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No slow down in housing market here

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POSTED: February 4, 2007 5:04 a.m.
Despite the recent national headlines that the housing market has taken a downward spiral, there’s evidence the Coastal Georgia market continues to flourish.
Local realtors have stated the Bryan County housing market has actually gone the opposite direction by climbing upward over the past year with increased sales and development. Also supporting this is the fact that the Savannah multi list report reflects that realtors sold 670 Bryan County single family residential housing units in 2005 while 797 units were sold in 2006.
“We’re still busy,” said Richmond Hill realtor Maureen Bryant. “We still see the people coming here. As a matter of fact, they’re coming here faster now than they were several years ago. The seller side is where the market has slowed down locally. There’s just more homes on the market because of new construction. It went from a couple years ago when we only had about 250 homes in the Bryan County area to now where we’re looking at 600 plus homes on the market.”
“Our market value is still going up, and that’s a good sign,” Bryant continued. “The sellers perhaps aren’t able to negotiate their ideal selling price, but they’re still getting the equity out of their homes – they’re not losing any money.”
“We actually have seen a good increase on units sold in 2006 over 2005,” said Richmond Hill realtor Ricky Bodaford, who reiterated much of the same data. “We did have a bit of a problem in that we were too heavily inventoried for this past year, and that resulted in some price pressures. Statistically, our asking prices were stagnant – not due to a lack of demand, but just because there were so many new properties on the market to choose from.”
President of Coastal Living Homes Wilson Pickett, who handles real estate in both North and South Bryan County, said that the housing market in North Bryan is also thriving, with a strong outlook for the near future. He explained that the market has historically been dormant in Pembroke, but that the Black Creek area is booming with new development projects.
“Areas close to the interstate, such as Black Creek, seem to have maintained a fairly good demand because of the house pricing, which is in the $150,000 to $170,000 range. With the industrial park creating quite a number of jobs, more housing will come.”
“Some developers, because of land prices, have moved away from Chatham and bought in that area,” Pickett continued. “Right now, there is probably 600 plus new lots which includes 340 lots on Page Road, 70 lots on Wilma Edwards Road, a 50 lot tract and 70 lot tract off Carlos Cowart Road, just to name a few. The 150-170 price range and the upcoming jobs in the area are attractive features.”
On Jan. 10 at the regular meeting of the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center at the Richmond Hill Holiday Inn, the guest speaker was Coastal Market Graphics President Bill Lattimore. Lattimore’s company is a real estate market research firm that provides services to financial institutions, healthcare institutions, builders, developers, retailers and a variety of other institutions by gathering and compiling data regarding building permits and home sales.
Lattimore, a Savannah native, presented a study his firm conducted which goes to show that, despite the national trend, Coastal Georgia’s housing market is as strong as ever with an even brighter outlook for the near future.
Lattimore stated that Coastal Georgia as a whole has seen a small setback with the national housing slowdown, “But the fact of the matter is the amount of our setback has not been nearly as great as experienced in other parts of the country. Coastal Georgia is a very vibrant market, and we predict that it’s only going to increase.”
He speculated on the reasons behind this which included the vibrant job market, the large increase in the number of students, the amount of retirees that are now attracted to the region, and national builders targeting the area.
“The national players are licking their wounds right now,” said Lattimore. “Their stock prices are down because they’re suffering from the downfall of the national housing market. When they get remobilized, we believe they are certainly going to consider the Georgia coast as one of the highest potential areas in the country. The major commercial players didn’t have this area on their radar five or six years ago, but it definitely is now, so I think we’re going to see them come into play in the near future which will certainly make an impact.”
“The job market is growing very quickly in Coastal Georgia,” Lattimore said of one of the contributing factors. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 10,000 additional jobs are being created in the area.”
He pointed out the commercial and industrial growth due to the accessibility of the ports and cited Bryan County as an example. “All of a sudden, North Bryan County is a destination for warehousing associated with the port. I’m not sure that five years ago people were thinking about the Pembroke vicinity as being port-related, but it certainly is today. It seems to me that port activity is only going to consider accelerating.”
Lattimore stated the Savannah area has over 40,000 students, which is an increase of about 50 percent over the last ten years. “The educational growth in this market place is going to continue as well, and I think it’s making the entire region more attractive.”
For future growth, Lattimore focused strongly on retirees migrating here from other parts of the country.
“Historically, when retirees were looking for a place to move to off I-95, they’d look in Hilton Head and the next stop would be Jacksonville. That has changed and will continue to change. One reason is that Savannah has gained a terrific national reputation with more people coming there more so than ever before. That has a ripple effect to the surrounding counties. Along the Georgia coast, we’re going to see the developers focus on these pre-retirees like they haven’t done before.”
As to the national downturn, Lattimore said that he and other analysts are not exactly sure as to what went wrong, but he speculated that it has been due in part to factors such as the increased costs of building housing and the increase in mortgage rates. He did add, “Although mortgage rates are higher than what they were 2 years ago, the fact of the matter is mortgage rates are still relatively low.”

 

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