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NEZAT: Coast condo market is a more secure investment

By LYNN LOFTON

The condominium market on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is alive and well. No high rise buildings have been constructed recently, but sales for the existing units are steady and there is some non-high rise construction underway. The realtors interviewed agree that the most-in-demand location is on or overlooking the beach.

“The last condo we constructed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was South Beach in 2008. We do not have any under construction now, nor have I heard of any potential ones in the future,” said Gina Creel, marketing director for Roy Anderson Corp.

However, on the sales side, Nicole Nezat, president of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Realtors Association, says her organization has a lot going on. “The market is very busy. I reached out to a few realtors across the Coast to get their perspectives about our condo market,” she said. “Reagan Kane, a broker mainly for the Bay St Louis area, reports they have a new townhome project coming up that is getting a lot of attention. It’s called Carre Court Townhomes.”

On the western side of the Coast, Pass Christian has Pass Marianne and Inn by the Sea condos that Nezat says are very popular. “Philip LeBlanc services Long Beach and he sells a lot in the Beachwalk,” she added. “Ashley Endris feels The Legacy and Sienna are always favorites among the Gulfport condo owners. Most of the condo buyers in Gulfport and Biloxi enjoy having casinos close.”

Nezat has seen an increase in sales and values since 2008. “I sell to a lot to snow birds who want to have a place to golf and gamble. They come here to visit and fall in love with the area.”

Beau View in Biloxi does not allow short term rentals and does well for the secondary home market. Lynn Wade, who sells in Ocean Springs, says the newest condo there, called The Inlet, is doing well with its new lifestyle concept of mixed use.

Brian P. Bolis, senior vice president with Sawyer Commercial Realty, says condo resale activity, according to the local MLS, has been good if the units are fairly priced. “The resales in the high-rise condo developments had been fetching sometimes 50 percent less than the original new sale price, but of course this has been the result of so many foreclosures following the financial crisis and the overall downdraft of property prices on the Coast generally,” he said. “Things have been markedly improving with high-rise sales in the range of $195 to $200 per square foot.”

Condos are a specialty with Realtor Beth Mandal, who’s been in the business 32 years. “The market is very strong but there’s a lack of inventory. We definitely need more,” she said. “Typically, buyers are from out of town, in or near retirement, buying as second homes or retirement homes. Our area is very popular with retirees because it’s not as crowded as Florida, we have great value, lower taxes and there’s lots to do.”

Mandal says units are generally in the $250,000 to $400,000 range with $300,000 as the average sales price. She also has a $2.2 million penthouse currently on the market.

Bolis is of the opinion that condo is still a four letter word on the Coast. “But The Inlet in Ocean Springs recently opened with 95 units consisting of one, two and three bedroom units priced from $160,000 to $249,000. This is a limited, mixed-use project with some retail on the ground floor of the several buildings facing Bienville Boulevard,” he said. “In Pascagoula there is an approximately 40-unit townhouse development about to come on line. Some similar small complexes are planned for Biloxi in neighborhoods north of the beach.”

Nezat takes a look back. “When condo developers first started building here, our condos were mostly sold to investors. Now I say that our market is popular for the owner occupant ready for a more simplistic lifestyle,” she said. “Condo buyers are generally interested in the amenities and the view. Most of our properties have indoor and outdoor pools, gym facilities, steam rooms, and clubs that all look out over the beaches.”

She believes investing in the Coast market is a more secure investment because of the limited inventory of condos. “You can actually drive along our beach and see the beach where some areas are so saturated that you have to physically walk out on the beach to see the view,” she said.

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About Lynn Lofton