In a recent meeting with Beth Hansen, CEO of the Mississippi Association of Realtors, we discussed Mississippi’s real estate market and its recovery from the shock of the housing crisis.
“A healthy real estate market generally means a healthy and growing economy,” she said. “And while we still have significant challenges, we’re seeing a good recovery from the housing crunch.”
Beth grew up in Starkville, and ultimately earned a master’s degree in microbiology. While that might seem a bit of an incongruity as it relates to association management, Beth found her niche when she joined the Realtors association 16 years ago, and ultimately was appointed to the CEO position in 2010.
The Mississippi Association of Realtors is one of the largest trade associations in Mississippi, with approximately 5500 members. The mission of the group revolves around education, advocacy, and lobbying efforts. Among their operations are the Mississippi Realtor Institute, focusing on realtor education from the pre-license level to continuing education for realtors.
“We also advocate and lobby to protect private property and homeownership rights,” she said. “We have one of the largest PACs in Mississippi, and our goal is to support realtor-positive candidates.”
What are the challenges facing the real estate market at present?
“Well, we’ve seen a lot of good things in the past couple of years,” she said. “And as strange as it may seem, one of our biggest problems at the moment is the simple lack of inventory. People can’t buy houses if there are none available to buy.”
She sees the problem as a healthier market in terms of buyer desire, but a builders market that is still hesitant to take on big new construction projects.
“It’s all about supply and demand,” she said. “Right now, there’s strong demand. While the availability of credit was a problem in the years after the housing crisis, things have eased up somewhat, and there is now money available with reasonable down payments for folks who want to buy a home.”
She also sees the whole issue of flood insurance as an obstacle.
“Flood insurance costs have gone up across the board. The most recent big storm (Sandy) caused tons of damage, and rates have risen really sharply just everywhere,” she said.
She believes many people are working on ways to try and reconcile these issues, but in the meantime, homeowners in certain areas are finding that their costs for flood insurance are escalating dramatically.
“We’re also seeing impacts from what we’d think of as too much regulation,” she said. “This is particularly true of certain EPA rules and regulations, the classification of navigable waterways, and how all of this impacts on private property ownership.”
Nonetheless, she sees a healthy real estate market in many of Mississippi’s regions, including the Coast, central Mississippi, northwest Mississippi, Oxford, Starkville, and other markets.
“I see good potential across the state,” she said. Traveling often to meet with local realtor associations, she gets a close view of the health of the markets, and is encouraged by what she sees.
“When you look at the importance of real estate to the Mississippi economy, it’s hard to overstate how necessary a good real estate market is to our state,” she said. “For instance, in 2012, 14.6% of our state’s GDP was tied to real estate. When you sell a house, it typically means that 2-3 jobs are created.”
Asked whether she sees another real estate bubble or crash looming on the horizon, she said that in her view, things are far more stable now than they were in the period leading up to the crunch.
“I think we’re a lot more balanced now than we were then,” she suggested. “We’re not engaging in some of the crazy lending practices that were going on in those days.”
Will housing prices escalate in the next few years?
“Yes, they will,” she said. “You’re going to see a steady increase in home prices, and a home will continue to be a great investment.”
Is this a good time to consider a career as a realtor?
“It’s a great time to look at the options,” she said. “It’s possible to get your license in a relatively short period, and our pre-licensing course is just $595 for the classroom version or $295 online.”
As far as education for a productive career is concerned, that’s surely one of the bargains of the 21st century.
A video interview with Beth can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.
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