Texas Governor Greg Abbott, along with his colleagues in Florida and South Carolina who waited until the first week of April to enact stay-at-home orders, has been criticized for being slow to issue any statewide orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For several weeks as COVID-19 spread across the state, local officials in Harris County (Houston), Dallas and Tarrant Counties (Dallas-Fort Worth), and Bexar County (San Antonio) issued their own stay-at-home orders while the governor largely remained passive.
It wasn’t until March 31, nearly four weeks after the first confirmed case in the state, that Abbott ultimately issued a statewide stay-at-home order. And the mandate came only after the leaders of the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Nurses Association released a letter to Gov. Abbott imploring him to issue the order.
Since then, the situation has continued to evolve, as it has elsewhere. Here’s what’s happening in Texas now:
Statewide cases and deaths
- Texas reported 48,693 coronavirus cases as of May 19th, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
- The state reported 1,347 fatalities as of May 19th.
- A total of 723,013 tests had been administered as of May 19th.
Statewide crisis response
- On March 19, Gov. Abbott issued an order limiting social gatherings to 10 people, shutting down bars, gyms, schools and restaurant dining rooms, effective through April 3. This was extended through April 30 with the stay-at-home order, and schools will remain closed until May 4.
- The Texas Supreme Court also halted all evictions for 30 days on March 19. However, in Dallas County, a judge suspended evictions on March 18 for 60 days. Likewise, the city council in Austin approved on March 26 a 60-day “grace period” for renters to pay rent.
- On March 31, Gov. Abbott then issued a stay-at-home order for everyone through April 30, except those conducting essential business or services. Although Abbott encouraged parishes to conduct services remotely, religious services were included in the order’s list of essential services. The executive order also extended a shut down of schools through May 4.
- On April 8, the governor’s office announced that the state’s Walgreens would soon provide drive-through 15-minute testing for COVID-19. The governor also announced that Texas Health and Human Services would provide more than $168 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits to help Texans during the pandemic.
Statewide real estate
- In February there were 91,588 total active listings in Texas, according to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, which represents 3.0 months housing inventory. That number decreased from 96,988 active listings in February 2019 when housing inventory available would last 3.4 months.
- The number of home sales in Texas in February 2020 was 24,603 and the median price for a home was $244,000, an increase from $229,500 the same time the previous year.
- According to data from Zillow, home values in Texas have increased 3 percent over the past year, and are anticipated to increase 3.6 percent within the next year.
- Although open houses have not been completely banned, the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) has explicitly advised Realtors against holding them, and other area Realtor boards like the San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR) and the Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR) have issued safety guidelines to agents for how to conduct home showings and open houses by using social distancing and proper sanitation measures.
Confirmed cases as of May 19th: 7,679
Deaths as of May 19th: 177
Dallas County is the second most populous county in Texas, second to Harris County, with a population of about 2,635,516, according to U.S. Census estimates from 2019. The area is the largest city in the north of the state, about a one-hour or so drive from the Oklahoma border.
In March 2020, the county’s active listings decreased by 16.3 percent year-over-year to 5,149, according to data from MetroTex Association of Realtors.
The median sales price, however, increased by 6.1 percent year-over-year to $260,000. Homes spent an average of 48 days on market and took 31 days to close.
Total inventory for the month of March was 2.4 months worth, down from 3.0 months in March 2019.
Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties
Confirmed cases as of May 19th: 12,011
Deaths as of May 19th: 235
Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties are the counties that cover most of the Houston metropolitan area, although portions of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller and Wharton counties also overlap into Houston. The city is located in the southeast of Texas, not too far from Trinity Bay, which leads into the Gulf of Mexico.
The total active listings in the Houston area during March increased 2.6 percent year-over-year to 40,932 from 39,902 in March 2019, according to HAR.
Single-family home sales jumped by 8.2 percent year-over-year to 7,566 from 6,995 in March 2019. The median single-family home sales price also rose year-over-year to $249,900, up 4.1 percent from $240,000 the previous year.
Days on market for single-family homes remained unchanged from the previous year at 65 days.
Although inventory for single-family homes was down to 3.5 months supply year-over-year from 3.8 months in March 2019, that number was still above the national inventory of 3.1 months.
Townhome and condo sales fell by 0.5 percent year-over-year, with the median price showing a 4.6 percent increase to $183,000.
Confirmed cases as of May 19th: 2,537
Deaths as of May 19th: 79
Travis County holds a population of about 1,273,954, according to the most recent U.S. Census data, and its largest city is Austin with its bustling tech and music scene, which contains about 75 percent of the county’s population.
In February 2020, the median sales price for single-family homes, condos and townhomes in Travis County was $376,500, a year-over-year increase of 13 percent, according to data from ABOR.
Active listings decreased from the previous year by 35 percent, to 2,022 active listings. New listings also dropped by 13 percent on an annual basis to 1,550 new listings.
The average days on market was 53 days, a drop of 7 days from February 2019.
The market proves to be a tight one, with only 1.3 months of inventory available in February, a decrease of 0.7 months from the previous year.
Confirmed cases as of May 19th: 2192
Deaths as of May 19th: 62
Bexar County, located in the southern-central portion of the state with a population of 2,003,554, houses the city of San Antonio, famed as the home of The Alamo.
Total single-family home sales rose to 2,382 sales, an 8 percent increase year-over-year. The median home price also saw a rise from the previous year to $238,000, a 6 percent uptick.
Condo and townhome sales saw a 3 percent increase to 63 sales, up from 61 in February 2019. The median price of these properties showed a 17 percent dip in price to $116,700 from $141,200 the prior year.
Months of inventory was relatively strong compared to some other Texas markets, with 3.2 months available.
At the county level, home sales increased 7.8 percent year-over-year to 1,747 sales, and the median single-family home price was $225,000.
- TexasRealtors has a page on its website devoted to COVID-19 updates and FAQs for Realtors, which includes legal resources, broker resources, and updates on government actions as they relate to real estate agents.
- ABOR is currently offering free online courses for members through May. It’s also created a “Stay Home, Work Safe” resource kit for agents on its website, which includes information on how to stay well in all aspects of your life right now, as well as information and resources specific to the pandemic.
- HAR is continuing to update a page on its website devoted to coronavirus-related issues. It also has a virtual event series currently scheduled through the end of April. Disclosure: April 23’s event will feature Inman’s own Brad Inman.
- The Texas Department of Insurance has a resource page about coronavirus, particularly as it relates to stakeholders in the Texas Workers’ Compensation system.
- The Greater Houston Partnership also has an extensive COVID-19 resources page for businesses and workers.