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Guardedly optimistic

Realtors taking a wait-and-see attitude on the new year

Lee Garland is not an economist or a soothsayer, but he does get the distinct feeling that things are looking up for the housing market in Mississippi in 2011.

How, you may ask?  People, he says.

“Lately, I’ve been seeing multiple folks in my office inquiring about listings,” said Garland, president of RE/MAX Alliance in Rankin County.  “It will probably be five to eight years before we return to the boom of 2006 and 2007, but I do feel like we’re in for some modest growth this coming year.”

Garland isn’t alone in his feelings.

The new president of the Mississippi Association of Realtor says the housing market in Mississippi has a solid foundation.

“We feel that our state does not experience the extreme highs and lows as other states,” said Dee Denton.  “Therefore, we tend to see stabilization quicker than other markets.”

As long-time executive director of the Home Builders Association of Mississippi, Marty Milstead also remains optimistic that the housing market will see some improvement in 2011.

“I do feel confident that we will see a slight upswing in the market,” he said.  “Actually, this year was slightly better than 2009, with a small increase in homebuilding activity.  It’s still a good time to buy homes and I don’t see the lending institutions getting crazy with interest rates.”

However, Milstead notes that economic times are still uncertain and the housing market faces challenges in 2011.

Milstead

Milstead

“I’ve been around the state this year and some markets, such as the Gulf Coast, are still experiencing a very difficult housing market,” he said.  “The banks are still an issue and there are concerns over credit lines.”

But home-buying activity has picked up steam for 2011 due to voters last November, according to one Madison Realtor.

“At the conclusion of the election, activity in the housing market in the metro Jackson area began to increase,” said Michelle Rumbley.  “There seems to be more buyer confidence and hopefully, that will grow stronger in 2011.”

That confidence also is growing in Northwest Mississippi, says Corie Haynes, a Southaven broker with Keller Williams Realty.

“Our local economic development council has secured some exciting new businesses and industries for northwestern part of the state,” said Haynes.  “We plan on this to create some new buyers, as well as some ‘move up’ buyers and sellers.”

Though unemployment figures clearly have had an effect on the housing industry, Milstead says the number of jobs available appears to be increasing, especially in Northeast Mississippi.

“We are seeing a lot of growth in the region, what with the Toyota plant (near Tupelo) coming online in the near future,” he said.  “Corinth and New Albany also are areas that are beginning to see some progress with job growth.”

Denton

Denton

Garland, who is also president of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of Jackson, hopes that home buyers don’t allow the possibility of higher interest rates to affect their decision to purchase a home next year.

“Interest rates may go up but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.  “If they go up, banks will make more money but they’ll also be more likely to approve loans, as well.”

In a recent survey by the Federal National Mortgage Association, more commonly known as Fannie Mae, 51 percent of those asked said the housing crisis hasn’t affected their overall willingness to buy a home.

“The desire to own a home has not been diminished during the downturn in the industry,” Denton said.  “The majority still believe that housing is a safe investment” for 2011.

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