Danger ahead?

Booming San Antonio housing market may be at risk in next recession, says study

San Antonio housing market may be at risk in recession, says study

San Antonio skyline
San Antonio's housing market has been growing, but a recession could slow it down. Photo by Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Rumblings about an impending recession are agitating the U.S. economy — including the housing market. And when the next recession actually hits, San Antonio’s housing sector could be one of the hardest-hit metro markets in the country, a new study indicates.

San Antonio shows up at No. 9 on a ranking by residential real estate brokerage Redfin of the major U.S. metro areas facing the greatest risk of a housing slump during the next recession. By comparison, Houston ranks 20th, Dallas ranks 22nd, and Austin ranks 25th.

In its study, Redfin looked at seven recession-related factors for each of the country’s 50 largest metro areas. They included volatility of home prices, share of homes that are “flipped” for investment purposes, and diversity of employers.

Each factor was assigned a different weight, and Redfin then calculated those percentages to determine a risk score for each metro. San Antonio’s was 63.2; the lower the number, the less risk there is.

“San Antonio’s housing market is at a high risk [in a] recession because home prices in San Antonio are quite volatile, and a high number of sales in San Antonio are flips,” Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, tells CultureMap.

“Home price volatility puts a metro at risk because any downturn in home prices would be more extreme in a more volatile market,” Fairweather adds. “A high number of home flips puts a metro at risk because flippers would be the first to slash prices when the market turns down, unlike homes that are owner-occupied and can stay in place and weather an economic downturn.”

Grant Lopez, chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors, say he’s surprised by San Antonio’s appearance in the top 10, given that the region’s housing market stayed in good shape during the last recession, and the area’s population and economy are surging.

Still, Lopez says the Redfin ranking is no cause for alarm. During the Great Recession, which stretched from 2007 to 2009, the San Antonio home market saw the pace of home sales decline and the value of homes remain steady, he points out. Lopez expects the same pattern during the next recession.

“I always call San Antonio a very healthy market,” Lopez tells CultureMap. “I strategically use that word ‘healthy,’ because I don’t think we’re a volatile market like some of the other metros in Texas where they go dramatically high and dramatically low. We’re not a rollercoaster city.”

Lopez notes that San Antonio’s small inventory of million-dollar-plus homes — whose sales tend to lag during an economic downturn — helps shield it from wild swings in the housing market. In August, 93.7 percent of the homes sold in the area were priced below $500,000, according to SABOR.

Overall, San Antonio’s home market posted solid numbers in August, with the median home price rising three percent to $238,400 versus a year earlier and total sales jumping seven percent to 3,440, says SABOR.

“In San Antonio’s market, a recession does not mean panic mode,” Lopez says.

Redfin’s Fairweather encourages buyers and sellers of homes in the San Antonio area to approach housing decisions carefully during the next U.S. recession, which many economists predict will arrive in 2020 or 2021.

“If you’re a homeowner who doesn’t sweat mortgage payments and feels secure in your job, then a recession isn’t worth losing sleep over,” Fairweather says. “If you’re already looking to buy or sell, I wouldn’t recommend waiting for any major market changes. Buy or sell when you’re ready, but consult a San Antonio agent for crucial market insights.”