In January 2015, the median price of a home in Wichita Falls was $ 81,500, and potential buyers had a choice of 797.
Fast forward just six years and the median price in May 2021 was $ 165,000 and potential buyers had only 194 homes to choose from. Median prices have more than doubled while the housing stock has fallen by 75%.
Wichita Falls, like the rest of the Texas real estate market, is stuck between rising prices and low stock in a home buying frenzy.
“The extremely low level of available supply is hampering sales,” said Dr. Luis Torres, research economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. “The limited inventory of homes priced under $ 300,000 is particularly distressing and emphasizes the affordability of homes.”
Young families and first-time buyers, most of whom cannot afford to spend $ 300,000 on a house, are among the most struggling.
“I would say people who are in a $ 200,000 home range can be a first-time buyer,” said veteran real estate agent Danny Steed. “Anything under $ 300,000 will likely be someone new to the market, a first-time buyer.”
The US Census Bureau reports that the median household income in Wichita Falls is approximately $ 48,000. Steed said a family in this bracket could qualify for a mortgage in the range of $ 100,000 to $ 125,000.
“It’s just that there aren’t a lot of these houses. These are the ones that go like hot cakes, ”he said.
Steed said prices for even smaller homes in lower-income neighborhoods like Faith Village have gone up.
“It wasn’t that long ago that they were $ 30,000 and $ 40,000. They are now over $ 100,000, ”he said.
Competition for housing intensifies in Wichita Falls
Ricardo Sandoval, a builder and agent for 940 Realty, agrees and thinks competition for affordable housing is another factor.
“You have investors who jump on properties very quickly and you also have seasoned buyers who may have bought a house or two in the past and they know how to navigate a little easier and faster than a first buyer. ,” he said.
Investors are people who buy properties to rent and those who “flip” houses to resell them.
Sandoval said buying a home, even in normal times, can be a daunting process for first-timers.
“Add in the market factors, the low inventory and you end up with a first-time buyer who may be turning away from their first home because they don’t want to make a mistake,” he said.
Steed said the local housing market is out of balance. He said that equilibrium is struck when it is neither a particularly hot seller’s market nor a particularly hot buyer’s market. For Wichita Falls, that means maintaining an inventory of around 700 to 800 homes. This has not happened since the end of 2015.
First-time home buyers face challenges
Even though prices have increased considerably, Wichita Falls has been hailed in several studies for having low-cost housing compared to the rest of the country. Torres pointed out that the median price of a home in Texas is $ 289,900, about $ 125,000 more than the local figure.
New home construction that could have alleviated the inventory crisis has slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic and Steed doesn’t think a resumption of construction will help young families and first-time buyers much.
“The new development will likely involve homes over $ 200,000. You won’t see anybody come out and build a $ 140,000 or $ 150,000 house, ”he said,“ I don’t know where the young couples and the lowest incomes are going to end up. “
Sandoval, who has worked with many first-time buyers, has advice for those who wish to wade through rough seas.
“Find a real estate agent who’s seasoned in this market, who knows what they’re doing, because if you’re trying to navigate these waters on your own and just go to open houses or look online, it’s really, really hard. “, did he declare. “If you don’t have a seasoned agent to help you in this market, you’re probably going to end up homeless.