WASHINGTON – The oil boom that lifted home prices in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana is coming to an end.
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Crude oil prices have crashed since June, falling by more than 54 percent to less than $50 a barrel. That swift drop has started to cripple job growth in oil country, creating a slow wave that in the years ahead may devastate what has been a thriving real estate market, according to new analysis by the real estate firm Trulia.
"Oil prices won't tank home prices immediately," Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko explained. "Rather, falling oil prices in the second half of 2014 might not have their biggest impact on home prices until late 2015 or in 2016."
History shows it takes time for home prices in oil country to change course.
Kolko looked at the 100 largest housing markets where the oil industry accounted for at least 2 percent of all jobs. Asking prices in those cities rose 10.5 percent over the past year, compared with an average of 7.7 percent around the country.
Prices climbed 13.4 percent in Houston, where 5.6 percent of all jobs are in oil-related industries. The city is headquarters to energy heavyweights such as Phillips 66, Halliburton and Marathon Oil. Asking prices surged 10.2 percent in Fort Worth, Texas, and 10.1 percent in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In some smaller markets, oil is overwhelmingly dominant — responsible for more than 30 percent of the jobs in Midland, Texas, for instance.
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The closest parallel to the Texas housing market might have occurred in the mid-1980s, when CBS was airing the prime-time soap opera "Dallas" about a family of oil tycoons.
In the first half of 1986, oil prices plunged more than 50 percent, to about $12 a barrel, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.
Job losses mounted in late 1986 around Houston. The loss of salaries eventually caused home prices to fall in the second half of 1987.
That led Kolko to conclude that since 1980, it takes roughly two years for changes in oil prices to hit home prices.
Of course, there is positive news for people living outside oil country, Kolko notes.
Falling oil prices lead to cheaper gasoline costs that reduce family expenses, freeing up more cash to spend.
"In the Northeast and Midwest especially, home prices tend to rise after oil prices fall," he writes in the analysis.