Housing sales prices skyrocket

Average sale in 2016 is $351,000; apartment supply still tight

Housing costs continue to rise, and middle-income and young families are feeling the squeeze.

That was the overriding topic last Thursday at the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce’s Leaders’ Breakfast, which featured a review of the local real estate market.

Mike Starks, realtor, and Tim Lehmberg, Gillespie County Economic Development executive director, led the morning audience of more than 100 through slides which showed the change and challenges in the local home and apartment markets.

“The average home sales price the first six months of 2016 was $351,664,” Starks said. “That’s up from $298,640 in 2015.” The difference marks a 15-percent rise in sales prices.

“That’s a huge increase in six months,” Starks said. “When I saw that in the first quarter, I thought there must have just been some really big sales and it would go down. But here we are at the halfway point and it’s actually gone up.”

Housing sales prices are up 34 percent in the past five years.

“It makes me nervous that we’re appreciating that fast,” Starks said. “We’re already somewhat unaffordable and we can’t stay at 14 percent forever and not blow up.”

Sellers are enjoying the market, but between home prices, low inventory and little apartment vacancy, families feel the pinch.

“We’re getting to a critical point because even our young professional families can’t afford to live here,” said Leslie Wallendorf. “That is very concerning for me with young children and two moderate incomes. A lot of people, a lot of our teachers and nurses, can’t stay here.”

“What we’re going to end up with is over-65, retirees’ second homes, and nobody to provide services, our young kids are really suffering from this,” Wallendorf said. “We see all these increases in land values, yet none of it stays here. All of that increase will not go back to our schools.”

Lehmberg empathized.

“I wish we had an answer. We’ve been trying to fix that for years now,” he said of efforts to recruit more employees to the market. “We all know that the biggest challenge this community faces is our labor choices. Those of us on the labor task force have identified the reasons for the shortage and the elephant in that room is housing and the lack of affordable housing.”

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