The north county housing market is beginning to see some activity after a post-Hurricane Harvey slump, but in communities where flooding was severe, homes are a tough sell, Realtors said.
Since Harvey, much of the real estate activity in hard-hit Dickinson has come from outside investors buying flooded houses “as is” to flip or rent, said Mari Berend, a real estate agent for Gulf Coast Realtors in Dickinson.
Plenty of homes are listed for sale, she said. But many potential buyers are wary about purchasing — or even viewing — homes there, Berend said. Berend even has found it difficult to get potential buyers to look at Dickinson properties that didn’t flood during the late August storm, she said.
“It’s like saying ‘Galveston’ in the six months after Ike,” Berend said. “They don’t even want to hear about it and that’s a shame because there are some really good areas.”
Many of Berend’s buyers have been searching in League City, Pearland and Alvin, she said. As much as 80 percent of the area’s housing stock sustained some flooding during Harvey, according to city estimates.
But Realtors are optimistic Dickinson will return to being a hot housing market eventually. And at least one Dickinson Realtor said she had one of her best Novembers on record as people started receiving insurance money post-Harvey.
As people received insurance money, they are starting to get back into the market and activity is picking up, although many sales have been to investors looking to flip homes, said Ann Bragg, a longtime Realtor in Dickinson. But Bragg also has sold homes to three new families moving to the area, she said.
“I think our real estate market is going to be just fine,” Bragg said.
Bragg was a Realtor working in the area when Tropical Storm Claudette hit. People repaired homes after the floods, and the market came back, she said. She doesn’t expect it to be any different after Harvey.
Berend, too, thought the market would recover. Dickinson is an attractive city to buy in and as homes get repaired, people will return, she said.
“I think League City’s popularity will make people look to Dickinson next year,” Berend said. “Dickinson will look attractive, it’s less expensive and still an easy commute.”
The area housing market was booming before Harvey made landfall in late August, Realtors said. It was unusual for Dickinson homes to be on the market for more than 30 days, Berend said.
The Houston Association of Realtors in November said the overall Houston-area real estate market was showing resiliency in the aftermath of Harvey.
In August, sales plunged 24 percent after Harvey, the association said. But in September, sales had climbed again, 4.4 percent higher than September 2016, the association said. As of November, the latest report available, home sales in the region were about 2.8 percent ahead of last year’s figure, according to the association.
But the highest demand now is for rentals, Realtors said. Rock Team Realty in Friendswood has 52 rental properties it manages around the Houston area. In the three months following Harvey, the office has received about 40 calls a week from people seeking places to rent, property manager Reyna Rock said.
The area had a low rental inventory even before the storm and some of those properties also flooded, she said. The low inventory of rentals creates a problem for displaced homeowners still stuck in hotels, she said.
“Once you have a rental on the market, it goes really fast because there’s such a shortage,” Rock said. “That’s happening all over Houston.”
Rental prices have remained fairly constant, Rock said. She’s seen some places go up $25 to $50 a month when listed, but otherwise has not seen big rent hikes, she said.
“I haven’t seen anything where I could say, ‘Man, they’re really gouging,’” Rock said.
It took nearly five years for the Galveston housing market to really recover after Hurricane Ike in 2008, said Carolyn Gaido, a longtime Galveston Realtor with Sand ‘N Sea properties. But the storm had also coincided with the 2008 financial crisis, which was already slowing home sales before Ike wiped out much of the island and continued for years after, she said.
Galveston was largely spared by Harvey and home sales have remained steady, Gaido said. But in other parts of the county, Gaido said she expected to see a short-term slowing of demand from new buyers in the hardest hit communities.
“These sort of things have a definite effect on the market,” Gaido said. “The pendulum is swinging right now. I do think their market will come back, for sure, it’s when will it come back.”