Houses are taking longer to sell and sales across the region fell last month for the first time since Hurricane Harvey, a new housing report shows.

Buyers closed on 6,810 single-family homes in March, a 2.5% decline from a year earlier, the Houston Association of Realtors said Wednesday in a monthly housing report.

The slowdown surprised the realty association, which cited national and global economic concerns as possible culprits for the weaker market.

"It's possible that consumers are hesitant to buy in light of recent stock market volatility and the looming trade war with China and how that might affect their personal finances," Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, HAR chairwoman, said in a statement.

Higher mortgage rates also may be spooking would-be buyers.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage was 4.4%, according to the most recent survey from Freddie Mac, up from a low last year of 3.78%.

Houston homes
A residential neighborhood in Northwest Houston. Adobe Stock

"People are falling into two camps: act before rates go higher or stay on the fence and wait to see where rates go," Joe Mandola, president of Trendmaker Homes, said.

The rental market also saw waning consumer interest for both single-family homes and townhomes or condominiums, according to the association, which tracks sales and leases handled through the Multiple Listing Service in primarily Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.

Single-family home leases fell 9% in March, while townhomes and condominium leases dropped 13.1%. The average rent for single-family homes rose 6% to $1,748. The average rent for a townhome or condominium increased 0.7% to $1,496.

The strongest segment of the market last month was for homes priced in the $500,000 to $749,999 range, which was up 7%. That boosted the overall single-family median 2.4% from a year ago to $233,500.

Sales of luxury properties, those priced from $750,000, were flat for the second straight month in a row.

Tribune Content Agency