At $2,735 per acre, Texas land prices continued to climb at a moderate pace in the fourth quarter of 2018. Energy sector activity supported demand for recreational and investment properties, but oil price uncertainty late in the year dampened the statewide price increase to 3.44 percent over 2017 prices. That increase represented a slackened rate of increase from the first three quarters of the year. The 5,754 reported sales lagged behind 2017 transaction numbers by 8.25 percent. Reflecting this ebbing level of activity, total dollar volume at $1.14 billion also retreated 8.64 percent from 2017. Overall, Texas statewide land markets have slowed. However, prices continue to increase but at a subdued level.
Regional market conditions varied with some areas expanding while others accounted for the retreat in numbers of sales and dollar volume. The Panhandle and South Plains along with Far West Texas and South Texas all saw markets contract. The Gulf Coast and Brazos bottom as well as Central Texas posted modest gains.
Despite continued strong employment statistics and a resurgent stock market, many economic pundits perceive trouble ahead. The year begins with economic turmoil in China, Europe and assorted developing economies. Oil prices, riding a crest in the summer, retreated dramatically in the final quarter of 2018. Trade negotiations seem stalled. Political confrontation appears the norm between the newly elected House and the Whitehouse. These wellsprings of uncertainty cloud the economic environment as the year begins. Consequently, the Federal Reserve appears to have halted interest rate increases to stave off possible weakening conditions. These developments leave market participants with more questions than answers. Only time will sort out expectations for the future. Taken together, these developments suggest that given the conditions at the end of 2018, markets face a trend to reduced activity and little increase in prices over the next year.