• Howard Hughes Corp. communities The Woodlands and Bridgeland showed big drops in sales from 2014 to 2015.
  • According to the Houston Association of Realtors, the mid-priced home segment showed gains.
  • Luxury communities are feeling the pinch and keeping a watchful eye on their land inventories going forward.

In two Houston communities, an annual report from their owner reveals a 44 percent slippage in sales from 2014 to 2015. The Howard Hughes Corp., owner of The Woodlands and Bridgeland, blames the drop on the softening local economy.

But in the January report from the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR), the start of 2016 showed strong for the metro overall.

Sales were only about 2 percent off the January record, despite the ongoing difficulties in the energy industry. Single-family homes priced between $150,000 and $250,000 saw year-over-year sales increase by nearly 9 percent. Total property sales across all price points remained flat.

The trend of buyers settling into this one price point seems to be holding. But, obviously, higher-end new home builders are feeling that pinch.

The Dallas-based Hughes Corp.’s  report said that uncertainty is a weight on its bottom line.  “An uncertain economic climate in the greater Houston area due to the decline in oil prices contributed to a slowed sales velocity in 2015 compared to 2014 in our Houston master-planned communities,” the company said in a statement.

The slowdown is also resulting in homebuilders becoming more cautious when looking to acquire land for future construction.

In The Woodlands, residential land sales decreased by 58.3 percent year-over-year, to $32.4 million for the year ended 2015. In Bridgeland, land sales decreased by 17.8 percent to $31.5 million in 2015 compared to $38.3 million in sales for 2014.

Weathering the energy downturn

According to the January stats put out by the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR), single-family home sales were down 2.1 percent versus January 2015, with a total of 4,024 sales compared to 4,109 a year earlier.

“A lot of folks have nervously anticipated that falling oil prices would have a devastating effect on real estate, but so far, the Houston market has weathered the energy downturn without dramatic shifts in sales and pricing,” said HAR Chairman Mario Arriaga, in a statement. “The most noticeable impact has been declines in the luxury market, but mid-range housing actually saw a healthy sales volume in January and inventory levels grew.”

Which makes absolute sense, as the Hughes master planned communities have price points well above $250,000 for single-family units.

In January, the single-family home average price rose a slim 0.3 percent year-over-year, reaching $262,663 while the median price rose 5.3 percent to $200,000. Both figures represent all-time highs for a January in Houston.

January 2016 sales indicators were mixed. On a year-over-year basis, single-family homes sales declined slightly, total property sales and total dollar volume were flat and average and median sales prices rose.

Total active listings, or the total number of available properties, at the end of January rose 15.8 percent from January 2015 to 32,260. An increase in new listings helped buoy a growth in inventory to a 3.3 month supply of homes ready for occupancy.

Houston’s housing inventory has held above a 3.1 month supply since May 2015, climbing to a 3.5 month supply last summer. In January 2015, Houston had a 2.5 month supply of available homes.

Nationwide, the supply of homes currently stands at 3.9 months.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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