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Northeast’s sales weak

Columbus Realtor Don West, owner of Coldwell Banker/West Realty, knows the housing market in the Golden Triangle area of Northeast Mississippi has slumped.

“But I haven’t run the full numbers because it’s too depressing,” West said. “But it’s definitely a strong 25 percent off.”

After a strong showing in 2006, West said things started going south the last half of 2007.

In 2006, the average number days a home for sale stayed on the market was 20. Now, homes are remaining unsold for an average of six months.

“And it’s not the subprime loans deal that is killing us,” West said. “That hasn’t been an issue at all.”

Instead, in an economy whose credit markets are virtually stagnant, banks are scrutinizing mortgage applications more closely, squeezing out buyers whose credit is anything less than perfect. Some banks are requiring credit-worthy buyers to make a down payment on a home.

“That’s the reality we face,” said West, who has been in the real estate business since 1980. “This is the weakest I’ve ever seen it. It hasn’t been fun.”

Jeannette Spearman, association executive of the Northeast Mississippi Board of Realtors (NMBR) in Tupelo, said housing sales for October were down from the same time last year.

Statistics from the NMBR show that in October 2007, 1,322 properties were closed on in the seven-county area the Board services. In October 2008, that number had dropped nearly 10%, to 1,204 properties.

“This is probably the first year our numbers have actually gone down,” Spearman said, adding that sales for homes within the $100,000-$140,000 range have held steady. “We usually see at least a small amount of growth from year to year.”

As for how long it will take the market to rebound, Spearman is optimistic the 2010 Toyota plant opening in Blue Springs will bring a surge of buyers.

“I think it’ll rebound in the spring, or maybe next year it will be back to normal,” she said.

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

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