HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle) – Real estate experts are optimistic about the Houston market’s prospects in 2012. Several recently shared their forecasts with Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle. Here’s what they had to say.

Houston is going to see somewhere around a 5 percent increase in home sales and maybe as much 2 or 2.5 percent increase in median price, according to Real Estate Center Research Economist Dr. Jim Gaines. He said that’s still lower than the historical norm, but those are better numbers than the last two or three years.

Housing Permits
Bohlke Consulting Group Vice President Gary Latz predicts that the annual 2011 number will be 21,500 permits. This momentum will carry forward into 2012 due to strong job growth and low interest rates. The firm projects a minimum of 5 percent growth in new-home permits for calendar year 2012 over calendar year 2011. This translates to nearly 22,600 permits.

Both foreclosure postings and actual foreclosures in Harris County declined year-over-year from 2011 compared with 2010. Amanda LeCureux, managing partner with Foreclosure Information & Listing Service, expects these declines to modestly accelerate in 2012.

Apartment Data Services President Bruce McClenny said available high-end units are scarce, and it will take up to 18 months before any significant number of new units become available. He said to expect around 9,000 units to be delivered in 2012 and approximately 10,000 units in 2013.

Office Space
Transwestern Executive Vice President J. David Baker expects continued strong job growth to generate four to six million sf of positive absorption. He said the only thing that might hold it to the low end is energy and energy engineering companies not finding enough qualified people.

Wulfe & Co. President Ed Wulfe expects to see at least a 25 percent increase, or approximately 1.5 million square feet, in new retail construction in 2012. This will exceed the total amounts built and opened in each of the previous two years. Active growth within Loop 610, particularly of supermarkets, will prevail.