Market Demographics so Far in 2021

Areas in the Neighborhood

In past years, and especially since the great oil and gas shakedown of the 1980s, the presumption has been that prize properties in the Country Club section of River Oaks rarely changed hands (except perhaps the smaller ones or those on the periphery). And yet we have recently witnessed this as the liveliest area in the neighborhood for sales. Many of those sales have been of significant properties on a half-acre or more. The catalyst has been the inevitable passage of time and ideal market conditions to pass the torch.

Or is it the changing of the guard? Fully a third of those Country Club Estates sales were for redevelopment.

Speaking of which, there was a concentration of smaller lot sales in the area east of Kirby Drive and south of Inwood and, interestingly, these were mostly for end-users rather than speculative builders.

The Saint John’s area has been a hotbed of spec development, as usual. Which, as someone recently reminded us, is how that part of the neighborhood largely got underway originally.

Lot Sizes

The hunt for trophy-sized properties of an acre or more – with or without a house on them – truly got started in 2019, when they accounted for almost a quarter of all sales. Those sales have diminished in number since. Perhaps the ready supply is dwindling. All the same, so far in 2021 more than $100 million  has changed hands in the big-land category.

The perennial number one for sales are properties between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet. But we note the most pressure to buy was for the larger properties in that size range. That corresponds with the strong showing for the half-acre properties. And while most of these properties destined for redevelopment are in the hands of private end-users, there are a significant number being developed by spec builders who appear to be doubling down. It will be interesting to watch.

Origin of Buyers

For many years residents of River Oaks or those from adjacent neighborhoods have alternatively been the leading source of buyers in River Oaks. Those from within the neighborhood had predominated as they jockeyed for position as they moved up in the world. But the past two years have seen more close neighbors crossing through the “gates of Paradise.”

The subdivision was almost entirely spared the much-touted invasion by wealthy California refugees, fleeing draconian pandemic restrictions and high income taxes. In retrospect, that looks like an urban myth. They all probably went out to the Memorial Villages.

Occupation of Buyers

We have had a couple of unsettling years when attorneys led the pack, followed closely by financiers. But energy is back on top in River Oaks. It was not solar panel sales executives as much as oil and gas who accounted for more than a quarter of all buyers in 2021.

The money-men (and -women) and the lawyers followed in a distant second place. As we have mentioned before in our demographics reports, those three categories have been blurring more and more in recent years.

The independently wealthy – those fortunate enough to be endowed with a trust fund – have figured prominently in the past two years as buyers of property in River Oaks. That trend has started to taper off since mid-2021. Perhaps there’s only so much to go around.

Age of Buyers

We didn’t need to use a spreadsheet to guess that there were a lot of younger buyers in River Oaks this year. We could simply observe them looking at houses.

But we were surprised, having crunched the numbers, that fewer buyers were in their 30s than we anticipated. Taking a closer look we saw that, if we created a hybrid category of buyers in the late-30s and early-40s, they would take the lead by far.

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