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Economy Project: Dallas Area Home Prices Fall

By Sam Baker, KERA Morning Edition Host

Dallas, TX –

The Standard & Poors/Case-Schiller report out last week showed a 2.5 percent drop in Dallas area home prices in March - the 9th straight monthly decline. It's not good news, but the president of the MetroTex Association of Realtors warns not to compare north Texas to the rest of the country. In this KERA Economy segment, Patricia Szot told 90.1's Sam Baker the local housing market's stable overall and showing some improvement.

Patricia Szot: The average home price in north Texas is $195,000. We're six percent higher for the first four months of the year than we were in last year. North Texas, our median price is $143,000. We're up one percent from last year.

Sam Baker: What accounts for north Texas maybe doing better than the rest of the country?

Patricia: Number one, Dallas is a very transient community. Businesses are always moving in. I think I heard a statistic the other day that 350 to 398 new families arrive in north Texas on a daily basis looking for employment. Our employment numbers don't match the rest the country. We are a microcosm here of relevant stability.

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Sam: Who is buying these days?

Patricia: A lot of people who don't want to put their money in the stock market because of the fluctuations there are taking a very hard look at real estate. A lot of people are buying second homes for rental, third homes. And then we have a huge influx of just the investor market that are seeing prices reasonable and interest rates phenomenal.

Sam: What price level of homes in selling these days? Is there one that selling more than others?

Patricia: It's been varying. For a while, a lot of people were buying more entry level homes. Your investors today are buying homes all over the market, all over the price range of the market because of interest rates.

Sam: There was some talk the declines had to do with the end of the federal home buying tax credit. What effect on the market have you seen that have?

Patricia: The home buying initiative did a lot to stimulate the market, but when that stopped the market stalled.

Sam: So we went back to where we were

Patricia: Exactly. People took advantage of it, but it did not spur other people to get back into the market. If they weren't first time homebuyers taking a hard look at using that program, then people weren't buying. I think people have been afraid to buy. People are concerned about, the stability in their job. That's one big thing that's holding people back right now. I think they're very excited about the price ranges. I think they're very excited about the interest rates. But I think they're just biding their time over job security.

Sam: Do you see evidence of a turnaround any time soon?

Patricia: I'm seeing small things pick up in the business.

Sam: For instance?

Patricia: More home sales, absolutely more home sales and more listings coming on the market. But this is typically the time of the year when that happens. Once you start seeing the flowers popping up, you start seeing the real estate signs popping up. And I think, too, in our area, people are tired of waiting. I think the economy is a drag, the real estate market and what they've heard - the negativity - in the national news, I think people are saying enough. Now my concern coming into the future is what the government regulations will be on the mortgage industry. I know our government would like to see everybody put 20 percent down.

Sam: You think that might slow sales?

Patricia: Absolutely. How many homes can you go out there and put 20 percent down on right now?

Sam: Given all this, I'm curious: What's it like for people in your profession these days?

Patricia: It's been a rough ride for the people in our profession. I think one of things that has eased for them is when we saw drop in the sales market, many of the people in real estate started getting involved in leasing properties. So, the savvy real estate agent has stayed busy through all of this. The professional, the experienced agent, they're doing okay.

Patricia Szot is president of the MetroTex Association of Realtors.

You can find more reports about the economy at