Helping Texans through relevant researchHelping Texans through relevant researchGary MalerMaler
2018-12-13T06:00:00ZCenter News

​​I have been reading a lot lately about disruption of companies and whole industries. One statistic stands out. About 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955 are gone. They’ve gone bankrupt, merged, or still exist as shadows of their former selves and are no longer on the list.

The life expectancy of companies and industries continues to shrink. The pace of disruption is increasing. Innovation and future-proofing are the means to survive.

The Center is adapting in this environment as well. The legislature laid out our mission very clearly when they created us. That mission is still deeply relevant: “Conduct studies in all areas related directly or indirectly to real estate and/or urban and rural economics and disseminate results and findings.” In other words, conduct the research and get the information into the hands and minds of Texans (consumers, real estate professionals, homebuilders, commercial building contractors, attorneys, homebuyers, home sellers, policy-makers, and a host of other stakeholders).

Clarity about an organization’s mission is critical to sustained success. We’ve simplified the way we think about our mission: “Help Texans make better real estate decisions.”

Though our mission (the why of what we do) has not changed, our strategies and initiatives have and will continue to evolve. Here are some examples.

  • We now focus almost exclusively on forecasting—​looking forward and anticipating future business, economic, and real estate activity.

  • Our researchers once worked on projects in isolation. Today that is rare—​collaboration is the new normal. Drawing on the synergy of bright minds and expert observations of many enriches our results.

  • We now think of ourselves as explorers looking for new patterns in business and economic fundamentals that drive real estate activity and whole economies. The underlying fundamentals may have changed or at least the priorities of those drivers shifted. We don’t yet know, but we are on the hunt.

  • Finally, we are experimenting with the best ways to get our findings into your hands. We now think in terms of data visualization, geospatial analytics, and presenting data at the most usable and meaningful local level we possibly can.

We are using every media at our disposal to reach Texans. I’m sure the coming year will bring new, exciting contacts with our ever-expanding audiences. Stay tuned.

Looking ahead: The link between oil and land pricesLooking ahead: The link between oil and land pricesCharles E. GillilandGilliland


​Source: Haver Analytics

Statistical evidence shows that oil prices have a significant effect on Texas land prices. Specifically, although the impact is not immediate, higher (lower) oil prices tend to boost (dampen) Texas rural land prices in the long run. This impact suggests that changes in the direction of oil prices may signal a long-run shift in land market trends.

The chart shows current spot prices (blue line) for West Texas intermediate crude oil along with contract prices for delivery of that oil in both one (red line) and two (green line) years. When prices for future delivery range above (below) current spot prices, market participants expect prices in the future to range higher (lower) than current prices.

From 2015 through the beginning of 2017, markets anticipated rising oil prices. However, markets began to anticipate falling oil prices beginning in second quarter 2017​. The difference between current and futures prices has begun to expand, signaling that traders anticipate declining oil prices.

Do these expectations portend a reversal in Texas land price trends? The answer is maybe, but . . .

First, other forces also affect land markets. Income expansion, interest rate dynamics, and history also play substantial roles in land market trends. Second, responses to oil price changes have had varying impact on land prices in the past. Finally, futures prices rely on guesses by market participants about future realities.

Actual results likely will differ from those projections. Anticipated oil price erosion may not become reality. In the final analysis, the significance of this chart lies in the revelation that market perceptions about oil prices have shifted. The factors that contributed to that shift may influence thinking among land market participants.

Who let the dog out?Who let the dog out?Bryan PopePope

​​​​​In the early days of the Real Estate Red Zone podcast, we had a tradition each Halloween of sharing horror stories from real estate professionals. By "horror stories" I mean real estate transactions gone hilariously bad, and by "tradition" I mean we did it twice over nine years​.

Anyway, next week we're resurrecting the fun with a slew of stories for your listening enjoyment. In the meantime, here's an experience from a College Station Realtor friend of mine. He said it warranted a change of pants.

"I was representing the homebuyer and had confirmed with the listing agent that it was okay to show his listed property on the following day. The property was a rather decrepit home in an older part of town, and the listing notes indicated that the owner had a dog that would bark at us when we got there, but there was nothing to fear in terms of personal safety.

"The buyer a​​nd I arrived the following day, right on time for the showing. I noticed a car in the driveway, which was a little odd, considering real estate agents usually advise their seller clients to leave the property during showings.

"Usually I use the lockbox to get the key, then I call out when I step inside so anyone who is still in the house will know I am there. This situation seemed a bit off, so I knocked on the door and, true to form, the barking begins, but no one answers. The bark sounded like that of a small terrier with an inferiority complex—high pitched, ferocious, and incessant. I rang the doorbell. Still no answer, and the barking intensified. At this point, I figured I should go with plan A (get the key from the lockbox and call out).

"I got the key, unlocked the door, and opened it a crack. The dog wasn't visible, but the barking was loud enough for me to tell he was nearby. I also heard the faint sounds of a shower running.

"I stepped inside with my client behind me, and the dog was about five feet away, yipping his little head off. He was a white terrier mix about the size of a schnauzer. I called out again, sure that there was someone in the house that the little dog was protecting. Sure enough, a rather confused-looking elderly man emerged from a bedroom doorway with wet hair and a towel around his waist. Clearly there had either been some miscommunication about the showing or he had forgotten about it.

"The man asked that we step back outside while he got dressed and put the dog away. As we did, the dog seized his opportunity and lunged for my calf, ripping my pants and almost breaking the skin. He left a bruise.

"Seeing this, the buyer lost all interest in the property, and we left, never to return."

The moral, my friend said, is sellers need to crate or remove dogs before showings. It might cost them more than a new pair of trousers.

For more stories, tune into next week's Real Estate Red Zone ​podcast.

Cramping our fracking styleCramping our fracking styleBryan PopePope

fracking word image 

​​​English is fun, isn’t it? And I mean "fun" in a just-beat-me-over-the-head-with-an-Oxford-English-Dictionary-until-I’m-unconscious kind of way.

Take the word "fracing," for instance. Not familiar with it? You must not work in the oil and gas industry. How about "fracking"? Ah, that rings a bell.

These two spellings have occasionally been the subject of lighthearted controversy here at the Real Estate Center. So much so that they earned their own entry in our office style guide.

Some quick background for the uninitiated: fracing and fracking are both shorthand for "hydraulic fracturing," which is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure deep into a well to create tiny fissures in the rock, allowing gas and oil to flow into the well. Same meaning but slightly different spellings ("fracing" being the standard spelling within the oil and gas industry).

I did a lot of reading on the subject before recommending the Center depart from the industry standard and adopt the k-inclusive spelling, and the most informative piece on the subject came from drillers.com​. You can read that yourself (and you should because it’s interesting). Instead, let’s skip down to the reader feedback. That’s always fun. One reader wrote:

"My first encounter with the 'k' spelling was in a news article of a major national publication about five years ago. The article was clearly slanted against the entire practice of hydraulic stimulation. I responded to the author that there is no 'k' in the root word 'fracturing' and it made no sense to spell the word 'frack' or 'fracking.' The author wrote back that 'inclusion of the k made the word sound more evil.' I forwarded this email to the author’s chief editor and encouraged the editor to demand objective reporting from his employees and to save editorials for the editorial pages."

"More evil"? True, the shorthand use, regardless of how it’s spelled, is itself viewed by some in the drilling industry as a pejorative. Rest assured that this is not, nor has it ever been, the case here at the Real Estate Center.

But back to the spelling. All industries and occupations have their own lingo and terminology, and we generally follow industry standards. Sometimes, though, we have to consider the greater good—in this case, clarity for our general audience.

Read those words again out loud: Fracing. Fracking. Fracing. Fracking.

I’m willing to bet the first inclination for many of you was to pronounce the no-k version as "fray-sing." Hey, I did when I first read it. But "frack-ing" (pronounced like "lacking") is the proper pronunciation for both. As an editor, the last thing I want is our readers tripping over a word simply because they followed basic rules of English pronunciation (“rules” that frequently contradict themselves and make me consider expatriating somewhere that has a language that makes more sense, but whatever).

Google backs us up. Searching for "fracking" just now turned up about 10.8 million results. "Fracing" brought back a comparatively scant 414,000 and the question "Did you mean 'fracking'?"

Also worth noting: A spell check of this article showed five misspellings, all for the same word. Guess which one.

Six things to watch for in Texas real estate this weekSix things to watch for in Texas real estate this weekBryan PopePope

​The Real Estate Center’s research staff held its monthly roundtable meeting earlier this week, focusing largely on employment and housing. Here are six takeaways.

  • The job growth rate is rapidly increasing in Texas’ micropolitan cities (those with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 and that are outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area). In August, 8.6 percent of total Texas jobs were in micropolitans.

  • Texas’ nonfarm job growth currently derives largely from mining and logging, construction, professional and business services, and other services.

  • Our economists project a 4.1 percent growth rate for the state’s GDP for 2018, assuming oil prices don’t drop significantly.

  • Home prices in Texas are still lower than those in many markets outside the state. However, relative to itself, Texas has gotten more expensive.

  • On the other hand, home-price growth in the state’s major metros is slowing down.

  • According to the Center’s research of Texas home prices, low-tier homes are generally appreciating at a higher rate than mid-tier and high-tier homes in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin.

For more on the state’s housing market, visit the "Housing Activity​" page of our website.

Free land (data)Free land (data)Hayley RiederRieder

​​Rural land chart over photos of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana landYou may know that the Real Estate Center has rural land price and tract size data for Texas. But if you live in some of our neighboring states, you might be having trouble finding the data you need.

Well, Southerners rejoice! The Center now has rural land price data for Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

Data of this kind can be found nowhere else. 

Users can access analyses of prices and tract sizes regionally and statewide going back to fourth quarter 2005. Land market trend analyses are also available.

Many other publicly available land data use responses from surveys and are often unable to capture the entire market and may be biased. 

On the contrary, our unique data aggregate actual market data, truly representing the local markets. 

The information can be used by potential buyers and sellers of land to get an idea of market trends taking place on either a regional or statewide basis.

These data are in addition to rural land data for Texas, its regions, and its land market areas going back to fourth quarter 1971. 

The reports indicate past general conditions in these markets and do not represent prices or values of any particular farm or ranch. They do provide a general guide to land market price levels and size trends.

The best part of this new tool? It's free, easy to use, and can be found exclusively on the Center's website. No signup required. 

Not clickbait: Center social media presence blossoms Not clickbait: Center social media presence blossoms Hayley RiederRieder
2018-09-06T05:00:00ZCenter News

​​​​Social media is a great way for the Real Estate Center to effectively market its research to its constituents across Texas. Whether you're a broker from Laredo looking for home price stats or an Amarillo homebuilder searching for permit data, we can get the information to you through social media.

Last year, we began a massive push toward digital marketing and saw huge success. But this year, we stepped up our game.

Across our four most loved platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—we collectively posted over 2,000 times from August 2017 to August 2018. And y'all seemed to like them, interacting with the posts nearly 21,500 times.

We've gained more than 5,500 followers across all our platforms. LinkedIn gained the highest percentage of followers, growing 77.9 percent since August 2017.   

We “live-Tweeted" our Texas Land Conference in April for the second year in a row, posting commentary while the event took place. This year, our Tweets were viewed more than 11,700 times over the course of the two-day conference. Last year, they were viewed less than 9,000 times.

We also streamed live on Facebook three times during the conference, and around 600 people tuned in from the comfort of their own homes (or offices).

We also like to have some fun, so we celebrated many world events with our own REC twist. On social media, we commemorated the World Series, National Dollar Day, and even World Emoji Day. Thanks for celebrating with us.

This was a successful year for the Center's social media. We took what we learned last year and used it to give our followers what they want and need quickly and efficiently.

But we couldn't have done it without you. So thank you for following us and making this year our best yet. We can't wait to see what the next 12 months bring.

Don't forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You'll get the best of the Real Estate Center every day.​

Real Estate Center Social Media Infographic

Houston housing: A year after HarveyHouston housing: A year after HarveyLuis TorresTorres

​A year ago, Hurricane Harvey poured 40-plus inches of rain across Houston, paralyzing economic activity for nearly a week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported more than 161,000 homes damaged in the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area. Of those, 24 percent were uninhabitable for at least 30 days. Despite the severity of this multibillion-dollar storm, Houston's housing market has rebounded completely and continues to expand.

As discussed in the article “Imperfect Storm​," while flooding stretched across Houston, the destruction was unevenly distributed.

Geographically, the northeast suffered disproportionately, followed by the region south of downtown. The most concentrated destruction occurred in two contiguous ZIP codes (77078 and 77028), where around 70 percent of homes incurred damages. Both regions (which comprise East Houston, Houston Gardens, and Settagast) contain stretches of Halls Bayou, which flows into Greens Bayou on the eastern edge of 77078.

The next most damaged ZIP codes (77026 and 77044) were also in northeastern Houston or on Halls Bayou (77037), where about half of the housing stock was damaged.

After a year, how are home sales and prices doing in the five most damaged ZIP codes? The ZIP code (77044) with the highest number of sales and prices has registered increased sales and prices while the months of inventory remain low (see Figures 1, 2 and 3). The same is true for the 77037 ZIP code.

In contrast, the sales and prices of the most damaged ZIP code (77078) are below Harvey levels, but that area has three months of inventory. This sends mixed signals on how the market is doing, since sales are above and months of inventory are below their historical averages while prices have registered a steady decline since September 2017. This shows either some possible negative effects from Harvey or simply the particular characteristics of that housing market.

The other two ZIP codes had mixed results. One of them, 77028, has positive sales but negative price growth after Harvey. The other, 77026, has negative sales and positive price growth, but the months of inventory is rising, signaling that prices could start to decline, making it a market to watch.

The problem with four of the most damaged ZIP codes is that market activity is volatile because of low activity, making it difficult to distinguish clear trends. But the general net effect is that the market seems to be somewhat better off than or basically the same as a year ago.

Monthly home sales graph

Average price per square foot graph

Months of inventory graph

Houston ZIP code map


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