Oxford — When it comes to real estate, this North Mississippi college town with a population of 14,000 is one of the hottest markets in the state. Local Realtors agree that Oxford ranks among the priciest areas with the average price of a house around $150,000. The average selling price is $85 per square foot.
In the real estate business since 1965, Dick Marchbanks is the unofficial dean of Oxford real estate. He grew up there and has lived there all his life. He says he sells a lot of houses in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.
“Property values are also good and rising in Lafayette County,” he said. “Most of the new subdivisions are in the county. Homes in Grand Oaks are in the $300,000 to $500,000 range and in Wells Gate it’s $275,000 and up.”
But the most desirable place to be, according to Marchbanks, is the area near the square and between downtown Oxford and the University of Mississippi campus.
“Anything that is in the ‘hood — in a good sort of way — is extremely expensive and extremely popular and there is a limited amount of it,” he said. “Most towns are not that way.”
Marchbanks says everyone who comes to his town likes to walk, and life is centered around the square, a picturesque magnet that draws people to its shops and restaurants. With no chain businesses allowed around the square, the area exudes a charm and relaxed pace not usually found in thriving retail areas.
“There’s a good variety of shops with something for everyone,” he said. “The ladies’ shops have brands that it would take you hours to find in Jackson and Memphis. There are also six or seven restaurants, all with bars, on the square and some on the streets right off the square.”
He says it’s hard to tell night from day around the square as far as parking goes and that drivers may have to drive around for 10 minutes to find a parking space.
This longtime Realtor and observer of the local scene lists three main reasons why Oxford real estate is booming. One, there’s a national trend for alumni to go back to their college towns. Two, Forbes and Money magazines listed Oxford as one of the best places in the country to live in retirement. Three, a lot of people are tired of living in the hustle bustle of big cities.
“We have a good mix of people moving here, and that keeps the town vibrant,” Marchbanks said. “We have a great medical community, and that’s important to retirees. Also, the city and county school systems are good because they can take their pick of qualified teachers.”
He thinks there are two Oxfords, the old one and the new one, and says the only way you might be able to tell the categories apart is by seeing who shows up at funerals.
Gwen Walker moved to Oxford in 1986 and has been in real estate since 1996.
“Our market is really good and there’s a lot of influx. We’re a transient community,” she said. “I’ve sold some houses four times, and they always go up. I’ve never had a negative balance.”
The most expensive home Walker has sold was at a cost of $515,000. She acknowledges that it takes a lot to buy a house near the square and that the average person cannot afford to do so. She has a two-bedroom, one-bath house with 1,000 square feet listed for $125,000 because it’s in walking distance of the square.
“Everybody wants a piece of Oxford,” she said. “Business and medical people, retirees and alumni want to live here.”
The condominium business is gigantic with many units sold to alumni who only come for football weekends in the fall. Walker puts the average price of a condo in the $125,000 to $150,000 price range, but admits that figure may be a little low. She also believes the $85 average per square foot price of a home is close to the top in state real estate rankings.
An Oxford Realtor since 1975 and an appraiser since 1989, Annette Lee has sold a lot of big, old houses and commercial property. She thinks the average per square foot selling price may be upwards of $89. She sees a lot of condo building and conversion of apartments to condos.
“I just appraised a place on Old Taylor Road of 160 units converted to condos,” she said. “They are 1,170 square feet selling for $81,500 and they’re selling like hot cakes. There are 68 new units on Anderson Road that have all been pre-sold at $99,000 to $130,000.”
Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, said the property values are stable and growing, something that is very helpful in recruiting employees for local hospitals, industries and businesses. He adds that the price of real estate inside the city might be hard on hourly workers who want to live there.
“Oxford has become a desirable place to live because of the quality of life, ambiance of the university, healthcare facilities and opportunities we have here,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.