The December 2016 Real Estate News Roundup

Say what you will about 2016, but it has been a great year for residential real estate — especially in hot spots like Austin.

Fueled by a growing economy, the pace of existing home sales in the U.S. hit its highest point since February 2007. Meanwhile, home values continue to rise in most areas. Austin, for example, has a median home sale price of $342,000. But it has seen two consecutive months of increasing sales and continues be in high demand as the local economy continues adding high-paying tech jobs.

Meanwhile, the strengthening economy has made it easier for investors to flip homes. And they’re doing it at rates not seen since 2007. You’ll learn about that and much more — including a few celebrity home sales in Austin — in our monthly news roundup.

Let’s dive in.

Inside Charlie Strong’s Austin Mansion

Charlie Strong may have had a rough few years on the gridiron as coach of the University of Texas Longhorns football team. But he was living in style. Now, as he heads to his next job at the University of South Florida, his Austin estate is being sold. The five-bedroom mansion in west Austin has a Mediterranean vibe and is listed privately for just under $5 million, the Austin Business Journal reports. The article includes 25 photos of the luxurious property. But you’ll have to look hard to find any Longhorns memorabilia.

Meanwhile, one of the Austin area’s other top shelf properties is now off the market. John Paul DeJoria, the billionaire founder of Patron tequila and John Paul Mitchell Systems, sold his “Patron de Paz” ranch in Dripping Springs for $6.93 million. You can view the property here.

Surprising Growth in Austin Home Sales

For about a year now, home sales inside the city of Austin have been relatively flat, especially compared to the pace of sales in more affordable suburbs. But November saw strong growth. Single-family home sales in the metro area increased 15.8 percent compared to the same month last year. The new figures show Austin is on pace for another record-breaking year for home sales, even as values have increased rapidly as the city’s boom continues.

New Home Sales Increasing

Many are concerned that rising interest rates could slow the pace at which people in the U.S. are buying new homes. But, even as rates are set to rise, new home sales increased in November, the Wall Street Journal reports. New home purchases grew by 5.2 percent compared to October. A few other key figures: Sales for the first 11 months of 2016 are up 12.7 percent compared to last year, and the median sale price for a home was at $305,400, which is down from November 2015 when the median was $317,000. Those new home purchases, however, are only a small fraction compared to the number of previously-owned homes.

U.S. Home Sales Continue Strong Climb

Home sellers and buyers had a big month in November. Existing home sales climbed 0.7 percent in November. While that may look small, it represents the fastest pace of home sales since February 2007. And sales are up 15 percent compared to 2015, the National Association of Realtors reported in December. CBS News talked to a few experts who said the pace of sales means there’s less inventory at a time when mortgage rates are set to increase. “Some prospective buyers are going to be straining to get to an affordable monthly payment with mortgage rates higher and may take a harder line on prices (or settle for less home) to make the numbers work,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, said in a research note.

The Return of House Flipping

House flipping is on the rise. The number of people buying, fixing up and reselling homes has reached its highest level since before the economic crisis of 2008. You may not have noticed a slowdown in the Austin area, where demand has kept the market strong for years. But those types of investments slowed considerably after a peak in 2007, the Wall Street Journal reports. On average, investors are making $61,000 on each flip. That’s a huge increase since 2009 when the market hit a low and folks flipping homes averaged a $19,000 return.