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|Realtors say home sales brisk, expect good year in 2009|
While home sales in northeast Louisiana slowed down in 2008, local realtors expect 2009 to be a successful year.
Darryl Beasley, owner of Group One Realty, expects the housing market will be driven by the current low interest rates for home loans.
"Certainly we are not suffering here like we are nationwide," Beasley said. "With foreclosures, everyone knows the figures in California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona, but, if you take those out, it's shocking at how almost nonexistent foreclosures are."
Louisiana ranks 41st in the nation in foreclosure rates, he said.
"So, foreclosures are not an issue here, but the market is down," he said.
Total volume of home sales in northeast Louisiana during 2007-08 was down by almost 18 percent.
"Yes, sales have suffered in this area," Beasley continued. "We still have a lot of activity in the number of sales, but it is down. Sales were down, but not near the national average at all, and it's not these catastrophic numbers we've seen on a national basis."
Beasley expects a much better year in 2009 due to the anticipated increase in the number of sales. In the past few weeks alone, Group One Realty has closed on several dozen homes, ranging from $100,000 to $300,000.
"I firmly believe that in 2009, we will end up with a better year than 2008 in real estate," he added.
Don Carey with Keller Williams Realty said business has never been better for the local real estate market.
"Keller Williams is doing fantastic," Carey said.
"The market has shifted and there's a new way of doing business," he explained. "Now, you have to be proactive and go look for customers, but they are there."
One of the bigger problems facing the local real estate market is the lack of houses for sale, Carey said.
"We just don't have enough homes in the right places," Carey continued. "There's simply a shortage of homes in this market. We need more houses on the market."
"We've got more buyers than we do houses," he said.
Carey said the local real estate market needs more homes valued at $100,000 to $150,000 on the market.
"Those are the fastest selling homes," he explained. "Those are the ones we need more of, but there's just not many out there."
Keller Williams does about 40 home closings per month, and Carey expects April's home closings will increase to around 60.
Carey also agrees 2008 was a slow year, but so far, "2009 is turning around fast."
"We're all looking forward to big things," he said.
Ben Marshall with Bulldog Title Insurance Agency also expects better months ahead for the realty business.
Marshall's company handles legal issues dealing with the purchase of a home, which include providing title insurance.
According to Marshall, Bulldog Title had a "record March" for home closings.
"This was the best March we have ever had and April probably will be the best month we've ever had in the 10 years we've been in the real estate business," Marshall said.
"Money is out there to borrow and it's never been a better time to buy because of the low interest rates and prices in our area are right," Marshall explained. "Years from now, people will regret they didn't take advantage of this."
Typically, Bulldog Title does about 40 to 50 home closings per month.
"That will double this month, so business has never been better," he said.
Bulldog Title recently invested in software to make the home buying process easier and less time consuming, Marshall said.
"We made significant investments," Marshall continued. "There were two ways to go … you could either stick your head in the sand or invest and move forward.
"Technology can make things so much easier, and this software may be what is responsible for our increase in business. There are always periods that are more busy than others and when low interest rates occur, we know we'll do a lot of business."
Carey also says the low interest rates are favorable to home buyers. He encouraged people to take advantage of these rates while they last.
"It's never been a better time in real estate … if you ever thought about buying a house, now is the time to do it," Carey said.
Beasley added, "I've been in this business for 40 years and the biggest thing I have realized in my 40 years is: the common denominator for activity is mortgage rates. I cannot tell you that I remember a period of time when mortgage rates were low and activity was not good."
He said when mortgage rates hover around 8 percent in northeast Louisiana, the housing market slows down.
Yet, today, interest rates for home loans are as low as 5 percent.
"We're talking about 30-year, 40-year lows for mortgage rates right now," Beasley added.
Beasley said the average home sale price in northeast Louisiana is around $150,000. A 2-percent difference in interest rates means a person who wants to buy a $150,000 home could almost buy a $190,000 home for the same monthly payment.
"Or, you could take that $150,000 home and if you're getting a 2-percent better interest rate, you could knock off about 10 years on that mortgage," he said. "So, instead of getting a normal 30-year mortgage, you could now get a 20-year mortgage and have the same monthly payment."
Another positive for northeast Louisiana is home prices have remained steady and have not dropped in value like in other sections of the country, Beasley said.
"Statewide, the average home price is down about 2 percent, but in the last five years statewide, home prices have increased about 26 percent," he said. "Here in northeast Louisiana, it's been basically flat. We've almost seen no change in home values in northeast Louisiana."
There also has been no change in the number of days a house remains on the market before it sells. On average, a home sits on the market for about 114 days before it sells, Beasley said.
For more information about the local housing market, visit www.lahomeownership.com