People in the real estate business aren’t exactly doing cartwheels, but in some areas of the state homes sales have picked up at an encouraging pace.
“I will tell you from conversations with individuals around the state that things are looking up,” said Ken Austin,
a Mississippi Coast Realty real estate agent who is president of the Mississippi Association of Realtors.
“Volume is up and prices are starting to rise a little bit. The overall market is improving. New home construction is improving about equally with what we are seeing with resales. I would imagine that is the case statewide. On the Coast, it is the opposite. There is not a tremendous amount of new construction being sold. It is mostly resale.”
“We have been very busy, much busier than usual especially early in the year,” Golmon said. “We’re delighted. We were busy in February and usually January and February are very slow. This year was very different. The first of the year we started getting springtime busy. We got busy earlier this year and it has continued to increase.”
Golmon attributes the upsurge to higher consumer confidence. “I think people have been wanting to buy for a long time and just didn’t feel comfortable,” she said. “It has to do with a confidence problem. I think that is a lot of it.”
Golmon said most of the home sales activity in their area is sales of existing homes, as not a lot of new homes have been built. New home construction has started to pick up, but right now it is mostly existing homes that are being sold.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index recently showed that home prices in 20 major metropolitan areas increased at the strongest level since before the housing bubble burst.
“At long last, major national indices are telling the story that local Multiple Listing Service data users have known for months or even years,” said Dorothy S. Thompson, Broker, DST Realty, Inc., president, Jackson Association of Realtors. “Yes, the housing market is recovering. The recovery varies by geography and market segment, but things are certainly better than they have been and are showing no signs of letting up.”
Listings in the Jackson region increased 5.9 percent to 777, according to the MLS of Jackson MS., Inc. April Market Report, which also reported pending sales were up 10.4 percent to 458. Inventory levels shrank 8.2 percent to 3,488 units. The MLS showed that the median sales price increased 5.4 percent to $147,500, and days on market was down 4.0 percent to 100 days. Absorption rates improved as months supply of inventory was down 10.2 percent to 8.9 months.
“The prickliest thorns in our collective side are still lack of inventory and subdued listing activity,” Thompson said. “In some neighborhoods, consumers have 50 or 60 percent fewer options from which to choose than they did a few years ago. That’s causing bidding wars in popular areas. Despite the competitive landscape for buyers, housing remains one of the brightest lights in an otherwise subdued economic recovery.”
Golden Triangle Association of Realtors Board President Kris Davis, a real estate agent with ReMax Partners, said they are very optimistic about the housing recovery especially with the new Yokohama tire plant that has been announced for West Point. “That will be positively impacting our market,” Davis said. “We are also fortunate to have Mississippi State University, as well as the Mississippi University for Women, within our footprint that benefit from the second-home market with loyal fans and alumni seeking properties to take advantage of sports activities and the campus experience.”
Davis said the Golden Triangle has been very fortunate to avoid the dramatically inflated homes prices that other areas of the country experienced in the early 2000s. This has allowed the area to maintain stable and steady growth.
Many homebuilders in the state got out of the business after the housing crash.
“We have lost a lot of homebuilder capacity in the past five years,” said Marty Milstead, executive vice president, Home Builders Association of Mississippi. “There have been a lot of folks who have shut their doors and moved into the other areas, or retired and got out of the business. We are currently seeing some slight improvement in home building. It’s creeping up. Interest rates are still good. The first-time home buying market is by far the strongest market.
“There is still plenty of room for improvement. I think the big indicator for us that we really need to see change is jobs. We need some significant job growth to really get back to some really stable, strong numbers.”
Milstead said certain pockets of Jackson are improving for sure while building activity on the Mississippi Coast is still fairly flat. He said building is starting to grow back in northwest Mississippi in the Southaven area.
“There is nothing much going on in the Delta, but the university towns —Hattiesburg, Oxford and Starkville–are starting to see a little more production,” Milstead said.
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