By Katie Agness

Home to more than a half million people, Williamson County is one of the state’s fastest growing cities. Located north of Austin, the area encompasses popular cities and communities such as Georgetown, Jarrell, Round Rock and Sun City, as well as a variety of sought-after school districts and higher education campuses.

According to a press release from the Williamson County of Association of REALTORS, as of May 2017, “the median price for Williamson County homes increased 7.1 percent year-over-year to a whopping $280,000 during the same period.”

“The Williamson County sub-market has increased in price like all of the markets in the Greater Austin Area,” says Dennis Ciani, marketing manager for Pacesetter Homes. “We are now seeing the same pricing on homes in Williamson County as what we are used to seeing in Southwest area of Austin.”

Even with the increased median home price, homes continue to sell in Williamson County. In May 2017, the county’s monthly housing inventory had reach 2.5 months, which was up .6 months from the previous year, and home sales had increased year-over-year by 8.4 percent.

However, for first-time homebuyers, the increased median price is making it difficult to find a home in Williamson County. Jack Stapleton, owner and broker of Realty Texas, says that most of these buyers are looking for homes in $175,000-250,000 range, but struggle due to high expectations, low inventory and multiple-offer situations.

“Right now, we have a five-year high of inventory in the mid-market, but a shortage of homes in the $200,000 range,” Stapleton says. “When these homes do come on the market, most end up with multiple offers, and many first-time buyers don’t have the cash to out bid.”

Because of this, Stapelton says many first-time homebuyers choose to rent until they find a home.

To help offset the higher home prices, Ciani says that “both developers and builders must transition to smaller lots and homes to help maintain a healthy volume of sales.”

[blockquote_left]“We see buyers, in all markets, struggling to accept the rising prices. Lot prices must come down in order for prices to level off,” Ciani says. “We are looking for 30’, 40’ and 50’ lots vs. 60 ‘and 70’s, as well as ways to reduce our overall cost.”[/blockquote_left]

“We see buyers, in all markets, struggling to accept the rising prices. Lot prices must come down in order for prices to level off,” Ciani says. “We are looking for 30’, 40’ and 50’ lots vs. 60 ‘and 70’s, as well as ways to reduce our overall cost.”

For homebuyers in Williamson County, Ciani recommends focusing on the cost of the home, as opposed to the price of the home. “Young buyers are now accepting that less is more in today’s home buying market,” he says. “With the increase in the cost of utilities and taxes, today’s young buyers are now focusing on smaller homes on smaller homesites to lower overall cost of maintenance and utilities each month.”

Even as home prices and inventory level rise in Williamson County, Stapelton urges buyers to not be discouraged by the competitive market.

“Be patient. If you’re serious about buying, you’ll find something,” Stapelton says.

He adds that there are loan programs available for first-time homebuyers, and recommends reaching out to a REALTOR who understands this market and buyers’ price range.

“I’ve heard that many buyers who have been watching the news and learning that the market is complicated have given up because they don’t have the down payment,” Stapleton says. “They need to reach out to a REALTOR who understands their segment and can help them. Find a relator who can react quickly and show you properties as soon as they become available. There are REALTORS out there to help. Don’t give up!