What I don't understand, is why the california investors descended upon new mexico in such droves, and not texas, when texas is so much nicer."

That's easy -- In NM the average density of assholes per square mile is about 1/10 of what you find anywher in TX. And the bullshit per square foot is unmeasurable in NM. In TX it's miles deep in some places.

Jake@flbeach said...

Great Postings.My ideas on why texas real estate sucks for most people? IM a native texan having left texas and moved to a coastal city in south florida 18 years ago. Okay, weather and culture and quality of life for alot of people is why we dont live in places like texas. If i had stayed in a small texas town, like the one im from, any real estate i purchased would have appreciated little over my lifetime. Ditto for any middle class occupation in the form of salaries. Now my two properties i purchased years ago here in florida are appraised for hundreds of thousands more than i paid for them. My occupation also pays well more than it would working the same job in texas.I enjoy fantastic winter weather, okay so the summer is hot with ocean breezes, but tolerable. Dont even attempt to compare texas to California. There is no comparison. I always said texas is perfect for people who want lots of space and enjoy isolation. Its always tempting to think of the great house you can buy for a fraction of the cost compared to other parts of the country in texas. Just remember you get what you pay for. For me the trade off in the cost of housing has been well worth what i get back in conviencence, culture and a better quality of life here in florida. Oh yeah, whats with all these people paying a hundred grand to buy a condo in mexico to retire? You can do that in most parts of texas and still feel like you live in mexico. Go figure...

Scarecrow42 said...

I moved to Austin from San Diego.

Get this, I purchased a 3700 square foot new McMansion from a small builder with half the money I made from my 1400 square foot condo sale in San Diego. About 15 minutes from downtown.

I have a balcony, Joliet porch inside, porch in the front like a plantation, game room etc.

Property taxes are a pain. I pay about 8K per year. I pay more property taxes than my small loan. The lenders resisted giving me a loan smaller than 100K -- they wanted a higher rate for a smaller loan. Absurd. Anyhow, new laws got passed and the state government is going to cut local school taxes by 30%. So, I probably save couple grand. Its all about income and now property values might go up a little I suppose. Just in time for the real estate pop and prices will stay flat! Thats the plan. :)

If you really want a million dollar home in Texas, then you really need to have a Millionaire revenue stream. You must be the real deal here.

Where my place was built they are not allowed to grade the ground flat for the entire neighborhood. Its all rolling hills and oak trees. Strict environmental codes here.

It gets hot and humid. Though, when unbearable, I'd say its half the amount of time as Phoenix.

Previous posters are right about the amount of land. Goto west texas, stop on the side of the road and you will not see one human structure for as far as your eye can see in every direction.

No state income tax either.

By the way, still think gold is going to rocket. ;)

Anonymous said...

Texas has all the negatives of Mississippi without any historic mansions, charm, elegance (Natchez), or landscape beauty. Plus the politics are even more whacko, if you can believe it.

The property insurance rates are the HIGHEST in the nation (per value), and the taxes are some of the higher.

Have you ever driven through west Texas. Decidedly charm free.

Anonymous said...

If you'd rather go $1 million in debt for a McMansion in Sacramento, then be my guest. LOL

Tabitha said...

I have to add my two cents because ya'll are talkin' about a subject I cannot ignore. I was born in Natchez, MS, and I lived in several MS towns until 1976, when I moved to Dallas. There were many reasons I chose Dallas, but two of them stick out. (1) Yes, it's hot, but the humidity is so much lower than in MS. Rainy, overcast days constantly plague MS, making the blue skies of Dallas attractive. (2)Yes, Dallas does have tons of cultural attractions, while nearly all of MS is a lot closer to the rural persuasion.

Before ya'll dismiss the state of MS, I want to say a few things in its favor, too. The mottos of TX are "anything for a buck" and "develop, develop, develop". If you can tolerate the rain and rednecks, MS offers a lot. Your drive to work could be a lot shorter and more pleasant. If you think houses are cheap in TX, try MS. In most places, you can actually live out in the country without urban sprawl intruding in your space a couple of years after you moved there. That's my two cents, one for TX and one for MS. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Some of the comments are from people who have never spent time in Texas. Keep trying to convince yourself that your local bubble prices are justified because Texas is a terrible place.

I've spent summers in Phoenix and Texas, and Phoenix was much more suffocating.

Our property taxes were just lowered. We have no state income tax, so if your income is high and your assessed value low, you can save a lot of money. There is no bubble here because of the tax issue, low credit scores (TX is a debtors paradise) and fewer restrictions on development.

I live in the suburbs of Dallas, and I am happy. It is a good place to raise a family. We have great restaraunts and shopping, sports events always going on, lots of parks and bike trails, a Y within walking distance and no crime to speak of. Museums, zoos, symphony hall, sports arenas, etc. are all within 45 mins driving time, or we can take the light rail to most. Fort Worth is just an hour away, with more world class museums, zoos and concert halls (all that oil money didn't go to waste). If you can't find something to do here every night, you aren't trying. Plus, people in Dallas are some of the best looking anywhere in the country.

We have at least 6 months of great weather a year. Mountain views and ocean breezes can't be worth sacrificing your financial and personal freedom. We have traveled more places in the world than any of our friends in LA or NYC. Why? Because we can easily afford it, and we still save most of our income while my friends on the coasts are living paycheck to paycheck. Salaries here are as good as just about anywhere and work is easy to find.

Keep kidding yourself that your prices are high and ours are low because everyone wants to live where you are and no one wants to live in Texas. I meet new transplants every day. Where are they all from? Nine times out of ten, it's one of those coastal or desert paradise towns that everyone is dying to move to.

Brian O said...

What's not to love about warm weather and the Dallas Cowboys? I like to visit in September when it is cooling off in Virginia, but still 103 in Dallas.
Texas rocks, but I must say getting work there is no non-issue. It may be just so separated from the rest of the country, that people "circle the wagons" against outsiders so to speak. Or maybe I have just seen better days in my self-marketing. Not sure, but no place with a shortage of work is going to support its real estate values.
On the East Coast, communities really have to compete for labor, and labor can shop with its feet easily from Boston, New York, DC, and back. Maybe it is a better sellers market over here.

Anonymous said...

It some down to one factor: high property taxes.

Anonymous said...

It some down to one factor: high property taxes.

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SittinPattSanDiego said...

Sounds like I have a Winner in San Diego (on the Hill overlooking Mission Bay - cool ocean breazes ) 4 miles inland from the Ocean in Mission Beach. I have been looking all over the Country for a Cheaper Place to live currently I own a 900 Sq ft 2 large bedrooms, 2 full baths, 2 Large walkin Closets - in house laundry room with full size washer dryer - great landscaping Only 4 miles from Balboa Park all for under $750 Per Month including Taxes and Insurance - I thought I could sell and buy someplace else and have more but after reading many different Blogs I can not seem to find a Equal piece of Property anywhere all things Considered.

SittinPattSanDiego said...

Oh I forgot I also have a Garage for my Car and Bicycles - Skateboard you know all the sunshine toys - and my Taxes are only $900 per year total.

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