Trulia, the national real-estate data-crunching outfit, has been maintaining a “bubble watch” since May, 2013, tracking local markets where home prices are rising fast enough that the dollar signs threaten to outrun the “market fundamentals.” This week, Trulia’s bubble watch list puts four Texas metropolitan areas in its top ten, including the coastal markets of Houston and San Antonio.
Trulia chief economist, Jed Kolko, reports on the organization’s data in Forbes: “At the metro level, home prices are above their fundamental value in 17 of the 100 largest metros. Most of these overvalued metros are only slightly so: Of the 17 overvalued metros, just two–Orange County and Los Angeles–look at least 10% overvalued. (Austin rounds up to 10% but is actually slightly below.) Several California metros also stand out for having both overvalued prices AND sharp price increases, including Orange County, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Riverside-San Bernardino.” (For the full story, see “Trulia: Home Prices Are Simmering, Not Bubbling.”)
The Houston market, according to the Trulia report, is presently overvalued by 6% after rising 13.9% in the past year. San Antonio, the report says, is overvalued by 4% after rising by 11.1%.
Those numbers don’t qualify those cities for bubble status, even by Trulia’s reckoning—somewhat arbitrarily, Trulia reserves the “bubble” label for areas where it considers the prices to be more than 10% above what Trulia believes justified by underlying demand and production. But even so, Texans are taking exception to the inclusion of three Texas cities on the top ten list. Market watcher Steve Cook notes the controversy on his Real Estate Economy Watch blog (for Cook’s full post, see “Smile when you say ‘bubble,’ mister“).
“Dr. James Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, responded that concerns about a price bubble in Texas’ housing markets are overblown,” writes Cook. “He said some of the recent increases are just making up for several years in the recession when Texas home prices were declining or flat.”