WSJ Calls Texas 'a Drag,' but Facts Tell Different StoryWSJ Calls Texas 'a Drag,' but Facts Tell Different StoryLuis TorresTorres

​​​An Oct. 12 headline​ in The Wall Street Journal made me chuckle. For a serious newspaper, the WSJ headline was almost comical. It read: "Texas, once a star, becomes a drag on the U.S. economy."

The subhead adds, "Since the collapse in oil prices, jobs are lost and growth stagnant; leaving Houston for Atlanta."

The fall in oil-related jobs is undeniable, but the Texas economy continues to grow. If you look at the most current data for the state when this article was published, it’s obvious the writers didn’t see the same numbers I did.

The writers should have recognized the distinction between Houston and Texas, as Houston has felt the pain from the oil bust with employment growth probably being negative in 2016 or flat with zero growth.

Second-quarter Texas employment growth was higher than the U.S. ​In fact, the numbers show Texas moving on with the worst of the oil bust in its rear-view mirror.

If this is a drag, there are a lot of states that would love to be one.

When the Dallas Fed incorporated September’s employment growth of 2.1 percent with revised leading index data, they were forecasting that Texas employment will grow 1.2 percent in 2016 (December/December), unchanged from their August forecast.

The forecast suggests that 142,300 jobs will be added in the state this year and that employment in December 2016 will be 12 million.

The recent momentum in jobs and the slight gains in the Texas leading index suggest Texas will continue to grow at a pace of 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, based on estimates from the Dallas Fed.

Overall, broad indicators of the Texas economy continue to point toward moderate growth, while Texas employment is growing faster than U.S. employment.

With the stabilization of the energy sector in the second and third quarters and continued growth in the service sectors, such as health care and leisure and hospitality, jobs in Texas are likely to continue to increase at a moderate pace in the months ahead.

Texas will continue contributing to the U.S. economy and not be an anchor dragging growth down.

Do Election Cycles Affect Home Sales and Prices?Do Election Cycles Affect Home Sales and Prices?Bryan PopePope

​​​​​With the third and final presidential debate over and done with, we can all step back for a moment and collectively take a deep breath. We survived it.

​Great. Now then, ​let's talk politics some more.

​We recently polled RECON subscribers and our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter followers, asking whether they have fewer, more, or about the same number of homebuyers before a presidential election.

The response wasn't huge—only 20. But of those, exactly half said ​​​​they have few​​​​er. The remaining ten respondents were split between more and about the same.

How tight an election matters "a great deal," said Dr. Brandice Canes-Wrone​, an economist with Princeton University. Two years ago, she co-authored a paper where data from Zillow.com were used to compare home sales in 73 U.S. gubernatorial elections from 35 states from 1999 to 2006.

In races where the winner won less than 55 percent of the vote, Canes-Wrone said home sales fell between a third and a half of a percentage point.

​Meanwhile, Seattle-based economic analysis firm Greenfield Advisors published an article earlier this year discussing how and why an election year has historically affected home prices.

The author compared U.S. home price increases during presidential election years with increases during non-election years going back to 1978. The numbers show prices during off years increased an average of 0.22 percent more than prices during election years.

Why might an election season mean a slowdown in sales and home price increases? In a word: uncertainty.

"People are less likely to make large purchases, such as a house, in very uncertain times," according to the Greenfield article. "Different presidents in their respective parties may have different housing and mortgage policies that may affect buyers in various ways. These risks are concerning to potential homebuyers, and many may choose to wait and buy during a time that appears to be more politically stable."

If you listen to our Real Estate Red Zone podcast, be on the lookout in the coming weeks for an interview with Real Estate Center Chief Economist Dr. Jim Gaines. We'll ask for his perspective on how a change in administrations can affect the housing market.​

Charmed, I’m Sure: Pricing a Home to SellCharmed, I’m Sure: Pricing a Home to SellDavid S. JonesJones, D.

​​​When it comes to selling a home, the big question agents and homeowners wrestle with is, "How much should we ask?"

According to a recent study, the asking price should be slightly less than a round number. Sound familiar? It should. We see it daily. "Charm" pricing is a proven pricing strategy.

RIS Media reported the study published in the Journal of Housing Research, a publication of the American Real Estate Society (ARES). The study included 1,000 Virginia homebuyers who considered some 370,000 listings. Researchers examined the impact of rounded-priced versus just-below-priced listings.

Researchers found average buyers are more attracted to a home priced $199,000 than to one priced at $200,000. They also found that the lower price often yields $5,000 to $6,000 more for the lower-priced home because homes may be listed higher initially.

Real estate agents may not be totally onboard with this approach to pricing. That's because agents set up automatic notifications for prospective buyers based on a price range. A home listed at $149,000 won't show up if a buyer is looking in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. Take that into consideration when pricing a home near a multiple of $50,000.

Demand in many Texas cities is so great that rounded-price homes are usually on the market a shorter time and with a lower discount. The ARES research suggests that just-below pricing outweighs the quicker sell time and lower discount.

Some 2015 research on charm pricing discusses the so-called "left digit effect," which proposes that people place disproportionate importance on the leftmost digit shown in a price. So, $49.99 seems closer to $40 than $50.

In a September 2016 article titled, "The Psychology of Pricing: A Gigantic List of Strategies," author Nick Kolenda says, "Charm pricing is most effective when the left digit changes. A one-cent difference between $3.80 and $3.79 won't matter. However, a one-cent difference between $3.00 and $2.99 will make a huge difference."

All things being equal, a home priced at $299,000 gets more attention than one listed for $300,000.

Apparently there is magic in the number "9." Just ask the folks at the 99 Cents Only Stores.

Other helpful articles on pricing a home to sell:

An 'App'-ropriate Way to Kick Off Deer SeasonAn 'App'-ropriate Way to Kick Off Deer SeasonBryan PopePope


Deer​ season is just around the corner, and we want to make sure you're prepared.

If you own a mobile device—and who doesn't these days?—you might want to download the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's free "My Texas Hunt Harvest" app​. With it, you can:

  • log your harvested game animals;
  • view your harvest history on your smartphone or tablet;
  • report harvests for resident game species and help TPWD wildlife biologists manage healthy game populations;
  • add an image from your hunt;
  • share your harvest on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps;
  • view your harvest location on a map, if you store GPS details in your harvest history; and
  • save and retrieve your harvest history, even if you replace or reset your device​.
Perhaps you're not a hunter, but rather ​a landowner planning to lease your property to hunters. If so, check out our free Texas Deer Lease publication. It's the most comprehensive guide you'll find to lease provisions, hunting facts, and landowner liability issues.
Home Energy Usage: Prepare to be ShockedHome Energy Usage: Prepare to be ShockedBryan PopePope
​​​October is "Energy Management is a Family Affair—Improve Your Home Month." I learned this only recently. It's also "Bat Appreciation Month" and "American Cheese Month," but never mind​.

Disregarding the cumbersome name, "Energy Management is a Family Affair—Improve Your Home Month" at least gives us the opportunity to talk about the exorbitant amount of energy used—and money spent—by homeowners each year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that space heating accounts for 42 percent of energy usage in the home, as opposed to only 6 percent for cooling (remember, this is nationally, not just Texas).

Eighteen percent of our energy usage is from water heating, 5 percent from lighting, 5 percent from refrigeration, and 24 percent from "other."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on utility bills. Ouch. Fortunately, they also suggest ways to lower those bills. For example:
  • Install a programmable thermostat to lower utility bills and manage your heating and cooling systems efficiently.
  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.
  • Turn things off when you are not in the room such as lights, TVs, entertainment systems, and your computer and monitor.
  • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use—TVs and DVD players in standby mode still use several watts of power.
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F.
  • Take short showers instead of baths and use low-flow showerheads for additional energy savings.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Air dry clothes.
  • Check to see that windows and doors are closed when heating or cooling your home.
  • Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving such as speeding, and rapid acceleration and braking, wastes fuel.
  • Look for the Energy Star label on light bulbs, home appliances, electronics, and other products.
For more information, download the U.S. Department of Energy's free Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home.

Incidentally, October is also "National Toilet Tank Repair Month." Perhaps we'll cover that in a future blog post. No doubt you're flush with excitement.
Happy Trails, JudonHappy Trails, JudonDavid S. JonesJones, D.
2016-09-19T05:00:00ZCenter News

​​The most prolific author in the 45-year history of the Real Estate Center has retired.

In 39 years as the Center's legal expert, Judon Fambrough answered thousands of emails, letters, and telephone calls from Texans seeking advice. He traveled the state delivering lectures on property rights, including oil and gas, wind power, hunting leases, and landowner liability.

Judon authored some 300 Center publications, many of them consistently among the most downloaded from the Center's website. His Hints on Negotiating an Oil and Gas Lease​ was first printed in 1980. Since then, it has been revised many times and is still among the Center's most popular. A revision of his Landlords and Tenants Guide was posted online recently and quickly shot into the Center's top ten downloads for the month.

Among his other "best sellers" are The Texas Deer Lease and Obtaining a Texas Real Estate License​.

Who "likes" a Judon article sometimes depends on whose ox is getting gored. Landowners love his Hints on Negotiating an Oil and Gas Lease, oil companies not so much. One Texas oil baron tried to get his employment at Texas A&M terminated. As the name suggests, Judon's Landlords and Tenants Guide also has two distinct sets of admirers and detractors.

Judon was a visionary. While researching articles, he found many discrepancies in the law and frequently pointed them out. He was among the first, for example, to discuss wind rights and wrongs.

The October issue of Tierra Grande has the final two Judon works, and they are must reads. "Navigating Watershed Changes" covers changes to Clean Water Act regulations that could potentially effect most homeowners. "Mixing Oil and Water Law" discusses a Texas Supreme Court's ruling that applies existing oil rights law to water rights.

Judon has bought a farm in his home state of Missouri. We wish him all the best as he rides the range on his tractor. We could not let Judon ride into the sunset without thanking him for his contributions to the Center and for his service to the nation for which he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star while serving in Viet Nam.

Happy trails, Judon​

Who You Gonna Call? Dustbusters!Who You Gonna Call? Dustbusters!David S. JonesJones, D.


We did a deep cleaning of our house this week. The next day a study made national headlines, and it implies we may have endangered our health by stirring up the dust bunnies.

Researchers say indoor dust can expose you to a wide range of potentially toxic chemicals. The study found 90 percent of dust samples taken from houses in 14 states contain harmful chemicals.

The Natural Resources Defense Council identified ten chemicals that may have a negative impact on health. They say the problem is in the many consumer product chemicals in use today.

We spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors on average—in homes, schools, offices, gyms, and cars. These places are usually full of dust, which is more than just dirt. Household items like televisions, furniture, beauty products, cleaning products, and flooring materials shed chemicals that end up in the air and in the dust on our floors.

These chemicals can enter our bodies from air and dust when we breathe and touch contaminated surfaces, accidentally transferring them to our food or mouth with our dusty hands. And some of these chemicals can contribute to health problems.

When this story broke, I thought I had been freed from the shackles of housecleaning forever. Alas, I'm not that lucky. The researchers say you can minimize contact with the chemicals by washing your hands with plain soap and water, wet mopping and dusting with a damp cloth, and vacuuming with a HEPA filter. Want more ideas? Read Bob Vila's "15 Remarkably Easy Ways to Create a Dust-Free Home."

The study doesn't mention which states were examined, so Texas may not have been included. It shouldn't have been. I remember how the dirt piled up on my in-laws' window sills in West Texas during their zero-visibility dust storms. Toxic chemicals were the least of their worries. They had to clean their house regularly or be buried alive.​

We're Taking Our Show on the RoadWe're Taking Our Show on the RoadBryan PopePope
2016-09-01T05:00:00ZCenter News

Has it really already been a year since the last Texas Realtor convention?​

​​So popular was our Plin​ko game in Fort Worth last September, we're dusting it off and bringing it next week to Galveston. Stop by, say howdy, and give it a go. You could walk away with exclusive Real Estate Center swag.​ And I don't mean just ballpoint pens.

You could also end up on our Real Estate Red Zone podcast or on our Facebook or Twitter feeds. The possibilities are endless.

Games and giveaways are fun, ​​of course, but the real reason we come to the convention​ is to visit with you. This is our chance to find out from you how we're doing. Which of our data, publications, or online features do you find most useful? How might we improve? Are we, in fact, "helping Texans make better real estate decisions"?

For our part, we'll fill you in on some of our website's features you may be unfamiliar with. For example, "Market Research" continues to be one of our best-kept secrets. That's a shame, because it's an invaluable tool for keeping up to date on economic conditions in all Texas MSAs. Market Research Coordinator Edie Craig will be on hand to tell you all about it.

And did you know we have an online research library that is expanded almost weekly? Or thousands upon thousands of pages of housing, land, building permit, employment, and population data, much of which is downloadable? We'll tell you about those, too. 

In short, you'll walk away with information that can help you serve your clients even better. Oh, and also with really cool Real Estate Center swag. Did I mention that?​

We look forward to seeing you in Galveston on the 9th. Look for booth 309.


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