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If you build it will they come?

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” the movie’s hero responds to a small voice that continues to tell him, “If you build it, they will come” by building a major-league size baseball diamond in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. Later, in the final scene of the film, a long line of headlights is seen winding up the roads to the well-lit baseball field.

While acting on that old adage may have worked in Iowa to bring in the crowds, it may not necessarily work in the Pine Belt. At least, not without a little elbow grease.

That’s the feeling shared by many of the area’s real estate agents when it comes to upscale residential real estate anyway. This year’s sales are up compared to last, with 80 sales in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range this year compared to 56 last year, according to the Hattiesburg Area Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which includes Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Perry, Stone and Covington counties. But that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy selling year by any means.

“There have been some people relocating and things like that, but as far as it being easy, it’s not,” said Adam Watkins, Realtor listing specialist with the DeLois Smith Team of ERA Real Estate Professionals in Hattiesburg. “As far as local buyers, they’re very custom and deal oriented. We have the Hudson’s mentality.”

Cheryl Cranford, broker associate with RE/MAX Real Estate Partners Inc. in Hattiesburg, said the entire Hattiesburg area and particularly Lamar County has experienced a surge of growth in the last few years.

“Although growth has been in every economic area, the stability and vitality of the economy due to its wide diversity has afforded developers the opportunity to design and develop some outstanding and unique upscale areas,” Cranford said.

That’s true. Canebrake, an upscale area to the west of Hattiesburg, has a large lake for skiing and boating and some homes that cost as much as $1 million. Other houses in the development cost $600,000 to $800,000, with some homes costing less. The development features a clubhouse on the water, walking trails, natural landscaping, two pools, tennis courts and a grand golf course with a new clubhouse soon to be constructed.

And in southwest Hattiesburg the upscale Waterford subdivision is available for those who wish to be closer to the city but still have access to amenities such as a picturesque lake and walking trails.

Another subdivision for the upper crust is Providence, located to the south of Hattiesburg. It’s complete with stables — perfect for horse lovers — landscaping and design inspired by ancient countryside and equestrian traditions of southwestern England.

Le Papillon, an upscale development located in the Oak Grove area, has an impressive entrance with a gatehouse and waterfalls. A small boulevard through a beautiful wooded area leads to some European and French Country homes as well as to a swimming pool, spa and clubhouse.

Backwater, dubbed by Cranford as “secluded and elegantly casual,” is another upscale residential neighborhood in the Pine Belt that has an emphasis on lakefront living.

And two more upscale neighborhoods in the Hattiesburg area — Timberton and Bonne Terre — are known for their homes, golfing and other amenities.

Even with so many developments underway, buyers remain hesitant to fill up so many high-end residential neighborhoods. And while the number of homes sold in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range this year may be up compared to last, other pricier homes are reportedly harder to sell.

According to the MLS, there have only been 10 homes over $400,000 that have sold since January. Sixteen homes ranging in price from $300,000 to $400,000 have sold since last January.

Watkins blames much of the hard times on the stock market, as do many area real estate agents, including Sue Gallaspy of Sue Gallaspy Real Estate Inc. in Hattiesburg.

“It’s quiet in those high-end homes right now, and it’s hard to put your finger on why,” Gallaspy admits. “But I think with the economy a lot of people who have homes right now are really just not moving up. People will move into that price range at some point but I think people right now are just sitting back and looking.”

As for lower-end homes, like those sold to first-time buyers, it’s a whole different ballgame, Gallaspy said. With so many incentives being offered to first-time buyers, many people are looking to buy in that price range. But for those looking to buy in upscale neighborhoods, it’s just a waiting game.

“I think once people see what the stock market is going to do they’ll start buying again,” Gallaspy said. “That’s what most of us in our 50s are thinking. We’re just going to have to wait until the economy straightens up a little bit and we know what’s going on with the war situation. It’s not hopeless for those who need to make that move. It’s just taking a little bit longer.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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