The Houston real estate market continued strong in February, as home sales grew for the fifth straight month and the median home price set a record, according to statistics released by the Houston Association of Realtors.

Total property sales, which includes single-family homes, townhomes, multifamily homes, country homes, high-rise properties and lots listed on the MLS, totaled 5,792 in February, up 16.4 percent from a year ago.

The overall median price of single-family homes reached a record for the month of February at $142,960, which was an increase of 4.4 percent compared to the year-ago period. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less than that figure.

Additionally, total sales for single-family homes in Houston increased by 14 percent to 4,648 in February, up from last February’s 4,078.

Existing single-family home sales totaled 4,020 last month, which was a 16.4 percent increase from February 2005. The median sales price for existing homes in the Houston area was $136,000, an increase of 5.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

Additionally, the number of townhouses and condos that sold in February increased substantially this month compared to last year’s sales, with 552 units being sold last month, versus 446 properties in February 2005.

The overall median price in the townhouse/condo segment in Houston rose by 4.3 percent, from $115,000 in February 2005 to $120,000 last month.

The number of available homes (active listings) at the end of February was 40,857 properties, which was a decrease of 3.5 percent versus last February. The figure was an increase of approximately 40 properties from last month though, which continued last month’s reversal from the previous five months of month-over-month declines.

Month-end pending sales of properties reached 4,756, which was up 23.5 percent from last year, and already signals a very strong March 2006, compared to 6,548 properties sold in March 2005.

The months inventory, which estimates the number of months it will take to deplete current active inventory based on the prior 12 months sales activity, remained at 5.2 months in February, which signals more of a seller’s market and also shows that demand is more than keeping up with the available supply of homes.

While other housing markets across the country are experiencing sluggish sales activity, but higher prices, HAR said the greater Houston market’s continuing strength in both sales and pricing is another sign that the Houston region is setting itself apart from the national “bubble” worries.

“Our market is not characteristic of the nation in so many ways, but one of the more unusual facts is that we are continuing to see increased sales activity, while many others are not,” said Lorraine Abercrombie, HAR chair and marketing director for Greenwood King Properties. “And our prices are increasing more moderately, allowing Houston to remain one of the most affordable markets in the United States.”

The Multiple Listing Service of the Houston Association of Realtors includes residential properties and new homes listed by 22,000 Realtors throughout Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller and Wharton counties.

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