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Houston's Multifamily Market May Be Oversupplied, But Condos Are Not

Thanks to Hurricane Harvey, Houston's multifamily market avoided much of the pain from years of overbuilding during an oil downturn. With the positive effects fading, adding new supply is still hard to rationalize. But new condos? That is another story. 

Alliance Residential Managing Director Cyrus Bahrami, Stolz Partners founder Will Stolz, STG Design Principal Warren Johnson and Arch-Con Corp. Senior Vice President Michael Vaughn at Bisnow's Houston multifamily event 2018

This year, Houston's multifamily sector will add roughly 7,000 units, compared to 21,191 in 2016 and 13,719 in 2017. The slowdown is a welcome change of pace. 

"My hope is we that we don't have the level of units being developed in the past," Alliance Residential Managing Director Cyrus Bahrami said. "I think investors learned during the last few years. We don't need 50,000 units over a four-year period."

Despite the high levels of supply, Bahrami is still betting on Houston. With several projects in the works and others still leasing up, the summer months, when apartment leasing is at its peak, will be yet another shot in the arm for Houston's multifamily sector. 

Bahrami spoke at Bisnow's Multifamily Revival event Thursday morning at The Westin Galleria, where over 300 multifamily sector professionals gathered to hear the latest developments in the Houston market.

Houston's condo sales also jumped after Hurricane Harvey as Houstonians looked for alternative housing. Between projects like Arabella and Astoria, high-profile condo developments are all over Houston and more are on the way. 

Riverway Title CEO John Hammond and DC Partners Chief Operating Officer Acho Azuike

"You see the amount of condo inventory compared to other major metros, it's a shame we don't have as many as other major cities," DC Partners Chief Operating Officer Acho Azuike said. "In a city our size there can be a lot more." 

Stolz Partners, behind Giorgetti Houston and The Sophie, looks for signs of a vibrant urban core, which is exactly what Houston has been developing recently, according to Stolz Partners founder Will Stolz. 

"The other piece we have to have is a buyer that can afford the product, it has to be an area of affluence. The list of cities you can build in gets much shorter when you look at it that way," Stolz said. "For all its ups and downs, Houston is a very affluent city." 

Houston's condos are selling in the $600 to $900/SF range, Stolz said. While that is a lot locally, compared to other major metros with robust condo markets, it is relatively low. 

The crowd at Bisnow's Houston Multifamily Revival

Houston's biggest problems are land and construction prices. Houston's land prices have not gone down and construction prices have risen in the wake of Hurricane Harvey as construction workers and subcontractors work to complete residential projects. The result is construction costs on par with other major metros, but lower sale prices. 

"Harvey's effect on the construction industry has lingered, but I think we're getting past that now,"Arch-Con Corp. Senior Vice President Michael Vaughn said. "Only about 15-20% of damaged homes still need work."

Bahrami said investors are beginning to lower their expectations on returns in Houston. When combined with the increasing push to go vertical, deals are still able to be penciled out in the right areas. 

"There's a growing belief from investors that Houston has great downside protection. If you buy it right, develop it right, it's a good investment opportunity."