On the move: HAR’s 2018 chair discusses opportunities in Houston market – Part 1
Each new year brings new opportunities. For many people, that might also include a relocation to a new city. If that city is Houston, the opportunities are abundant.
Just ask Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, the 2018 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR), who also serves as an affordable lending relationship manager for JPMorgan Chase.
During a recent interview, she shared her perspectives on the local real estate market, and what newcomers can expect as they move to Houston.
Following are excerpts from our conversation:
MS: What can newcomers expect in terms of their ability to find a community and a home that meets their lifestyle needs?
KB: You tell us what you want, and we can find it in Houston. That is one of the advantages that we have here, because our geographic spread is so large. If someone is looking for a master-planned community, we are very fortunate to have some of the best in the Houston area, from The Woodlands, to Katy, to the Bay area, to Fort Bend County.
What’s interesting about Houston as well, is that we’re looking at kind of a demographic shift within the city. We have quite a bit of new construction within the city, which is very attractive to those who are moving here from larger metropolitan areas who want to be close to downtown, and want to be close to nightlife, and the Theatre District and the museums. So, Houston offers a little bit of everything for everyone.
MS: How would you describe the Houston housing market in terms of affordability?
KB: I think that when we look at affordable housing, we do have some work to do in this marketplace, and we are addressing that and working with builders that are building entry-level products in some of the areas that have been underserved in terms of city living. You can see that in some of the gentrification that is taking place in Midtown and in EaDo (East Downtown).
I think that Houston is still an affordable city. Yes, we are seeing home prices increase, and it’s not as affordable today as it was just a few years ago, but all things considered, we are still a very affordable city, with a lot of opportunity for individuals to live either in suburban Houston or within the city.
MS: Obviously, real estate prices in Houston can vary dramatically depending on location. What’s the best way for people who are moving here to better understand the pricing in different areas and neighborhoods?
KB: When we look at our MSA (metropolitan statistical area), we have so many subcommunities that offer not only different lifestyles, but varying price points. We do group everything together into Houston when we talk about the market, but really there are many subsets of Houston that have their own individual price points and figures. So, you have to drill down to the certain area that you were looking for. That’s when the value of a Realtor comes into play.
MS: Please elaborate on the value that having a Realtor brings to the real estate and relocation process, especially given the massive amounts of information available to consumers today.
KB: I think that technology has really revolutionized the way we do business. We have really started to empower consumers more than ever before. We are working with individuals who need information now, but they also need a professional who can help direct them once they have that information. I think it’s more important today than ever for Realtors to really help their clients understand the value they bring. When it comes to negotiating, that’s not something that you can find online. When people are relocating, they need someone who has the experience, the market knowhow, and the institutional knowledge of how to perform a transaction, and to help that transaction from start to finish.
We are in a competitive seller’s market, and when you’re in a seller’s market you need a strong representative. Six months of inventory is usually the sign of a very healthy real estate market, and we have been below that for quite some time now. Our amount of available inventory is less than four months right now.
So, when you have low inventory and high demand, you have to have someone who can help guide you through the process who is professional, knowledgeable, and understands how to negotiate to your benefit.
Please come back next week for Part 2 of my interview with Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, as she shares more of her perspectives on the opportunities available in the Houston real estate market.
Michelle Sandlin is an award-winning writer, journalist and global mobility industry expert. Her work is frequently featured in Worldwide ERC’s Mobility magazine, and in various business and industry related publications and corporate blogs. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMichelleSandlin and on Twitter: @MichelleSandlin. Also visit “On the Move” at blog.chron.com/onthemove.