Real estate expert talks starter home shortage

J. MICHAEL ROSS michael.ross@empiretribune.com
Heidi Olsen

Heidi Olsen of Brooks Real Estate and incoming president of the Stephenville Association of Realtors recently spoke to the E-T regarding the shortage of starter homes in Stephenville. Olsen explained that a starter home would typically be a three-bedroom, two-bath house for people who want to move out of the rental market and into home ownership.

“In my opinion, a starter home is $100,000 or less. Typically people who are entering that market are looking to stay right around where their rent payment currently is. If they’re paying a thousand a month for rent, they want to say in that monthly payment rang.”

At this time in Stephenville that usually means an older home, she said.

“We’ve been fortunate that [builder-remodeler] Beau Mayo and others have come through and remodeled and updated some of these older homes. But as far as brand-new starter homes for young couples, people who are starting a family, there’s definitely a shortage.”

She adds that it’s difficult to find starter homes below $130,000, and said there’s a reason for that.

“With so many college students living off campus, families looking for a starter home in Stephenville are in direct competition with that market. Owners find that they have an opportunity to make money and let someone else make the payments. So they’ll buy what would otherwise be a starter home and rent it out to college kids.

“All houses deteriorate over time, especially if they’re not taken care of and are just a little neglected. So when those homes that were formerly-rentals do come on the market, you find yourself paying for prime real estate but you have to turn around and upgrade to make it livable.

“That forces the price of housing up. That’s not necessarily in itself a bad thing for Stephenville overall because that helps drive our economy. While people may be paying a little more than they want for those homes, Stephenville has a strong economy," she said.