By LISA MONTI
Carol Stewart, president of the Central Mississippi Realtors’ group, sounded optimistic at the first of the year when the group released its market predictions for 2015.
“After seeing so much improvement in 2014, the housing market seems poised for a real comeback in 2015,” Stewart said at the time. “Prospects are looking bright for homeowners and prospective home buyers.”
As 2015 begins to wind down, things are still looking good for the 10-county area that includes Jackson. Realtors point to several factors, including an improving job market, falling jobless rates and rising earnings among them. In September the activity was called “one of the healthiest housing markets in the past 15 years.”
Central Mississippi consists of Hinds, Madison, Rankin, Simpson, Scott, Yazoo, Copiah, Leake, Attala and Holmes counties.
Stewart, broker associate with Crye-Leike Realtors in Madison, said she recently got a full price offer on a home the same day the for-sale sign went up.
“We’re seeing a lot of that,” she said. “The first person who saw it bought it. Good houses are going quickly.”
The latest information for the Central Mississippi MLS is for the month of September, and Stewart said listing inventory is low. “It’s been low all year,” she said. There were 3,183 houses for sale in September, down from 3,409 the previous September. The 12-month average was down 8.3 percent year over year.
“Nine months of inventory is normal in the three county area of Hinds, Madison and Rankin. Now it’s 6.7 months. It’s a seller’s market,” Stewart said.
For the third quarter, the Central Mississippi MSL reported that new listings increased 12.3 percent to 666, pending sales were down 22.6 percent to 298, inventory levels fell to 6.6 percent to 3,183 units. Also, prices remained “fairly stable,” with the median sales price increasing 0.3 percent to $165,000. Houses for sale were on the market 86 days, down 11.8 percent and the supply of inventory was 7.1 months, down 7.3 percent.
“Summer is the best time for the market but we haven’t missed a beat,” Stewart said. “People are moving in and out of the area and rates are good. People are buying.”
A jolt to the stock market could end the streak but she said, “We expect it to continue to move along at this good, moderate pace.”
New construction is taking place at what she calls “a very brisk pace” since the 2008 crash.
“A lot of builders got out of the market and mortgage lending tightened up. It has begun to loosen up.”
Central Mississippi Realtors are seeing first time homebuyers who have been out of the market coming back in and more move up buyers, those buying more expensive housing, Stewart said.
More millennials, ages 19 to 34, could be buying homes with their good credit but they’re burdened by student debt and may not be aware that lenders are loosening some credit restrictions.
“There are loans that only require 3.5 percent down and some that are 100 percent. “We’ve been doing a poor job of letting them know,” Stewart said.
Central Mississippi isn’t the only region in the state experiencing an uptick in the market. “As I talk to others all over the state, the market is good for everybody,” she said.
The Tupelo MLS market, which includes Lee, Pontotoc, Itawamba, Prentiss, Union, Monroe, Chickasaw and Alcorn counties, is one area that is having a strong showing.
Here are year-to-date figures for 2014 and 2015:
The number of sold properties in 2014 was 1,293 compared 1,481 year-to-date in 2015.
The dollar volume of sold properties was $165,305,605 in 2014; the 2015 volume was $193,566,851.
The median sale price in 2014 was $113,000; in 2015 the price was $113,800.
The number of properties new on market was 1,440 in 2014; the total was 2,025 in 2015. The median list price in 2014 was $119,900; in 2015 it was $125,000.
“Several factors have affected the increase in the real estate market in 2015,” said Sue Gardner of Century 21 Sue Gardner Realty in Tupelo. “The unemployment rate decrease, rising mortgage rates, lower down payment programs and improved economy have all been instrumental in the growth of the real estate market in our area.”
Joe D. Rogers, chief executive officer of the Gulf Coast Association of Realtors, said, “Our market has seen improvements over the last year. Sales and sales prices are going up, and inventory and the time to move the inventory is going down.
“All good signs.
“Our membership has grown by about 100 members this year as well, which goes to optimism. I expect to see this trend continue into the next year. As long as the economy continues to improve and mortgage interest rates stay low, our housing market will continue its slow, but steady improvement.”
In Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties, the annual monthly sales for 2014 was 3,872. The average list price was $141,394 and the average closing price was $134,250. Inventory for the year was 3,705.
Figures for 2015 through October included monthly sales of 3,662 homes, average list price of $152,334 and average closing price of $144,770. The inventory was 3,474.