Smaller Texas cities and towns saw steep increases in home prices as COVID-19 spread.
LONGVIEW, Texas — When Quannah Ludlow took one of the top jobs at a manufacturing plant in this East Texas city, he didn’t expect such a hard time finding a place to live.
Buying a house was off the table — Ludlow wasn’t yet familiar enough with his new hometown to take that step, so the 37-year-old Oklahoman looked for an apartment while he settled into his new role managing the plant, which makes air conditioning equipment.
But as Ludlow submitted application after application, he found every apartment complex in this city of fewer than 100,000 people had a lengthy waitlist. He ended up spending six months in a hotel.
“I get up, get ready for work, I come [to work], come back, watch TV, eat, go to sleep,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for the last six months.”
Ludlow’s hunt for an apartment illustrates a growing reality: Virtually no part of Texas has escaped the housing crunch gripping the state and the rest of the nation in which people looking for a place to live are finding fewer options and increasingly higher prices. Across Texas, the median price of a home has jumped 33% since January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state.
As offices shuttered in the early days of the pandemic, employees who found themselves working remotely discovered they could live anywhere — prompting migration from inside and outside of Texas to spots where homebuyers felt they could get more bang for their buck, especially if they wanted a home office.
At the same time, millennials who had long put off buying a home entered the market at a time when record-low interest rates made it cheaper for them to get a mortgage. As a result, major Texas cities like Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio saw the number of houses on the market dwindle and home prices soar in the last two years.
Click here to see where home prices have risen the most in Texas during the pandemic.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in Austin, where housing prices had been soaring for years before the pandemic and where the price of a typical home now stands at nearly half a million dollars.
“We’re not California yet,” said Luis Torres, a research economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. “But, slowly but surely, in a couple of years, we could get there.”
Now, the housing crunch has spread outside of the state’s major metropolitan areas and into more rural parts of Texas. Smaller cities and towns like Brownsville, Sherman and Longview — where homes are cheaper than in the larger cities — saw steep increases in home prices as COVID-19 spread, according to data from the Texas Real Estate Research Center.
Before the pandemic, the typical house in Longview cost $138,500. Now the city’s median home price is $215,000 — about 55% more expensive than in January 2020, but still more affordable than many other parts of the state.
Residential real estate experts consider six months’ worth of supply — meaning that it would take homebuyers six months to snatch up every home on the market — a healthy balance between buyers and sellers.
Longview hasn’t had that kind of supply of homes since 2018. As of October, the city had about two months’ worth of supply.</…….