BCS Economic Index Declines for Fourth Straight Month

*10 P.M. Update*

The sluggish economy is taking a toll on home sales in Bryan- College Station with home sales down 15 percent since last year.

There's lot of for sale and rent signs up across Bryan-College Station as is the norm in the summer time.

But is it a buyer or seller's market?

Well that depends on who you ask.

"Our home was on the market for less than a week and then it sold surprisingly but I think a lot of that has to do with the preparation ahead of time we had a fantastic Realtor who came in and told us exactly what we needed to do," said Cathy Hodgson, of Bryan.

Hodgson was pleasantly surprised to be an exception to a recent sluggish real estate market.

Though not as sluggish as other parts of the country.

Jim Gaines is a research economist with the Texas A&M Real Estate Center and says the recent sales trend is to be expected after a federal government tax credit program ended.

"It's not surprising that for the month of May and really the last several months that retail sales and home permits would be down. The good news here is that our home prices are flat and have been able to hold up even during this doldrum," said Jim Gaines, Ph.D.

Gaines adds there's lots of options on the market now if you are looking to buy.

"If you have a job and you're confident in your job because prices are down they are at least flat, they haven't been increasing in the last several years and interest rates are down so it's a good time to be buying if you're a buyer," he added.

Lynn Powell is the President of the BCS Regional Association of Realtors and is the broker / owner of At Home Properties and says parents buying homes for college students has fallen by 15 percent.

"You're having them being worried or leery about buying at this time of market, so we're having more kids being pushed into the rental market. So the rental market is definitely doing better. Rents are high, nationally as well as locally," Powell said.

"There's still hope out there. I feel like we're relatively untouched compared to the rest of the country so housing is good here and the time of year you put your house on the market is very crucial as well," Cathy Hodgson said.

A market that continues to to recover.

And Jim Gaines has these suggestions if you are selling a home;

Be patient and don't expect big gains on your sale because there is an ample supply of homes already on the market.

If you are buying a home Gaines says it's not as easy to get a home loan as it used to be.

If you don't have enough money for a down payment and conventional mortgage, Gaines recommends an FHA Loan.

*Previous Story*
The B-CS Economic Index declined for the fourth straight month in May, falling to 118.3 down from 118.6 in April, and down 1.2% from the May 2011 index of 119.7. That 1.2% margin of decline compared to May 2010 represents the first year-over-year decline in the index since September of last year; the B-CS Economic Index had been slowly improving since bottoming out in January 2010, but that recovery has faltered, at least temporarily, as spending has slowed and the usual suspects – construction and housing – continue to weigh on the index and the local economy.

The concurrent trends in two important sectors of the local economy best represent its current condition, and these are general consumer spending (as represented by inflation-adjusted retail spending), and the metro area’s employment situation as represented by payroll employment and the unemployment rate.

General spending in B-CS was negative (year-over-year) for the third straight month per the May sales tax receipts in Bryan and College Station. Inflation-adjusted spending was down by 1.7% compared to May 2010, and the year-to-date total is down slightly compared to the YTD through May 2010 total. The year-to-date through May total is the lowest for that time period since 2007, and the May monthly total is the lowest since 2006.

Employment remains the bright spot in the B-CS metro area economy, surpassing 100,000 for the first time ever (non-seasonally adjusted) in April and May of this year, and posting a 2.3% rate of year-over-year growth, a net addition of some 2,300 jobs. The employment situation is even more impressive given the 1,500 government sector jobs lost in B-CS over the last 12 months, meaning an estimated 3,800 net private sector jobs have been added to the local economy over the past year.

Auto sales flattened in May, and were actually down compared to year-ago levels for the first time in nine months. Inflation-adjusted spending on new and used automobiles was down by about 3.6% in May compared to May 2010, but remains just over 2% improved for the year-to-date. Still, real auto spending remains down compared to peak spending levels in 2007 and 2008.

The $29.9 million in construction permit valuations in May was the largest monthly total thus far in 2011, but is being compared to a very high total in May 2010, and is therefore down by over 70% for the month. For the year, building permit activity is down by over 46% compared to the first five months of 2010, and save for the sharply down year of 2009, is the lowest January-May total since 2002.

The 18% increase in new housing permits in May compared to May 2010 marks the first year-over-year increase in new single-family residence permits in six months, and only the second since May of last year. The number of permits issued year-to-date remains down by nearly 19% compared to the first five months of 2010, and except for 2009 is down compared to each year dating back to at least 1999.

Existing home sales declined (year-over-year) for the fourth straight month, falling by over 15% compared to May of a year ago, and have now posted year-over-year declines for 11 of the last 12 months. Home sales have declined by 12% thus far in 2011 compared to the first five months of 2010, and are also down compared to six of the last eight years dating back to 2004. The average price in May increased by nearly 5%, however, and prices have improved on balance in 2011, and are now virtually level compared to the YTD through May 2010 average.


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