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Houston real estate, jobs hold their own in rocky economy

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With modest growth in existing home sales in early 2011 and solid employment figures, the Houston real estate market is more stable than most. When the Labor Department released an abysmal jobs report for the nation last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas issued a separate report on Houston, which showed home prices rebounding "slightly to $151,220," while employment grew at an annualized rate of 3.2% in May with the greater Houston economy containing 2.57 million jobs. "Should that pace continue in the second half of 2011, Houston will have added nearly 84,000 jobs this year," according to the Dallas Fed. Linda Jamail Marshall, a veteran real estate broker in Houston who sells within the loop, said she is "seeing a slight continued slowdown, but I see some confidence coming back in the market." Overall, she describes the housing market in the nation's fourth-largest city — especially in the areas catering to young professionals — as experiencing "continued stability." "I am seeing a steadiness in the market. I don't see it rising," she said, "but I think it held its own." The Dallas Fed said economic activity in the greater Houston area rose at an annual rate of nearly 5.6% in May, making it a market that has dodged the more dire reports coming out of other metropolitan areas. "Houston has always held its own because of diversity in the job market," Marshall said. "In the '80s, Houston learned its lesson, and it is diversified." The central bank's report on Houston real estate is in line with Marshall's observations. "New single-family home sales have yet to convincingly move into a positive growth trend on a seasonally adjusted basis," the Fed said in its report. The Fed also noted an uptick in multifamily construction driven by an influx of job seekers to the area. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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