The median price of houses sold in Williamson County continues to break records each month.
But that seems more like a symptom of a looming housing market cool off.
The number of homes closings in the county fell 13% compared to last June-the first month this year closings fell compared to the same month last year. There were 545 home closing in June.
“We’ve got some crazy dynamics going on that all in all are pointing to a slow down,” said David Logan, President of the Williamson County Association of REALTORS.
Logan said that the reason for the market drop is because of low inventory.
A healthy market, he said, will have about a six month supply of houses at current demand. The Williamson County market has maybe a two month supply.
Moreover, the kinds of houses available, mostly in the $600,000-and-up range, differ from what people want, which are houses in the $250,000-to-$400,000 range. Of active listings, the median price is about $600,000. The median price of a house just sold or pending is $400,000.
“There is just not much to choose from,” he said. “There is hardly any of what people do want, and more, but still not much, of everything else.”
The reason for the squeeze is a double demand.
“On the one hand you have expanding families, looking for $350,000 to $450,000 homes,” Logan said. “And on the other hand you have older people, whose kids might have left home, realizing keeping a 4,000 square-foot home makes no sense. So they look to downsize to reduce maintenance and maybe use the money to buy a vacation home or a lake house somewhere.”
The market just is not providing the so-called affordable housing that these potential buyers want. Logan said that is a function of Williamson County land prices.
“Land is so expensive here, that developers almost have to build $800,000 to $1 million homes for it to be worth the investment,” Logan said.
The only options, other than continuing to sprawl out in Williamson County, is redevelopment.
“The real answer is density,” Logan said. “For example, all of Brentwood is one-acre lots. There is this huge demand, and it would solve a lot of problems if we could go to half-acre lots, and I think in a lot of places, even in Cool Springs, they are talking about, instead of spreading out, changing height restrictions along the interstate.”
But with every solution comes new problems.
“People say,’Yeah, but, density will just magnify traffic problems,'” Logan said. “There is always a, ‘Yeah, but.””
Increased density, counterintuitively, might actually end up traffic neutral.
“This lack of affordable housing means people who work here are living elsewhere, so that creates its own traffic when they commute in and out,” he said.
For Logan, dealing with this issue means more than just talking about it.
“Awareness is really important, I think, but it doesn’t change your habits,” he said. “It takes something radical to change your habits. So, until we are really motivated to do something, you can talk all you want about traffic, but nobody is doing anything to create more affordable housing.”